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 began art school in 1986 at Otis Art Institute of Parson's School of Design. Their name was bigger than the school. After a year of watching rich kids learn how to draw stick figures, while me and three other students (who had talent ) got ignored, I dropped out. I was tired of wasting my time and my parents' money on "art school." The only thing I Iearned there was that I could spend $12,000 without learning a thing. Rather than "buy" my education, I wanted to earn it.

My next move was to travel Europe in 1987. 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 three 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.

In 1989 after much frustration with being misunderstood in my own country, I returned 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 (before the German wall came down later that year) I understood what it was like to live in an East-Block nation. I tasted a slice of history few Americans could ever imagine. I drove 160 KMH across Germany on the Autobahn. I think my passenger's nails were still stuck in the dashboard when we reached Amsterdam four hours later!

I celebrated New Years 1990 in Copenhagens. It was a New Year's evening I'll never forget. All of Europe was celebrating 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 call it home and escape the cold.

I got a job working with the Quantel Paintbox in Hollywood. At that time, it was a much-needed half-million dollar machine that did things your basic Photoshop program can do today-only 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 proved difficult for me as I was young (only 21) over-qualified, not took seriously and could not hold my own in an environment filled with nasty office politics. After my politically arranged lay-off, I picked up my camera again to start freelancing with my photography. 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 artwork was done by me, my models told me I should be doing tattoos. So I was actually encouraged by other tattoo artists to start. Two of them are Riley Baxter and Igor Mortis ( they might deny it, 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 once owned "Lonesome Rose" tattoo studio. My neighbors, Kelly and Wendy, encouraged me to join them in their visit of 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. Now mom is wearing three roses on her wrist done by me, of course, she wants more.

These are the events extending over the past twenty years that lead me to where I am now. This path has been twisted in more ways than one. It has led me through 25 countries, several careers and stops 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. The smiles make me rich. The rest just pays the bills. I try to live my life in hopes that someday this quote could be a reflection of who I am and what I did.

"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."