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Meet Susie Balloni

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susie Balloni.

Hi Susie, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I have drawn and made art for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t pursue tattooing until I was 27. As a kid, I wanted to animate for Disney, but as I got older I worried that if I made art my career then my enjoyment in it would decrease. I was working as an Executive Assistant when I finally decided to make the leap towards my goal of becoming a tattoo artist. I resigned from my position and a week later, I found a job working counter with an apprenticeship at a tattoo shop. It made it seem easier than it really would be. Still, to this day, I see taking that leap of faith as the best decision I ever made.

It took years for me to get my tattoo license. My first mentor moved out of state and I had to find a new apprenticeship. I worked at multiple shops under a few mentors. I made extreme sacrifices, working side jobs with little income as I pursued my dream.

One benefit of the ongoing search for an apprenticeship was that it afforded me the opportunity to learn from many artists at multiple shops. One of the artists that taught me the most never legally took me on as an apprentice, but the mentorship was invaluable. I am lucky to have had exposure to such a diverse amount of artists to aid in the development of my skill. I still reflect on the advice of many of these artists on a daily basis when I am working.

As a licensed artist, I have worked at a few shops, learning important skills at each, but only in the past two years did I find the best fit for me. Being at Gateway Tattoo Studio has allowed me to really grow as an artist. The freedom to pursue my goals and explore new styles has really helped in my artistic development. It has also given me the freedom to focus on all aspects of my business, such as marketing, correspondence, and online presence.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Starting out in the tattoo industry was a challenge. In spite of my love for tattoo art, it was hard to find a place where I fit. Finding an experienced artist who wants to take on an apprentice is hard enough. On top of that, the financial difficulties I faced while apprenticing challenged my personal life, from the fundamentals, like basic living, to my social life.

Every artist has their own ideas about what it means to be a great tattoo artist. Trying to adhere to all of these ideals while striving to learn the art can be confusing. It pulled me in all directions while I tried my best to do whatever would make me a great artist. Ultimately, I learned that each view has its own merit and there is something to be learned from them all. You just eventually learn to take a little from each and add in your own unique perspective. I think that’s really one of the things that will help make you a great artist, being able to take all that knowledge and pull together the elements that work for you and then develop them into something that is your own.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Black and grey portraits are my passion and specialty. I have drawn them since I was a kid and nothing brings me as much joy as getting to tattoo them. I also love tattooing realistic animals, neotraditional girl heads, and delicate floral work. I have a diverse skillset that allows me to accommodate most customer requests.

There are a lot of things that go into making a great tattoo beside the technical ability to apply it. I always want to take the client’s idea and make it unique to them. I take a concept and really play with the elements that will make the most aesthetic design. I begin by reviewing my notes about what the client is looking for as well as any reference photos of the style they like. I then break the concept down into the most basic elements and build from there. For me, composition and color palettes are some of the most crucial elements for a strong design. I can spend hours getting those just right. Many times I begin assembling the design in my head before it ever even reaches paper, or more recently, my iPad. Ultimately, the goal is to make something that your client will love and be proud to wear forever.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
Dedicate yourself, be curious and open-minded. Seek out a knowledgeable mentor, listen and observe. Be a blank slate and absorb all the information you can. Tattooing is a trade that takes training. If you want to be successful, don’t try to cut corners. A great artist is always growing and you are only as successful as the work you put in.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
E Groth Productions Susie Balloni

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