“I’m a small town artist out of Yuba City, CA. I’ve been creating art since I can remember and for the past 5 years I have been transitioning my skills into the tattoo world. Beginning late in this cutthroat industry, I work day and night to grow as quickly and efficiently as possible. I’m blessed to have two role models in Joann and Albert, as well as my clients/friends. I am forever humbled because without their support, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love.”
Name? — Aarika, AKA “Beetlejuice,” AKA “Beju”
Shop name? — Tattoo Obscura/Traveler
Location?– Anywhere, but mostly Janesville, Wisconsin.
Years tattooing? — 11
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Describe your tattoo style in five words or less.
Animated, Nerdy, Illustrative, cartoony, colorful.
At what age did you begin pursuing art?
About the time I could hold a pencil.
What/who were your earliest influences?
A LOT of video games, anime, animals, and Sunday comics.
When and how did human skin become your canvas of choice?
I always found myself drawing on people in school—and getting in trouble for it (LOL). Then, one day tattooing took a chance on me and I haven’t stopped.
You began your career in a biker shop. What was it like as a young, female tattoo apprentice to work in that environment?
Oof, was it a doozy! I wouldn’t say it broke me but I definitely had to rebuild myself. It was an experience and I wouldn’t have changed for the world, though! You gotta have thick skin, for sure.
The style you’ve developed runs doesn’t seem like it would fit in a biker studio. Did you get any backlash?
Not backlash for my style because I could only tattoo flash, but I for sure got it for trying new techniques too early in my apprenticeship. One time, my machines got thrown away. I eventually had to move on to find the right clients for the style and subject matter I like to do now.
You’ve credited tattooing with pulling you out of drug addiction. How did tattooing do that for you?
I was rippin’ and runnin’ for almost 10 years. Eventually, it caught up with me, but I didn’t notice it until I saw it on skin. I’ve always believed in the saying, “You’re only as good as your last tattoo,” so I knew I had a to make a change.
As a young tattoo artist, where do you think we should draw the line between respect for the traditions of the trade and helping to push its evolution?
There is no line of division. Only a starting point. The starting point that made tattooing what it is now is traditional tattooing. Other than that, the only line that needs to be drawn is on paper. Art is a living, breathing thing and each artist puts their own little quirks, life experiences and interpretation on the gold standard (traditional tattooing), which then becomes the new normal. Besides if we didn’t put our own spin on things would we be artists or just copy machines?
Favorite part of your job?
Making those smiles flow, baby! 🙂
Least favorite part of your job?
My own nitpicking
I’m the ghost with the most!
Any parting words?
BEJU: coming to a town near you. It’s showtime!
Jason Radcliff: Trash Polka and Heartless Bastards
Name? Jason Radcliff
Shop? Black List Tattoo Parlour
Location? Albuquerque, New Mexico
Years tattooing? Just over 17 years.
How did you get your start as a tattoo artist?
I have always been immersed in the arts be it painting, illustration, or anything expressive. As a profession, tattooing has been the only thing that I’ve ever known. When I was a kid, my uncle, who is also a tattooer moved back into town (Seattle area) and eventually opened his own shop. We were close, so he gave me the opportunity to come work in the shop when I was 14, cleaning the place in the morning before school. By 16, I was working the counter and at 17, the guys at the shop offered me an apprenticeship.
What was your apprenticeship like?
My apprenticeship, I feel, was fairly typical of the 90’s. I was put through my paces by everyone in the shop. I cleaned and sterilized everyone’s tubes, built all of their needles, and was reprimanded incessantly. The needle-building was the worst. I would . . . build hundreds of needles over the course of a few days, breathing in flux and burning myself repeatedly, only to have a quarter of what I made come back to me because they weren’t good enough. The apprenticeship lasted about 2 years before I was allowed to work on the public.
You just picked up a Spektra Xion from FK Irons. How do you like it?
The Xion is a great machine! I picked this machine up because I just felt like trying something new again. I’ve use coil machines for the bulk of my career, and I love them . . . Coil machines each have their specific purposes. I’ve found that rotaries are just a bit more versatile.
