Beaumont artist ranges from radiology to rad tattoos
Beaumont artist Kailee Viator decided she wanted to give a career in radiology a shot. Helping surgeons, taking X-rays and injecting dye for contrast MRIs seemed like a good fit for the 28-year-old, but it wasn’t long before she realized she’d gotten it all wrong.
Well, mostly wrong.
Viator would discover she has a knack and a passion for injecting dye in people — or rather, ink.
“I have a lot of tattoo’s, and Cara (Edgar) at Javelina Tattoo had been working on me, and we became friends. She mentioned that she wanted a female apprentice, and it caught my attention.”
At this point, Viator was still working as a radiology technician, a job she found “soul sucking.”
“I’m a really empathetic person — I care about people,” Viator said. “In an industry where it’s, ‘Get ’em in, get ’em out,’ I was always taking my time to talk to people and getting in trouble. And then, I’m the first person who knows they have cancer, but I can’t say anything. I mean, I know what I’m looking at on the scan — I do it all day.”
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Though she was raised with family members working in tattoo and piercing shops, the idea of becoming a tattoo artist hadn’t occurred to her. She was looking for a way to help people, and radiology had seemed like that way. She had no idea that the qualities that made her hate the career she’s chosen were the same qualities that would make her love tattooing.
But getting into tattooing would mean learning an art form she’d never touched before. It was a big choice: A steady career with great benefits that you can’t stand, or a totally new profession where you’re starting from scratch and have no guarantee of success.
Viator finagled her finances and made preparations to leave her radiology job.
“I worked out my expenses so I could dedicate time to tattooing, like, I paid my car note in advance for a few months to make sure that was covered, and I sort of jumped in,” Viator said.
She and Edgar, who professionally goes by Cara Massacre, began work, teaching Viator everything she needed to know about the art of tattooing.
“I felt like I was learning to sketch again. Most of the rules are different,” Viator said. “My artistic style is usually layered and thick, and you can’t do that on skin. Every line has to be purposeful. It’s permanent — you can’t cover it up or erase it, so it’s a different way of approaching art for me.
“And you’re putting ink in a living person. You have to be careful or you’ll tear the skin up. It’s an organ, it’s delicate.”
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She started training on artificial skin, which she says feels nothing like the real thing. Luckily, with the name she made for herself in the local art scene, there’s no shortage of people who want a piece of her art on their skin, even if she is just starting out.
“I’m tattooing on clients almost every day, which is almost unheard of for an apprentice,” Viator said. People familiar with her work are willing to let her practice on them as she hones her skill, learning as she goes and picking up new techniques.
One of the bonuses for Viator is the way you stipple with a tattoo gun vs a pencil. “I never want to (stipple) on paper again. It’s so tedious. Tattooing, you’re using three needles in a circle that goes up and down and just, dot-dot-dot, three, three, three and it works so well. It’s efficient. If I tried it on paper again, doing each dot, I think I’d go crazy.”
Viator used the stippling needle to create an intricately shaded moth tattoo — one the client gave her total artistic freedom over.
“She came in and said ‘I want a moth, and I want something geometric,’ and let me do whatever I wanted,” she said. “Like, she trusted me. It was so fun and it turned out super cool.”
“The best part is getting to talk to people,” Viator said. “I get to sit with clients while I work, and a lot of tattoo’s have stories behind them. I get to be a part of that process— the healing process, the memory process, the closure — people leave me feeling happy because of something I did. It’s what I was missing with my old job, that genuine human interaction. On top of that I get to draw and make art all day. It’s kind of unbelievable.”
“It’s really been amazing, and now people are walking around my my art on their bodies. It’s surreal.”