When you’re obsessed with honing your craft like Kelsea Schack is, the results stand out in an inky sea of talent. She researches the subjects of her tattoos, pulling references and resources like a doctoral candidate, designing each piece to be her best. Which is why, when you see one of her black and grey realism tattoos, it’s cleaner-looking than an Ansel Adams photograph jumping off the skin.
How long have you been tattooing/where did you start?
After meandering about the industry off and on, I got my real start at Certified Tattoo Studios right here in Denver. I was offered an apprenticeship by the founder, Nando Mondragon, and readjusted my entire life so I could take this opportunity since it was my dream job. I apprenticed under Darious Malone for over a year and then became a resident artist. I just hit my 1 year anniversary as a full-time tattoo artist at Certified Tattoo. It's been a dream.
What drew you into this art-form in the beginning?
As an artist, what could be more special then someone carrying your art on them for their entire life? I see it as a very intimate art form and was always drawn to peoples tattoo's since I was a teenager. Also, the possibilities are endless. Look at what tattoo's were 20 years ago versus today; they've gotten so amazing and they will continue that way. I want to be a unique part of it.
What kinds of things do you do when you're looking for inspiration?
I reference a lot of my favorite artists' work for techniques and composition. But honestly, I'll smoke a joint and scope out tons of references for inspiration. I generally pull like 30-40 reference photos for each tattoo just so I can put together the perfect design for my clients. I also talk to the other artists at the shop. I work with 35 other artists, so I love bouncing ideas off of them. I strive to stand out. I want to be unique. It's something I work on everyday. One day, I will be making tattoos that will stand out and people will know that I did.
What are some of your favorite things to draw/tattoo?
I love to draw people. When I was learning to draw, that was all I would draw. So naturally, I love to tattoo portraits. But I also love doing skulls, roses, and animals.
What is your favorite aspect of tattooing?
I get paid to draw all day. I love it. I never fit into the conventional 9-5 job and when I had one, my life was literally so miserable. My art impacts lives. It's very intimate to me. I've had people cry in my chair when I finished the piece because of what the tattoo meant to them, and I was able to give them that. Tattoos are very special. For most people, a lot of thought and trust goes into getting a tattoo, so I never take that for granted. A lot of people only get a couple tattoos in their lifetime, so I try to make it as memorable as possible. I love the potential for growth as well. It's not a job that just fits you in a box and that's that; you can literally do anything, work any schedule, do any style, travel the world, etc.
Anything else you want people to know about you?
I enjoy the challenge of taking anyone's ideas and turning them into a dope tattoo. I am looking to expand my portfolio into more portrait work, and I would love to do more horror tattoos … I am coming for the top.