Born and bred Berliner Linda Werner’s work is a breath of fresh air. She endows inanimate objects with a sense of character and narrative with her technique of using her left hand as opposed to her more adept right hand. She has turned to tattooing in order to make a living and likens the process to art collecting, stating that she gives her drawing and words as unique pieces of art to collectors. I had the pleasure of speaking to her about her hometown and the trials and tribulations, as well as the magic, that is involved in being an artist.
Your textual work reminds me of Coco Capitán’s hand-written poems and aphorisms. Would you say you’re influenced by her work? What and who are your other inspirations?
I actually never heard of her and just looked her work up – really nice stuff. But I see this kind of type very often these days, but still like it because it’s so simple. Five years ago when I was studying art, I started to use this lettering because I always used words in my collages and installations or combined text with photography. I didn't have an acceptable handwriting, so I started to write with my left hand although I'm right-handed.
That's the whole secret about my script. You work in tattoo, photography, collage and illustration. Which would you say is your preferred medium and why?
Indeed, I used to do more collages and I loved to do installations. After I graduate I didn't have a big atelier anymore, so I started to draw and, step by step, to tattoo. Now it's my main job and fills the most of my time, but I'm still trying to find time for other art mediums and to participate in exhibitions sometimes. And I'm still doing analogue photography while travelling. So I’d like to do all these things and not focus only on my tattoos, but it's the art that I'm able to use to earn money for a living. For me, there is no sense in separating all the stuff I do but to combine it all. I’m still working on that.
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 15.jpg
Your style is so refreshing. It’s naïve yet polished. In tattoo form, your work feels especially personal, as though the client has drawn it on themselves. What inspired you to favour the simple over the more traditional, realist mode of drawing/tattoo?
Thank you! I always had tattoos and loved the way you can paint on your body and modify it. When I started to tattoo, I just did some shaky childish lettering; I liked how it looked but I never thought people would feel the same way. Then, I saw a book about prison tattoos, and step by step, stick-and-poke style, and with Instagram, of course, I discovered home style and ignorant style. It was inspiring and I felt that I could really combine my words and drawings with tattooing.
The inspiration for my drawings comes from things I see in real life, but also I draw from my imagination, photographs, magazines or pictures from the internet. The words mostly just come while drawing. Sometimes, it feels deep and means much to me; sometimes, it's just a joke or a random combination. Like hearing a phrase in the train from other people's conversation, I then stick with the words and combine them with something else unconscious. It seems like my work leaves space for interpretations, ideas and stories. That's what I like about the naïve style; I keep it simple and make my own intention not too important so I can enjoy how it speaks to others. It creates funny miracles, somehow. 
Do you often find yourself creating bespoke tattoo designs for your clients, or do they usually choose from work you’ve already done? 
Ninety-nine per cent of my clients choose from the flash’s I’ve already done. I only sometimes work with ideas from them if I like it and have enough creative space with it. But I actually just want to do my own drawings.
Berlin and its edgy post-industrial vibe set an excellent backdrop for your work. Would you say the city has prompted some of your artistic choices?
I was born in Berlin, studied and lived most time of my life here, so I don't really think I can compare it to another city. For me, it's just my hometown. But, of course, I get that it makes things easier for me. I always could take my time. Making money was not really a necessity (not even ‘cool’ on my bubble). You could live your life kind of low budget, work a bit here and there, and do the art you want. In university, for fine art, you always hear that just ten per cent of art school graduates can live (somehow) from the art they do, so I never really expected to be one of them.
Now, it's kind of happening and I don't take it for granted. I think I probably have to thank Berlin for that as well, although it's over with the city. Rent prices have been exploding in the last few years (lucky you if you have an old contract and can keep it). Open spaces, culture and squats getting destroyed. So it doesn't feel like a status quo or even a career-starting place, to be honest, it’s more like a house of cards that could collapse any time.
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 13.jpg
Artists today have to face the copyright demons when their work gets ripped off due to platforms like social media. How do you feel that social media has positively and negatively influenced your art practice?
Well, people steal; that can happen if you post your work on social media. But I'm trying not to worry too much about it because I can't change it and it’s still worth using something like Instagram as a free, easy tool to show the world what you do. I think it's really amazing that people all over the planet can find me through this platform and stop by for a tattoo if they are visiting Berlin. Although Instagram is a very fast-paced medium, I feel my output is quite good and I like to come up with new stuff. It even occasionally gets me motivated to extend my work. But still, I try not to overrate the unreal world – sounds way too cool, I'm not better than anyone else (laughs).
Do you listen to music when you work? And if so, what?
Mississippi Delta blues, Podcast Ufo, something on the TV in the background like Fargo, Bored to Death and anything from Jim Jarmush. Or while I’m travelling, natural back noises.
Do you identify as an artist?
Yes, I identify myself as an artist who uses the tattoo machine as a tool so I can give my drawings and words as unique pieces of art to collectors. That’s also why my studio is private but in a shared art space with different artist and designers. I like using different mediums, but I also really like the process of tattooing. I learn about my clients and every session is different. Sometimes, we talk for hours; it's funny, and a stranger feels like a friend for a little while. And sometimes, there is lovely silence with chilled music in the background and we are just connected in the moment – the motive, the needle and ink, etc. Both processes are very beautiful. That's why I don't sell my illustrations for other artists to tattoo. I wanna do them myself. The process is part of the concept.
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 18.jpg
Your work ranges from still lives to quirky animals. What would you say is your favourite subject to depict and why?
I love everyday life things and still lives because I like to revive them. Animals work out sometimes but I prefer things without a face. I like to see something special in a saltshaker and load it up with story and emotions. If people can relate to that, sometimes it feels like a magic trick.
What ambitions do you have concerning your work in the future?
I’d like to find the courage to finally travel with tattooing because I'm still too shy. I’d also like to find a way to do more fine art combined with tattooing and still make a living from just that somehow. And always find time to create.
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 4.jpg
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 7.jpg
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 21.jpg
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 22.jpg
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 23.jpg
Linda Werner Metalmagazine 24.jpg