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Meet Cole Strem of Still Life Tattoo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cole Strem.

Cole, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been an artist most of my life. Growing up I can remember always creating some kind of art. From drawing and painting to cartooning, screen printing and graphic design, I’ve had my hands in a little bit of everything. My Father is a taxidermist and a retired professor at a technical college teaching painting and decorating. He always would draw and color with me when I was young. Sometimes, I’d tag along with him to class and sit in on the daily lesson and end up creating whatever project was being taught that day. I think about those time often.

My Mother and Step-Father quit their jobs when I was a sophomore in high school to follow their dreams to be professional photographers and artists themselves. This really inspired me to not waste my years working and struggling at a place I hated. You’ve only got one chance to do what you love, so go for it.

In high school, I attended many art classes and always appreciated the challenge of a new medium every week or two. Again, having my hands in so many different styles it was tough to pick one I loved. At the time, music and my friends were the only things that mattered to me. Playing in bands, going to shows and being in the music scene was a path I had to be on.

After high school, I decided to follow the musical path and enrolled in an audio engineering school in Los Angeles. It was there that I met my band. Being a musician was my only focus. This meant working tons of dead-end jobs just to get by. As a result, art took a back seat for a handful of years. Unfortunately, things came to an abrupt halt with the band afterlife starting taking over. I tried to push further with my music until I realized that I missed the peacefulness and clarity of creating art. I needed to get back into that passion.

I had always told friends over the years of my interest in tattooing. I began to pry open that door after my wife gifted me a shitty eBay tattoo kit for my birthday one year, I knew I had to dive in head first. I began my search for an apprenticeship, but after several “NO’s” later, I felt discouraged. I didn’t know where to turn next but I kept at it. I soon was in contact with the tattoo shop my wife was getting work done at. It was there, at that shop, I landed a spot as a helper and later an apprentice. I haven’t looked back since… and I’ve never been happier. Tattooing is my life.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s been challenging for sure, I’m learning something about myself and the craft every day. When I first started, being so young and green in a tattoo shop, I had no clue about anything. Working in a street shop you never know what will come through the door. So I’d do anything I could just to tattoo. Believe me, most of the time I felt like I bit off way more than I could chew. I’d get halfway through a tattoo and wonder what the hell I was doing! But you have to have faith in yourself and your abilities as an artist.

Tattooing takes time, dedication, guidance and patience. There is so much to explore and you discover new elements daily if your eyes are open to learning them. I am so blessed to be able to make a career doing a craft that I love. I think about it every day… I can’t believe this is my life!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Still Life Tattoo – what should we know?
I tattoo out of Tim Shelton’s Still Life Tattoo in Seal Beach. It’s very different from any other tattoo shop I’ve worked at. This place has a fine art vibe. When you walk in, it feels like a place you’d want to go to get a great tattoo.

Experience is everything. With so many shops in the surrounding area, you’ve gotta get people’s attention and stand out. Tim’s done a great job making our clients old and new feel comfortable in a relaxing, enjoyable environment.

I specialize in tattoos that look like tattoos. I love the American traditional style and really enjoy keeping the tradition alive. However, I do a bit of everything. Over the past few years, I’ve been painting a lot of watercolor portraits. That’s translated into my tattooing and now I’m eager to take on more portrait tattoos. They’re a bit more illustrative and loose but I like the direction their headed and can’t wait to do more.

What sets me apart? I feel that I go the extra mile for my clients. I’m friendly, professional, welcoming and try to give the client more than they expected. I enjoy doing my own flash designs, custom work is always welcomed and I’m willing to tackle challenges that normally other artists may shrug off. As long as I can make a nice looking tattoo in the end, that’s my goal.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I have a ton of people that inspire me to push harder to be the best artist I can be. My family is very supportive of what I do and very proud that I’m living the dream. My wife is my constant drive in my everyday life, not only as a person but as an artist. I’m always bending her ear and asking her opinion about a design, a layout, a color pallet… you name it! Most of my ideas for paintings come from her, even though she won’t admit it.

My friends have been a consistent push for me too. They’re always happy to be able to get a tattoo from me whenever we can make it happen. Tattooers and artists I’ve had the privilege to meet and work alongside, they have shared so many bits of information that has been so helpful along the way.

And of course, I couldn’t do this without my clients. They are the best. It’s really amazing to me to have people trust you to do what you do. Even if it’s someone I just met, they have the confidence in me to give them something unique and a little different. I am very grateful to have so much support in my life.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1500 Pacific Coast Hwy Unit F
    Seal Beach, CA 90740
  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @colestremtattooer

Image Credit:
Travis Haight Photography

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