Artist Interview

We were recently approached by Lane, a student and up-and-coming artist in the tattoo industry, for an interview revolving around Keena, our co-owner and lead tattoo artist, as well as the business and how it’s come to be where it’s at today!  Full interview notes are below — and a big thanks to Lane for giving us this opportunity!

*Intro and Background*
– How did you first become interested in the tattoo industry?
I’ve always been interested in the arts, and have been involved in the hobby my entire life.  During my college years up in St. Louis, I had a close friend who had recently taken on a tattoo apprenticeship, and she’d come home from work and tell me all about how exciting it was!  Naturally, this piqued my interest in the industry, and once I relocated down to Las Cruces, I began looking for a tattoo artist to apprentice me and help me get my foot in the industrial door, so to speak!  
– Can you share a bit about your artistic background and how it led you to become a tattoo artist?
I’ve been a traditional artist my entire life, working in a variety of mediums including graphite, watercolor, oil, acrylic, and more!  Both of my parents are artists as well, so it was very easy while growing up to pursue a passion in the genre and soak up all the skills that they could pass along to me.
*Artistic style and influence*
– How would you describe your unique artistic style, and what influences have shaped it?
I’ve always gravitated towards technical/fine art, and have spent a lot of time meticulously drawing various subjects and self-portraits as such.  During my college years, my now-husband was going to school for graphic design, and he’d come home with the latest computer programs and lessons he learned that I would then take and practice on as well.  These two skill sets ended up translating really well into my tattoo style, which emphasizes bold, logo-esque designs with pops of color.  My intent is that these drawings work well both as a tattoo, but also as a graphic that can be stamped on t-shirts, stickers, etc.
– Are there any particular artists or art movements that inspire your work?
From a traditional art standpoint, I love the paintings of Frank Frazetta – his dark, bold style makes for some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen, and both my father and I have learned a lot from his artwork over the years.  In the tattoo industry, I absolutely adore Laura Anunnaki’s work, and how all of her creations pop so much color into the skin that they look more like stickers than tattoos.  Her style, and just overall vibe, are that which I’ve been obsessed with for quite some time now.
*Creative process*
– Can you walk me through your typical creative process when working with a new client?
Potential clients will typically reach out online, where I’ve got a simple Request Form for them to fill out to get me all the basic information I need to get them started.  Sometimes they’ll come with something specific in mind, but most of the time they’ll have more of a general idea that we can then collaborate on.  We’ll work together to get them a concept that they’re happy with, and upon their approval, I’ll tattoo the design on them following their preferences on the day of their appointment! My favorites, though, are those that come in either wanting one of my designs or simply wanting to get something drawn up in my style – these are the absolute best!  
– How do you balance your artist’s vision with the client’s ideas and preferences?
It just comes down to good communication – meshing what they’ve got in mind with my artistic vision.  Usually, these blend together well though, as they’ve typically sought me out based on preferring my style to begin with.
*Memorable projects*
– Are there any particularly memorable or challenging tattoo projects that stand out in your career? could you share the story behind them?
I really have a lot of fun on *all* of my appointments as each brings its own joys and challenges to learn from, but if I had to single one project out in particular, it’d have to be my Kraken/Octopus design on my husband’s chest.  It’s a design I drew up quite some time ago, and it’s extremely detailed between all the tentacles of the creature and all the intricacies of the skull that it’s centered around; the issue is that my husband got pretty squeamish pretty quickly due to the sensitivity of the tattoo.  As such, he was flinching so much by the end of the outline that we had to stop after that part was finished.  To date, he *still* hasn’t let me get in there to color and shade the piece, and it drives me crazy!
– Is there a specific tattoo that holds significance to you, either personally or professionally?
I have two very simple keys tattooed on my fingers, both from the graphic novel series Locke & Key.  They’re the Alpha and Omega keys – the beginning and the end – and they’re a nice memento of the journey I’ve been on in this career, as well as all the things I’ve learned and all the amazing people I’ve met so far in the industry!
