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Tattoo art both interesting, challenging, artist says

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | September 15, 2023 1:30 AM

MOSES LAKE — Blaire Knox said she’s always loved and experimented with art.

“I’ve been sort of an eclectic artist my whole life, mostly centered around drawing,” she said.

“Just as a personal interest. Beyond drawing, I’ve done painting and working with clay for sculptures, sewing clothes. I’ve (worked) with 3D modeling and drawing comics, and working with Photoshop. I’m a jack of all trades, master of none.”

So when she got an offer to make art and learn something new, she couldn’t pass it up.

“My mother-in-law, who owns the studio, has known that about me. So when she decided to open this place up, she came to me and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a job opportunity if you’re willing to put in the work.’ And I said, ‘Of course.’ I’m not going to say no to the first artistic opportunity that’s ever come knocking at my door.” Knox said.

Not only that, but tattooing was an intriguing art form.

“I’ve always appreciated tattoos. It’s a very interesting sort of art medium because of how permanent it is, but it’s also a very complex procedure,” she said.

Knox is a tattoo artist at Karma Body Art Studio, 604 W. Third Ave., Suite B, Moses Lake. The studio also has a selection of body jewelry.

Knox has been tattooing for about a year and eight months, she said. She learned the techniques in part by apprenticing with a more experienced artist, which is a traditional way to train. She also used online resources, she said.

In one way tattooing does resemble drawing, but it’s not on a flat, stationary surface — and there’s even more to it than that.

“And a three-dimensional surface that shifts as well, with pressure,” Knox said.

The tattoo artist uses needles rather than brushes or pencils, and the way that the needles pierce the skin means the process requires careful attention, she said.

“It’s a 3D surface that also has a depth limit,” Knox said. “The sweet spot for tattoos — it varies with each person because their layer of skin can be thinner or thicker than another person. But generally speaking you want to aim for the second or third layer of skin. In measurable terms, that’s the width of the side of a nickel.”

She spent a lot of time practicing on oranges and bananas, as well as a silicone sheet that resembles skin.

“I just did line after line after line after line, not really worrying about how shaky it was, just worrying about my depth. And then I would cut it down the line and measure to see how deep I went,” she said.

The goal, she said, is to avoid going too deep, which can cause what’s known as a blowout.

“It’s when you pass the third layer of skin and hit the fat layer. Because the cell walls in that area are not as rigid, there’s more room for the ink to freely expand. And as it seems to bloom underneath the skin, it’ll look like a bruise or just bluish discoloration,” she said.

A blowout can result in a design that looks a little blurry — or it can spread and look like a big bruise. Certain areas, like the inside of the elbow, are more susceptible to blowouts due to the bending and the pressure that puts on the skin.

Some areas are harder to work with than others.

“Behind the ear, the skin is very, very thin, and it kind of doesn’t hold ink well on most people,” she said. “So it’s just a very slow and deliberate process.”

There’s a sequence to tattooing, she said. An artist working with oils, pastels or watercolors has some choices where to start and stop, and whether to sketch the scene out on the canvas first.

“One of the things I’ve always found most interesting is color theory. And color theory is a huge part of what we do here,” she said. “If you’re doing a color tattoo, you have to do your colors in a very specific order, or they will stain each other and just turn into a bunch of muddy colors.

“In tattooing, you do all the work that involves blacking first, and then you work up from there with all of your darkest hues, and from your cool colors to your warm colors,” Knox said.

Karma Body Art Studio is open from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Tattoo artist Blaire Knox selects ink for a new tattoo for a client. Knox has done a variety of artforms, including painting, sculpting, drawing comics and sculpting.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Blaire Knox said a tattoo is artwork on a three-dimensional surface that shifts with pressure. Knox, a tattoo artist at Karma Body Art, prepares her inks for a customer.