I recently got a beautiful tattoo of my favorite flower done by Three Kings’ talented Amanda Rodriguez, who specializes in flowers. Amanda lives in Greenpoint and until recently worked at Evil and Love. She’s recently moved to Three Kings and I’m excited to see what she does there.
I was impressed with her floral work and I also really enjoyed hanging out with her, so we chatted about how a portrait artist made the transition to tattoo art.
More after the jump. Follow her on Instagram at @amandatattoos.
Greenpointers: Friday night is a good night to get a tattoo because it’s so relaxed in here. We’re drinking prosecco afterwards and just relaxing. How did you end up at Evil and Love?
Amanda: In 2010, I couldn’t find a shop to hire me. I was still struggling to find my style. A lot of artists and shops are really stuck-up and rude and set in their ways and opinions, but Steve was cool, very chill. He, Diego and I are all Spanish and joke about it. We got really lucky. Tattooing can be cliquey, and people can lose sight of reality. We like to laugh, poke fun at each other — we’re just laidback.
Gpt: How long have you been working as a tattoo artist?
Amanda: I’ve been doing it for eight years. I started because I went to school for furniture design, and they taught us to woodwork and to weld, but you need to know CAD to design furniture, and they didn’t teach us any of that stuff.
When I got out of school, there was really no work. I was working in a fabrication shop on rowing shells and Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring sculptures, and it was ten hours a day of sanding. I kind of hated it and I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to do with my life.
Then, a friend of mine who was a scratcher saw me painting a portrait for my grandfather of my step-grandmother and said I should look into tattooing, and that I’d be good at it. I was met with some resistance but eventually found someone who was willing to teach me.
Gpt: What was the resistance?
Amanda: Some tattooers feel threatened — as in, “Well, these portraits wouldn’t translate well into a tattoo.” This one guy said, “Just because you can draw doesn’t mean you can tattoo.” It’s sort of true, but I feel tattooing is a skill you can learn, while being artistic — you just have to have that.
Gpt: Do you feel the tattoo world has changed from traditional to artistic styles?
Amanda: It’s shifted to an art medium in itself and people take it a lot more seriously. To be a tattooer and be successful, you have to have your own style.
Gpt: Tattooing is exhausting. How do you keep up your energy during four, five-hour sessions and long days?
Amanda: You take breaks; you take care of yourself. But sometimes I’ve done my best work hungover. It’s hard work and you get really tired and I actually do a lot of pilates which helps prevent a lot of pain. Your back hurts, because you’re hunched over all the time. I couldn’t tell you why pilates helps me, because it doesn’t feel like it’s helping you, but I don’t really get pains.
Gpt: What do you get the most pleasure out of in your day-to-day tattooing?
Amanda: I always like working with people, as long as they’re not really annoying. Everyone’s got a really cool story. You get to know these people beyond judging them on what they look like or what weird tattoo they’re doing. What makes me the happiest is really getting to do my style.
Gpt: How did you develop that style?
Amanda: For a long time, I struggled to find my voice. I went to Portland and they had rose bushes everywhere. They had these really particular English roses, and I was blown away and thought they were really beautiful. It sort of just went from there. I’d go to the botanical gardens and take photos.
Gpt: Do flowers hold a special significance for you?
Amanda: People always joke around about Georgia O’Keefes, but I just think they’re really beautiful and having them around makes me happy. I started actually collecting plants around the time I shifted to tattooing flowers. I was always afraid I’d kill them, but a friend made me realize as long as I had the right light, I’d be fine. Having them around makes me happy.
Gpt: What’s a tattoo you’ve done recently that turned out really well, that you were happy with?
Amanda: The peach roses, spinach buds and leaves, and catnip flowers I did are my current favorite. It’s what I want to do — vintagey color floral stuff. I do a lot of color and a lot of black and grey, so I don’t know how somebody else would characterize me, but I really like color.
Gpt: What flower tattoos do you have?
Amanda: I have these peonies on my left arm. I’m half-Puerto Rican and half-Italian, so these are hibiscus flowers, the state flower of Puerto Rico, and I have the New York State rose, which is different from a regular rose. I have a peony on my butt. I have a flower piece from Diego, and flowers by Sam Smith that look like open tulips.
Gpt: Do you have a favorite tattoo?
Amanda: My Damon Albarn portrait. When I was younger, all I drew were portraits. When I was a teenager, I was really into Britpop, specifically Blur. I love Damon Albarn and I drew his portrait a bajillion times. Modern Life is Rubbish is the title of one of their albums, and that’s on there. The owner of Evil and Love, Steve, did it.
So I met (Damon) and I showed him the tattoo two years ago when he was doing a solo show. I got one of the guys who worked at the venue to bring me up to the area, and I got to meet him, and it was the best three minutes of my life. He thought it was really cool. He and his bodyguard who’s been with him for a really long time were freaking out about it, and I asked him if he remembers taking the photo it’s based on, and he did. Then we took a photo together with the tattoo. He’s holding my arm and I’m giving him bunny ears behind his head.
Gpt: What’s your favorite bar nearby?
Amanda: Oak and Iron or Alameda — it’s a toss-up. I’m obsessed with Alameda’s Shiso Painkiller — I had three last night. That’s my favorite thing about that place, and the vibe in there is really chill. The layout is really nice and it’s just a really beautiful bar.
Oak and Iron they can actually make drinks, and it’s fun to go there with a group of people. It’ll get crowded, but it’ll always clear up. It’s always open too, and when there’s a blizzard it’s still open. You used to be able to bring dogs in there.
Gpt: The neighborhood is really changing, with new condos and a different population.
Amanda: I know, I used to have so many friends here and it was easy to go grab dinner or a drink, but now, all my friends are moving away. The new people might not want tattoos. I don’t know yet if it’ll be good for business or bad for business.
Gpt: What do you want to do in the future with your work?
Amanda: I want to keep improving and doing the best I can do. As an artist, I’m never happy with the things that I do. I always see the flaws in everything I do, and I always want to improve them. When you don’t think you can do better, I think that’s when you’re done.