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Tattoo artist Carolina Montoya hails from Pereira, Colombia. Montoya, who has a degree in teaching visual arts, works in a plethora of different mediums, proving she is equally skilled with a pencil, paintbrush or tattoo machine. These days, Montoya has turned her focus mostly towards drawing and painting. We caught up with Montoya to learn about her influences, style and more. 

When did you first discover a love of art?

My love for art has always been there. I don't remember learning how to breathe, and it's the same for art. I've tried as many techniques as I've encountered but mostly I've been drawing and painting my entire life.

How did you begin your tattoo career? Did you have an apprenticeship or learn on your own?

I was an apprentice at a tattoo shop for one year when I was 18 and I did the traditional training of setting up stations, cleaning and learning to sterilize. I was very lucky and I'm thankful because I know how limited those opportunities are, but I also put my best to it and took the best out of it.

You've worked in a couple of different styles, alternating between color and black ink. Lately you seem to focus mostly on black-and-grey realism, what appeals to you about the style? What do you find most challenging about it?

I love trying new styles and exploring what tattoos can be but what I love about black-and-grey is its similarity to pencil drawing which is my favorite medium to work besides tattooing. So having these two combined in the process makes it just even more fun.

Do you ever find yourself working in color?

Yes, color was a big part of my process and still is present but not as much as black and grey, I enjoy color realism over other color manifestations like watercolor.

What are some of your favorite subject matter to tattoo?

Definitely portraits are my favorite projects and small realism in general but birds have a special place in my heart and I love them in all different styles.

How would you describe your signature style?

My signature style has changed over the years because I love tattooing but it's world doesn't define me, and it's the technique I love the most, the responsibility I take more seriously but at the end of the day it's another result of what I am and what I do and that changes a lot. Every piece I've done has my entire effort at the moment it was done and all of my tattoos have been done with patience and love. I'm very detail oriented.

Who are some of the artists (tattoo or otherwise) you're inspired by?

I get inspired by tattoo artists from different styles like Emily Rose Murray, Karolry Bakowski, Victor Portugal, Jeff Gogue, and Shawn Barber.

And outside the tattoo world it's such a great wide range to choose from, I feel art in general is having an amazing outbreak because social media allows artists to show themselves and get inspired by movements all around the world so I'm sure I'm leaving names out that are inspirational to me but the list would be pages and pages long. Definitely Alphonse Mucha, Mark Ryden, Alexander Reisfar, Cam Rackam, Roberto Ferri and Natalia Fabia.

What are some of the most valuable life lessons you've learned from tattooing?

To not judge a book by its cover, and to appreciate the responsibility and trust that is being given to me every time I'm tattooing someone.

To be thankful for knowing what I wanted in life, and for being able to get recognition over doing what I love, that's priceless.

What other mediums of art have you worked in?

I mostly draw with pencil and color pencils and paint with oil, however I do occasionally do some watercolor and acrylic too.

Can you walk us through your design process?

Since I enjoy both big and small projects I start with a consultation so I can understand the expectations of the client and having an idea I continue by looking up for references of the same theme from different interpretations so I can have a starting point on elements I would like to include. To start sketching I start with the area I'll cover and the direction it'll have according to the placement. A small design can take me 30mins, but when it's a medium or large project I like to alternate with other drawings so I can rest from it and come back with fresh eyes. I give this process usually a week.

What is a tattoo you've been dying to do that you haven't had a chance to work on yet?

A full sleeve of colorful flowers over a black work solid background. I love the contrast of the black work and color realism.