When we think of summer travels, dreamy European destinations always come to mind. And with the upcoming fashion film, Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris, which is slated to be released in theaters on July 15, no wonder Parisian landscapes have always captured our imaginations (but in this case, the film centers in on a romance with a Christian Dior dress).
Now, more and more films and TV shows being set in not only European cities, but dreamy European castles—whether it’s the latest iteration of Downtown Abbey, which was shot at the Highclere Castle in Berkshire, or Disney Plus’ revival of The Quest, which was shot in Castello di Amorosa in Napa County, or even A Very British Scandal, the new Prime Video series, which was shot at Inveraray Castle. There’s no doubt fairytale-like destinations have taken over the silver screen, and our imaginations.
Chaehee Lee, who goes by the moniker Ovenlee, 28, a tattoo artist based in Seoul, and is the master of turning castles and European landscapes into tattoos for fashionistas. While 90% of her clientele are women, she has inked everything from the Prague Castle to old German villages and the Swiss Alps on young women, who visit her tattoo studio.
“I always feel that a tattoo is connected to someone’s memories of precious oments captured in photos,” she said. “I want to share with people that travel photos can become tattoos, too, even if that includes photos of their summer travels to Europe.
And what stylish tattoos they are. Some of her works include Christmas in France, a shot of the Christmas Market in Vienna, to a Bavarian Castle and the Duomo in Florence. She has inked the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, and Italian countryside, too.
All her tattoos have a fashionable flair, whether its including stylish florals or minimalist buildings that invite us into her imagination. Fashion-wise, Lee’s biggest influences are designers Nicky Zimmermann, master of the flower sundress (”I love her delicate lace and embroidery”), and British designer Phoebe Philo (”I love all her Celine shows,” said Lee). It’s clear to see her fashion influences in her tattoos, too, which are both delicate and fresh.
“I draw a lot of cottage-style pictures, and tattoos that tell a story like a fairytale,” said Lee. “Nowadays, people want these memories of their travels, which are fun to capture in a dreamy image.”
But getting a dream vacation inked on your body is still not very common. Still, there is a demand for it. “I do a lot of castles and scenery tattoos because people never forget the memories of their trips,” she said. “They want to look at the castle and scenery for the rest of their lives.”
In one case, one customer brought Ovenlee a photo she took on a trip and asked her to draw a tattoo out of it. “They wanted to put a castle to represent her travels around Europe, and another wanted a dreamlike scenery of what she saw on a train,” she said. “It always represents a journey, following one’s dreams and a moment of bliss.”
Ovenlee herself has a lot of wanderlust, and travels to Europe as often as she can. “I love traveling to Europe, and whenever I come across a pretty landscape, I immediately draw a picture in my sketchbook,” she says. Having traveled to small, remote villages in England to the south of Germany, Paris, Vienna and Prague, that same wanderlust is shared when it comes to landmarks, castles and cathedrals.
“Just as I have good memories of my trip, I want other people to look at my paintings and remember the same happy memories of being in these European cities,” she said. “It’s about not forgetting your travels, as iPhone photos are never enough.”
Ovenlee recommends taking a lot of photos on your travels of unique moments. Yes, try photographing landmarks from different vantage points with your photos—from rooftop views to low angles. Try to get less-obvious moments captured with your camera, too, beyond your typical selfie.
Try to get shots of bridges, alleyways, and photos taken at night to capture the essence of a city, beyond the typical touristic shots. When it comes to castles, try various shots around it, from roads to shots taken from the lawn. Then, when you return from your trip, filter out the generic shots (usually the postcard-like ones) and find a shot that represents a perfect moment.
More than anything, she recommends that you choose a photo of a place that represents something special to you. “Prague Castle was the most impressive,” she said. “It was very beautiful both during the day and at night. It was because swans were swimming under the castle, and the faces of people passing by the gate looked very happy.”
It was also a trip she took with her mother, which is what made it special. “At night, we saw yellow lights along the bridges, it was beautiful,” she said. “And the moon and stars were full next to the castle, and I really wanted to create that scene, that memory, as a painting that I could make a tattoo.”
Check out Ovenlee Tattoo on Instagram.