As a leading tattoo artist in one of the most competitive cities in the world, Lisette Martinez is used to standing out from the crowd. A graduate of the Pratt Institute, Martinez found success in the New York tattoo scene, impressing her clientele with her delicate approach to the styles of blackwork, realism, single-needle, and dot work. She occupies residency at Inkology Tattoo and Art Gallery, one of the city's leading shops which regular hosts world renowned guest artists from Europe and South America. However, her talent as a tattooer isn't the only thing that makes her unique.
Although she tattoos clients on a regular basis, Martinez has yet to take the plunge with her first tattoo. And while it's not shocking to see someone without tattoos in 2019, it is incredibly rare to meet a tattooer without ink.
"It hasn’t been an active choice to not get tattooed, but choosing my first is what’s difficult so it just hasn’t happened yet," shares Martinez. "I have so many ideas and have a list of artists I’d love to get work from, so I know once I decide on my first it will be much easier to choose my next tattoos from there." She then goes on to explain that like her clients, she hasn't narrowed down a design she wants on her body forever and isn't in a rush to take the plunge.
And while being in the tattoo industry, especially in NYC, does make it easier for Martinez to meet talented artists with a plethora of styles to choose from, being on the inside can also present challenge. Many times, apprentices and artists early in their careers can feel pressured by their peers to get tattooed. In some shops, apprentices are required to practice their tattoo techniques on themselves or are encouraged to get tattooed in order to 'fit the part.' However, for Martinez, she's going about her personal tattoo journey in her own way, explaining that "The process should be a happy one and getting tattooed out of pressure is no way to go about it."
In addition to feeling the pressure from her fellow artists, there have also been moments where Martinez has surprised her clients. "Sometimes [clients] are surprised because I don’t have tattoos and sometimes they’re surprised because I’m a tiny young woman, which goes against their preconceived notion that all tattoo artists are big burly men with beards and face tattoos," she says. But at the end of the day, many people realize that an artist's tattoos or lack there of shouldn't have an impact on the art they create for other people. "They come to me for my art and having someone else’s work on my skin is my own personal choice that doesn’t affect them or how my work is produced."
And while I already had a feeling what Martinez would say when I asked this question, I realized that some of our readers might still have strong opinions about whether an artist should have tattoos. So let Martinez set the record straight:
"Obviously I don’t think it’s necessary," laughs Martinez. "We’re all artists who love the art and medium which is why we tattoo. What our bodies look like or decisions we make for our bodies shouldn’t represent our talent and skill level.
Some people may argue that getting tattooed helps you grow as an artist, but personally I feel that challenging projects my clients bring me, along with working with my colleagues, trading knowledge of what works best for each of us, as well as my constant desire to improve is really what helps me grow.
Every artist, whether it be tattoo or otherwise, feels connected to each work of art they create, we put a little piece of ourselves into each tattoo. With this I’m trying to say that I treat each tattoo I do as if it were my own. I want to create something beautiful that my client loves as well as myself. That is what is necessary, passion for what they’re doing, not a full body suit."
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