Interview with Julia Penza | Realism Style | Florida, USA 11/06/2023

  Hello Julia Penza! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. It means a lot having you here! Please start by telling us something about yourself and your background. Do you have any formal art training or you're a self taught artist? My Name is Julia Penza. I am 39 years old. I was born and raised in Russia. Since 2017 I have been living in South Florida, USA. I have been drawing since a was a child. Basically, I studied on my own. My grandmother was an artist and I learned from her paintings, just looking at them and analyzing them for hours. Previously, the work of an artist was not so in demand, so I received an education that is a complete opposite to the creative field. I graduated with honors from an aviation college and then a university. But I continued to draw regardless. Mostly portraits as a gift and to order. After moving to the USA, I opened a creative center where I taught children. A Facebook ad looking for an artist led me to this industry.

Q: A Facebook Ad wow, tell me more. Also, what type of tattoos did you like back then?
A: Actually it happened totally by accident. I never thought that I would be a tattoo artist and the stereotype that tattoo artists must have tattoos on themselves scared me away from this profession. In 2020 on Facebook, I saw an ad where they were looking for an artist - the real reason was not indicated there. So I responded to it. It turned out that a tattoo shop was looking for apprentices. The correspondence developed in such a way that I decided to try to get additional skills. But I had no particular illusions about it. So for almost 3 years I have been a tattoo artist without tattoos. In fact, it is a big mistake to evaluate the skill of an artist by their tattoos. The artist's portfolio can only speak about the quality of work. Most of all, I love the color realistic style and micro-realism. I love complex work. It's kind of a challenge for me.

Q: Do you have any favorite artists that you look up to?
A: Yes. Lots of great artists, but my favorite is Victoria Lee.

Q: I believe even a talented person like you will face some challenges when starting out... Honestly what part of becoming a pro tattoo artist was the most difficult?
A: I am very self-critical. Therefore, the most difficult thing was to see the result not the way I imagined it. At first it happened often. Also, the tattooing process can be very stressful due to the client's skin type and pain intolerance. Severe reddening of the skin greatly complicates the process. Especially when working with light ink.

Q: What kept you inspired to grow as an artist? Did you have any support from friends and family or another artist?
A: From the very beginning, when I just came to the interview and brought my drawings, the owner of the studio, after evaluating them, said that I could be a great tattoo artist. She said that there are a lot of tattoo artists, but not all of them are actually good. This phrase inspired me a lot to learn this craft. The first experience with real skin scared me to continue. I was very nervous. The truth is, I pulled myself together and decided to bring the matter to an end. Now I see my results. I gain experience with every new tattoo. I want to grow further, especially since I know my potential. Of course, my family and friends support me. But the biggest support is from my clients and my followers. Some of them became my good friends. I am grateful for each of them.

Q: How long took you to figure out your creative direction and even gain confidence in your work?
A: About a year. At first it was difficult to understand how to work with a magnum needle. Nobody taught me this. So I learned from my own experience. A year later, I realized how easy it actually is. The main thing is to understand what movements the brush should make as if you were painting with a brush. Now I'm trying to improve my technique.

- So you figured all by yourself?
I studied at the tattoo studio. Several times a week for a month I practiced on artificial skin. And then switched to real skin. This is of course a huge difference.

Q: I really love when artists experiment with styles. You have a good portfolio. I like the variety, many interesting designs, from portraits in realism to interesting floral watercolor style designs... really nice. It seems you're not afraid to experiment with different techniques, color or black and white tattooing, I like it!! Do you have any preferences? If so, why?
A: Yes, I love variety. I'm not sure that If I want to work in one style. I like versatility. But mostly I like to work with color inks. In my opinion, color tattoos are more attractive.

Q: If I'm about to choose my favorite tattoo, then it has to be the portrait of Rihanna. Amazing tattoo! I love the details, the colors, everything! I bet the tattoo will look great many years from now. Since it's a very detailed tattoo, how long it took you to finish this masterpiece?
A: Thank you. This work took 15 hours. I have a few more interesting projects I'm working on, so I have not published them yet. When I finish working on them, I hope they will be appreciated. So stay tuned!

