Feeling Inspired? Share this Artist
“When I do something for the first time I really go big”Liz Cook
Lady Tattooers: Hi Liz, we’re very excited to share your story! Let’s dive right into the beginning… How did you get into tattooing?
Liz Cook: I went to college to study art in my home state of Texas and while I was in school I worked at a beauty salon. Interestingly enough, the salon was sold to a new owner while I was on vacation and when I returned the new owner’s wife was doing permanent makeup. To be polite, her skill was lacking. So since I was in art school, the salon owner offered to pay for my cosmetic tattooing education and shortly after I began doing that. This was around 2003. But after doing cosmetic tattooing professionally for a while I wasn’t too happy because there was no real creative outlet in that.
A few years later and right after I received my BFA in studio painting and drawing, I met my husband Cookie in 2008. He was visiting the states from Australia, and was following a motocross tour with some friends. After we met we instantly fell in love and within 6 months I moved to Australia to be with him. At first while I was in Australia I did a bit of temp work but after a few months I received a tattoo apprenticeship. The apprenticeship lasted about 8 months.
My husband and I decided to come back to Texas about a year later. After we returned I bounced around shops for a bit becoming more educated about the business and my craft.
I had/have major social anxiety so at first it was hard for me to talk to fellow tattooers about questions if I needed help. However my husband is the opposite so before he was even tattooing it was easy for him to converse with tattooers — while we were at a shop together he would ask questions about my tattoo education and at the end of the day we’d go home and discuss what he learned. Eventually he also learned to tattoo. Honestly, if it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t be doing this.
LT: Tell us about the first tattoo you ever did.
Liz: So I kind of have three first tattoos. The first one was when I was doing permanent makeup and it was a set of eyebrows. My instructor made me pretty nervous and I thought I was going to mess it up but I didn’t!
The next first tattoo was pre-appreticeship. It was an Asian-style dragon taken from the old Cherry Creek flash. The design was placed on the small of the back on a pretty hefty woman. I felt pretty confident about doing the tattoo because I didn’t know any better and didn’t realize how hard it was going to be and I was just approaching it like any other medium. It ended up being really really hard especially since I wasn’t using proper tattoo equipment yet, I was using the rotary machines I’d been using for the permanent makeup.
So what I consider is my first proper tattoo was done during my apprenticeship using a coil machine. The design was just the line-work of a Geisha which took about 5 hours. As I got better throughout the apprenticeship I finished the piece in another two more sittings and my husband still wears it on his chest till this day. The whole situation was super extreme. My mentor was basically testing me and wanted to see what I was made of so I had thought about doing a simple 20 minute design but my husband said “Let’s just blow them out of the water’, I said “Ok” having no idea what I was doing and never having worked on a chest before… My husband Cookie was a trooper, he made it look like it didn’t hurt which helped me a lot. He’s been my solid foundation since we’ve met and I couldn’t have done it without him.
When I do something for the first time I really go big. That’s been my slogan throughout my career.
LT: Tell us about your first tattoo experience.
Liz: So my first serious boyfriend had really good tattoos which lead me to believe that every tattooer was an artist and that meant they were good. I had no fucking clue.
So having an art background, I drew a design for my first piece. Now, I’m not saying it was the best tattoo design, but if it was done how I drew and colored it I probably wouldn’t be getting it lasered off right now. In fact, I would’ve probably chalked it up to a growing experience and left it there as a reminder of that time. BUT the guy who did my first tattoo took my fully rendered color drawing and ran it through a stencil maker. If I knew then what I know now I would’ve left that situation immediately. The “tattoo artist” said the design would take about an hour and a half and it ended up taking 5. The design ended up skewed and scarred and it was so painful that I didn’t end up getting another tattoo till I was in my apprenticeship.
And now as a tattooer, I remember that first awful experience and I’m a lot more considerate with my own clients.
LT: Sounds like you’ve had a similar first experience to many other first-timers. It’s tough to educate people about this sort of stuff so it’s nice to see that you have some info about this on your website.
LT: Since you started tattooing right around the time of the great social media boom, how has it affected your career?
Liz: Before social media there was only old fashioned advertising for artists, like paid ads or word-of-mouth. Fortunately when I returned to Texas after my apprenticeship, social media just started becoming a new tool for artists to connect with potential clients. Thankfully my husband was really good at understanding how that all worked because I had no clue. Honestly if the social media boom didn’t happen I’d probably still be in Australia because word-of-mouth is still a strong way to advertise there.
LT: If you could tattoo anyone from the past or present, who would it be?
Liz: My Grandma passed away a couple years ago and it would’ve been really awesome to tattoo her. She was an artist, a painter mostly and she was one of the people who helped begin my journey with art. She came from a generation who didn’t approve of tattoos, but I think if she came back as a young person today without prejudice against tattoos, she would totally have them! She was always a big fan of my work and super encouraging. When I started tattooing, she was my number one supporter. So many amazing things happened in my career the year after she passed and I wish she could’ve been around to see it but I know she’s watching over me now.
LT: Your grandma sounded like a rad lady!
LT: Here at LT, we love animals! We think they’re an inspiration and comfort. How do you feel about them?
Liz: I love animals! I grew up with cats and love cats but since I’ve gotten really focused on tattooing, it’s hard to imagine having time to care for one. However we did adopt a lost cockatiel a couple years ago. Sometimes he can be a little noisy, but he’s got such a funny personality, we love him!
LT: Your color realism and portrait work is rich and lively. Are there any tips you’d give to your clients to promote happy healing?
Liz: Prepare and Aftercare is a page on my website which has great tips and valuable information for the promotion of happy healing. Even though I take the time to verbally explain aftercare to my clients, after a long session when a client is exhausted and one big brain-fart (haha), some of the important stuff may not get through.
Like most things in life, tattooing is not a one size fits all so I try to be super aware of how someone’s skin is doing when I ‘m tattooing them. For instance, how have they healed before (even non-tattoo related injuries)? I like to really get to the core of how their body processes healing.
You can usually get away with easier healing when there’s more line-work in a piece. Since my style doesn’t rely heavily on line-work, healing is particularly crucial. I try to go into each session with a game plan based on my knowledge of the client’s skin.
LT: How do you feel about your previous work? Is there any advice you’d give your newby tattoo-self?
Liz: Overall, I’m still really happy with the work I’ve done in the past. So I’d say this business promotes constant education, which means a tattooers personal aesthetic may change over time. Continue to grow and absorb information, so making important choices can be based on knowledge.
LT: So what’s life like now?
Liz: In conjunction with co-owning Rebel Muse tattoo shop in Texas with my husband Cookie and a mutual friend, Dave Mushaney — I also have my own line of pigments made by Eternal Ink and I produce educational tattoo videos. I put all my efforts into growing the shop and being a better tattooer and currently have many projects to focus on, so all of my attention is on that.
LT: It’s an incredible feat to own your own business and it’s encouraging to know how dedicated you are!
It’s been a pleasure chatting with you Liz. Thanks for your contributions to the industry and keep up the great work!