The Art of “Tattooing” a Photograph

Using a combination of found-photographs and drawing, Alana Dee Haynes creates hypnotic patterns and geometric shapes that instill an atmosphere of other-worldliness in her art. She goes beyond painting the actual body by designing the patterns on the photographs, and – exuding mystery, passion and intricacy – her pieces create a feeling of lost reality and of sensuality. It is as if the pattern consumes the human being, who becomes a paper character experiencing a playful freedom.


Explaining her creative process, Alana said: “I have restless hands and have always been into drawing patterns. And I have always found faces or patterns within other things. When walking on the sidewalk, patterns seem to rise to the surface; when showering, faces show up on the curtain. When I started drawing on photos, it felt very natural. I basically just draw what I see in them“.

Alana started drawing on pictures when taking after-school darkroom classes at the International Center of Photography. For her, drawing directly on paper is a very different process to that of drawing on bodies, but she nevertheless considers the former as intimate and personal as the latter.

“I like drawing on photos because it’s all right in front of me. I can get really close and just bring out what I see”, Alana says.


The Plus: What is it about decorating images of bodies, and not bodies themselves, that you find attractive?
Alana Dee Haynes:
I think they are very different art forms. My work is very solitary and I can take as much time as I need. Body painting is much more large-scale and I don’t think I could do it in a day. And believe it or not, my hand is pretty shaky.

TP: What sorts of photographs lend themselves to your work?
I like a lot of uninterrupted surface area: a portrait, or a nude body; close up hands or far away landscapes. I like just enough information to spark my interest and let me ramble on with it.


TP: What do you think about the relationship between art and fashion? Your work seems to straddle the two categories.
I think they are one in the same. Art is this strange umbrella that encompasses everything.

TP: Tattoos on people, rather than photos, can be a divisive topic; what are your thoughts on getting inked?
I love tattoos- I personally only have a few, but I love seeing what people choose to live with and where they chose to put it. Tattoo artists are constantly pushing their craft and creating truly one of a kind stunning works of art. Getting tattooed has become a way of commissioning and collecting art that I really appreciate.


TP: Where do you hope to take your work in the future?
I am working on large-scale pieces at the moment, and doing more things separate from photography. I’m learning to create my own base layer to embellish. I hope to be able to extend my vision onto more things: sculpture, furniture, clothing, paintings, murals. I have a residency at MANA Contemporary now, and am excited to have a large studio for the first time. I am excited to experiment and push myself.