ERIKA STANLEY arts .com

BIOGRAPHY

Tattoo Artist & Founder of Art & Soul Tattoo, WEB DESIGNER, Graphic ARTIST, Illustrator, Fine Artist, Photographer, Journalist, Poet... (NOT EXACTLY IN THAT ORDER)

I grew up in Hawaii, leaving three days after I graduated high school. I couldn't wait to get "off the rock." I landed in Los Angeles, seventeen years old, emancipated and ready to rock. I had been accepted into Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design. Their name was bigger than the school in those days. They were the sister school to Parsons in N.Y. The only thing I Iearned there was that I could spend $12,000 a year, without actually becoming a better artist. Before I completed my education, I was hungry for some REAL knowledge after only a few months and felt the need to travel to broaden my horizons. I traveled during every school break.

During my first year at Otis/Parsons, I traveled Europe. First in spring for ten days, and then in summer for five weeks. I took my camera and a duffle bag, bought a Eurail pass and didn't look back. I went to the major art museums in every city I went to, and learned more about art, the world, life and myself than any classroom could teach me. I visited the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, the Kunsthistorie museum in Vienna, the Tate museum in London, and Louisiana, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and other museums in Denmark. I stood in awe of the Sistine Chapel and got drunk in the canals of Venice. I marveled sculptures by Michaelangelo, Rodin and Giacometti. I walked down the Champs Elysse in Paris, drank wine out of baby bottles on Montmartre and spent 3 eight-hour days in the Louvre Museum, staring at the Mona Lisa and the brush strokes of other masterpieces. Along the way, I shot photos for various skateboarding magazines based in California. The money I made from the published photos helped financed that trip.

I returned to school in America and after much frustration with being misunderstood in my own country, I had to travel back to Copenhagen, Denmark. From there, I went on another European tour with my camera and the European skateboarding circut. Traveling to even more countries, like Czechoslovakia. I learned what it was like to live in an East-Block nation. I tasted a slice of history few Americans could ever imagine. I helped a friend drive around Europe during the summer, to help establish the European skateboard team for Powell Peralta. We went to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and ended up in Brno, Czechoslovakia. I drove 160 KMH across Germany on the Autobahn. I think my passenger's fingernails were still stuck in the dashboard when we reached Amsterdam four hours later!

Later that year, I was also fortunate enough to return to Europe after the fall semester. I celebrated New Years 1990 in Copenhagen. It was a New Year's evening I'll never forget. All of Europe celebrated the fall of the "The Wall" which separated East Berlin and West Berlin. Many people throughout Europe saw it as a ray of hope and an end to an oppressive way of life for those living in the Eastern Block. It was a stark contrast to see the entire continent of Europe view themselves as sharing a better world future when people in the US are so self-segregated from the world. It was, for lack of better words, a momentous celebration. Soon after, I returned to Los Angeles to complete my education, call it home and escape the cold.

If you're wondering at this point, how I could afford to travel so often to Europe, I'll tell you. I scrimped and saved. I probably lived almost completely on ramen and macaroni and cheese and vodka. I skateboarded most places to save on gas. Rarely drove my car. My rent was $250 a month for most of my education. I typically worked two part time jobs, while going to school full time. I saved everything. Because I was punk rock, I shopped only in thrift stores and since I worked so much and spent most of my time on my art projects for school, I didn't have time ot go partying or shopping, like the other rich kids. As soon as I saved enough to pay my rent in advance and buy airfare and train tickets, I took off.

After I graduated from Otis/Parsons, I got my first real art job working with the Quantel Paintbox in Hollywood. I was not only production manager, but I also worked on photo editing and retouching movie posters, video boxes (hah, that tells you how long ago that was!) and other promotional advertising for the movie industry. They needed computer graphics to do all the special effects they needed. I had to put Christina Applegate's head on a model's body, because her body wasn√łt so fit. I did things like that all the time. The Paintbox was a half-million dollar machine that did things your basic Photoshop program can do today. The files were so large, you needed a separate room to store your 'files' on half-inch tape on a reel to reel recorder. That room also needed it's own air conditioning unit on a separate generator which would kick in if there was a power outage-or you might lose several thousand dollars of work. This job was easy and fun. What was difficult for me was being over-qualified, only 21 years old and not took seriously by the other ancient, decrepid sorry excuses for humans that inhabited that office. I could not hold my own in that environment filled with nasty office politics. The insecure, grumpy washed-up nobodies could NOT tolerate my good humor, positive attitude and self-confidence. After my politically arranged lay-off, I picked up my camera again to freelance with my photography, painting, illustrations, fine art and graphic design. I made a majority of my money bartending, but suplimented that with a few photo and design jobs per month. I kept myself sane with many summer trips to Europe. Spending most of my time in Copehnagen, Rome and Amsterdam. That lasted six years and overlapped into my current career as a tattoo artist.

Today, many people ask how I became a tattoo artist. Half-jokingly, I reply, "Hanging out with the wrong crowd." The reality is that this joke is based on truth. I became a tattoo artist through my photography. Searching for a more profound subject matter in my personal portraiture, I gravitated towards photographing heavily tattooed people. At that time (1991) most heavily tattooed folks were tattoo artists themselves. When I photographed them in my home studio, they commented on the artwork hanging on my walls. When I told them that the art was done by me, my models told me I should be doing tattoos. I was actually encouraged by other tattoo artists to start. Two of them are Riley Baxter and Igor Mortis (they might deny it now, but whatever).

I lived in what some might call a "Punk Rock Melrose Place." A place where all the neighbors knew one another and relished our differences from the "norm" of society. My next door neighbors at that time were a couple who were tattooed with beautiful work. They were done by an amazingly talented woman named Sheri Matlack. Sheri owned a tattoo shop called "Lonesome Rose" in Hollywood. My neighbors Kelly and Wendy, encouraged me to join themto check out the first ever Inkslinger's Ball in Hollywood. As I walked out the door to join them to the tattoo convention, the phone rang.

On the other line, my mother asked why I was in such a hurry to get off the phone. I told her I was going to a tattoo convention. Mom said, "Ohhh honey, don't get a tattoo." Then she said, "If you get a tattoo, make sure you get it somewhere you can hide it." Then she said, "If you get a tattoo, make sure it's BIG! You're an artist after all." She ended with, "I want a tattoo!" And that was it. Mom ran the complete gamut in a matter of seconds. I was able to tattoo my mom twice before she passed away in 2013, just six weeks before my father passed. RIP mom and dad. Dad never got a tattoo, though he joked about getting a fly tattooed on his nose all the time.

These are the events that spanned the past thirty years and lead me to where I am now. This path has been twisted in more ways than one. It led me through 25 countries, several careers and stopped at my heels. It picks up again at my toes and only the universe knows where it will end. Tattooing has been very good to me. It has given me the cherished gift of changing people's lives forever through my art, and a profound classroom where I learn more about the art I do and the souls that wear it every day.

I always say, "The smiles make me rich. The rest just pays the bills."

I try to live my life hoping that this quote could be a reflection of who I am and what I did when I'm gone

"When you are born, you are crying and everyone else around you is smiling. If you live life right, when you die, you will be smiling and everyone else around you will be crying." -Unknown