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Lila Rees Tattoo Artist Bill Ward in Barre ? Vintage Sleaze Contemporary Artists #29 in the Series

Lila Rees is an extraordinary self-taught artist working in Barre, Vermont, and it is a treat to share her work here in the #29 entry of Vintage Sleaze Contemporary.  Lila Rees is a tattooist, certainly an art form closely associated with the pin up revival, and she happens to create work which could not be more appropriate for Vintage Sleaze!

You see, Ms. Reed can make you a tattoo "drawn" from the work of Bill Ward!  We are going to make followers of the site very happy here.  I certainly was.  What could possibly be better than to receive mail from a woman who can make arm candy influenced by Bill Ward?  Of course Lila is versatile and can create anything for you…but Bill Ward?  Come ON!

Lila runs her own business.  Owner, operator and artist.  Licensed to create work in two states, and all this accomplished not only without formal art training (which even her inspiration Bill Ward had) but with little in the way of formal education at all.  Some say our economic future lies in emerging small business.  I can not think of a smaller business than one, and as you can see the work coming from Rock City Tattoo and Lila's hand is a major success on all levels.

Lila was kind and open enough to share some personal history with me, so I should let her speak in her own words.  The apprentice relationship still applies in her field, and one of my mentors, Herbert Waide Hemphill, jr. (who organized what I believe was one of the first exhibitions of tattoo art ever at the American Folk Art Museum in 1971) would be very proud to know the tradition is in very good hands indeed. 

How does one become a tattooist?

By accident or chance I guess.  I was in the make up industry and I was getting tattooed frequently.  I started talking to my tattooer about permanent makeup, and I saw money signs in his eyes.  He asked me if I wanted to learn to tattoo, and of course I said "no". Then after serious consideration, I said yes.  I was only supposed to be doing the permanent makeup, but I picked up traditional tattooing along the way.  There wasn't much market for the tattoo make-up in my area, anyway.  I did a two year "traditional" apprenticeship, cleaning, making needles, watching, etc.  I worked for my mentor for 6 years, then I opened my own shop 4 years ago.

Did you study art?  Or does the line come to you naturally?

The make up artistry was my main creative outlet, it is very similar to working with pastels. It was good practice, in hindsight, for working intimately on people and also having a personal relationship with clients.  Applying lip/eyeliner is very personal, as is tattooing someone.
I never really had the chance to formally study art growing up.  I was out of my parents house when I was 15 and I only attended high school for one year.  In the very start of my apprenticeship, my mentor took me to the art store and bought me pencils, pens and paper and told me to start drawing.  So I did.  Then I introduced watercolors, pastels, charcoals, progressed into acrylic paintings.   I have been painting in oils for the last year and a half.  I like to think I have a natural ability, but I'm pushing myself technically as much as I can, being self taught.  I try to reflect my subject matter and painting techniques back into my tattooing.  I consider it exercise for my brain and eyes.  

Regarding the Bill Ward pinups, I have always loved his style of drawing.  Not to mention, his babes are out of this world sexy. When customers come in and ask for a "pin up", there is a wide range of styles.  The Gil Elvgren style is very popular, but I always pull out my Bill Ward books and sometimes people go for it.  I think they translate fantastically onto skin and I just think they look sexy!!  Especially his blondes ;)

Lila Rees has been profiled in numerous national publications.  Tattoo Savage, Rebel Rods, Tattoo You Magazine, Tattoo Magazine…you can see them on her website.  It is no wonder she was able to open a new shop just a year ago (itself a work of art) in a magnificent space which updates the parlors of the past with modern "flash" of her own.

The contemporary tattoo artist operates in a world which was once "street" and below…that has changed.  One needs only read the Shop Statement on her site and the standards she adheres to in her practice.  Lila balances artistic skills with sharp business acumen and considerable grace and style.  She is an active participant in her business community (See her Facebook page(!) and is a joy to have her participate in the series.

The Artist's WEBSITE is HERE Rock City Tattoos on Facebook is HERE.

"Contemporary Vintage Sleaze" is a series which profiles artists and cartoonists working today who have been influenced by vintage sleaze. All art is copyrighted by the respective creator, distributor or publisher and therefore should not be reproduced WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE ARTIST. NO cribbing and I ain't fibbing! Each and every post in the Vintage Sleaze Contemporary Series links to the artist's portfolio, website, publisher or representative. EACH POST IN THE VINTAGE SLEAZE CONTEMPORARY SERIES WAS CREATED WITH THE ARTIST'S PERMISSION AND CONTRIBUTIONS. Serious artists are participating in this series, please respect their efforts and intellectual property. Artists who have contributed so far include: Marty Winters  Annabelle Baxter  Lena Chandhok, Gary Panter, Vanessa Davis, Jane Dickson, Astrid Daley, Antonio Lapone, Leslie Cabarga, Trevor Alixopulus, Paul Swartz, Rebecca Whitaker, Denis St. John, Zahira Kelly, Fairfax and Emery, Elizabeth Watasin, Stephen Adams  Jane Dickson, Mala Mastroberte  William Schmidt  Darlene MacNeil and many more. If your work is influenced by the girlie cartoons or pinup models of the past, we would love to see your work.