Meet Kim Graziano: Tattoo Artist, and Beautiful Geek
Interview by: Jillian|
The place: Richmond, Virginia. If you’ve never been here, and you’re an otaku, geek, nerd, or a lover of fine ink work, then you are missing out. I managed to grab an interview with our favorite local tattoo artist, and resident geeky lady, Kim Graziano. Not only is she a fan of anime, conventions, and all kinds of fandom, but she is working wonders for fans of ink down at Classic Tattoo (and she is a sweetheart to boot!). Did you want advice on how to get into the tattoo business, or possibly just want to hear a beautiful girl dish on her favorite Miyazaki film? Read on, my friends. When you’re done, be sure to make a stop in our town, and get your fandom on…permanently!
JILLIAN RYAN: Many people dream of becoming tattoo artists, themselves. How difficult of a process was it for you, and what can someone generally expected when trying to get their foot in the door?
KIM GRAZIANO: "It can definitely vary, depending on your location. But, typically, if you want to becomea tattooer, you have to seek out an apprenticeship. I started hanging out at a tattoo shop, and becoming friends with tattoo artists. After a year or so of begging a good friend to teach me, he caved. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get into the business in a respectable way, simply because the popularity of tattoos and tattooing has skyrocketed into pop culture, and a lot of kids are seeing it on television and in their schools. It’s a question I get very often: "How can I become a tattoo artist?" I don't blame them. It's an incredible career that I was very lucky to become involved in."
JILLIAN: Sometimes, it’s hard to really know what you’re getting yourself into with such an artistic and particular field like tattooing. What advice would you give aspiring tattoo artists?
KIM: "Draw your ass off. Every day, all day… Draw. Don't touch a tattoo machine, don't buy one, and don't tattoo your friends. Any respectable shop would not want to teach you how to tattoo if they see that you've been butchering your friends with unsanitary, poorly-designed, home tattoos. Also, realize that it takes time. Some people seek an apprenticeship for years before someone gives them the chance. It's hard, and sometimes very discouraging, but having a large portfolio of drawings is the best thing you can offer… So DRAW! Bring your artwork into a shop to ask for advice, or even just to get feedback."
JILLIAN: Time to flash your geek card, Kim. What geeky/nerdy tattoos have you collected over the years?
KIM: "Oh, man… There are just so many. I'd say the majority of mine are geeky! My chest piece is an enormous Sailor Moon tribute, some pink wings, and a brooch in the center. That show is almost wholly responsible for my desire to draw. It inspired me so deeply when I was young, and started a long-lasting love for Japanese animation. I have a few San-X tattoos, as well as a Spirited Away half-sleeve. There's a Moogle, a Gloomy Bear, and a Totoro on my arms."
JILLIAN: You have done so many amazing pieces on your clients since the beginning of your career, but if you had to choose a favorite, what would it be?
KIM: "This is so hard!! Hmm, I'd have to say that the last few Miyazaki pieces have been my favorite. They are so incredibly fun to do. I really enjoy taking my time, and making them super bright and fun."
JILLIAN: Some people dream of being president, a doctor, a superhero… What made you want to become a tattoo artist?
KIM: "I had always wanted to have a career that involved art in some way, but it wasn't ‘til I was 18, and got my first tattoo, that I ever thought about it. I started getting more and more tattooed, drawing more, and decided I'd try my hardest to get into the industry. I really wanted to work in a creative environment where I could feel inspired every day."
JILLIAN: After flipping through some of your most recent work, there seemed to be a definite jump in Miyazaki-inspired pieces! Why do you think there has been such an increase in people coming to you for their tattoo needs based off of his films?
KIM: "I tend to obsess over attention to detail, and Miyazaki films are so bright, and full of detailed (yet also simple) characters. I think my customers see my passion for animated work, and know that I put a whole lot of love into these pieces because they inspire me so much."
JILLIAN: Every tattoo artist has that -one- tattoo that they wish they never had to do. What was the tattoo that will live in infamy for you?
