Arts·Art Hurts

After having a tough time when she was young, tattooing gave Hilary Jane the purpose she needed

When she was 15, she walked into a tattoo studio to see if she could sell her art. Now she has over 80k Instagram follows and travels the world for her work.

'I know that's what I'm meant to do and that's exactly where I'm supposed to be'

This is part three of Art Hurts, a new CBC Arts digital series now streaming on CBC Gem that focuses on eight of the game-changers in the Canadian tattoo landscape. And they're all female-identifying or gender non-binary. Just saying, guys.

Tattoos by Montreal's Hilary Jane are hard to miss. Their colour palette is unusual — red wine and forest green — and the designs (as well as her paintings and embroideries) are populated by winding motifs from nature (what she calls "organic psychedelia"). Plus many of them feature the same woman's face, in many iterations. Hilary Jane says, "Pretty much since I started drawing, I was always drawing female figures. I guess in a way it's kind of like a self-portrait. And she followed me through my evolution, my growing process. I guess it's sort of a subconscious lady that represents me and kind of looks like me."

And it's not only in tattoos that Hilary Jane inscribes herself in her work. She talks about art as a calling — one she found after having a rough time feeling at home in school, and balancing life between the city and the country. She says, "I trust the process 100%. I know that's what I'm meant to do and that's exactly where I'm supposed to be."

In this video made by filmmaker Jorge Camarotti, you'll meet Hilary Jane in the studio and at home as she gives you a look into her childhood — and how she had the guts to walk into a tattoo studio at 15 years old to see if she could sell her art. Now, she has over 80,000 followers on Instagram and travels the world with stints in Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Hawaii and Phoenix (among others). We think she made a wise decision.

Follow Hilary Jane here.

Stream Art Hurts now on CBC Gem.


Lise Hosein is a producer at CBC Arts. Before that, she was an arts reporter at JazzFM 91, an interview producer at George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. When she's not at her CBC Arts desk she's sometimes an art history instructor and is always quite terrified of bees.