Skip to content

Artist Highlight: FirstJing

Words by Adam Jolley
Artist Highlight: FirstJing

'I think tattoos give people power and strength when they need it most.'

Some tattoo artists are take-your-breath-away good; Los Angeles-based tattooist FirstJing is definitely one of these. With a background in traditional art, Jing has transfered her immense talents into the realm of tattooing. Working from her light and airy studio in LA's Arts District, she produces elegant, fine-line and subtle colorwork tattoos, aiming 'to create magic with people as her canvas.' In this interview we cover her background as an artist, some of the challenges she's faced along the way, and how tattoos can impact people for the better. Enjoy!

Hi Jing! Can we get a quick intro please?

Hi! My name is Jing or you can call me FirstJing! My studio is located in the Arts District of Los Angeles, and I began tattooing in the beginning of 2019.

Can you tell us a little about your background in art? How has this influenced your work as a tattooist?

I studied art at China Central Academy of Fine Arts and Zurich University of the Arts in Switzerland. I never intended to become a tattoo artist, but one day when I was with a friend, we walked into a tattoo shop and I thought to myself, “this could be a fun hobby” and here I am today! I personally think having background knowledge in art and painting influenced me to quickly catch up on how to tattoo and learn the skills. Normally an apprenticeship is a two year duration, but I only practiced for two months until my master said I was ready to start tattooing. To me, tattooing is similar to painting, but you have to be a bit more patient with tattooing.

Tattoo by FirstJing

What drew you to your studio?

During COVID, I was looking at a lot of locations to base the studio in. What drew me to this particular location was a multitude of factors. This is an extremely hidden and quiet area, and there is plenty of sunshine provided due to our large windows! Our studio is also surrounded by so many plants and trees that once you step into our studio, it doesn’t even feel like you’re in LA anymore. It feels like you’re in a completely different location! I also feel like I lucked out because the landlord and our management team are really kind, so we have a great relationship with them as well. I really like working here because it gives me a different vibe than other tattoo shops. Most traditional tattoo shops are usually dark and old school but to me, my studio resembles and gives off a cozy cafe vibe because of how bright and open it is here!

FirstJing Tattoo Studio in Los Angeles

'This is an extremely hidden and quiet area and there is plenty of sunshine'

What's important to you as an artist (and your tattoo studio)?

In my point of view, and what also took me many years to learn, is that tattoo artists are different from solo [painting] artists. Solo artists can freely express how they personally feel into their work. Meanwhile, being a tattoo artist you can incorporate your personal style into your designs, but at the same time, you also have to meet your client’s request and come together to create a cohesive and intricate design. I also think it’s important to have good techniques and a great vision for the arts, as well as having empathy towards your client in all aspects of: feelings, their personality, and them as an overall individual. As for my tattoo studio, it is important to have all parties [artists, guests/clients, my manager] know and respect all artists’ perspectives, and trust their tattoo vision. Also the basic necessities of a studio: being clean, sanitized, and giving off a comfortable environment for everyone.

Can you describe the tattoo scene in LA...

The tattoo scene in LA is very big and everyone is so open minded! Almost everyone here has tattoos and I think that it’s so cool because it shows and expresses their personality. I love the tattoo scene here because there are so many talented artists, but at the same time I also dislike it because there are so many talented artists. It’s a bit of a contradicting statement! I think the main thing regarding how there are many talented artists here is learning how to balance and separate the thoughts of learning from each other and competing with one another. I am a huge believer in learning from one other rather than competing with each other just because we all have such different styles.

What are some of the challenges you've faced in your career?

There are so many challenges I’ve faced in my career. One of the main challenges I’ve faced was trying to establish a work life balance. I used to work a lot, nearly everyday, due to the fear of losing clients or being behind [skill wise] other tattoo artists, but now I’ve established a set schedule for myself and take breaks when I know it is needed to not overwork myself! Another challenge that has slowly become a huge obstacle, and I think maybe a few other artists can agree on this, is the whole stigma behind social media. Everyday we have to [try our best] post to catch up social media’s latest trends such as reels or posts, and try to figure out and beat the algorithm. I think this has become more of a consistent challenge especially after COVID due to the rise of influencers and the trends that occurred during that period. A final challenge I’ve been working on is also creating designs based on my own art vision versus my client’s request. I’m so grateful that my client’s always let me have some creative freedom and grounds to add my own twist to the design, but sometimes I know this won’t always happen so I have to find the perfect balance of blending both ideas.

'There is no need to fit into societal standards because no one is perfect, and that’s okay'

What effect do you think tattoos can have on people?

I most definitely think tattoos can make a huge impact and difference in people’s lives. I think tattoos give people power and strength when they need it the most, and also serve as a reminder as to why you got a tattoo in the first place; to showcase your strength and courage.

Do you have any words of advice for people struggling with their body image?

I personally think many girls struggle with the idea of body image especially lately due to social media standards, myself included. One important lesson I learned regarding my body is that it is my own body and everyone’s body is different! Not one body is the same. I used to struggle with the idea of thick legs, because my legs are a bit thicker, but overtime I learned that my thick legs have given me the strength to not succumb to today’s social standards. It’s okay to not have “smaller” legs and everyone’s body works in a different way. After learning this lesson, I started to work towards taking care of myself and looking good for myself, and not for others. This also taught me to be outside more and explore nature because I wanted to strengthen what has been given to me to make myself mentally feel better. I personally think if the body is healthy, it’s pretty. There is no need to fit into societal standards because no one is perfect, and that’s okay. As long as you are happy and content in your own skin yourself, that is all that matters!

Tattoo by FirstJing

Where do you believe the tattoo industry is going in the US?

I think the next directional step the tattoo industry is headed in the US is a bit of a mix. I think tattoos will relate more to real body art; like unique and expensive, or it can be quick designs like flash designs to grab people’s attention for cute and quirky small, special designs! I don’t think the industry has changed since I started tattooing. If anything, the only thing that has changed is the amount of artists there are as the days go on and how social media has played a huge role and impact on the industry a lot, but I also think that’s a part of life moving forward. 

Any final words?

One final thing I would like to add is that I feel like as tattoo artists, we are so lucky and blessed by the industry as time continues on, so I want to encourage everyone to keep going and push forward to achieve our future goals we would like to accomplish!

Follow FirstJing on Instagram @firstjing.