Lady Tattoo Artists We Love: Becca Roach

becca roachWith a bachelor's degree in fine arts, Becca Roach first tried out working as an illustrator, but she knew she wanted to break into the world of tattooing. That was in 2005, in New York City, and getting an apprenticeship at a tattoo shop wasn't easy to do.

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But she was determined and extremely talented, and she learned the art form -- and she has been creating incredible tattoos ever since. Becca now works at Queen Street Tattoo in Hawaii. We spoke to her about tattooing, and we have some of her incredible works of art to share.

becca roach tattoo

How did you get into tattooing?
I started tattooing just over 10 years ago, 2005 in NYC, shortly after completing my BFA in illustration at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. A lot of my work at that point had already been heavily influenced by traditional tattooing as well as outsider and folk art. I wasn't sure the traditional route of becoming a commercial or editorial illustrator was for me, so I took a job as an artist's assistant in a huge loft in Chinatown. After [having loved the work of] making art every day for three weeks, I found out that I had been getting paid in fake checks. 

I was devastated and broke. I went back to tending bar and immediately started schlepping my portfolio around to different shops asking for an apprenticeship. I was turned down more times than I could count, but eventually someone said, "Maybe. Come back tomorrow." I ended up going back to that shop a few more times before they finally said yes, and soon after I started working under Elvis Crocker at New York Hardcore Tattoos on the Lower East Side. I worked there for three years before heading over to North Star Tattoo, and eventually Senaspace in SoHo. I recently moved to Honolulu, to work at Queen Street Tattoo, with a wonderful friend and tattooer from NYC as well, Steve Von Riepen.  

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becca roach tattoo

becca roach tattoo

What was the first tattoo that you got?
It was a bullsh-t piece of crap '90s "tribal"-ish flash I picked off the wall at a street shop on the beach in San Diego. My cousin had come over that morning and declared we were to go get tattooed and have burritos. I was bummed a bit because I had been working on some "epic" drawing that was to be my first tattoo since I was a kid -- and the drawing was in NYC, not San Diego. I learned a lot about "letting go" right then. It's ugly and perfect and I couldn't be more stoked on it. 

becca roach tattoo

becca roach tattoo

becca roach tattoo

Share a good story about a tattoo that you have done and what it meant to a client. 
I have a client who was a walk-in a few years ago, who came in shortly after her dad passed away. She wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate him somehow, and had this massive binder full of awful ideas. We sat and talked about them all, and then I kind of guided her into getting something a little less cliché and a lot more unique, and we were both stoked. Two sleeves later, and a lot of hours talking during it, we're now having a similar discussion about a back piece. We've formed a pretty tight friendship through all those hours of tattooing, and I'm honored to hear how she refers to her sessions as "tattoo therapy." It's mutually beneficial.

There's a lot of trust that happens in tattooing; it's easy to open up about whatever is going on during a session. We both get to hash out our goofy lives and usually have a good laugh about it all at the end. 

becca roach tattoo

becca roach tattoo

becca roach tattoo

Have you ever tattooed yourself?
Sure, but only a bit. Twice, when I was apprenticing. Shortly after, I was busy enough with amazing friends who were willing to let me practice on them so I didn't have to tattoo myself. Which is great because it's pretty uncomfortable. And then once again when I had to spend a drunken night in jail in NYC ... but that's another story altogether! 

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becca roach tattoo

becca roach tattoo

Who and what influences you?
My influences are pretty vast. I'm really interested in Japanese iconography, and the tattooers in that style who put out that really big bold work, with great fields of strong black. I'm hugely inspired by Rico and Shion of Daruma Goya in Japan, and Rodrigo Melo, David Sena, and Daniel Cotte in NYC. Also I take influence from Mexican folk art, wonky religious art, old sailor flash, and cheeky jokes. My paintings have always been inspired greatly by the people in my life -- my friends and lovers have been my best muses. One recently wrote a bit about a future project we're working on that perfectly describes what drives me to keep creating.

becca roach tattoo

becca roach tattoo

becca roach tattoo


Images via Becca Roach

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