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Jeroen Franken from Seven Seas Tattoos.

Jeroen was born in Terneuzen. He had a great childhood with his two elder sisters on his parents’ farm in the small village of Driewegen. They lived self-sufficient with vegetables from their own garden, milk from their own cow and meat from their own sheep. Jeroen has always been an adventurous type. Even as a very young child, he already knew that he wanted to see the world. At that time, he was not averse to some occasional mischief .

One day, Jeroen was playing in the farm basement, when he found a folded A4 sheet with old English lettering. He was extremely excited with this find and he immediately felt a sort of obsession. When his grandparents were married for 25 years, he asked his father for a wooden board. He wanted to draw his congratulations for his grandparents on it. This was also his first lesson of spacing. Jeroen was 10 years old. “My grandmother liked the board so much that she had that sign on her dresser until she died. I don’t know where it is right now.”

Around the age of 14, Jeroen lived in the Middle East, in Qatar. Around that time, he burnt the initials of his French girlfriend on his body with heated screwdrivers. He also loved to paint clothes and shoes. “If a friend had new shoes, he’d come straight to me to ask whether I could draw something cool on them. They really liked what I drew and I did so with great pleasure.” Jeroen was always interested in drawing. “I was obsessed with finger paints and crayons and I never stopped drawing. Then it was mostly in colour but now it’s more black and white.”

He has only one tattoo in colour; a beer mug . This one was done years ago at four in the morning. Ryan, a fellow of the Charlie Cartwright shop in Modesto (USA), where Jeroen worked at the time. Jeroen tattooed Ryan that night and vice versa.”We were drunk and the guys from the shop wanted to tattoo each other. While Ryan was throwing up in a dustbin, I tattooed the mug. The funny thing about the whole story is that I actually do not even like beer anymore these days”, smiles Jeroen.

Jeroen travelled a lot. Especially to get to know new cultures. “I always knew that I wanted to see the world. If I’m in a place, I prefer to stay there for a while, so I really get to know the way of life. It’s nice to see that the less people have, the more respectful their behaviour is.”

At the age of 25, he made his first tattoo and at 27 he officially started tattooing. He started out with the Borneo style in particular. He is guided by his sense. “I try to feel what a customer is looking for as much as possible. A customer does not really need to say a lot. The more a customer says, the more the flow of sense is blocked.”

Jeroen made this drawing in 1995. The first time he came back to the Netherlands from Borneo. He got a reverse culture shock . “I thought we lived in a crazy place. It was too busy, stressful and people yelling everywhere. Everyone is so hyper about nothing. In the commune in Borneo, there was a friendly atmosphere.”

However he loves it, Jeroen thinks he is a not the kind of person to function in a commune. “In such a clan, everything is very solid . You have to do this, you have to do that. If not, the gods will cast a spell on you and that will damage the community. I can’t just accept everything as the truth. When everybody looks to the right, I tell people that they need to look the other way, too before they can draw a conclusion. There are always two sides to a story.”

His new book is now available. Tomorrow it will be launched at Jailbreak Festival.

– Sophie Lodewijks

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