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Meet Susan Montes of Black Palm Tattoo in Orange

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Montes.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was brought up with parents who encouraged expression, and with that I grew up dabbling with music and art. Eventually, art took its course and at 15 years old I took interest in pursuing being a tattoo artist. When I was 16, I called and stopped by a few tattoo shops to start an apprenticeship.

Due to me being so young, and California laws requiring you to be 18 years of age to give/receive tattoos, a few shops didn’t take interest in having some young teen hanging around. However, one artist, Devin Fitzgerald, saw potential in my art and decided to help me hone my art skills. I spent the next two years going in after school, staying late nights, taking the bus on the weekends and in the summer dedicating all of my time to really make this a profession. Once I turned 18 and graduated from high school, I began my apprenticeship and a little over a year later, I finished and became a tattooer.

Has it been a smooth road?
Starting out can be pretty tough. Apprenticeships basically break you down, but only to build you back up with thick skin; which is crucial cause there’s a lot of criticism from the eyes of others and through the eyes of your own. Having art be a passion and turning it into a profession will have it’s battling moments- just like writers can have blocks, so can we as artists. It can be testing when you feel stagnant and you still have to compose an artistic piece and then tattoo it. But those times can also be most rewarding when you have created something and have made another person happy. With techniques, tools, mediums and styles all changing and progressing it can be pretty challenging to keep up. We have to drop comparison and be comfortable taking our own route at our own pace as artists.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Black Palm Tattoo story. Tell us more about the business.
When starting out, I was very interested in the colorful neo-traditional style. Recently I’ve been focusing on just black and grey, whether it be portraits, traditional, script, fine line or Chicano influenced pieces. I try to be a diverse artist offering different styles, being a sort of jack-of-all-trades. My goal over the last few years was to be an artist who could be comfortable taking up most any style comfortably and that’s something I definitely feel I’ve worked up to. A reoccurring theme in my work that stands out are the fetish friendly designs I do or the sexy cholas. I am openly involved in the kink lifestyle/community, with that I get to work with a lot of sex workers and like-minded individuals who want to represent their jobs and interests. Being Chicana and into kink, I like to merge both cultures through my art.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Changes and trends are constantly happening. We all have a different view of the world and different tastes. When new styles are birthed, it inspires others. Someone may take that concept, pick what they like from it and recreate it with their own twist. It’s like a domino effect. This is still happening even with flash that was made in the 60s. It’s very incredible to see an industry full of thousands of artists standing out from one another even in subtle ways. Already tattooing and tattoos have made a huge progression by dropping the stigma that they were strictly associated with criminals and gangs. Nowadays you’ll see a person of any background wearing one. With tattoos being more acceptable, I see it working its way continually to be a normalized way of artistic expression.

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Image Credit:
Eduardo Ponce, Errick Easterday

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