Kat Von D was the husky voiced star of the hit reality show LA Ink. Set in her West Hollywood studio ‘High Voltage Tattoo’, the series was TLC’s most popular show ever broadcast and has helped bring the tattoo culture to a much wider audience. Kat began her television career as the only female artist on original show, Miami Ink. After a now legendary falling out with fellow cast member Ami James, Kat left to return to her beloved Hollywood and was approached to star in LA Ink.
Despite her success Kat has faced criticism from fellow artists and tattoo enthusiasts who claim she has glamourized the business in order to promote her show and various other business endeavors. Regardless of what a few critics say, this young lady is an exceptionally talented artist who has accomplished more in her short career than many have in an entire lifetime. Still only 28 years old, she is the owner of a successful Hollywood studio, star of a hit reality show "LA Ink", creator of her own clothing and accessories line, designed a make-up range for Sephora, and published a best-selling book featuring a collection of her artwork and personal photographs. She specializes in incredibly fine line black and gray portraits, and has designed portraits of many famous actresses.
Born Katherine Von Drachenberg in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, at the age of 4 she moved to Colton, California, with her parents. Growing up, she was taught to play the piano by her paternal Grandmother who instilled in Kat a lifelong love of the works of Beethoven. Fluent in Spanish, her last name is part of her father’s German heritage. Her talent for tattooing first became evident when she performed her very first design, a Misfits skull, on a local kid using a homemade rig.
At the age of 14 Kat dropped out of school to pursue a career in tattooing and spent 2 years inking her designs on friends and neighbors in her home town. At 16 years old she managed to land a job at a seedy studio in San Bernardino, a tough ghetto neighborhood. Sharing an apartment with a prostitute, she managed to earn a living by giving tattoos to ex-convicts and bikers. In 1998 she finally got her first full time job at ‘Sin City Tattoo’ in Colton, California.
She spent many years bouncing from different studios including ‘Blue Bird Tattoo’ in Pasadena, ‘Red Hot Tattoo’ in Arcadia, and ‘Infliction’ in Covina. It was not until she settled into ‘True Tattoo’ in Hollywood that her career really began to skyrocket. Working alongside Clay Dexter and Chris Garver, Kat had the opportunity to witness first hand some of the amazing work carried out every day in the famed studio.
Her talent did not go unnoticed and upon hearing that Miami Ink was looking for a female artist to feature on the show, Garver wasted no time in recommending Kat. Originally filling in for Darren Brass after he suffered a broken arm, Kat was invited back to appear in the next two seasons. Unfortunately Kat’s time on the show was abruptly cut short after a series of fights with owner Ami James led to him asking her to leave. Upon returning to California she landed her very own show LA Ink which was created with her in mind and featured a cast of female artists including Kim Saigh, Hannah Aitchison (sister to Guy Aitchison) as well as Corey Miller, handpicked by her.
Appearing on LA Ink became the turning point in Kat’s career and saw her turn into a household name almost overnight. During her time on the show she tattooed a host of celebrities and even broke a Guinness world record by tattooing 400 people in 24 hours. The series followed the lives of the artists and their work, and some background information on the clients and their chosen designs. The cast underwent many line-up changes including Kat firing shop manager and close friend Pixie Acia after only one season. The cast are now preparing for the 4th season and TLC are holding open casting calls for anyone wishing to participate in the show. As well as taping the series Kat continues to perform tattoos in her studio in the evenings and take an active role in her other pursuits.
Kat is known for her down to earth character and incredibly perceptive nature when it comes to tattooing. Her bedside manner is legendary among her clients and many turn to her to create emotional portraits of friends and loved ones. Model and fashion designer Jeffree Star wears a stunning portrait of Jon Benet on his arm (above) that shows the angelic pageant winner with a crown and fur collar. The eyes of the child convey an innocence and tragedy that strikes the heart of the onlooker and the delicate shading around the hair and fur show what a gentle touch Kat applies with the needle. The portrait of Bardot shows a feline sexiness and old world glamour that can only be achieved by a delicate and experienced hand.
Kat's jaw dropping talent for realism is shown in the comparison between a portrait of a cat tattooed on a client and the original black and white photograph. At first glance it is difficult to tell which image is the photo as the tattoo is so intricately and painstakingly shaded that it looks almost lifelike. The patience and dedication required to create such a stunning work of art is one of the main reasons that Kat is at the top of her game.
There is a request form available on Kat’s website, www.HighVoltageTattoo.com for anyone wishing to request an appointment, but as of now her schedule is fully booked with a waiting list of anything up to 2 years. There is a number of other talented artists resident at her studio including Jeff Ward, Nate Fierro, Adrian Gallegos, and Dan Smith. Kat Von D has brought the world of tattooing to the mainstream and squashed a lot of the negative stereotypes surrounding body modification. Many tattoo veterans have complained that this is a bad thing and not what the true essence of tattooing is all about. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure. Each and every artist that has complained of her ‘bringing tattooing to the masses’ has enjoyed an increased client base within their own studio, and an increase in sales in a business that is not exactly stable can never be a bad thing.