You have several finished pieces, as well as sketches that stand out distinctly from the rest of your more conventional work. What was the inspiration behind these?
That stemmed from me trying to merge realistic elements with more abstract ones, as well as trying to find my own niche. The inspiration came from all over. The two biggest influences have come from both the U.S. and Germany in the form of abstractionist painter Franz Kline and the duo of Volker and Simone and their creation titled “Trash Polka.” Both are very unique and aggressive in substance and style.
You are both an artist and owner of your tattoo parlor. Is it ever a struggle to find balance between the two positions?
It can be tricky at times. I am lucky enough, however, to have a business partner that helps keep that balance in check. We communicate constantly to make sure that everything stays on track. Time management has to be the single greatest challenge of playing both roles, if I’m not drawing for an upcoming project, I’m doing clerical work, making sure bills are paid, or trying to figure out the next move for the business. It can be daunting at times.
It was just rosary beads. More precisely, a tattoo of rosary beads, appearing as a bracelet adorning the subject’s wrist. There’s nothing revolutionary about that. For whatever reason, Catholic imagery has always offered a deep well of inspiration for tattoo artists and their clientele. Just Google “sacred heart tattoo” and see what comes up.
But what made it stand out was, well, how it stood out. Through just a touch of the right shading and a nuance of detail, an otherwise simple, even commonplace design came alive on the wrist with the illusion of a third dimension. The beads had shape—texture, even. They sat on the skin rather than just existing in it. If perception is truly reality, they became real, as useful for prayer as anything you could pick up from a church gift shop.
The image came to exist in my world thanks to an email from one of our account reps. She had received it from a friend, to whom it had been passed by the artist’s mother. Yes, the artist’s mother. It’s a different world than the one we used to know. And that thought is perhaps more of the thrust of this story than the artist we’re discussing.
I didn’t blink. “Yes,” I replied. “She’s definitely worthy of a story. Let’s run with this. Make the call and we’ll set up an interview.”
Here’s the thing. I still believe that, I do. Noemi Rubio-Dominguez, the artist behind the bracelet, is churning out some solid work, quality enough to stand up to just about any artist we’ve covered, and arguably enough to leave some of them in the dust. But if the term “wet behind the ears” were a literal one, her lobes would be drowning. On a scale of tattoo careers that’s measured in years, hers is yet to even register on the chart. She only finished her apprenticeship last June, something I didn’t find out until our interview. Maybe I should do better homework. But I’m glad I didn’t.
The traditional me would have balked. “Well, let’s talk in a couple of years,” I imagine that version of me saying. “Once you’ve paid your dues.” But what is tradition but formerly useful guidelines that have withered into meaningless tropes? No, it’s not normal to feature an artist whose career has yet to span a trip around the sun. But the best stories are never the stories of normal. They are the stories of divergence, and in that respect, Noemi’s is the ultimate story, albeit subtly.
At the not-so-ripe age of 27, Noemi is a glimpse of the future. She is the first artist with whom I’ve spoken who has existed solely within the new paradigm of body art, i.e., the post-Ink Masters era where the art has expanded beyond the sub-cultural cage foisted upon it by the aging patriarchy; i.e., the Instagram era where the well of education and inspiration stretches across the globe; i.e., the #MeToo era where misogyny and objectification are quickly falling out of fashion.
These thoughts saturate the whole of my brain as we speak. They seem to frame the soft edges of every word that she speaks. Having never experienced the former sludge of our years underground, she barely has a reference for the many struggles once thought synonymous with the job. She only knows the art, and she knows it well.
Here apprenticeship was nurturing one, devoid of the all-but-mandatory hazing of previous eras.
“Some of the old artists that would come in and visit would always tell me how easy I had it,” she tells me. “But at the end of the day, if the job is getting done, why does it matter whether I got treated like shit or not? I still did what I had to do.” She really did. The gentle delivery of her mentor’s instructions didn’t mean she got out of following them. She scrubbed plenty of toilets; she just didn’t have to use a toothbrush.
