Tamara Waite-Santibanez is a tattoo artist at one of my favorite tattoo studios, Three Kings Tattoo
in Greenpoint, BK. While I haven't been tattooed by Tamara (yet), I am a big admirer of her work in all its different mediums. We've been running into each other a lot recently, so I swung by her studio and where we talked about her inspirations, influences, and working at Three Kings.
Sean Risley: You've said that you really enjoy drawing Vikings and skulls. Is there any other subject matter you would like to explore?
Tamara Waite-Santibanez: Vikings and skulls were a starting point for me when I was studying printmaking. As I was undertaking an entirely new set of mediums, I stuck close to images that were burned in my mind, from years of listening to punk and metal and looking at album artwork. I think the biggest struggle for me is to create images that imply a narrative, even if they aren't necessarily composed with a story in mind. Tattooing is, more often than not, about making one-off images that can stand alone, and are limited to the size of a palm, shoulder, or what have you. I'd really like to do some comics soon, to force myself to create a storyline.
SR: You reinterpreted Iron Maiden's Piece of Mind album cover by Eddie the Head. Do you have any particular favorite Eddie the Head illustrations?
T W-S: I have a tattoo of the Killers
album on my leg, that's one that I think is such a good, basic incarnation of him. People recognize it all the time. My favorite Eddie the Head album cover is Powerslave (
both the Pharoah
and the electrocuted mummy
versions). But there are so many good and creepy ones, ranging from the raw punk earlier covers to the more dystopian ones, like Somewhere In Time
and Seventh Son
SR: You've illustrated show posters for Swans, Trash Talk, and The Black Lips. Are there any bands you would like to work with?
T W-S: There are too many to name! I was pretty heavily immersed in the gig poster scene a while back and did the Flatstock poster conference. But having limited access to silkscreen facilities has limited the projects I can take on. I would love to do something for High on Fire, Ghost, King Diamond's upcoming US tour (hint hint, anyone?), Sleep, Om, Earth, Witchcraft, Kylesa... pretty much anything metal or stoner-y.
SR: What's your favorite part about working at Three Kings Tattoo?
T W-S: I love the huge range of experience and styles that coexists here, and despite that range (or maybe because of it) every person is humble and constantly challenging themselves. Everyone is always painting, drawing, and working in other mediums and always looking to one another for inspiration. As the youngest tattooer at Three Kings, it has been invaluable to be in such a positive and non-competitive environment. Plus, there's an absence of the "tattoo shop attitude" that can be intimidating to customers. Everyone that walks in the door tells me how friendly the vibes are.
SR: You've mentioned Dennis McNett as one of your strongest influences, is there anyone else you'd credit as a mentor or influence?
T W-S: Dennis is the number one dude—I owe him so much. He instilled in me a love of printmaking that kept me making art when I found myself at odds with art school, and was the first "grown-up" to tell me that making art based on cool skateboard graphics and punk album artwork was good and legitimate. Other current mentors definitely include Alex McWatt, Myles Karr, Matty No Times, Daniel Albrigo, and everyone else at Three Kings.