Tattoo artist Katie McGowan Interview by May Touma
I was given a new assignment to interview a lady tattoo artist. I immediately went on the net to Google “Katie McGowan”. I instantly fell in love with Katie! What I loved most about her were her fun and colorful tattoos, her unique fashion sense, her bold lipstick choices and her wicked hairstyles! If we were besties, I would definitely raid her entire wardrobe and her makeup collection.
Katie has 4 years of tattooing experience under her belt. She has been in the tattoo industry since 2010. She does not consider herself just as a “great female tattoo artist” but as a “great tattoo artist”. I love that statement because Katie is empowering women, especially other lady tattoo artists, by stomping into a male dominated industry, and breaking down gender roles. She is all about supporting and uplifting other female tattoo artists in the industry and that is something worth celebrating!
1) I absolutely love your style! Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
My fashion inspo comes from many places. Current trends, drag queens, pop stars, queer culture, Barbie, fashion magazines, and women everywhere of all shapes and sizes that I pass in the streets.
2) Where do you love shopping for your clothes? Why?
Lately I've really been loving modcloth.com because they have new stuff pretty frequently and an excellent selection of plus size pieces. I also enjoy shopping at vintage stores. One of my favorite clothing items is a baggy denim jacket with fringe that I bought from a vintage store in Rome.
3) How do you choose to identify with your physical self and why? (ie: curvy, plus-size, fat etc.)
I very lovingly refer to myself as "fat." I love calling the plus size section the "fat girl" section because I believe the word "fat" is cute and endearing. I don't have a negative connotation with that word when it's being used in an empowering and uplifting way.
4) What advice would you give someone who is struggling with their body image?
There is no exact formula to being "beautiful" or "attractive." Don't believe everything you see on tv or see online. You don't have to fit a certain mold to be beautiful, and most importantly, carrying yourself with confidence is 95% of beauty in my opinion. There is room for all body types and shapes in this world and "non-traditional" beauty is not only empowering, but necessary.
5) Do you have a style icon who inspires you? What about them inspires you?
Betsey Johnson, Ru Paul, pretty much all the Kardashian-Jenners (yes, I'll admit it), Dolly Parton, Parisian women, Coco Chanel, my mom. These people are inspirational to me because they have a genuine love and appreciation for fashion. They respect it and clearly have fun with it.
6) When did you discover your talent as a tattoo artist?
I grew up having an interest in art, and I started to draw when I was pretty young. I realized I wanted to be a tattoo artist after I turned 18 and started hanging out my local tattoo shop.
7) How did you begin your journey into becoming a tattoo artist?
In 2005, after realizing I wanted to become a tattoo artist, I lucked out and scored a job at my local tattoo shop. I started off piercing for five years as a means to get into tattooing. After five years, I began tattooing in 2010. In 2012 I started tattooing at Black Cobra, where I'm still at currently.
8) How would you describe your style as a tattoo artist?
I tattoo a lot of bold, colorful "girly" imagery that has a neo-traditional feel. I love tattooing mandalas, flowers, lady heads, animals, cool shit!
9) What other skill sets should a great tattoo artist have? Why?
Aside from being able to design and execute a nice tattoo, a "great" tattoo artist should also be able to communicate well with clients and demonstrate excellent bedside manner. Being kind to your clients and having an understanding from the beginning what the client should expect from you design-wise shows that you care about what you do and makes the process a lot smoother.
11) If a plus size person gets a tattoo and then loses a lot of weight and vice versa, would the tattoo change? Should that even be something people worry about?
A lot of that depends on the placement of the tattoo and how much weight is actually gained or lost. It also has to do with genetics and your skin elasticity. That being said, it's been rare when I've encountered a person that has lost or gained so much weight that their tattoo is affected majorly. Typically, tattoos placed on or near the stomach are the most affected.
12) What are some things people need to know about tattoo expos before attending one?
Every artist is different as far as how they book appointments for tattoo conventions. Some book up quickly as soon as they announce they are attending, and some prefer to take walk-ups at the show. I prefer to book appointments beforehand so I can have a good idea of what my weekend may be like and what I supplies I should pack.