KIM: "I really, really hate tattooing anyone under 18. It’s just always such a bummer. I'd say the worst was a 16-year-old kid whose mother signed for her tattoo… She got a dollar bill rose that said, "holla for a dolla". I lost faith in humanity that day."
JILLIAN: Now for a difficult question, Kim. You are stuck with only being able to pick ONE Miyazaki film to be “THE” film from the collection… Which would you choose?
KIM: "Ahhh, this is too hard!! If I HAD to choose, I'd say Spirited Away. The message is so empowering, and the character design is absolutely incredible. Sometimes when I draw or paint, I listen to the soundtrack. It's so inspiring. I never get tired of watching it!"
JILLIAN: So, it is safe to say you’re a fan of anime. And, word is, you’ve also been to a few anime conventions. Have you ever dived into the fantastic world of cosplay?
KIM: "It's probably been about 8 years since the last time I did cosplay. I've been Tifa from Final Fantasy VII, Dotta from Bakuretsu Hunter, and I've tromped around in my Pikachu kigurumi. I enjoyed it a lot! I can really appreciate the art of cosplay. It takes a lot of dedication and attention to detail to craft a great outfit. I'm no good at it, though!"
JILLIAN: You have had a few Artists Alley tables over the years, and it tends to be a very busy and hectic place at just about any convention. Any crazy stories in particular from the artists’ side of the table that you care to share?
KIM: "There are literally too many to even remember… I've had some pretty wild things happen at conventions. I'd have to say one of the craziest was being seated next to a 50-year-old woman with a full-on beard who ONLY drew yaoi. It was so unbelievably awkward. She just wanted to talk to me about her boy-love drawings, and I couldn't stop staring at her beard. We lovingly nicknamed her "the bearded clam"… I'll never forget it!"
JILLIAN: Are there any secrets a veteran of Artists Alley can pass down to those of us who want to get a table at a con in the future? It seems like an awful lot of work!
KIM: "It is tiring and difficult!! My best advice is BE PREPARED. Bring prints and a lot of work. The more merchandise you have, the better you'll do. And, be friendly!"
JILLIAN: What anime do you find yourself dabbling in these days? What is your all-time favorite?
KIM: "I don't really watch anime anymore, but when I was really into it, I loved Slayers, Dirty Pair Flash, and Sailor Moon. I recently watched a little K-On! as well (which was super cute)."
JILLIAN: Conventions are constantly expanding and adapting new ideas and styles. Have you ever considered doing any panels about tattooing?
KIM: "You know, I've never thought about that. I bet it would be fun!! Maybe I should start doing research. I think that would really help a lot of people understand that there ARE options for good fandom tattoos. I have seen so many awful nerd tattoos out there… People need to know they can get good ones!"
JILLIAN: Has geeky and nerdy culture always been in your blood, or was there one particular thing or person that really kicked it off for you?
KIM: "I think it's just in my nature to be a nerd. I was never very interested in anything normal in high school. I spent my days dreaming of character design and video games. Once the Internet became accessible to me, I was hooked. There were people out there, like me, who liked anime and J-pop… I wasn't alone! I've always been a geek, and I wouldn't ever wish differently."
JILLIAN: Besides tattooing you are an AMAZING artist! You draw, paint, and do all kinds of other media with what seems like natural ease. With drawing being so relevant in your job, what seems to be your favorite thing to draw these days?
KIM: "Thank you!! I have been trying to make time to draw and paint outside of the tattoo shop, but it's hard sometimes. My absolute favorite thing to draw has always been women. Lately, I've been focusing on adding more detail and line variations in my drawings, and I've been pretty happy with the way things have been coming out. I love creating beautiful, emotion-evoking art, and I strive to get better every day."
JILLIAN: Finally, Kim, what is your favorite thing about geek culture today?
KIM: "That it is SO HUGE. You can be a geek about anything, and I love that. It's not limited to a small section of fandom. You can be passionate about anything to a geeky degree. It's not exclusive, and you make your own rules. Screw being cool… Love something unconditionally, and enjoy it, regardless of how other people feel."
Love her work? Email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or:
Feel free to contact Classic Tattoo, and ask for Kim. (804) 264-8002
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February 12 2013