*Client collaboration*
– How do you establish effective communication with clients to understand their vision for a tattoo?
Everything is typically done online via that Release Form we mentioned earlier, and from there, it’s typically a lot of DM’ing back and forth leading up to the day.  Our shop has public hours too, focused around the weekly downtown Farmer’s Markets, where people will come in and get a feel for my style, set up appointments, and get advice if they catch me while I’m there!
– What steps do you take to ensure that the client is comfortable and satisfied with the design before the tattooing process begins?
They’ll get the final concept sent to them prior to the appointment for their approval, that way there are no surprises on the day of!  That’s best for both them and me so that both parties know exactly what to expect during the session.
*Adaptability and versatility *
– Have you ever taken on a project that required you to step out of your comfort zone artistically? how did you handle it?
This happened a lot early on in my career as I was still getting a feel for tattooing, but each one was a learning experience.  Typically if I have a unique style or concept request, I’ll try it out first on my husband who’s always been my guinea pig of sorts, before confidently working with a client so that I know they’ll be happy with the end result.
*Inspiration and trends*
– Where do you draw inspiration for your tattoo designs, and how do you stay updated on emerging trends in the tattoo industry?
As an artist, I’m always pulling inspiration from the world around me.  It could be something I see on TV, or come across in a store while shopping, or even an idea simply from day-to-day conversations.  I do spend a lot of time on social media, trying to follow the most popular trends for the time, so that my designs and references stay relevant as well.
 *Career advice*
– What advice would you give to aspiring tattoo artists who are just starting their careers?
Draw, draw, draw.  Literally, during any downtime, make sure you’re drawing to help build your skills and/or to keep your skillset sharp.  You never know what that next client is going to want, and the more versatile you are, the less scary it’ll be when they ask for something you aren’t as familiar with! And to my fellow tattooists out there — stretch the skin! 😉
– Are there any lessons you’ve learned along the way that you wish someone had shared with you when you were starting out?
If anything, accept that you’re not going to know or have experience in everything all at the beginning.  As exciting as it is to start working in the tattoo industry, it can be super overwhelming between all the requests, tattoo styles, color theory, and more.  Just keep drawing, learning, and soaking up the information that’s out there, and the skills will develop naturally over time.
*Community engagement*
– How do you stay involved in the tattoo artist community? Do you attend conventions or engage with fellow artists on social media?
No conventions (yet!), but I do follow all the local artists and try to support them where and when I can!  It’s these contacts that have helped me build my own network, and I appreciate each and every one of them for it.  This town has some amazingly talented people in it, and everyone is super supportive of each other!
– What role do you believe community engagement plays in the growth and development of a tattoo artist’s career?
Honestly, it’s everything.  The tattoo industry is very much a word-of-mouth industry, and your clientele is built upon people being happy with their work, your style, and your customer service skills.  Taking care of someone means they’ll be more likely to tell their friends and family about you, and that’s vital in keeping people coming to you for future projects.
*Hygiene and Safety:*
– How do you prioritize hygiene and safety in your tattooing process?
These days, most of the tools used are sterile, single-use, disposable products that keep everything simple and comfortable for both the client and our studio.  Aside from that, we go through a thorough sanitization process before and after each client that books at our studio, and the shop itself goes through a rigorous deep-cleaning schedule as well.
– What advice do you have for clients when it comes to aftercare and maintaining the health of their tattoos?
Everyone has their own experience when it comes to keeping the tattoo looking amazing and healing well, but each client leaves their appointment with a little To-Go box that includes samples of some of my favorite aftercare products, as well as full instructions they can reference as they’re healing.  We also carry full-size aftercare products from a variety of vendors in our shop, both for healing afterward as well as maintaining client tattoos for years to come.
*These questions should provide a comprehensive look into the tattoo artist’s experiences, creative process, and insights into the industry.
Thanks so much for thinking of me on this; it’s been a lot of fun going through the journey with you!  
“Just keep drawing, learning, and soaking up the information that's out there, and the skills will develop naturally over time!"
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