Tattoo Spotlight: Sai Li

On the outskirts of the Mission District in San Francisco resides Black Serum, a tattoo studio filled with artists dedicated to providing custom, one-of-a-kind designs. One of these artists is Sai Li, who is currently an apprentice of Brücius Xylander, one of the top tattoo artists in the Bay Area and a fellow Black Serum resident. Originally from China, Li earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation at Beijing’s Tsinghua University and later studied for her Master of Fine Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute. Anyone who scrolls through Li’s Instagram can clearly recognize both her intense, multidisciplinary training and natural creative talent as her style occupies a unique space of quirky realism inspired by her practice in comics, illustration, and animation.

The level of detail exhibited in the work transcends the human canvas as each individual line and dot is given the utmost care. When admiring the fragility of Li’s lines and shading, the interaction between ink and skin mirrors the textures of pencil on paper in that one could imagine rubbing off the extremely delicate tattoo with an eraser. Therein lies Li’s attention to creating depth through a calculated combination of light and dark strokes while maintaining the integrity and visibility of every single line. Not only are Li’s tattoos visually breathtaking, but she ensures that every piece creates a “visual narrative”. Ordinary objects are reimagined with a whimsical and fantastical aura, breathing life into the still images.

The intricacies throughout the young artist’s work make it hard to believe that she only started her tattooing career a few months ago. Despite still being early in her journey as a tattoo artist, Sai Li already has a distinctive style that is easily recognizable as her own. There’s no doubt that her creativity and artistic ability will inevitably make her a big name in the tattoo community.

Check out Sai Li’s Instagram

Check out Sai Li’s website

- Julia Eunji Choi -

Raylene Pereyra