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Meet the Tattoo Artist: Jun Osaki at Jackalope Tattoo

This Japan-born artist specializes in intricate linework, blocks of color, and negative space.

Jun Osaki

Welcome to Meet the Tattoo Artist, a series where we showcase talented Twin Cities tattoo artists who are creating spectacular art on peoples’ bodies. This installment showcases the work of Jun Osaki at Jackalope Tattoo.

Name: Jun Osaki (they/them)

Years Tattooing: 10 years (since 2012)

Are you from Minnesota? 

Minnesota is my adopted home. I was born in Osaka, Japan, and moved here with my mom when I was 5. We lived in rural western Minnesota for the first few years, then Eagan for a few, then planted in West St. Paul/Midway for most of my teenage years. My young adult years were spent in south Minneapolis before I moved to Oregon for five years. I've been back for almost two years!

Jun Osaki

How did you get into tattooing? 

After high school I ended up studying oil painting; I am formally trained as a painter, even though that is stylistically the opposite from what I do now. When I couldn't afford school anymore, I dropped out and took tattooing more seriously. I visited some friendly and reputable shops in town with my tattoo-flash portfolio, not necessarily asking for an apprenticeship but just for some feedback, critique, and advice. 

I got my actual apprenticeship through a Craigslist ad, but I can’t say it was a great experience. I’m glad to be here now still working pretty successfully–I know that’s not the case for everyone.

What were some of the barriers/struggles you have faced as a tattoo artist? 

The biggest barrier has been finding a community and home within the tattoo community. The industry has grown so much in the last decade, and now there are so many queer and POC artists and shops owned by them. Of course, identity isn’t always the deciding factor for whether you’ll fit in or get along with folks, but I struggled working under middle-aged white dudes who wanted to take half my income and took my successful business for granted. Then I struggled to fit in with the pretentiousness of Oregon/West Coast culture. 

All the while I was also going through my own personal mental health struggles, which was the biggest thing that disrupted my work. I found myself burnt out a lot and not knowing how to set work/client boundaries. Things have been a lot better since therapy and moving back to Minnesota. Despite having moved away for a long while, I still felt closest to certain people who lived here and culturally it felt more low-key and chill, which is my general vibe. 

Jun Osaki

How would you describe your style? 

My tattoo work stylistically started as "etching" or "block print" style and evolved into its own thing as it became more popular in the tattoo industry. It's currently more widely known as "linework '' or "black work" style. Overall it's still an illustrative style that focuses on delicate linework, blocks of color, and negative space. I've been a lifelong fan of manga/anime and comics, so this is where my work developed from. Manga/anime stylistically comes from historical Japanese ukiyo-e block printing art.

Name three things that inspired you early on in your career: 

Surrealism, nature, and tattoo artists that were doing their own unique style of art (not just what you would typically see at the time, which was American traditional or neo-trad).

Name three things inspiring you now:

I’m still inspired by the things I mentioned but my focus lately is exploring emotions/mental health through art, Japanese and Asian art/history, and my friends.

What about the weirdest/most original/most random tattoo you’ve even done?

I’m about to do one of the most wild requests I’ve gotten in a while: It’s a frog wearing a T-shirt with a kangaroo on it surfing out of an open book on a lily pad.

Do you create other kinds of art? 

I’ve always dabbled in any hands-on art thing, so in the past I’ve done block printing, embroidery, sculpting, book binding, pyrography… Currently I am collaborating with my friend who started leather-working. I’m transferring some of my art onto their tote bags and using a heat tool to etch the design onto it.

Jun Osaki

What do you get up to when you’re not tattooing? 

Mostly in my room playing video games, sometimes with friends or solo. Or reading/drawing comics, playing with my dog Kuma, riding my bike, enjoying the outdoors, eating/cooking good food–with friends or solo.

Do you have any projects or new things coming up that we should check out? 

I took a step away from doing any organizing/fundraising work in the last year but I’m hoping to get back into the flow of trying to make my work/art/tattoos more accessible to financial situations of all kinds. And I’m just generally trying to help people out there who are struggling to thrive or having a hard time. We’re making a lot of internal shifts within the workplace at Jackalope that I’m excited about that will hopefully support some of these personal goals I have. Other than that, I’m making some great tattoo designs right now that I’m very proud of and can’t wait to see them on skin!

Where Can We Find You? 

On Instagram: @ajunkysock, @jackalopetattoo

Jun Osaki

Other featured artists:

Emi Nijiya of Jackalope Tattoo

Jordanne Le Fae of Weird Ink Society

Rachel Radiant at The Present Tattoo Parlor

Ashley Dahl of Black Sheep Tattoo and Art Collective

Allie Moon of the Present Tattoo Parlor

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