A ball of radiant karmic energy, inspiration and an artist to reckon with, Isabelle Alexandra Louise’s story flows like a tattoo should flow with the body. Tattoo Cultr travelled to Nepal Inked 2016, and discovered this British tattoo artist, who loves art in every single form that it exists in, and now finds a home in Nepal.
Born and brought up in Brighton England, Isabelle came across tattoos as a kid. “The coolest tattoo from my childhood is this eye ball inked at the back of this guy’s head. Since then, I always assumed I was gonna get loads of tattoos.” Her journey to Nepal is speckled with her own trial and errors.
She has studied Japanese and Tibetan in traditional educational institutions and she thought, “It was fun, but (I) didn’t really love it.” A professional switch to fashion photography also didn’t really click with her soul. “It was good again, but I wasn’t super passionate about it. I always kinda wanted to tattoo but I was scared of really fucking it up.” After studying Tibetan in Boudha, she kinda just ended up being in Nepal. “It was only a year ago, after the earthquake I just asked one of my friends if I could learn and tattoo with them and they welcomed me because they had seen my drawings, and they taught me and were really kind.”
Louise always had a childhood fascination towards Nepal which stemmed from her parents’ journey to the country in the 80s. “There were pictures around my house when I grew up of Buddha and the Stupa in Pokhara and I thought they were really cool, part of a culture I wanted to explore.”
Tattooing was what made her stay in the end. Tattooing… and her fascination for Nepali art and culture. “It all looked really interesting to me, and then I guess what made me stay was just so many friends here and tattooing. I really love tattooing, but I really love so many different form of arts like reading, art history, specially art décor and art nova. I like Tibetan art, because I learned to tattoo in Boudha where there are too many Tibetan people so I started doing Vajras, and Tibetan dragons and Tibetan script. I like to look at architecture, scriptures and nature for inspiration because I don’t enjoy copying other people’s art.”
Although her arrival to the industry was eventual, her idea of tattoos says that was something it was meant to be. “Tattooing happens quite organically to me. I don’t think I have ever sat and thought about what tattooing is to me. It’s not spiritual or something; I think you get to express yourself with the things you love and adorn your body with them.” The most refreshing part of her work is that it is not bracketed to a ‘style’ like the trend is these days. Although she really likes doing dot work, but there’s a twist to it. “I don’t have a particular style. I mix dot work with Tibetan imagery. Off late, I have started to really like big lines as well, the kind of work that in 50 years will still look good. So, I guess I am still finding my style but it’s in the direction of dark, traditional mixed with Tibetan and monument stuff which is not very defined.”
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She does come across ignorant fools in Nepal, just like we do too, in India. “When you tattoo walk ins, that’s a lot of tourists who get inked for like a souvenir of their holiday and they want something fast, simple and cheap. Sometimes, I get stressed out but it’s a good learning experience for me ’cause I’m really soft and I’ve to learn say no, I’ve to take my time and you have to pay me.”
What she loves about Nepal is the community culture, the fact that people want to get together and do something cool. “What I really like is people are always up for doing things together. Even here, everyone was so excited to get different artists – graffiti artists, tattooists and skaters and just come together and make something cool happen. Out in England, there’s quite a lot of cynicism, people don’t get excited about anything. Everything is just lame and they don’t want new people joining there scene. Out here, people are so helpful and generous.”