I am 33 years old. I spend my time as a personal assistant in a large legal firm and otherwise teaching kung fu, my first love. I do not fit the typical tattoo demographic, but do have a habit of pushing boundaries and breaking moulds. I was referred to Kian by a good friend of mine, who is a repeat client of his.
The notion of getting a tattoo had been on my mind for years. But I couldn’t decide what I wanted or where I wanted it. Having the privilege of seeing Kian’s work first hand (in the flesh, as it were) I did not need to do any other research than to surf his online portfolio. Each portrait confirmed his versatility, his attention to detail and his very obvious talent. I did also notice how large all of his pieces were..
I contacted Kian with the help of my friend and emailed him some very vague, ambiguous guidelines about the project I had in mind, and confessed I still wasn’t sure where I wanted my tattoo, but was hopeful to discuss this further with him. At this stage of my ‘journey’ I was thinking about a small feminine black & white piece on, perhaps, one quarter of my back, similar to what I had seen in his portfolio.
During my progression up the waitlist, I spent copious hours researching tattoos, books, images etc trying to get as organised as possible for the initial consult. On the day of my consult, Kian managed to shatter every one of my ideas about size, placing and content in about 15 minutes with nothing but brutal honesty, “There’s no movement in that picture, Sarah”, “That placing will warp the image”..and my favourite.. “You can’t put that much detail into that small a piece.” In all honesty, I left my consult feeling very deflated, underprepared and as if I had wasted both his and my time. Kian, with good grace, assured me he was eager to work with me, but I was not so sure. “That has happened to me every time!” were the comforting words of my friend when I relayed the events of my consult to him. “Its part of the process, you’ll be right.” In hindsight, I think Kian had already figured out what we were doing, I just hadn’t caught up yet. Kian dedicated time to sketching my tattoo based on the discussions we had. You cannot walk into Kian’s studio and ask him to tattoo you something stock standard off the wall, or take him a picture and ask him to replicate it on your skin. If he is going to spend his time tattooing, he is going to make it something he will be proud to put his name to.
I was extremely nervous heading in to my first session, not keen on being semi-naked and exposed in a room of strangers and had been primed by my friend about the pain I would experience. I was not sure I could handle tattooing at all, let alone 4 hours of it. Kian was very polite, professional, and importantly for me, in control (usually my domain). He left me in peace while he set up his table, colours and equipment. Kian is methodical and practiced in his set up and it shows in everything he does. With the preparation completed, we got down to the pointy end of business. Tattooing most definitely does hurt, some areas more than others. But the end result is your reward for enduring that discomfort. It is a part of the journey and there is no way around it. I don’t recall having butt twitches like some of Kian’s other clients have testified, if I did, Kian was gentleman enough not to mention it. The most painful spots for me were my shoulder blades and back of my ribs. It felt as though Kian was jabbing his needle right into my bones!
Tattooing with Kian is, as best it can be, a pleasant experience. To counter the pain, Kian plays music while in session, cracks jokes throughout the day, and makes interesting conversation. Kian is attentive to his client and works quickly and efficiently, giving ample breaks for both you and him throughout the session.
Kian is obviously a very talented artist, but he has also refined the art of listening to his client. Getting a tattoo was a very significant decision for me and not something I stepped into lightly, but he won my confidence quickly. He made all of his hard work ‘our project’. I had input into the detail of my tattoo, which really makes this my tattoo. For example, the hilt of the sword that my lady is holding was fashioned off the hilt of my tai qi straight sword that I practice and compete with. Another example, for 4 weeks my lady had no left hand, because Kian and I couldn’t agree on what it should look like. I gave Kian a few options of what I would be happy with and what would reflect the tai qi sword form and he worked with that. I acknowledge that I may have been a slight ball breaker on this issue, but I am so grateful that Kian took the time to understand what I wanted and made it look even better!
It wasn’t long before I looked forward to my sessions, hanging out with Kian and watching my tattoo progress, one week outline, one week shading, another week colour.. or a missing hand. Throughout my sessions Kian continued to ask me questions like what colour I wanted the peony, and what direction her eyes should be looking, but we both knew this was out of my league and should be left to the professional to decide. My tattoo ended up much bigger than the one quarter of my back I had first imagined, just as my friend had warned me it would, but I am glad that it did. Everything Kian suggested – size, placing, movement etc make my tattoo perfect and I love it.
Neither of my parents knew that I was getting a tattoo and I didn’t tell them while I was going through the process. Not telling them was painful – literally. I endured countless, pain inducing, bear-strength hugs from them both on the weekend after every session. Telling my parents, in particular, my father, was one of my greatest fears. My father’s opinion is important to me, but he is old school and had voiced his opinion during my whole upbringing of his distaste for tattoos.
The grand unveiling came after my tattoo was finished and completely healed.. And on the eve of a family friend’s wedding, to which I was wearing a backless dress. To my surprise, other than being overwhelmed at how big my tattoo was (even though I had warned them), my mother loved the creativity and detail in it and my father understood how important this piece was to me. My father no longer detests tattoos, just crap ones, but don’t we all? Kian Forreal, winning hearts and opening minds one amazing piece at a time!
Kian is a bluntly honest, perfectionist and his work is undisputedly beautiful. He exudes a pride and enthusiasm in his art that is contagious. His easy going but no bullshit attitude is refreshing and welcomed. His choice in music is sometimes questionable, but that too is part of your journey! Kian refuses to tattoo poor images/ideas and the strength of his unwavering principles are what you want in a tattoo artist. I now have a Kian Forreal original and UNIQUE tattoo that is personal to me. I have no hesitation in recommending Kian to you all. He is well worth the wait.