Tat2X: How long have you been involved in the tattoo business?
Azarja: I started working in the tattoo industry about 14 years ago as a shop girl/receptionist and then progressed to a variety of other jobs in the tattoo community. I’ve been tattooing for almost 10 years now.
Tat2X: Did you model before becoming a tattoo artist or after?
Azarja: I started modeling when I was 16 years old, doing mainly runway and catalog work. 2 years later, I got my first tattoo and took a hiatus from the modeling world to learn about tattooing. Around 2005 I got back into the industry as an “alternative model” and have been having a blast. Personally, I think being an “alt model” is so much more fun than straight fashion.
Tat2X: What made you decide to become a tattoo artist?
Azarja: When I got my first tattoo, it’s like my eyes where open for the first time. I had always been an artist, but had no idea that I could have a “real career” as one. Growing up I was told that the only jobs for an artist were things like “medical book illustrator”- which didn’t sound like a ton of fun to me. Clearly my high school guidance counselor didn’t have any tattoos. Lol After that first one, I was hooked. I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. One month to the day later I got my second tattoo and a month after that I started working in a tattoo shop.
Tat2X: How did you learn the art of tattooing? Did you apprentice?
Azarja: Yes, I did a 2 year apprenticeship under Shotsie Gorman. He is such an amazing artist and leader in the tattoo community, it was an honor to learn the craft from him. But I also had the privilege of working next to some other incredibly talented artists, whom i also learned a lot from.
Tat2X: Are there any artists tattoo or otherwise that you admire?
Azarja: As far as other tattooers go, I’m always inspired by the work of Tony Ciavarro and Joe Capobianco. Not only are they ridiculously talented individuals, but they’re also a lot of fun to work with. I’m fortunate enough to have work from both of them and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had while getting tattooed. Non-tattooers include artists like Derek Hess. His style is so raw an unique, I’m always impressed by it. I also love Alphonse Mucha and all things Art Nouveau.
Tat2X: Has any individual in particular influenced your career?
Azarja: Probably the greatest influence in my life is my co-worker Scotty “The Flying Ace” Lowe. He’s one of the most well rounded artists I’ve ever met and has the most even keeled personality ever. He has the patience of a saint! …and he always reminds me that our job is a privilege that we should never take for granted. If I end up having even half the career he’s had, I’ll consider myself a success.
Tat2X: What would you say is your favorite part of the job?
Azarja: My favorite part is definitely when you’ve just finished the tattoo and you get to watch the client see their new tattoo for the first time. All the hard stuff is already done – and no matter how much pain they may have just been in… they’re always psyched. It’s an amazing feeling to see their eyes light up and a smile come across their face. That moment is worth everything.
Tat2X: What’s the most unusual request for a tattoo design you’ve ever had?
Azarja: In 2004 I had a guy ask me to tattoo “Thanksgiving ’04“ on him the day after Thanksgiving. He said that it was the day he decided to stop drinking (aka, yesterday) and that every 10 years he was going to add to the tattoo ’14, ’24, etc. I made him promise to come back to me for them – so, hopefully, the day after Thanksgiving this year I’ll be able to see if he’s still sober. I’ve been waiting 10 years & I’m curious to see if he comes back!
Tat2X: Is there a tattoo design style you like to prefer work with?
Azarja: I like to dabble in a little bit of everything. Working in a street shop, you really have to be able to adapt to all the different styles that people want to get on their bodies. But some of my favorite things to tattoo are less traditional “tattoo” styles and more “artistic” looking tattoos. Such as tattoos that look like sketches or watercolor paintings. I love taking people’s traditional idea of tattooing and flipping it around a little bit.
Tat2X: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists tattoo or otherwise?
Azarja: Keep your head up! It’s a difficult industry to succeed in, so you better love it. Otherwise you’ll never last.
Tat2X: What kind of music do you like to listen to?
Azarja: I love all music, but I’m a punk rocker at heart. Give me the Murder City Devils & The Misfits any day. My brother actually plays bass in Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg- talk about a fun show! Every time I see him play I feel like I’m 16 again & singing my heart out.
Tat2X: What do you do to relax when you’re not in the studio or modeling?
Azarja: Hahaha, I generally work 6 or 7 days a week, so there’s not too much time outside of tattooing and modeling for me. But when I can, I love to eat a really good meal. I’m a total foodie. And I love trying crazy things- the other day I had a braised pork cheek taco topped with shaved cow’s tongue. It was delicious!
Tat2X: Is there anything else we should know about you or your studio?
Azarja: I love cheese- like hardcore. I have a wheel of gouda cheese tattooed on my arm. So if you wanna get a great tattoo from me, bring some cheese with you! hahaha Also, I’m pretty active in social media, so if you want to know/see more, be sure to look me up.
A Little More About Azarja van der Veen:
To see more of Azarja van der Veen’s beautiful work you can visit www.AzarjavanderVeen.com or you can check out Azarja’s Facebook page. You can also follow her on Instagram and Twitter @AzarjaTattoo .