Napa Tattoo Artist Creates Wearable Art

Even though these words may seem simple, they will conjure up images for most people of innocence, inconsequence, and inconsistency. Kristina Mcdonald views these words as much more.

To her, this blue star belonged to a childhood babysitter, the image tattooed on the back of the sitter’s neck, revealed when McDonald would play with her temporary guardian’s hair.

McDonald’s was the first to see McDonald’s’s first tattoo. The boundaries of art were not limited to paper and canvas. It was possible to have art blend with someone, travel with them and shape them.

McDonald, now 33, describes the blue star as a “core memory,” borrowing this concept from the 2015 Disney/PIXAR film “Inside Out,” meaning this memory is one of a handful that helped shape her personality. On her 18th birthday, McDonald’s gave her her first tattoo: a blue star on the neck. She was able to start her career as an artist on both canvas and skin.

How to get tattooed

McDonald recalled all this while sitting in her workspace at Napa’s Golden Owl Tattoo. McDonald’s 3369 Old California Way, is where McDonald’s spent most of her time perfecting her craft.

She started her apprenticeship in 2012 and later joined the ranks as a full tattoo artist on April 1, 2014, which in the spirit of the holiday she thought was an April Fool’s joke at first. She was passionate about tattoos but it wasn’t always her goal profession.

Growing up in Napa in the 1990s, McDonald loved punk rock, and her “art crowd” embraced alternative styles, technicolor hair dye, piercings, and a “creative lifestyle.”

“When I was younger, I found myself wanting to get tattooed,” McDonald recalled. “I was interested in body art and body modification.”

With her family’s blessing — today McDonald noted she is the only person with tattoos in her family — she went forward with the blue star tattoo on the back of her neck. This was the beginning a long-lasting, passionate love affair with body artwork.

When she went to Napa Valley College, she was interested in a career as an artist tattooist. Donavan Kinyon (the owner of Golden Owl) was her friend. She also had continued exposure to tattoo culture. She was at crossroads. She could go on to Napa Valley College. Or, she could transfer to Sonoma State University and become an art teacher. She could also tattoo.

“We have a saying that tattooing chooses you,” McDonald said. “To fully commit to an apprenticeship, you have to already know how to draw… my life has always been about art.”

McDonald’s would call McDonald’s’s apprenticeship unusual. Traditionally, obtaining a tattoo apprenticeship — the training period artists undergo to learn how to put art on the skin — would involve coming into a shop and getting to know an artist, and committing yourself to them, becoming their shadow. McDonald’s explained that not all apprenticeships are paid and that some artists might have to pay money for their apprenticeships.

Although it was the former, she found Kinyon’s experience to be more rewarding. She developed a strong work ethic and learned the basics about tattooing. McDonald said Kinyon was very open-minded about her working there and “has a wholesome understanding of how creativity works.”

McDonald’s claimed that McDonald’s noticed McDonald wasn’t a typical female tattoo apprentice in an traditionally male-dominated industry. There may still be barriers for other women entering the tattoo industry elsewhere, but she “was welcomed into the shop.”

“A huge chunk of the time when it comes to the apprenticeship, it was setting up his (Kinyon’s) machines,” McDonald explained. “And then you first tattoo on yourself to practice.”

You can tattoo yourself when you learn how to tattoo. It is a way to learn and grow as an apprentice.

“I learned how to tattoo on myself first and then the lucky day came when I got to tattoo Clark,” McDonald said, gesturing to fellow Golden Owl artist Clark Beach, who was working on a client. Beach was the second apprentice in the shop following McDonald’s. They would practice tattooing together during their training.

You can get into the industry

McDonald’s has never taken a weighing in.

“Real estate is fleeting,” she said of the small patches of open skin appearing between the intricate ink adoring her body. “I’m very heavily covered at a young age.”

The longest McDonald has sat for a tattoo in a single session has been nine hours and the longest she’s tattooed a client has been 14 hours.

Mcdonalds was asked about why she and other people chose to get tattoos. Growing up, she struggled with body image issues and said “tattooing helped me feel more confident in my skin.” Even though tattoos made her stick out more in a crowd, “cool tattoos helped me feel good about that attention.”

McDonald’s said that many customers feel the same way about tattoos. That tattoos are all about “bringing positive attention to their bodies to make them feel more comfortable.”

“Tattoos are great for managing mental health,” she added.

Surrounded by a variety of framed artwork, including a collection of her mushroom “flash” — pre-made, often small tattoo designs that serve as inspiration for walk-in customers — McDonald reflected on her tattoo style.

“I love blackwork,” she said. “Just utilizing black ink. Black noir with lots contrast. My favorite are large floral pieces with organic shapes. Flowers are so timeless.”

Another challenge for tattoo artists is covering up. When someone is unhappy with their tattoo, they cover it up. It takes skill and knowledge to add a piece to an existing tattoo while concealing the old work.

“Every tattoo cover-up is different,” McDonald explained. “I find that challenge satisfying.”

The organic flow of flowers makes for great cover-up subjects, helping “draw the eye away” from the dark tones of old ink.

It is no secret that tattoos can be painful.

“It becomes harder to get tattooed as you get older in terms of managing the pain,” McDonald said, clarifying that “pain is so relative to each person” that it is difficult to explain to clients what they should expect. McDonalds stated that she doesn’t try to figure out the pain level for every tattoo. She might recommend that a piece be moved to another location.

Some areas of the body are more painful than others. McDonald said that these areas include parts of the body that don’t see the sun very often and areas of the body where skin rests against the skin.

One appeal of tattooing, according to McDonald, is that “the canvas is always changing,” which “keeps the industry so interesting and diverse.”

McDonald’s helped a client aged 68 to add new tattoos on top of his existing ones. Art and those who wear it evolve all the time.

Tattoo artists have an ethical responsibility that is different from other artists. Their work is inked permanently onto people’s skin.

“Take me with you when you go” is how McDonald thinks of her artwork traveling with her clients as they leave Golden Owl Tattoo. “You have to know that your art can impact an individual life forever.”

If you are thinking of tattooing and would like to take on this responsibility, she advises that tattooing can be a lifestyle.

“It takes commitment not only to the craft but to personal growth,” she said. “It takes pure dedication. Fall in love with art and draw every day.”

Mcdonald’s accepts tattoo commissions. For more information, email her at [email protected]. Golden Owl Tattoo can also been reached at by calling 707-266-2454

A survey conducted in 2019 revealed that 40% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 had at most one tattoo.

Comment on or share this article

Source link

Comment and share on this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

🔔 Stay Informed! Join Our Telegram Channel.

Receive Instant Updates and Never Miss a Post!

Don't miss out on important updates! Click "Subscribe Now" to stay informed.