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Meet Sherri Anne Portela

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

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
When I was a kid, I learned how to draw first before even knowing how to write. And I could still remember the figures I’ve been sketching, that of people’s faces, it’s shapes, lines, curves. I’ve been into the arts ever since. But as I grow old, being an artist in the Philippines is really not to be considered as a profession. In a young age, we are molded to study hard, finish education, and work in a corporation, be a doctor, nurse, lawyer, etc. That’s what I did exactly. I was doing a corporate job for a financial company doing routine work. But somehow, I find myself appreciating the art of tattoo, and I got one to cover a scar. Then I realized that feeling of boosted confidence when I got my first tattoo. Then I realized that I want to be that person who gives people that confidence I felt. So, I decided to learn how to tattoo while I’m also working a 9-5 job.

I considered tattooing as just a hobby back home, since tattooing was not really popular in my country and most Filipinos are conservative, and sadly to say, the stigma of being a female tattoo artist at that time is not really a positive thing. So, I continued living a mediocre life–working 9-5 and doing routine work, a vicious cycle if I must say. And I just woke up one day, thinking that it has to end. I quit my job, decided to leave the Philippines in the year 2013, and I landed here in Los Angeles.

I never considered to pursue tattooing here in Los Angeles because I know it is a cutthroat industry. How can a Filipino girl make it in a male-dominated world of tattooing? I know, wrong mindset. So, I changed that mindset and I tried. After so many shops and rejections, I was able to secure an apprenticeship at a tattoo shop in Venice–being a “shop’s bitch” as they call it, being the shop’s janitor, receptionist, assistant, doing errands, etc. It’s no walk in the park, but I sucked it up, because I know it is part of the process, and I know I should trust the process.

Couple years later, here I am, tattooing as a professional tattoo artist in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, doing what I love to do, being the instrument to bring my artwork to life on a skin—telling a story, marking the person with this story for the rest of his/ her life. This brings an immense satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment for me.
I share a level of human intimacy during the process, it’s my work on a person’s body forever, and with that resonates trust and comradeship. This is what I do and will continue on doing. Hoping every time, I give a tattoo–a piece of me, I inspire and I give out that positivity out one person at a time.

Please tell us about your art.
I create to inspire. That has been my mindset when I create my artworks. It’s not just about me, it is also about the person’s story. I tattoo to tell the story of the person, from the deepest emotional experiences and feelings, to the fun, cute artworks, which still tells a story.

My style is to get to know the person first, listen to his/ her story, and create a piece that would resonate the story on to her skin, accentuating the part of the body, using the right curvature and understanding the flow.

For me, tattoos are also accessories, I believe tattoos should accentuate the body and should give the person the boost of confidence and that sense of feeling good about the self.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
Aside from being in a cutthroat industry, some, if not most tattoo artists try fight and have some unhealthy competition in getting clients at a shop. And that leads to a decline in morale for artists. Also, one of the biggest challenges facing tattoo artists today would be the change in trend/ style of tattoos. It depends on how you see it. I see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. But unfortunately, some tattoo artists can only do a particular style and are stuck with it.

One major challenge I would say is mediocrity. It is hard to thrive in a world where people are more judging, and who does not understand the art. Artists tend to lean on mediocrity, playing it safe. Every artist should get away from that notion, and work with their hearts and souls put into it.

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