The Ink Link is an ongoing project at CN&CO that showcases the diversity of tattoos. One of the great things about a tattoo is that it goes against the commonly-held viewpoint that “what you see is what you get”. There’s a misguided belief in certain quarters that only “some” people get a tattoo. We are putting paid to that perception through the stories showcased in the Ink Link. If you or anyone you know would like to be featured, please get in contact with us.

This is my first Ink Link and I decided to interview a great tattoo artist named Juan-Pierre Le Roux, or just “JP” as we call him.

I met JP and his wife a number of years ago and when we met he was working in a different industry but his passion for doing tattoos was evident. Not long after we met and became friends, he decided to pursue his passion and become a tattoo artist. A decision he does not regret and one that has brought him local and international acclaim for his work.

He is originally from PE and now lives in Jozi. While JP is soft-spoken but his work speaks volumes about his talent, his dedication, and his commitment to his craft. He has had the pleasure of doing tattoos for the likes of DJ Fresh and his work has even been recognised by international celebrities such as singer-songwriters Rita Ora and Kehlani.

A screenshot from Rita Ora’s Instagram where she acknowledges JP’s work… a post that is still on her account today

In an almost full circle moment, he now works at the tattoo studio where he got his first tattoo. I chatted to JP about life as a tattoo artist, his work, and tips he can share with anyone wanting to get a tattoo for the first time. Read on to get to know a really cool guy and tattoo artist.

Q: So, JP, how did you get into tattoos?

A: I worked in a tattoo studio in Port Elizabeth while I was studying. This is where I discovered a real interest for tattooing.

JP does a tattoo for DJ Fresh

Q: What was your first tattoo?

A: My first tattoo was done at Rising Dragon – the same studio I now work from. It is across my left arm and it was quite a spontaneous decision.

Q: What made you eventually decide to become a tattoo artist full time?

A: I needed to do something challenging and creative. Having one chance to get a tattoo right gave me a real thrill and this has kept me going ever since!

Q: What has been the longest it’s taken you to do a tattoo?

A: My longest single tattoo session was 8-hours.

Kehlani’s compliment for a tattoo JP did of her for one of his clients

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a tattoo artist?

A: I like the fact that I get to do something meaningful and permanent on people. I also love seeing their surprise when I exceed their expectations after completing their tattoo. It’s one of the many great things about my job.

Q: What would you say is the toughest thing about your job?

A: TIME! Both in and out of work…working against the clock to meet deadlines and ensuring that I give my clients the best experience. And then having no time in my personal life. It’s a real balancing act.

JP has a beautiful family – he and his wife have two very cute little boys who are an amazing combination of their parents. It’s been amazing watching them grow up and seeing how they change as they grow into the people their parents are raising them to be.

His point about time being one of the toughest things about his job resonates with me – it has taken us since the end of April to try and get this interview going which just proves how demanding his job is. I think many people don’t realise just how hectic the life of a tattoo artist can be. The fact that he has been so busy is also a clear sign of what our monthly Ink Link proves – more people have tattoos than you think and it’s not just “some” people.

Back to my chat with JP…

With the permanency of a tattoo, I’ve always wondered whether tattoo artists feel exceeding pressure to ensure their hands don’t slip while trying to bring their client’s tattoo to life… JP, being the professional that he is, tells me:

“That used to be a concern at the beginning of my career, but now no mistake can’t be fixed so it doesn’t get me nervous or worried.”

Q: What’s been the most meaningful tattoo that you have done?

A: There are so many! Memorial pieces are always a big deal to both me and the client and I take it as an honour to be able to do a memorial piece.

Q: And your own tattoos? What’s the most meaningful tattoo on your body?

A: My kids’ names and my wife’s initial…and obviously the cross.

Q: How many tattoos do you have?

A: I’ve never counted. Most are interlinked so I don’t consider them as individual pieces.

JP enjoying a rare day off

Q: Have you ever done your own tattoos? Why?

A: I have…when I started out – I was the only one willing to risk the potential disaster

Well, disaster is it not. Just one look at JP’s Instagram and you can see what fabulous pieces he has created. Check out his work at @JP_tattooartist on Instagram.

My final question to him was more a request for tips for first-timers.

Q: What tips do you have for someone who is getting a tattoo for the first time?

A: Stay calm, stay sober, do your research, respect your artist AND DO NOT NEGOTIATE PRICE!

Find JP at @JP_tattooartist on Instagram. You can check out his work and contact him to book your first or next tattoo.