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Wild Ones: Katya Krasnova & Tor

The Kiev-born, LA-based artist talks surreal cat tattoos and mondo Maine Coons.

by Helin Jung
August 27, 2021
Katya Krasnova with her cat
Courtesy of Katya Krasnova

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If there are cat people and there are dog people (and still other persuasions, of course), then Katya Krasnova is firmly in the cat camp. The Kiev-born, Los Angeles-based artist primarily works with illustrative blackwork tattoos, and of those, she estimates that 90% are cat-themed designs: curled up taking cat naps, being cradled by their cat moms, wearing shades and swilling martinis. They are also emblazoned on one-of-a-kind incense holders, trinket trays, and mini planters. Krasnova has a sizable Instagram following, as does her present feline companion, a 35-lb. Maine Coon named Tor. We caught up with her to talk cats — the ones in ink and the ones on Instagram.

What’s your story — how did you get into tattooing?

I’m originally from Kiev, Ukraine. I studied art as a child. My mother is a designer so art has always been a part of my life. When I was 18, I decided to quit my studies at college in Kiev to try tattooing. I’ve always liked tattoos and got my first one when I was 17 — I was a teenager with piercings and hair dyed different colors. A year later, I met a tattoo artist who is now my husband. He had a studio and taught me everything. I started by drawing tattoo designs for about six months, then I started to do real tattoos on my friends. Everything happened very fast for me. I traveled a lot and worked in different studios throughout Europe. Four years ago, I moved to New York and worked in a studio, then I decided to move to Los Angeles — I like to be close to nature and I like national parks, so I think that California is better for me.

katya krasnova
Courtesy of Katya Krasnova

What made you develop your particular style of tattooing?

I started with American traditional, a bold style with fat lines and in color. My style was very different from what it is now. All artists are growing — you can see changes in their art. I wanted to do something simple, just black-and-white designs. I miss color tattoos sometimes; I actually did one a couple of weeks ago and it was the first color tattoo I’ve done in years.

What designs comprise most of your work these days?

I do many cat tattoos — I think it’s 90% of my work. Sometimes people ask me to do a portrait of their cat. I really enjoy it, but I want it to be perfect, so unfortunately I don’t have enough time to draw each new design. I work only with my tattoo flash-book designs. I have many cats of different breeds, different fur, spots, stripes…so each client can find something they like.

Katya Krasnova cat tattoos
Courtesy of Katya Krasnova

Do you get tired of drawing cats?

No, I never will be bored of drawing cats. I started making ceramics with my cat designs and I love it so much. It’s helping me focus on something else besides tattooing. It’s meditative and relaxing for me.

How did cats become your specialty?

I’ve always had cats in my life, ever since I was born. I feel a special connection with them. The character of the cat is very close to me. I'm a very calm person and I like to be alone — but with my cat, of course. It’s very easy for me to [capture] a cat’s personality in my work. People have asked me to design dog tattoos, but it’s so much harder for me because I don’t have a dog in my life. I don't know what they do, how they sleep…

Katya Krasnova cat tattoos
Courtesy of Katya Krasnova

Your current cat, Tor, is enormous!

He’s a Maine Coon. Tor was the biggest kitten in the litter. He’s super heavy! When my father brought him from Ukraine, he was four months old and already the size of a regular cat. But he had a very, very long tail. He was too small for his tail so he looked funny — like a monkey playing and running around. Now he’s four years old and a super chill cat.

What’s your relationship with Tor like?

He’s a very special cat. Sometimes I think he’s a mix of cat, dog, and human. Everyone who meets him says that he’s very different than other cats. He doesn’t lay down like a cat, but like a dog. His size, of course. He even pants like a dog. But he has the voice of a kitten — looking at him, you expect him to sound like a lion, but he meows like a little kitten.

cat ceramics and artwork
Courtesy of Katya Krasnova

He seems to like the outdoors on Instagram. Do you take him on walks?

In New York, he was in the apartment all the time. But now, we have a small backyard and he enjoys it so much. He goes out at 7 a.m. and spends all day outside — just watching the squirrels and hummingbirds.

Do you have any tattoos of Tor?

Not yet. I’m trying to find an artist who can do his portrait. Not super realistic. Maybe realistic dot work — it’s a popular style now.

maine coon cat
Courtesy of Katya Krasnova

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Helin Jung

Helin Jung is a writer in Los Angeles.