Her worst doses of sexism are from clueless men who assume by default that she’s “the front desk girl.” But ultimately, she gets the joy of seeing the befuddlement crawl across their faces as they realize their mistake. Ultimately, it becomes a point of pride.
She’s a child of the internet era. She isn’t glued to her phone as the stereotype suggests, but the sum of the world’s information is and always has been at her fingertips, which means she never had to become a pioneer. She began her career on the shoulders of the giants who preceded her. But that’s exactly what makes this interesting. Remember, the story is in the divergence and hers is a divergence from the elder generation’s expectations of her. In a sense, her story is a microcosm of that of her generation, the oft-maligned “millennials,” born at the pinnacle of technology, raised in a world of instant gratification and sheltered from the ugliness of the past.
Such an upbringing breeds entitlement, they tell us. It breeds weakness. Laziness.
Complacency. But I see none of that in her. I see self-discipline, based not in fear of failure, but in confidence of outcome. I see empathy, not engrained through religion, but cultivated through humanity. And I see infinite motivation, not out of a need to feed her ego, but a desire to repay the gifts she’s been given.
Her rapid acceleration at her craft makes a hell of a lot more sense once you get her back story, though her back story doesn’t completely make sense—she almost became a cop, going so far as to pursue a major in criminal justice.
“But I have a thing with authority,” she explains. “I want to live how I want. I don’t want people to tell me what to fucking do every day. That was a big issue with school in general, but even more so going into the police force . . . that’s something that I knew I couldn’t overcome.” Yeah, no shit. Fortunately, she saw that soon enough to avert disaster. She dropped out, took whatever job she had to in order to make ends meet and began pursuing her lifelong passion in art. She didn’t jump into tattooing right way, though.
“I didn’t think I was ready,” she tells me. “I wanted to go in knowing as much as I could artistically. So I kept working at my portraits and trying to get better at them.”
She still remembers when she got her first nudge toward visual art. It was the third grade. Somehow, her scribbles in art class made an impression on the teacher, who made time to take her aside and tell her that art was her gift. From there, she never stopped. Throughout high school and beyond, she focused on portrait work, a fact reflected in her penchant for realism. That penchant forms the backdrop to her greatest strengths as a tattoo artist, but simultaneously, she feels it also forms the barriers to her development. She admits to me that she’s a little afraid of traditional work. She loves it, admires it, even. But she feels that her natural inclination for detail pulls her from that realm and ultimately disappoints clients dreaming of a sesh with the next Sailor Jerry. But give her time; she’s only been out of her apprenticeship for ten months. Besides, the humility is refreshing. And she’s not saying she won’t do it. Like her portrait work, she’ll tackle it when she feels ready. Meanwhile, her work in realism could keep her booked up for a lifetime.
The Black Rose Studio in Mansfield Texas should fell a swell of pride to call her their protégé. They’ve obviously done an excellent job. But on the meta, we, the preceding generation should all feel a twinge of the stuff. It’s easy to listen to the talking heads and nod along as they naysay the incoming generation, harping on the supposed easy life they’ve been given and the sense of entitlement they’re said to have. And yes, they killed chain restaurants, but shouldn’t we be thanking them for that? Or do you actually miss the pairing of kitschy themes and mediocre food?
The fact is, they are the products of their reality and it’s a reality that we created. Through the lens of today’s media, that might make you feel that we are the collective Dr. Frankenstein. But wipe the cynicism from your eyes and take a second look. You might find a spark of pride in there. If that doesn’t work, just talk to Noemi.
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Shop: Spiders Twisted Art Tattoo Studio
2306 Sudderth Dr
Ruidoso, NM 88345
Contact: (575)973-4794 firstname.lastname@example.org
Social media: Instagram Ruidoso_Tex
I have been tattooing around 12 years, but really started focusing on the art and growing as a professional over the last couple years.
