OC is famous for its tattoo history, there's no doubt about that. Some of the most famous tattooers in the world have been tattooing in the area for as long as 60 years, and that's all well and good, but it's in the past.
Looking toward the future, Lindsey Morehead is one of OC's brightest young stars. Sure, 27 isn't exactly a baby in the tattoo world, but Morehead spent most of her life preparing to get to this point, when she finally gets to unleash her talents on the world.
Morehead's been interested in tattoos since she was a 9-year-old living in Santa Ana (even her preschool teacher was covered in Disney tattoos), but it wasn't until after she attended Orange County School of the Arts and became an "art school dropout" after three years at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver (where she realized OC's weather isn't something to be taken for granted) that Morehead knew she wanted to go into tattooing. Of course, tattooing isn't exactly what they teach in fine art schools.
"Tattoo flash and tattoo art is a lot friendlier than art in an art school environment," Morehead says. "The art school environment is a lot more competitive, whereas tattooers are a lot more encouraging. You don't need a reason to do something weird in tattooing. Sometimes it's the the weirder, the better."
After art school, Morehead spent well over two years apprenticing at the now-closed St. James Tattooery where she learned all of the basics of tattooing. After that, the lifelong artist was still seeking some extra mentorship before branching out on her own, so she headed to (the soon-to-be-closed) Laguna Ink Spot and Gallery to apprentice for 4 months to rack up a whopping three years of time spent mopping floors and filing paperwork while learning to tattoo.
"It's a lot of cleaning, running errands, scrubbing tubes, and handling the changes for the health department," Morehead says of her apprenticeships. "It's about staying late just to trace koi fish, ships, and other traditional designs."
These days, Morehead slings ink out of Donovan's Autumn Moon Tattoo in Anaheim. It's a historic shop full of talented tattooers and close to her home, so she really can't complain. But the fledgling tattooer knows the struggles of OC's geography, sometimes having to commute over two hours just for an apprenticeship.
"It was tough but I'd never been more eager to work in my life than when I was apprenticing," Morehead says. "Even if I was just mopping the floors, it seemed like I was doing the right thing. It's all hustle and no glory."
As for what her extended apprenticeship helped her prepare for in the tattoo world, most of it comes down to work ethic. Morehead says a mixture of caffeine and dedication helped her push through the roughest days, and a promise of a cold beer at the day's end always kept things in perspective. There's only one thing Morehead wishes she'd known going into all of it.
"I'd tell myself to draw more, even more than you already draw," Morehead says. "Draw every day, draw different things, draw things from real life, just always draw."
Now that she's a bonafide tattooer at one of OC's most respected shops, Morehead realizes that although the career is more liberating than tattooing's version of an internship, there are also plenty of added pressures.
"I really can't rely on anyone else now," Morehead says. "I just have to get out there and do it. I don't have anyone looking over my shoulder anymore, but the voices of my mentors are still in my head."
There'll always be pressure for Morehead to do the best tattoos she can, but some have a little extra tension with them – particularly when they're on a parent.
"I gave my dad his first tattoo a little while ago, and now he wants a bunch more," Morehead says. "My mom actually cut me off financially when she found out I got my first tattoo, but then she got a huge piece done by Kari Barba, so now she supports it."
Donovan's Autumn Moon Tattoo, 117 N. Magnolia Ave., Anaheim, 714-761-0967, Instagram @loca.lentes