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Conversations with the Inspiring Reese Hilburn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Reese Hilburn.

Reese, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Living in a family with a long line of nurses or accountants, it only seemed fitting to join one of the two. As I found out that was quite squeamish with blood, I decided that I would try the accounting route, so right after college, I did.

I was a private accountant for a small firm, and every so often, we would do company morale events. And one event happened to be a wine and paint night. From there, I found out my innate ability to paint. After some time and deliberation, I quit my job cold turkey, enrolled in Fine Art School and became a full-time artist.

As an accountant, I was obviously very good with my money. And although my family and friends thought I was insane for doing what I did, I knew that I had enough saved to get me through a full year without a full-time job, I would go full force into art. If it didn’t work out within that year, I would go back to accounting. But in the back of my mind, I knew I could not fail.

After many failed art shows, living in my car for short periods of time, and more failed attempts at trying to get my toe in the door of tattoos, I was feeling quite discouraged and quickly running out of money.

Into my last two months of that artistic year, I got invited to participate in an art walk in the middle of nowhere with little credibility but decided to go for it. And that small, insignificant (or so I thought) art show opened the door to a new world. I was offered a tattoo apprenticeship. From that day forward, I pushed hard, dedicated every day to my art, and my career soared from that day forward,

Two years into my tattooing career, I was cast for a television show called “Tattoo Nightmares Miami,” to which had me traveling all over the world to promote tattooing and the show. Two years after that, I got my second show with “Black Ink Crew Chicago.”

I now own my own studio, I have a few artists who work for me, and I am still traveling the world with my craft. I make sure to push myself creatively every day while surrounding myself with inspiring people. And I am so excited that I have my two very own apprentices who I can teach and share what I love doing so much.

Has it been a smooth road?
I had encountered many challenges getting started and still to this day, deal with many obstacles.

My advice would be to just keep doing what you love. Don’t lose your drive. Keep your ambitions high. Don’t allow others to get into your head. My own family wasn’t especially supportive in the beginning due to worry about my future, since, of course, artists didn’t make a ton of money and statistically, artists didn’t do it full time, if they did make money at all.

My job is not an easy one. People trust me to mark them forever, and I understand the brevity of that responsibility. I work every single day, whether it be tattooing, drawing for personal projects to keep my growth rising, designing for tattoos, watching instructional videos, attending tattoo seminars, and so much more.

But as long as you put in the work, you’ll make progress toward your goal. Just shoot for the stars and believe, truly believe that you will make it. I am a firm believer of manifestation, and to me, that’s what I did for myself, along with hard work and dedication.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I specialize in black and grey or color realism with geometric additives. I really enjoy doing florals, I am most known for my roses. I think what sets me apart are my additives. I tend to love adding dot-work mandalas, sacred geometry, or paint splatters or marks to my tattoos. Adding abstraction to offset the realism.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
In my industry, its all about the artwork. There isn’t a ceiling to the growth of your craft if you do not want there to be. The limits are only created by you. As long as you believe you can do it, you push yourself with self-discipline and determination, you can do whatever you set your mind and heart to. When passion meets progression, the sky is the limit.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Image of me: Hunter @apolloawakens, Tattoo Images: Reese Hilburn @theartofreese (all taken by me)

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