Hyperrealistic Tattooed Paintings at The Keep

Jackee Sandelands-Strom

Storytelling through hands, Jack Sandelands-Strom has spent the last several years mastering her hyper-realistic paintings in Edinburgh, Scotland at the tattoo studio The Keep. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota with dual citizenship from her British father and American mother. Over four years ago she made the move with her husband, Tom Strom after her children graduated high school and went off to college. Initially the couple started in the Netherlands then ventured forward and moved to England while taking trips to Scotland, occasionally. The architecture, history and landscapes kept pulling them towards Scotland where they finally decided to plant their roots. Oh and don’t forget the whiskey!

“Tom and I have found a couple whiskey bars in Edinburgh that I absolutely adore.  Usquabae, The Diggers and Scotch Malt Whiskey Society are where we go when we want to go out.  Oddly enough I did not like whiskey when we were in America, but after learning more about it here and going on some tastings, I have realized it’s my favorite drink.  To the point that I love including a nice whiskey in a beautiful glass in my paintings, and I plan on doing more of them.” – Jackee

Whiskey + Teacups
Cigarettes and Tattoos

What is it like day to day working in your studio in Edinburgh, as well as The Keep, tattoo studio environment?

The studio I co-own with Tom and a friend, Elliott Wells, in Edinburgh is called The Keep.  We opened our studio together this summer.  Prior to that I was working out of my home studio for years.  I really love working in the tattoo environment.  For starters it is really great having some social time during the day, when I worked at home it was a lot of hours of only having my dog, Marshmallow, for company.  While she is adorable, the silence got a little old.  My work is obviously very influenced by the tattoo industry and being able to be a part of it more often is very satisfying and inspiring.

What inspired you to start painting tattooed hands?

Years ago I was looking for something different to paint and decided to paint my hands holding a teacup. The teacup I use for reference, is one I’ve had since I was a little girl, and am amazed I’ve not broken by now.  I enjoyed doing the painting so much that I ended up accidentally making tattooed hands a focus.  It wasn’t so much the subject matter, although I do love it, it was more the technical parts of painting tattoo skin.  I essentially fell hard for painting texture and it lead me down the path of wanting to challenge myself more and more with that texture, or with being able to get a tattoo to look like it’s in the painted skin verses on the painted skin.  Slowly my obsession grew more out of the personal challenge then anything else.  I didn’t even realize I was becoming such a hyperrealism artist because I didn’t think about it that way.  For a little while I felt like I needed to move on and expand my subject matters, but then I realized how much hands can tell a story, tattooed or not.  When I see some nice, rough working hands, it tells me a lot about the person.  Old tattoos, cigarettes, drinks, they all show me something about the person I’m painting.  It’s essentially turned into my form of portraiture (in my mind at least).  I’ve always drawn and painted, whenever I had the time, but it was only once we moved overseas that I decided to jump in 100% and paint, so that’s when I started honing in on the technical skills and becoming a better painter.

Have you always painted hyper-realism?

When I lived in the states I worked full time, and had a family, so it was much more difficult to take the time to really practice painting.  I had a couple small shows, and they went well, but I didn’t find myself as an artist until I started painting this way, which is really only in the last 6 years.  I am still exploring and I am sure I will never stop trying to learn more about painting.  I do love painting but don’t really know where the next years will take me.  I enjoy my current obsession and want to play more with it, potentially on a nice large scale, but I’m also open to new inspirations and have no idea if my artwork will take a different path at some point.  I also really want to do some fun collaborations with Tom, it’d be cool to see our styles mash up.

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