When Nicole McCord started tattooing in 1996, she was under the same mistaken impression that she believes a lot of young people fall for.
"I originally didn't want to be a starving artist, and I was one of those kids who assumed that tattooers were all rock stars," McCord says. "I was wrong, obviously, but it's very rewarding. I'm glad I'm not just doing something to pay the bills."
When she's not tattooing, McCord spends her free time on her other artistic passions, like painting and drawing.
"I normally paint when I should be sleeping," McCord says. "I like that when I paint at midnight, no one is texting me or calling me asking for something. I can just paint."
Though McCord, who currently tattoos at Urban Art Tattoo and Piercing in Tempe doesn't have a favorite medium of art, she appreciates tattooing for reasons different from her other artistic endeavors.
"Most people don't like working with a lot of people as a part of their job. For me, it's one of the best parts. I get a whole new perspective on the human experience, because you never know the story behind why someone's getting a tattoo."
McCord's stylized tattoos tend to lend themselves to some things more than others. While she can't describe her own style of tattooing, others have told her the splashy, surreal vibe gives it a "watercolor-y" effect.
"I just do it how I see it in my head. There's a lot of splatters and blood and stuff dripping. I like them to be a little dirty and messy," McCord says. "I like things that have a lot of movement. I get asked to do a lot of dark, sultry ladies. It's one of those times where someone sees one that you did and wants to get one like that, and the more you do the more people see them and want them."
What are some of your tattoos? I have a lot of mythology, Pandora, Medusa twice, and a lot of flowers and Victorian stuff from the 1800s. When I was a kid, my mom gave me two books. One was the Bible illustrations, and the other was a book of mythology. I used to think they were the same stories, but that's how I ended up with so much mythology.
What's a memorable tattoo you've done? I have so many, but there was one time that taught me to never turn down doing small "Pinterest" tattoos as we call them, because you never know the impact that it's going to have on someone. It was this little piece on a woman's foot, a dandelion breaking apart into words. She didn't like any of the ones she'd seen online and I didn't like any that I'd seen. I wanted to do my own version, and she was a little nervous about getting it. Afterward, she told me it was for her son who had just passed away. I had no idea how much it meant to her. It was really the first time I'd ever met her, but she gave me a big hug and told me how much she loved it.
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What's the most important thing to you about a tattoo? Well, my favorite part is to help people realize and interpret what they want to look like. I get to positively affect their body image, which is something that's so important and you don't get to do in most other jobs.
What do you look for in an artist or a tattoo shop? Definitely someone with a style I like. I don't want any of my own work tattooed on me, obviously, because that would be like the definition of narcissism. I want people to use their own style of something I want.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone getting their first tattoo? Make sure you sleep well the night before and eat something before you get tattooed. Also, make sure you're 100 percent sure of what you want. Definitely don't say that you don't know what you want, because then how would I know what you want? And look up artists' profiles and styles, get a style that fits what you want.