Today we’d like to introduce you to Evie Yapelli.
Evie, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
It’s crazy to think now, a decade into my career as a tattooer and professional artist, that for so much of my life I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was an artsy but straight-laced kid, and it took me a long time to figure out how to make a life out of something I love. I started getting tattooed in my mid-20s and a few years in I had an epiphany that I wanted to pursue it as a career. I spent about a year drawing on my own every night, putting together a portfolio of rudimentary tattoo designs and researching tattooers I might want to learn from. Tattoo apprenticeships are hard to come by. The short version of my story is that I eventually found an amazing mentor and she taught me to tattoo. The longer version includes a lot of doubt, fear, and insecurity – learning to tattoo is not easy! I worked alongside my mentor for the first few years of my career and then my husband’s job moved us across the country, from Chicago to Southern California. My first job in California was at a shop that turned out to be a terrible fit, so after a few months, I found a better one. The new spot was an art gallery in addition to being a tattoo studio, and as my tattoo style developed my paintings became more professional too. California turned out to be full of inspiration and opportunity for me. I started showing my paintings in galleries and meeting like-minded creatives who were keen to collaborate. In 2016 I opened Show Pigeon Tattoo, which gave me the freedom to focus my style and collaborate more outside of my tattooing. Since then I’ve had the chance to work on fashion, designer toys, illustration, and even parade floats, all while tattooing clients from around the world.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do? Why? And what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I’m a tattooer first, and the rest of my artwork is informed by that background. My style is rooted in my love of old sailor tattoos with the added influence of vintage illustration and pop art. There’s no particular message in my work. Rather it’s a reflection of the things I love along with a sort of multi-generational nostalgia. That’s what I think people connect to. There’s a timeless familiarity to it. The nostalgia of my own childhood was the nostalgia of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation. I wasn’t raised on Victorian imagery or mid-century advertisements, but they seeped in there somehow, along with kewpie dolls and early cartoons, and those light-hearted cultural icons feel comforting and accessible across decades.
The stereotype of a starving artist scares away many potentially talented artists from pursuing art – any advice or thoughts about how to deal with the financial concerns an aspiring artist might be concerned about?
Keep your fixed expenses as low as possible. Live in a small apartment, drive a modest car, go without that Disneyland annual pass. If you’re stuck working a day job you don’t like, remember that it’s a temporary means to an end. Work on your creative dream at night and on the weekends. Say yes to creative opportunities and stick to them even when you’re scared or think you can’t possibly find the time. Build friendships with other creatives who inspire you so that your social life contributes to your dream instead of taking the focus away from it. And don’t get stuck on any one idea of success. Find joy in the process.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
My website (showpigeon.com) has a great overview of both my tattoo and object portfolios along with more info about me. My Instagram (@showpigeon) is a great spot to see what I’m working on day-to-day plus what events and exhibits I have coming up. Tattoo booking info is at showpigeon.com/contact – I love doing custom tattoos as well as working from my own paintings. My website also has an online store (showpigeon.com/store) where you can shop my dolls, flair, and art prints including my collabs with Bitter Squeaks, Yesterdays, and Gemma Correll.
Portrait by Kevin E. Nelson, all other images by Evie Yapelli