Getting a tattoo? Whatever you do, don’t copy your favourite celebrities.
It’s among the handy tips of tattooing dos and don’ts to be found in Kat Von D’s new book, High Voltage Tattoo, a photo-driven compendium of one of the world’s most notorious tattoo artist’s previous work, artistic influences and childhood memories. The star of TLC show L.A. Ink and partner of Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx delves into the often misunderstood world of tattoo art and the stories behind her markings and those of her best friends and previous clients.
“It was a long time coming,” says Von D (nee Katherine Von Drachenberg). “The show educates people about the tattoo world and the book is a more in-depth personal look at it.”
The Los Angeles-based tattoo artist and soon to be film star (appearing in 2009 vampire flick The Bleeding) has tattooed celebrities such as Jackass’ Steve-O and Bam Margera among others. She showcases designs as elaborate and dynamic as something found in an art museum, from reproductions of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica on the side of a torso, to more comedic works. Her personal favourites are two portraits of a friend’s grandparents. Over the grandfather lies a banner saying, “Mona, get me a beer!” The grandmother’s depiction replies, “Get it yourself!”
“Tattoos are a collaborative thing,” the 26 year old says. “The dynamic between artist and client is a pretty free one. The client comes in with an idea and they create a vision together. The idea is always rooted with a client and a good tattooer will take it and make it better.”
The world of tattoos isn’t all wild rock ’n’ roll abandon, however. Von D says she’s taken sharp criticism from purists in the business who accuse her of “selling out.” Keeping a steady hand while you work on someone’s skin can also demand a great deal of strength and stamina. Von D points to Dec 14, 2007, where she set a Guinness World Record for doing the most tattoos in a 24-hour period by tattooing more than 400 arms, backs, legs and rear ends. “I just crashed for a whole day when I was done,” she said.
It’s no cakewalk for a recipient, either. You’ll sit in a chair in uncomfortable circumstances for a period of time, so Von D suggests you have a fair idea of what you want done.
“The best advice I’d give anyone getting a tattoo for the first time would be to have a 100 per cent certain idea of what you want to get and not to get something because Nicole Richie has it,” she said. “And don’t get it because your boyfriend wants you to. And do your research: There’s a lot of talent out there that nobody knows about.”
Kat Von D, from head to toe
Story: When Kat Von D was married, her husband told her to stop getting her face tattooed. So, she added seven stars to her face.
What: “Hollywood” tattoo written in lipstick
Story: Kat did this as an homage to one of her favourite bands, the New York Dolls.
What: Kat’s “I Love You” tattoo
Location: Right shoulder
Story: Kat told Nikki Sixx to write her a love letter. Sixx responded by tattooing this note on her shoulder.
What: “Mi Vida Loca” tattoo
Story: Spanish for “my crazy life,” Kat got this tattoo on Cinco De Mayo in 2004 after drinking a bottle of tequila.