We were lucky to catch up with Karmen Valadez recently and have shared our conversation below.
Karmen, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Did you always know you wanted to pursue a creative or artistic career? When did you first know?
I have always had a creative mindset, but I knew for sure that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts when I met my high school art teacher, Calvin Banks. I was timid in high school, but I loved art and really felt like I could be myself in his class. It was Mr. Banks that convinced me that I could pursue a career in art. I started off thinking I wanted to be an art teacher like him, but as I got older I decided I really wanted to be a tattoo artist. It wasn’t until recently that I accepted an apprenticeship at a shop in Ralston, NE (the same town I went to high school and met Mr. Banks) and am well on my way to making my dreams a reality.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
Since I started making art, it has always been politically charged. When I was in high school I was making art about women’s rights. I was in college during Trump’s presidential campaign and subsequent Presidency, so my thesis and most of my work leading up to it was anti-Trump/anti-conservative. After college, I took a break from the political side of art and focused more on my other interests, like vintage ephemera and cult horror. Naturally, tattooing felt like the best career path, because the job itself is political in a way. For me, tattoos help me feel good about the body that I am in, something that I have always struggled with. Whether it be from past trauma or society in general, I was using my skin to make a statement that I can be whoever I want, and feel good about me and my body despite the pressure that society gives to look a certain way. I chose to pursue a career in tattooing because I want to make others feel like they have the autonomy to make the same statement with their body’s too. Historically (at least Western) tattooing has been a “boy’s club”, very closed off and unwelcoming environment. Though that has significantly changed even in the past few years, my goal is to continue to create a safe place for all people of all body types, skin colors and genders to feel like they can have a space in this industry too.
What do you find most rewarding about being a creative?
There are a few things that are rewarding when it comes to being an artist. First off, the practice of making art has proven to be incredibly cathartic for me. It is a way for me to meditate and zone out by myself. Aside from that, making art for other people is something that brings me a lot of joy. I love to see people react to something that I made for them, whether it be something they commissioned from me or something that I created on my own that they fall in love with. I am even more excited to extend my art into tattooing. I know how I feel when I get a tattoo that I love and makes me feel good about myself, and cannot wait to give that gift to others.
Any insights you can share with us about how you built up your social media presence?
Social media is hard. I think my biggest advice would be to find something that makes you stick out from others and focus on that. Try not to get too caught up in your follower count, and do your best to post as regularly as possible. It doesn’t always happen overnight, and that can be daunting when you see other artists with hundreds or thousands of followers. But everyone starts somewhere. I also found that sharing other accounts on my story or news feed would make some of those bigger accounts see me and in turn share my work to their larger audience. Don’t let the algorithm get you down, but work it in a way that is healthy and beneficial to you.
- Instagram: @karmenvaladezart