I am a licensed tattoo artist in the state of New Mexico. I am also a Premier Artist for Colours Couture.
Being in a resort town, there isn’t much call for specialties. We all have to be very well-rounded since you never know what is going to walk through the door.
I love the artwork and capabilities of the artists around me. To be able to sit and watch some of the best, and learn different techniques just amazes me.
I am an Authorized Artist for Operation Tattooing Freedom. A foundation that helps veterans get vet2vet counseling for PTSD. We work solely off of the generosity of donations to help veterans in need.
- I started my career in Wellsboro, PA in 2011. After a brief apprenticeship, I branched out on my own and I’ve been a full-time artist and shop owner for 7 years.
- I specialize in are color work, watercolor and cover ups.
- It’s fascinating to me that after seven years in the industry I still absolutely love going to work every day. I love that I get to express myself in my art for a living, and have the opportunity to constantly learn and progress in my craft. That feeling when you give someone a piece of art that they cherish, that has meaning to them… That is the feeling what makes this career so special to me.
- I believe that as artists we should remain humble and appreciative that we get to do what we love for a living. Most people are not lucky enough to have that.
I would like to thank everyone that has helped me get to where I am today. Tattooing saved me in more ways than I can explain, and I am forever grateful. – Mike
I started (what I’d think to be ) the first day time studio in Texas…10am hits and my doors are open until 8 pm. I tried to beat the theory that a tattoo shop must be a nightlife thing, and I’m sure glad I did. It’s been 3 years and Billet Tattoo just keeps growing. Come to find out people actually like getting tattooed as early as I can wake up. Plus, it’s always nice being able to go home and do homework and make dinner with my kids. Call me old school, but I absolutely love eating at the table with my kids at night. I have finally achieved a perfect balance between work and family. I am truly blessed. Before tattooing, I spent a good part of my life in the Army. I was a combat Engineer for 6 years and continued my education in a few different areas that overall led me to become the business owner that I am today. A little bit of business law, taxes, and phlebotomy. I actually graduated top of my class. I ran back to tattooing though. The flexability to be the mother I wanted to be was just there with tattooing. Sometimes I feel like I’m the opposite of the tattoo stigma. I wear boots and a hat to work, and I love my glitter belt buckle…The bigger the better, and I jam out to country music while I tattoo. What better place for a country girl to have the cutest little shop but in Texas. I just claim to be that little lone star on the flag, can’t miss us. The shop name Billet, comes from the old days in the military, where men would tattoo themselves to escape time in the Billets after hours. I love that I can bring a little bit of our past to our future.
Yvette Green – Owner of Billet Tattoo Studio
6199 39th – Groves, Texas 77619
Nate Laird: Opportunities for Progress
Shop: Divine Moments Tattoo
Location: Portland, OR.
Specialty: Black work.
Years Tattooing: 12 years.
What led you to pursue a career as an artist?
I started doing visual arts in high school when I took an art class seriously for the first time. It was then I fell in love with art. I started tattooing right out of high school in Salem, Oregon. It’s a great job if you have a natural love of fine art.
How did you develop your unique style?
I learned over the years that I think mostly about black work tattoos and, more specifically, ornamental pieces. So, I have pushed my tattoos in this direction, but remain versatile and open to change.
I still find myself sifting through Sailor Jerry flash as well as other original flash artists for inspiration. As for locally, Chase Tofaya, Nick Pulzone, James Kern,and Bacon– to name a few. I’ve been visiting the Portland Art Museum frequently for painting inspiration.
Favorite aspect of tattooing?
The relationships I build and the stories I hear. Also, being able to do something for someone that is special to them.
Least favorite part?
Creating an awesome piece of art on someone and having to watch it walk away from me at the end of the day, not knowing if I’ll ever see it again.
Rotary or coil and why?
I spent the first 8 years of tattooing with a coil. I always recommend learning on a coil machine, but I love the rotary machines I use now, especially the cartridges that have been coming out lately.
What advice would Nate Laird of today give to Nate Laird of 12 years ago?
