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Tattoo Artist Haifan Liu creates works of art for China's celebrated movie stars

Haifan Liu still remembers the first time he ever saw a tattoo. He remembers the intricate design and permanency of it; it was a joyful kind of shocking. He loved drawing and art from a young age, but there was something intriguing about the idea of using a body as a canvas.

“The human body is three-dimensional, the painting is flat, and the tattoo combines them together, which is very visually impactful. With more understanding, I fell in love with this art,” he said. “Tattoos can bring joy and commemoration to those in need. I use my own design and hands to record the precious memories of their life. Everyone has a unique story, and I offer a unique design for every tattoo customer, and an unforgettable memory for them.”

Liu is an award-winning tattoo artist, known for his talent as an industry leader in his home country of China and abroad. In 2016, he received critical acclaim for his tattooing artistry at the National Tattoo Association Tattoo Convention, as he and his partner Fu Hailin took home an incredibly impressive total of 16 awards.

Millions have also seen Liu’s work in various movies. The highlight of his career actually came back in 2013 when he had the opportunity to work with one of his idols on a film set. Police Story stars the iconic Jackie Chan, and the acclaimed actor and stuntman chose Liu to paint tattoos on every actor working on the film. This also was an opportunity for millions around the world to see and appreciate his work. It felt like the true kickoff to Liu’s astounding career.

With vast experience painting tattoos for films, Liu once again showed off his talents on the movie Duckweed. Released on January 28th, 2017, the movie tells the story about the reconciliation between a father and his son. Ah Lang, a youth from a small town, thinks that his father Ah Zheng never understood his occupation and life. In a fateful occurrence, he is able to experience his father's legendary and interesting life in the past.

“I am a person who has seen a lot of movies. The story of this one is very full, and the director is also a well-known writer. I have seen it many times, each time has a different feeling,” said Liu.

Duckweed received positive reviews both in China and overseas. It has a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The film became one of the highest grossing Chinese films of the year, making one billion yuan in less than one month after being released. It was also nominated for several awards at prestigious award shows in China, including Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards and the China Film Director’s Guild Awards. Liu’s tattoos were essential to making the film the success it became.

“I am very happy that the film and my work was so successful. I hope more friends in the world can see this movie and see my tattoos,” he said.

Liu did the tattoos for the star of the film, Gao Huayang, a celebrated racer and actor in China. The two have known each other for over eleven years, when in 2008 Liu created a permanent tattoo for the actor. Since then they have become good friends, and Liu has tattooed him several more times. In 2016, Huayang returned to his friends to have him specially create a tattoo for his new film.

“We talked a lot about his new movie, which added inspiration to my creation. Through communication, he knows that he wants to enlarge the tattoo on his arm, which can enrich his role in the movie. Because there are a lot of action scenes in the movie and there are many pictures showing the body, we decided to implement this project and expand the tattoo on the upper arm,” Liu described.

The original tattoo was a Tibetan related to religion. Liu then designed vajra for him, adding natural elements such as wind, thunder and lightning to make a background, blending the previous tattoos and adopting the same style.

“I really enjoy this process, from communication to design to implementation, and finally to the big screen. This is not something that one can do, it requires teamwork. Thanks to Gao Huayang and his team, as well as the director Han Han and his team for their efforts to better understand China and understand that era,” he concluded.

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