Spotlight on artists: Caro Montoya – Tattoo ideas, artists and models

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Tattoo artist Carolina Montoya is from Pereira, Colombia. Montoya, who has a degree in visual arts education, has been using the tattoo parlor as a classroom for 15 years. These days, you can find her tattooing in New York City, working hard to perfect her black and gray realism style. We caught up with Montoya to learn more about his influences, his style and more.

When did you first discover the love of art?

My love for art has always been there. I don’t remember learning to breathe, and it’s the same with art. I have tried as many techniques as I have encountered, but mostly I have drawn and painted all my life.

How did you start your tattoo career? Did you do an apprenticeship or learn on your own?

I apprenticed at a tattoo parlor for a year at the age of 18 and completed the traditional training in station assembly, cleaning, and sterilization training. I was very lucky and am grateful because I know how limited these opportunities are, but I also did my best and made the most of it.

You worked in several different styles, alternating between color and black ink. Lately you seem to be focusing mainly on black and gray realism, what is it that appeals to you about the style? What do you find most difficult about this?

I love to try new styles and explore what tattoos can be like, but what I love about black and gray is its similarity to pencil drawing which is my favorite way of working besides tattooing. So having these two combined in the process makes it even more fun.

Do you ever work in color?

Yes color was a big part of my process and is still present but not as much as black and gray, I appreciate the realism of colors compared to other color manifestations like watercolor.

What are some of your favorite subjects for tattooing?

Portraits are definitely my favorite projects and little realism in general, but birds have a special place in my heart and I love them in all styles.

How would you describe your signature style?

My signature style has changed over the years because I love tattooing but this world does not define me, and this is the technique I love the most, the responsibility I take more seriously but in the end. account is another result of who I am and what I do and it changes a lot. Every piece that I made was the focus of my best efforts at the time it was made and all of my tattoos were done with patience and love. I am very detail oriented.

Who are the artists (tattoo artists or others) who inspire you?

I am inspired by tattoo artists of different styles like Emily Rose Murray, Karolry Bakowski, Victor Portugal, Jeff Gogue and Shawn Barber.

And outside of the tattoo world, the choice is so vast that I think art in general is having an incredible epidemic because social media allows artists to show off and be inspired by movements around the world, so I I’m sure I’m leaving out the names that inspire me, but the list would be pages and pages long. Certainly Alphonse Mucha, Mark Ryden, Alexander Reisfar, Cam Rackam, Roberto Ferri and Natalia Fabia.

What are the most valuable life lessons you have learned from tattooing?

Don’t judge a book by its cover, and appreciate the responsibility and trust that is placed in me every time I tattoo someone.

Being grateful for knowing what I wanted in life and being able to be recognized for what I love is priceless.

What other artistic mediums have you worked in?

I draw mostly in pencil and colored pencils and paint in oils, but I also sometimes do watercolors and acrylics.

Can you explain your design process to us?

As I like both large and small projects, I start with a consultation in order to understand the client’s expectations and having an idea, I continue by looking for references of the same theme from different interpretations in order to have a point starting out on the items I would like to include. To start drawing, I start with the area I’m going to cover and the direction it will take depending on the placement. A small drawing might take me 30 minutes, but when it comes to a medium or large size project, I like to alternate with other drawings so that I can rest and come back with a fresh look. I usually give this process a week.

What’s one tattoo that you are dying to get that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

A sleeve full of colorful flowers on a solid black background. I like the contrast of the black work and the realism of the colors.


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