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Time Out: How did you discover that you wanted to be a tattoo artist?
Karina Mayorga: When it occurred to me that tattooing was the thing for me to do, I had designed a tattoo for my ex-husband and went with him to get it. I made a fully shaded mockup for the artist, to show how the lettering was supposed to be shaded with gradations of grey. Then I watched as he completely disregarded the mockup and just colored half of each letter solid black. As he was ruining the piece, I was thinking, "I can do that. I can probably do it better than this guy," and after that, tattooing became my obsession. I drew up lots of skulls and roses, Metallica stuff, Guns and Roses stuff. I approached a Hells Angels tattooer for an apprenticeship, and secured a position. I did my first tattoo on my ex-husband's calf: Two skulls staring pointlessly into one another's eyes.
Time Out: When did you first start tattooing professionally, and when did you pair up with your tattoo partner, Stephanie?
KM: Started in 1991. Stephanie came to work with me in 1997, two years later I opened Ink Ink Tattoo.
Time Out: How did you end up tattooing in Venice?
KM: I ended up in Venice during the Reagan Era due to tough economic times. I used to go to the Eugene Public Library [in Oregon] and look at the Help Wanted ads in the Los Angeles Times. It was like porno for the unemployed. I had completed a certificate program in graphic design, but then they came out with the PC and started doing everything on computers. I was a disgruntled paste up artist. I am a craftsman, a hands-on kinda girl, and didn't want to go back to school again to learn to do something I would hate, a.k.a. work with computers. I came straight to Venice, since everyone told me I'd fit right in here. Venice, Eugene, Boulder, Austin and Santa Cruz were all meccas for hippies. When I started Ink Ink, with the help of my ex-husband, it was mainly because I lived in Venice and I had a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old at the time and had clients here.
Time Out: What is your relationship with your clients like?
KM: I am not a rock star. I consider myself to be a commercial or "mercenary" artist; that is, it is my job and duty to help the client realize their vision. Many non-visual clients come with more of a concept than an image, in which case I have to do more research and development. Those with a more specific image in mind allow less creative license. I love working on repeat clients. When I'm doing a big piece (say, a sleeve or back piece that requires six months to complete), I have plenty of time to get to know the client. We become attached. When the piece is complete and it's time to bid good-bye, it can feel almost like breaking up. Like a temporary separation.
Time Out: How would you describe your style?
KM: My style is linear. I'm a draftsman's daughter, and I love a good line! I'm also crazy about lettering. I like black and gray best. I suspect I may have been a dog in my last incarnation, which accounts for my gray scale preference, but am fully competent in color. I am proficient at black and gray portraits.
Time Out: What's the most memorable piece you've ever done?
KM: One piece comes to mind. A guy came in one morning after an argument with his girlfriend. During the course of their argument, she told him, "you used to be my hero." He got a "Nobody's Hero" tattooed on his chest.
Time Out: What's the strangest tattoo you've ever done?
KM: It's always strange to me when people want to copy celebrity tattoos. Or, maybe it was the guy who just wanted a tattoo of one-inch line.
Time Out: What's the strangest situation you've ever been in while tattooing?
KM: The strangest situation is a toss-up between the girl who took a swing at me when she snapped out of fainting, or that time a girl peed on my foot.
Time Out: Do you have a favorite tattoo of your own?
KM: My personal tattoos are like children. I love them all for different reasons.
Time Out: What's your favorite music to tattoo to?
KM: My two favorite groups right now are the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers. I like to sing while I work and once ran a Yellow Pages ad back in the olden times when they used to have phone books saying, "Home of the Singing Tattooer." I'm partial to Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Bea Wain, and the Andrew Sisters to sing to.
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