Oh, and make sure to not wash your tattoo in the bathroom at the convention center!! Haha, but for real! There are SO many people walking around with germs at the convention and pretty much all of them are touching their fresh tattoos, so you should consider every object in the bathroom there to be way gross. Public restrooms are a nasty place to wash your tattoo!
13) Would you recommend someone who is getting a tattoo for the first time, to get it at a tattoo expo? Why or why not?
I think it would be fine either way, to go to a convention or going to a shop. A shop may feel a little less hectic and more comfortable than a show, however.
14) You have beautiful tattoos! Can you please share with our readers the story behind your body art?
I have tattoos for many reasons! Some have a personal meaning behind them, some are just goofy, some are well done, and some aren't. I got several of them just because I thought they would look cool. Most of the tattoos I wear are fun and colorful. I have two black and grey tattoos, and they're both portraits. One is of Morrissey, and there other is of Dolly Parton when she was on the cover of Playboy in the 70's.
15) Can you describe what it is like to be a day in the life of a tattoo artist?
My morning usually starts around 10:00am. I wake up and draw for my appointments that day, and sometimes I'll wake up a little earlier if I need extra drawing time. I drink an iced latte and eat an Amy's frozen dinner (I keep a variety stocked in my freezer). If I'm in a hurry and skip lunch, I just plan on ordering the #6 (cut in half, add peppers) from Jimmy John's later in the day. I get to the shop shortly before we open at 1:00. I usually do two tattoos a day and leave the shop anywhere from 9pm - midnight. When I get home, I eat dinner, watch nba-tv, play on my phone, and sleep. Tomorrow, repeat.
16) The tattoo industry is a male dominated industry. Do you believe you had to work extra hard to prove yourself as a female tattoo artist? Why or why not?
I get asked this pretty frequently. I don't think I'll ever feel like the industry isn't a "boys' club." There's lots of sexism and womanizing that happens, and it's pretty blatant. I think that a lot of women experience feelings of not being taken as seriously as their male peers. I also believe that women are oftentimes judged first by their appearance and then by their work second. It's so important for women to support each other and hold each other up, as lady tattooers are few and far between, and most of us can share at least one story of how we have felt disadvantaged or disrespected in our industry because of our gender.
17) What advice would you give a new female tattoo artist who is looking to create her own brand and style?
Figure out what you like and what represents you. This may take years, really. So be patient. Once you begin to figure out what your style is, then you can hone in on it and start to develop it, which can take more years. You must love what you're doing to put in all the time! Also, it's important to put yourself out there and promote like crazy! It may seem un-cool at first to promote yourself on social media, but really if you're putting time and energy into self-promotion, that's the ultimate way of showing that you give a shit about yourself and your business!!
18) What would you say helped you the most throughout your journey as a tattoo artist?
What has helped me the most as a ‘tattooer’ is working with other artists that care a lot about their craft. Having co-workers that are talented and create amazing tattoos everyday is a great inspiration. I also love looking at all the amazing tattoos that are being posted on Instagram by so many ‘tattooers’ from all over. Talented female ‘tattooers’ are especially motivating to me!
19) You were on Ink Master Season 6, what is your fondest memory from the show and why?
I thoroughly enjoyed having my hair and makeup done by professionals!!
20) Matt O'Baugh was your mentor on Ink Master, what has he helped you learn during your time on the show?
Matt O'Baugh handled pressure and anxiety-producing situations on the show very well, and I tried to do the same. He also managed his time really well, so I tried to take a page from him and do that too during the tattoo elimination challenges (since they're timed).
21) Which shop do you currently tattoo from and where is it located?
Black Cobra, Little Rock, Arkansas
22) Are you involved in any future projects that you would like to share with our readers?
I sell prints, stickers, and shirts on my Instagram, and I post all my travel dates for conventions and guest spots on there too!!
23) Where can our readers find more information about you?
Follow me on Instagram: @katietattoos
My snapchat is @katie.tattoos and my website is www.katietattoos.com