Katrina “Kat” Jackson, 24, is the only female tattoo artist on the reality show “Black Ink Crew Chicago.” She is an extraordinarily talented tattoo artist and painter from Chicago who first began tattooing people in her mom’s basement and her dad’s kitchen. Now, she is an extremely successful tattoo artist with celebrity clientele.
Rolling out recently caught up with Jackson in Chicago to get an exclusive interview. Check out what Jackson had to say below about how she feels tattooing is viewed now versus years ago, and find out who she says cries more when getting tattoos, men or women. Sound off in the comments section and let us know if you agree with her on who cries more.
How would you say tattooing is viewed now, as opposed to 10 years ago?
It’s almost 100 percent different. Back in the day, there was a certain type of demographic that had tattoos. People thought that just jailbirds had tattoos or bikers had tattoos. Now, everyone has tattoos. We tattoo all different kinds of people, from lawyers, to doctors, to other artists, everybody has tattoos. If you look on ESPN, all the athletes are covered. Tattooing has expanded in tremendous ways, people look at it more as a form of art, as opposed to people just marking up their body. People are really doing amazing pieces on skin now, really bringing the art to life.
Speaking about amazing pieces and athletes, recently there was this back tattoo by Shane Ray from the Denver Broncos that’s created this uproar. What’s it done for you? Have you been getting clients because of that?
Because of the controversy, I’ve been able to get a lot of exposure from it. It was on ESPN, a lot of different blogs picked it up, Rolling Stone, so a lot of people were able so see my work just because of the controversy that it sparked. When really, it was just someone representing their city and where they come from. You know, it’s no different than from someone from Chicago getting a Bears tattoo because this is Chicago, and then they go on to play for a different team. So, it was a lot of very stupid controversy about it, but it was great for me, everybody got to see my work.
How long did it take you?
It took me three days. The first day we went about eight or nine hours. The second day, probably about eight hours. The third day, probably about five hours. So, we just did three days, back to back to back.
OK. So, this is a really important question: Who cries more while getting tattooed? Men or women?
Men cry more.
Yes. Yep. Yeah, I don’t know if it’s because women give birth? That’s what a lot of women say: “If I can have a baby, I can do this.” But men cry a little more.
Do they cry in front of you?
I mean, they don’t cry, but they whine, and they tap out quicker, you know? Women are pretty strong.
We also know that you’re an artist. Where do you feel a tattoo artist fits in the scope of artistry as a whole, in your opinion?
Well, I think that if you’re an artist, you’re going to make a better tattoo artist. So, people have a misconception that if you can trace then you can be a tattoo artist. But it’s those values that come from studying art, and knowing different art values, like knowing composition and color theory that makes you a great tattoo artist. So, me personally, I’ve always been into art, but because I’ve been tattooing for so many years, it’s also made me a better artist as well. So, they go hand in hand with one another. But, I try to focus on both, I do tattooing as my service to people, and art as where I do it for me. And I do both.
Everybody is familiar with you from being on the show “Black Ink Crew: Chicago.” Now, how has being on the show changed your perspective toward media, your work, toward you and your co-workers?
I think that, as far as the media goes, the show coming around was just more of a platform. We all do great work at 9Mag, so us being on TV was just allowing the world to see our work. We dealt with a little bit of egos, and drama as the viewers saw. But we always delivered great tattoos; we did great art. So, it’s like no matter what you say about the drama and any confrontation, you can’t deny the fact that we do great tattoos, and at the end of the day, that’s what the show is supposed to be about.
So, what’s next for you?
Well, we have “Black Ink” season two coming up. I’ve been doing plenty of art shows. I’ve been traveling and tattooing lots of different clients of all different careers. I don’t know, I just work. I’m an artist, I just make the work. I actually have my new art studio that I opened that’s right upstairs from the shop, it’s on the fifth floor. So, I’ll be having a lot of different art shows. I want to collaborate with other artists and have shows. And that’s a big goal of mine, to really get my art out there. You didn’t get to really see too much of my paintings in season one. So, now I want to show the world that I have something more to offer outside of tattooing as well.
So, I don’t have any tattoos.
You gotta get one.
Now, what would you recommend as a first piece?
I think that you should go big or go home. You know people that don’t have any tattoos, and when they say ‘oh, I just want to get something small’, and this is just my personal opinion – some people love small tattoos, that’s for them. But me personally, if you’re going to do it, get a work of art, you know? Just don’t just put a little sticker on yourself. Just get something nice, something that means something to you, or even if it doesn’t, if you just like how it looks, just go for it. Go big or go home.
Last question: What encouraging words do you have for our viewers out here at rolling out?
Just work hard, stay focused and just try really hard to cut off distractions. Most people deal with distractions, so I think just staying focused is the hardest thing to do, but it can take you far.