If you’re tired of doing your eyebrows everyday or wish you had some cute freckles, Melissa Martell has you covered.
The young artist primarily works out of Eagle Rock’s Earth Altar Studio alongside her mentor, Justine Serebrin, but she makes plenty of trips to Orange for guest spots at Show Pigeon Tattoo for everything from her stylized blackwork and more traditional tattoos to eyebrows, freckles, and permanent makeup.
“Permanent makeup was something Justine [Serebrin] had learned that she wanted to pass down to me,” Martell says. “It’s a totally different thing from regular tattooing. It’s a different machine and different clientele, it’s just a totally different thing.”
Considering that Martell only got her first tattoo about a year and a half ago tattoo, the lifelong artist and graduate of University of Iowa’s art program has made huge strides in a short amount of time. Her search for an apprenticeship began immediately after her first tattoo, and she realized she’d been wondering why she hadn’t been tattooed long before that.
“I’d already been looking for a career change,” Martell says. “I was a graphic designer at the time, but that didn’t quite fit for me. When I got my first tattoo, I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I fell in love with it and became obsessed with researching it and finding out as much as I could.”
Thanks to the solid foundation gained from her apprenticeship under Serebrin and some helpful pointers from other local artists, Martell is quickly rising through the ranks of the area’s rookie tattooers. Of course, just because her art looks like she’s been in the industry for years doesn’t mean her nerves have quite caught up yet.
“I think I’m still waiting for that first big moment to happen,” Martell says. “I started crying when I did my first tattoo on someone because I felt like I was going to ruin his life. I was so scared, and I sometimes still am. There hasn’t been a moment where I feel totally comfortable yet, but that’s kind of why I like it. I don’t know if I’ll ever really be satisfied completely with the work I’m doing. There’s always room for improvement and I’m always going to be a little bit worried about it.”
But outside of tattooing, Martell has another artistic passion that started before she ever got permanently inked. She puts her graphic design skills to use in creating her sought-after pet portrait commissions, but the cute and clever photo-based art pieces weren’t always an ideal Christmas gift for your pet-obsessed friend across the country. They actually weren’t initially intended to be a business at all, but just a gift that took on a life of its own.
“I just did [a pet portrait] for a friend and posted it on Instagram, and then I noticed that a lot of people wanted me to do them,” Martell says. “It just kind of grew from there. I didn’t realize that there was such a demand for that, but a lot of people really love their pets. I took it a little more seriously and turned it into a real business before I even started tattooing.”
Of course, with her popularity as a pet portrait creator and growing tattoo skills, many of her pet parent clients want to know whether or not they can get Fido inked permanently on their arm. Thankfully, Martell believes that’s the next logical step for her, so they shouldn’t have to wait too long.
“I think [pet portrait tattoos] are the next thing that I want to start working on,” Martell says. “I’ve done a couple of small ones, and I’ve tattooed some of my pet portrait clients, but that’s definitely something that I want to work on and get better at.”