Interview with Tattoo Artist Sara MacNeil

smock dress with round collar and lace gloomth

Did you know Gloomth Girl Syringe/Sara is an incredibly talented tattoo artist!? Her beautiful drawings come to life on skin, she’s been working in this field for a while now and we’ve loved seeing all her amazing work. Recently she was in Toronto doing a guest spot at a local shop here, Pravda Tattoo Parlour, so we had the chance to interview her and I snapped some photos of her at work!

Here’s what she had to say about her career as a tattoo artist and the industry in general. 🙂

sara macneil tattoo artist interview

How did you decide to become a tattoo artist? What attracted you to this profession?

I decided this is what I wanted to be at around age 10. I wanted to always be an artist, but I first saw good tattoos on people at around this age, and thought I could do that. I had an amazing artist friend Dianne, who gave me boxes and boxes of old tattoo age magazines. Those definitely fueled my hunger of tattooing more. There was something special and empowering seeing strong images like tigers on people done by artists who shaped this industry like Grime.

What has been your most challenging project to tattoo on someone so far?

As of right now, I would say my first full flowing arm sleeve I’m currently working on. It’s a little different than piecing together a tattoo. You have to consider flow and movement-making sure it wraps around the atm properly and filling in the empty space to make it appealing but not too boring. It’s much different than smaller pieces, or a thigh piece, where there’s just the one face that you need to make look good. It’s a 360 project.

sara macneil cat tattoo cattoo canada

sara macneil cat tattoo cattoo canada

 

What styles of tattoos do you prefer to do? What’s your specialty?

Neotraditional. Although three months ago I would have said traditional. For those out there who don’t know what they mean, think traditional like Sailor Jerry, big, bold, bright. Recently I’ve been moving from my traditional bones to more of a neotraditional style, which is a more artsy view point on traditional-using more than the original 5 colours and one line weight. It’s more fun and has more freedom for artistic flow. I still like to keep it bold and strong for the most part because the tattoo will age well- I still like doing softer stuff as well.

How would you describe “neo-traditional” tattoo style?

Neotraditional: a style of tattoo and tattoo art based on the traditional style, be it use of bold lines and or bright colours and or subject matter, but with a modern spin and signature take from the artist.

sara macneil tattoo artist interview

Are there any artists or other tattoo artists who inspire you?

Absolutely! I could go on for days who inspires me, but I highly recommend people check out: Erin Chance, Travis Driscoll, Shamus Mahannah, Tim Pausinger, Jen Bursey, Tyler Carman (my boyfriend), Chelsea Shoneck, ….there’s just so many. I always find someone new on instagram and get re-inspired in so many ways.

What advice would you give to someone considering their first tattoo?

First tattoos…. remember to breath, and get whatever YOU want. Don’t get what your mom wants, what your boyfriend wants, or friends want. Also, it doesn’t have to symbolize everything that’s happened in your life. It’s a tattoo. ooh and eat a good meal before hand.

sara macneil bat tattoo gothic canada

What would you say to all those people who respond to tattoos with questions like “What will it look like when you’re 70?!”?

I like to think my tattoos motivate me to take better care of my skin and body. If you take care of your skin and body they will look fine at seventy. I have allot of traditional tattoos which age well over time because “bold will hold”, a common phrase known in the tattoo community. I can’t say the same about realism tattoos or ones with lots of details. I do have some realism tattoos, I’ll let you know how they look when I get to seventy. But other than that, I don’t think my future family would want Grandma wearing a thong bikini and tube top on the daily. So they’ll be more for myself than anything at that age, a nice reminder that I got to do what I am happiest doing.

sara macneil kawaii tattoo anime

What was your first tattoo? What was the experience like?

Sigh…… A skull on my neck. It was airtight, the guy changed my design without my consent and made it look poorly done. I’m getting it covered soon with a nice neck piece. I wouldn’t recommend going to anywhere in Belleville for tattoos. Please take that advice seriously from my experience. The guy who did my first tattoo doesn’t tattoo anymore and the shop closed down… It’s been two years.

sara macneil tattoo artist interview

When you are creating a custom design for someone what is the process?

I like to ask the client to send be done reference pictures, the more the better. Also I like to know what they envision as the final project and try to make it come to life. I’m lucky that a lot of people trust me enough to draw them up custom pieces. It’s a big deal to be able to draw something and have someone want that tattooed on them. Some people in this industry have worked super hard to get people to want their work and still get grief. A lot of the time I also just draw what I want to do and then offer it up for grabs. Sooner or later somebody gets it!

I got my first tattoo when I was 18, it was a gift from a dear friend of mine, and it’s amazing to see how much tattoos have taken off since then. At that time they were still something you didn’t see on many people, and now it seems everyone has them. What do you think brought about this popularity?

I totally think reality TV shows like la ink, ink masters, etc. have a huge role un the popularity. All I want to say is that usually the better artists are down to earth people who are in this for the art and not to be dubbed earn it. But I think TV, and the internet had popularized it hard core- pinterest and tumblr as well…… Bird silhouettes.

sara macneil traditional coffin tattoo black

 

sara macneil tattoo artist interview

Do you think that will shift back? Will people suddenly have a preference for pristine un-marked skin or will tattoo as an art form shift to something else?

I hope not! I’d be out of work! I don’t think so, I mean allot of us, maybe all, will have at least one tattoo by the time we hit forty, and maybe our kids will think it’s lame because we did it so much. But tattooing had been around for centuries, I think the technology will change more so and we can do that much more with skin that that will keep the interest alive.

How did you launch your career as a tattoo artist? How are you building it?

A lot of hard work. And making friends. A lot of this career’s vitality relies on putting yourself out there, introducing yourself to strangers everyday. I started a Facebook page, IG account, guest spot regularly and always carry business cards.

sara macneil cicada tattoo

Tattoos have a really interesting history worldwide, they’re part of so many cultures and traditions. Is there any aspect of that which inspires or excites you?

Absolutely! I love the traditional tattoos done for the Yakuza…. The whole process of having a stick with multiple needles for hours and hours is intense to think about! My hand hurts holding my machines for a whole day let alone doing something like that! I’d love to learn how to do that one day, I will probably have to apprentice under someone in Japan for a couple years to earn that. Who knows!

sara macneil tattoo artist interview

Where can we see more of your work or to contact you about bookings? Are you attending or working any tattoo conventions in the coming year?

I post daily on instagram @Sara.macneil and regularly on Facebook.com/saramacneiltattoo

You can book appointments with me through messaging me on either of those. This upcoming year I’ll be attending the Halifax tattoo convention with Tyler and returning to attend again at the Ottawa Tattoo convention this year.

sara macneil tattoo artist interview

Thank you again to Sara for letting us hang out at her work and take silly photos! 🙂

-Tae

 

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About gloomth

Gloomth is a love letter to the misfits of the misfits. Our blog covers strange lifestyle inspiration, diy ideas, our clothing label photoshoots, and more. Written by Gloomth designer Taeden Hall.
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