Serious technique paired with childlike wonderment: inside the pencil case of Miriam Frank


Miriam Frank

Miriam Frank’s unbridled curiosity saw her illustrations shift from paper to skin—her inquisitiveness about the techniques of tattooing facilitated the “unexpected” transition, while the stories and people behind her tattooed illustrations lent them an animate quality she connected with and became addicted to.

Even so, Miriam is quick to clarify herself as first an illustrator—tattooing being the main subject of her current work.

I grew up in an artistic environment, my mom is an abstract painter. So, all the colorful pencils and papers caught my attention from a young age

From drawings that appear to be pulled from a prodigious child’s sketchbook to huge abstract chest pieces one would expect to find illustrating literary phantasmagorical realms, Miriam’s work has found its place within the bourgeoning trends of contemporary tattoo culture.

“In former years, tattoo artists produced a lot of the same looking designs and the client was the one who choose from a limited set of themes and techniques; there was an image of how a tattoo should look like. Nowadays, though, everything is possible and tattoo artists try to find their own way to express themselves, from realism to watercolor expressionism. Now, clients can choose their tattoo artist because of their unique work and style and give all the trust to them. I am very grateful to have been born at the right time and to be able to enjoy this development.”

Miriam Frank

Whether you are a traditionalist or progressivist, Miriam represents the quintessential nature of tattooing today, where a growing number of artists from a huge variety of disciplines are learning the trade to augment their personal oeuvre, while contributing to the field of tattooing in any which way they desire.

“When I started I had no tattoos myself, but all the shops I knew from my town looked awful to me. I had a bunch of friends who gave me some of their skin and then I became addicted.”

If you are doing art, everything can be inspiring: interesting things, meeting people, places, bad experiences and even boring stuff like sitting at the dentist’s waiting room

Her work is a variety of “serious illustrations” with linework, hachures and dotwork, combined with “more funny children’s drawing” and “abstract shapes”; “it’s just me,” she says, “what I like, and where my curiosity about technique, different themes and cultures guide me.”

Miriam Frank

Although she does not like to give it a name, she sometimes calls the style “mumpitz”, which loosely translates to ‘nonsense’. In a moment of self-psychoanalysis, she quips, “I grew up in an artistic environment—my mom is an abstract painter. So, all the colorful pencils and papers caught my attention from a young age.”

During her formal education, where she found inspiration from professors and student collaborations, the unfettered experimentation with varying types of media like photography, painting and animation excited her, however, it was illustration that captured her heart.

Miriam Frank

“If you are doing art, everything can be inspiring: interesting things, meeting people, places, bad experiences and even boring stuff like sitting at the dentist’s waiting room. You can always take something from there and try to transform it into images, involve it in your work, that’s amazing for me.”

She has transported this love into her new skin projects, being particularly partial to large projects and body suits.

First, I see myself more as an illustrator. Tattoos are the main subject of my work right now

“I would like to freestyle and experiment on an empty body, without having a plan or a concept, just go with the flow and the shape of the body, in best case for days or weeks. The best part would definitely be the face. I would love to make a super childish, abstract face tattoo.”

Miriam’s desire to experiment with her tattoo work sees no holds barred, and in an era where adults are transposing the color penciled ‘masterpieces’ of their children into permanent ink, a super childish, abstract face tattoo is probably just around the corner.