By Tyler Short
Deep within the heart of Portland’s culture lies its appreciation of the arts, including the increasingly popular world of body art. Home to countless renowned tattoo studios, the Portland community generally embraces this form of expression.
One well-known tattoo studio, Art Work Rebels, is located in downtown Portland at 528 SW 3rd Ave. They offer works from several skilled artists, through walk-ins or appointments, who specialize in a variety of classic and custom styles rooted in American traditional, Polynesian and Japanese tattooing according to the Art Work Rebels’ website. Usually the American traditional or Old School style encompasses bold black outlines of 2-D illustrations with restricted detail and color palettes.
Harrison Puterbaugh ’18 recently received an American traditional tattoo of a reaper from Art Work Rebels by Ross Carlson. His tattoo was inspired by several depictions of Death from Tarot cards, including inverted crowns, a knights suit of armor and the reaping pose. Carlson is an artist known among the tattoo community for his talent in the American traditional style and his shading work. His work tends to be expensive due to his reputation as an exceptionally skilled tattoo artist.
“This one ran me $400, not including the tip, which is my most expensive tattoo,” Puterbaugh said via email. “But it’s still a deal for the quality of work in my opinion … They’ll blow your mind.”
Another more affordable tattoo option is Historic Tattoo on 2001 SE 50th Ave. near Mount Tabor Park. They describe their studio as an American traditional style tattoo shop, offering thousands of designs and custom work. Jared Grabowski ’21 admires this specialty and recently paid $160 for a shoulder cap by Lisa Marie that depicts a woman’s head with a web surrounding it.
“American traditional just has a timeless look,” Grabowski said via email. “They are bold, nostalgic interpretations of Americana … They did a great job.”
Historic Tattoo provides several means for people to acquire their quality works, offering walk-ins, appointments and specials where the customer receives a random tattoo in a plastic ball from a gumball dispenser for $80. This aspect of chance can be part of the excitement for the customer, as they must be prepared to get anything they receive for $80. Otherwise, it is a $20 fee to try again.
Portland has many celebrated professional tattoo studios, but there are also options on campus. Eleanor Trombla ’21 is a student at LC who has been doing stick ’n poke tattoos since her freshman year in high school. She has completed numerous tattoos in her own unique style on herself and others, learning from her friends and the Internet. Her first stick ’n poke was given to her by a friend. Throughout the years, Trombla has gone over this tattoo herself to deepen the color and prevent it from fading, thereby learning the proper technique involved with stick ’n poke tattoos.
“I prefer (stick ’n pokes) in the sense that they are a lot cheaper and I have never been able to afford a traditional tattoo,” Trombla said. “I like them because they are simple and I have always liked line work in big tattoos, I don’t like color too much in big tattoos.”
Using Higgins India Ink and pre-sterilized tattoo needles, Eleanor individually places each drop of ink into her clients’ skin, layering over it several times before it is complete, which can take a considerable amount of time.
“It depends on where it is and how big it is,” Trombla said. “But if it is a really fleshy area it can take up to an hour.”
Additionally, due to the intricate nature of the process, stick ’n pokes tend to be more painful.
“From people that I have poked that have traditional tattoos, they say it is more painful because its an individual stab with a needle over and over again,” Trombla said. “And it’s an open wound that you have to keep going over until the ink stays.”
Despite the additional pain, her tattoos are inexpensive and the results match those of professional tattoos. She determines her pricing based off what the customer thinks is fair, but ideally she charges $10 per tattoo because of the time it takes her to complete them.
“Typically, people come to me with ideas that they have and then I turn it into one of my drawings,” Trombla said. “My rule is if I can draw it, I can stick ’n poke it.”