Her steady hand moved easily across the girl’s arm, slowly going over the outlines of a dragonfly design with a needle gun that drew on black ink. The girl, enduring the point of the needle, did not so much as flinch.
“If you don’t like pain, then tattoos probably aren’t for you,” the tattoo artist said, nonchalantly waving her needle gun around.
Jeana Jane, 31, is a tattoo artist originally from Washington. Tattoos of intricate design adorn both her arms, face and chest — a butterfly covers her throat area, a compass on her arm and most strikingly, a needle gun that covers part of her head and the side of her face. There were more, all delicately placed and drawn.
“I’ve been tattooing for about five years,” Jane said. “I love that it’s a challenge … I consider myself very lucky that I am in an industry where I get to draw pictures. I’m not great at math, so it worked out for me.”
Nikki Caminski, 27, was Jane’s appointment that day. Caminski sat calmly in a chair with her arm resting on a small platform covered in blue plastic.
“This is a memorial piece,” Caminski said, gesturing to her arm that Jane was tattooing. “I got the dragonfly for a friend of mine who died when we were 18.”
Jane is adding her own special touch to Caminski’s tattoo, with small designs that danced around the dragonfly, giving the impression of movement — as if the very picture would flutter off her arm.
“Every year I add something new to the tattoo,” Caminski said. “I would like to eventually have my whole arm done, a whole sleeve.”
Traditional Tattoo, located on Higuera Street, is where Jane does her art. The place is a kind of art gallery — always a work-in-progress, with new designs being inked onto different people, along with hundreds of different drawings and pictures hanging from the walls.
Jane currently has a station in a corner of the tattoo parlor, where each wall surrounding her work space is covered with her original artwork, as well as pictures of her two kids.
Jane explained what type of art she specializes in when it comes to tattoos.
“I do heavy, heavy black work,” she said. “What I mean by that is that I do a lot of super traditional-type stuff.”
Jane said traditional stuff means the classics: eagles, anchors, etc. — things that never go out of style.
However, the traditional classics for today’s younger generation has gone out of style. The Internet allows access to millions of styles of artwork online and that has posed both as a challenge and blessing for tattoo artists, according to Jane.
“The advent of the Internet to tattooing has been a kind of blessing in a lot of ways because it makes it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for,” Jane said. “But it’s also stolen a lot of the art from the artist.”
Today, Pinterest is the name of the game when it comes to finding the perfect tattoo. And while there are countless ideas out there, the same designs seem to circulate and appear on everyone under the age of 25, Louie Campopiano, another tattoo artist at Traditional Tattoo, said.
“Right now it’s whatever the front page of fucking Pinterest is,” Jane said, laughing. “If Pinterest has arrows on it today, then we are doing fucking arrows.”
It’s a trend, and Jane explained that tattoo artists have seen this before.
“Back in the ’80s, it was the little rose buds,” Jane said. “All the 40-year-olds today have a rosebud on their ankle, on their boob … Things come in waves like that.”
Jane and Caminski were taking a short break before the rest of the tattoo was finished. Caminski predicted she would be sitting in that chair for approximately five hours total. It had taken Jane about two hours to draw the design on Caminski and another hour to begin the actual process of adding ink. It would most likely take another two hours to add color to the tattoo.
It’s a lengthy process, but it’s one that all tattoos artists specialize in and love, Jane said.
“None of us enjoy when you bring in a picture off of Pinterest and ask us to tattoo it,” she said. “And we’ll do it because it’s your body. It would be so much better though if you came in and said, ‘I want a couple of arrows; will you draw them for me?’ because that’s what we do for a living.”
Before getting inked, it’s important to remember that tattoo artists are actual artists. They have a whole portfolio of work they would love to show you to help you get some ideas.
“You’re stealing from us when we feel like we are copying someone else’s work,” Jane said. “It’s giving a very common tattoo to everybody.”
Environmental engineering senior Priya Chopra recently got a small tattoo at Keith Duggan’s Ink Dynasty Tattoo in Pismo Beach.
“I actually went online for the idea,” Chopra said. “I really wanted a nature-based tattoo and I found a couple ideas I liked.”
Though Chopra found her ideas online, she took the examples to Ink Dynasty and consulted with an artist.
“I let him put his own personal spin on it,” Chopra said. “It wasn’t too different from what I wanted in the first place.”
Even though Chopra found the idea online, she still coordinated with the artist and let him do what he thought would look best.
“I think a lot of tattoos are inspired by media nowadays,” Chopra said. “But just be open-minded when you go, listen to the person who is doing your tattoo and make sure you look at their art and you get a good vibe from them.”
Tattoo artists appreciate their customers’ trust in their ability, and back in Jane’s corner of Traditional Tattoo, Caminski looked at her arm, pleased with the process.
Jane sat down to continue her art. Pointing to an area on Caminski’s arm she said, “That’s the part you’re just going to have to trust me with.” Caminski nodded and explained what she was thinking would look best there.
“It’s your body, it’s your choice,” Jane said. “It’s also you putting trust in an artist to do something for you. If you could do it yourself, you would do it yourself.”