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Life & Work with Sherri Portela

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sherri Portela.

Hi Sherri, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I really never considered tattooing as a career and I can say that it just happened organically. Growing up, I’ve been into visual arts—sketching, painting, and even photography, but the art of tattooing has never crossed my mind until that day that I decided to get one to cover up a scar.

2011 was the year. It was at this garage-turned studio that my artist-turned mentor and I started watching this show while I was getting tattooed. It was LA Ink, of course. And watching this badass female artist amongst the male-dominated show kills it with her art inspired me. Then my appreciation for the craft started.

When tattooing was still very much a taboo in the Philippines, that’s the time I decided to try my hands on the craft. At that time, the idea that female artists are not really common also subconsciously drove me to trying it and proving that we can do it too, so I did it as a hobby.

Couple of years forward, this thing called quarter-life crisis hits me like a brick and I decided to quit my corporate job in the Philippines and moved across country and landed in Los Angeles not knowing what I’ll do next. Then tattooing got reintroduced to me in such an unexpected way. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast-forward to 2022. I’m still tattooing and I’m part of this collective of artists doing what we love. I can say that one of the main driving force for me to really commit and continue tattooing is the fulfillment I get from seeing my clients happy and knowing that somehow I get to contribute to someone else’s joy, happiness or even something deep and in a personal level.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The journey to get to where I am today hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies. Struggles and obstacles come in different shapes and forms. And I can say that the worst of them all is self-doubt. Being away from home, alone and broke will definitely give you that.

Knowing that you have a support system and knowing when to ask for help has positively contributed immensely to my inner demons. It’s always the inner struggle that gets you. And one of the worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt. And believing that you have the strength to shut down the voice in your head that says “I can’t” will get you a long way.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a traveling tattoo artist based in Los Angeles and I have a guest residency in New York at Inked NYC. I also travel often to Hawaii and Manila, Philippines. I’m currently part of a collective of tattoo artists based in Downtown Los Angeles. I specialize in fine line work, color and black and gray realism and micro-realism. I love doing pet portraits, florals and geometric designs.

Doing what I love to do, being the instrument to bring my artwork to life on a skin—telling a story and marking the person with his/her/their story brings an immense satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment for me. I create to inspire. Tattooing is never just about me, it’s about the stories, experiences, and energies shared between me as the artist and my client.

There are a lot of talented artists out there and the competition is really cutthroat. But for me, having the mindset to compete with others will get you nowhere. Growth is a continuous process wherein having to compete with the self is immensely crucial. I make sure that I improve in all aspects of life and I believe it reflects on the outcome of my works. And I can confidently say that I take pride on that.

What do you like best about our city? What do you like least?
Los Angeles has taken me to places I have never dreamt before. It gave me opportunities that I would’ve never thought of. It took a chance on me. It nurtured me. And most importantly, it gave me a home.

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Image Credits:

Kat Holt Photo

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