Q: Can all this be done in just one sitting or you might want to take a few sessions?
A: It all depends on the details of the design. Many small details significantly increase the time. If I did the same Rihanna without jewelry, then I would have done it in one sitting around 8-9 hours. It took 2 sessions with the jewelry.

Q: Some people travel to get a tattoo from the artist they saw on social media. No longer people are limited and I like it. So it's the artists who travel and work as guest spots. This can be a great experience and an opportunity to learn from other artists. Do you have any experience in this? If so, where and how was it?
A: I just got back from New York yesterday. The famous tattoo studio Inked NYC offered me a guest spot. It was an incredible experience.

Q: You are in sunny Florida... oh I bet you are very busy all the time... since the place it's a summer paradise and people want to get some cool ink, especially in that kinda of place. OK tell us a little bit about the tattoo scene there, any funny experiences with the customers?
A: Yes, Florida allows you to show off your tattoos. This is definitely an advantage. The Rihanna tattoo was made for my best friend. It is so exciting to watch when strangers give her compliments and ask her who tattooed her, when we hand out together and she goes SHE DID IT. I have another amazing story. Once had a client who got a rib tattoo. It was a small script. In the process of tattooing, he began to look at his fingers and bend and unclench them. I asked if everything is ok? He replied that a couple of years ago he had a surgery on his elbow, after which he stopped feeling two fingers on his hand, and as I tattooed him, the sensitivity in his fingers returned. It was a kind of tattoo therapy. I think it worked like acupuncture.

Q: I like that you're doing cover up tattoos! Nowadays rare are the artists that will want to fix someone's mistake:)) I love the cover ups. Well done! Honestly, do you feel challenged working on something like this?
A: Coverups are very difficult kind of work in almost all of the cases. The first result is not always 100% satisfactory, as old ink tends to show through. Not all clients understand this unfortunately. Often, clients send very light and delicate designs that are completely unsuitable for overlapping. Therefore, the choice of design is limited. I am not a fan of covering everything with black ink. In most cases, corrections are needed after the first session. Of course, the joyful faces of customers inspire.

Q: What type of tattoos are the most difficult to cover up? Colored or black and gray?
It depends on the specific case: the brightness of the ink, the age of the tattoo, the client's skin type, the shape and design of the old tattoo. For me, it is definitely easier to cover with colored ink.

- Have you ever turned down someone, when it's just simply impossible to fix it or the client has unrealistic expectations?
Yes, there were such cases. Basically, when an old tattoo is already difficult to cover up, the client wants the impossible. In this case, I suggest lighting up the tattoo with a laser first.

Talking about challenges... I bet artists love them... it's like an exploration.
I'm not sure that's all artists. But I definitely do. However, this must be done gradually.

Q: Would you challenge yourself and come up with like a new style in the feature, maybe doing something completely different?
A: Yes. I mainly work with client requests. But the projects that I talked about earlier are projects made to my liking. They contain many details. They are a challenge to me.

Q: How long usually people wait for an appointment? Please write down your email and studio location.
Now I work at tattoo shop of an American actor Dave Bautista and his partner John Kural. The studio is called DC Society ink. It is located 1108 West Kennedy Blvd Tampa FL 30306  I accept requests for a consultation via Instagram or via website
My availability is usually 1.5 months ahead.

Q: Would you like to promote something here?
My IG account is

Q: A few motivational words for the people who want to try getting into this business?
The first thing you need to learn is to draw. This is the foundation, technique will come with time. The more you pay attention to the drawing, the faster you will learn how to do beautiful tattoos. Anyone can learn to draw. Learning to draw means analyzing what you see: comparing colors, shapes, proportions, texture, light, shadow, analyzing your drawings, looking for flaws in them, memorizing the process of working with good and bad results. The biggest engine of progress is your own desire. If you do your job, taking into account the mistakes, then everything will definitely work out.