Multiple-award-winning, internationally renowned tattooist Liz Venom travels the world to tattoo at conventions and guest star in other studios. Her nature-inspired “oil painterly” realism is highly praised and sought after. And the place she calls home? Edmonton, where she’s the owner of Bombshell Tattoo Galerie. Meet Liz Venom…
WHERE: What’s guided your career path?
Liz Venom: I feel like my path into tattooing came pretty out of left field for me. I’ve always had a love of nature and been a very creative person, with previous work ranging from a cocktail mixologist, apprentice chef, barista, cake decorator, wedding dress seamstress, marine aquarium attendant, and a few more. I found tattooing at the suggestion of my now-husband, Aidan, who is heavily tattooed and said I should pursue tattooing. It had honestly never occurred to me before, but it just clicked.
W: What’s your favourite part of the tattooing process?
L.V.: It would have to be when you see a client’s final reaction to their artwork. After all their anticipation, nerves, and pain, to see that it was all worth it—and that I have not only met their expectations but, in many cases, exceeded what they had envisioned. When you can make a client cry happy tears, it’s the best feeling.
W: You’ve said you wanted to become one of the most sought-after female artists worldwide. How has this evolved?
L.V.: That’s never changed. I am a very, very competitive person. It’s one of my biggest assets and flaws simultaneously. I simply don’t see a point in doing anything with our limited time on this planet if you aren’t going to try and do it the best you can.
W: What has surprised you the most over the course of your career?
L.V.: Honestly? I am most surprised by how shallow and fake the industry can be… It surprises me every day when I see tattooers photoshopping their work for Instagram likes, and spending a fortune to win awards that, at the end of the day, don’t matter. I guess getting into the industry, I thought other tattooers just cared about making the best art they can, like I do. But it’s not about that for some artists.
W: How do you combat the stigma associated with tattoos?
L.V.: I think with all the TV shows over the past decade, the stigma among people whose minds are open has already changed. It’s become pretty mainstream. Those people who haven’t already changed their minds? Those people never will, and there is no point in trying to convince someone of something when their fingers are in their ears and their head is in the sand.
I do like to pride myself that I have quite a few clients, particularly younger ones, coming in who love their tattoo but are dreading showing their parents. But so far, every single one has reported back that their parents loved the tattoo I’ve done. My style, because of its fine arts and realistic influence, seems pretty well accepted with the “I don’t like tattoos” crowd.
W: You travel often but have said you will always return to Edmonton. Why?
L.V.: Everyone lives for summer here. We have some of the best river valley trails in the world right inside our own city. I find that the people here tend to be more resilient, and also much more community, friend, and family focused. I guess a month of –40°C will bring that out in people. I have owned my shop on Whyte Ave. for the better part of a decade now. I have seen the area grow and come alive… I love my co-workers, friends, clients, and life that living in this incredibly diverse city has allowed me to have.
W: Can you share a memorable tattooing experience?
L.V.: I had a client request that I do her double mastectomy coverup, but she was in the UK. I really wanted to help this woman get her confidence back, but due to the location the only availability I had was at the Edinburgh convention. I was very hesitant to offer the space to her due to the very personal nature of the tattoo, but she jumped at the opportunity. I believe her words were that she had been shirtless in front of every doctor, nurse, surgeon, and family member she could possibly imagine, so why stop there.
She soldiered through two straight days of tattooing, and we put a donation box on our convention table and raised hundreds of pounds for a breast cancer society in the UK. It was fantastic to give her a new beginning, and you could tell everyone who came and watched was moved by her strength. Two days of back-to-back tattooing ain’t no joke, and two days of tattooing on scar tissue is even worse. I have never had my boobs tattooed, but I imagine that would be the absolute icing on the shit cake… You could tell everyone was in awe of her. We didn’t finish in time to enter any of the show’s competitions, and I can’t remember who won anything that weekend, but if you ask anyone who was there she definitely stole the show.
W: Any advice for something looking to get their first ink?
L.V.: Educate yourself! Good tattoos are not cheap, and cheap tattoos are not good! Tattoos should be like a finely tailored coat or a perfect pair of boots. They should last you forever, so be sure to get something that suits your body, personality, personal style, and artistic likes.