I’d tell myself to slow down, not only on tattoos but with life. To take every single day and piece of art as an opportunity for progress.
www.divinemomentstattoo.com – (503) 477-4615 – IG: @artislife
The art of tattooing is constantly evolving. Just look back at the simplistic Sailor Jerry tattoos compared to the hyper realistic portraits and three-dimensional designs being created nowadays. What’s next, you might wonder — how about bringing a tattoo to life by combining skin art with digital special effects?
That’s exactly what tattoo artist Lee Rowlett, of Mama Tried Tattoo Parlour, in Louisville, Kentucky, accomplished with a tattoo that utilizes a video technique known as chroma key or green screen.
The tattoo features Rick and Morty looking into the portal they often use for their inter-dimensional adventures in the cartoon series. The portal portion of the tattoo is saturated with green, which viewed through a smart phone will show actual clips from the show.
“It makes sense for this generation when it comes to tattoos. It’s a really big digital age right now— people are very visual,” Rowlett says.
Chroma key isn’t new to movies and TV. Ironman flying through the sky or the weather lady standing in front of a moving weather pattern — you get the idea. By singling out a particular color in an electronic image and then using computer software to make that color transparent, another image can be made to show through.
The green screen doesn’t actually have to be green — it can be any color as long as there are no others the same in the scene. The actual green used in most Hollywood effects is a Disney paint color called Gamma Sector Green. It is used because it’s rarely seen in real life.
Rowlett found that green and blue are the best colors for achieving the effect in a tattoo. Using a tone like brown or red, he explains, can be too close to skin tone, and can ruin the effect.
“If a person has a blotch of red on their skin, it might show the video in that area rather than just in the actual tattoo,” Rowlett says.
Once the tattoo is done, Rowlett uses an app, such as Green Screener, Chromavid or KineMaster, to produce the video that will appear within the design and gives the client a link to that footage. It’s actually pretty simple — with most apps you just take a picture of the design, select the area of color to create a mask in which the video will appear.
Rick and Morty wasn’t the first green screen tattoo. Denver tattooer Josh Herman did one of a TV set with a green “screen” that plays videos. The one the inspired Rowlett was a portrait of a girl wearing mirrored sunglasses where the reflections in the lenses were created by the effect. Rowlett has also done a green screen version of the Game of Thrones logo that shows the opening sequence from the show.
Rowlett says that green screens work best as small tattoos rather than something like a full sleeve — it’s easy to see why. Who would want an entire green arm? It’s still a tattoo and needs to holdup as such.
Since the Rick and Morty portal has gone viral across the web, Rowlett has received requests for Harry Potter tattoos that incorporate the green screen effect. That actually makes a lot of sense, because a wand can cast a spell that is created within the green area, and many of the mirrors, books maps, and newspapers within the wizarding world feature live action scenes.
“Honestly, I figured people would like it but not to this extent,” Rowlett told Buzzfeed News. “It was good to see that most of the responses were positive. A few negative ones but that’s OK. I understand it’s not something everyone’s going to be into. My favorite responses were the ones from people that thought the tattoo actually moved in real life. They were pretty funny.”
Aztek Ink is a hidden gem in the tattoo community located on Historic Olde Western Avenue, on the South Side of Chicago, IL.
Aztek Ink opened its doors in 2009,but it has been around much longer than that. Jose “Ranger” began tattooing in 1996 when he was only 13 years old. After years of working from home and in some local tattoo studios, he opened up a few blocks away from home in blue island. We have since been producing quality tattoos for clients coming near and far. We have four spectacular artists who specialize in black & grey and color realism.
The artists on our staff include the owner Carlos Ortiz(@embededink), Boots Botello(@bootstattoos), Ian Johnson(@victorytat2), and Brittany Banahan (@brittanybanahan). We love what we do and the joy it gives our clients. Our studio is always improving so whether it is your first tattoo or hundredth, you will always have a wonderful experience. For more information or any inquiries visit our website at www.aztekink.com.
920 Laguayra Dr NE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
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