Teresa Sharpe

Teresa Sharpe's ink-fueled dreams

Teresa Sharpe, photography by Neal Bruns

Teresa Sharpe may be a Hoosier from Warsaw, but she’s also one of the top tattoo artists in the country. As winner of Season 2 of “Best Ink,” a reality competition on the Oxygen cable television network, she grabbed the acclaim of the tattooing industry. An artist at Studio 13 in Fort Wayne, she is in high demand for her gothically inspired body art. Find out who has influenced her and what keeps her going during marathon inking sessions as we play 20 Questions with Teresa Sharpe.

1. Where do you get your inspiration?
It depends. I get a lot of inspiration from the artists I look up to and they range across the country, like Jeff Ensminger, his ability to blend colors; Jeff Gogue, whose illustrations really flow well with the body; and Russ Abbott, who’s great with design and scrollwork.

2. How did you get started creating tattoos?
I spent a summer in a tattoo shop doing piercings and I started looking through magazines, seeing portrait work. I didn’t know that was a thing, realism and portraiture. I wanted to see how I could bring my fine art (background) into my work.

3. How did you feel when you did your first tattoo?
Completely nervous and out of my element! It was on my brother’s friend and it said “Fragile: handle with care” – it was his own personal joke to himself. He thought it was funny. It’s not a great tattoo. It’s flawed. I still see him every so often and say, “Dude, let me cover that up.” He loves to show it to people!

4. What were you like as a child?
Pretty introverted. I drew a lot. I was always doing art. As soon as I could hold a pencil I was drawing. I (went) to college for art.

5. What keeps you motivated?
Other artists. Working with my friends, Kelly Doty and Teague Mullins. They’re both challenging. Watching each other.

6. How do you keep alert during marathon tattoo sessions?
I drink tons of coffee.

7. How did you end up on “Best Ink”?
They contacted me. They’d heard about me from another artist. You go through a lot of interviews, but you’re pretty much in the dark. They don’t really tell you much.

8. How has it been since you won the show?
I pretty much work all the time! I was pretty much at my max before the show and now, it’s even more.

9. Did you ever think, I’m just a girl from Indiana, I can’t compete against those other artists?
I just didn’t think a TV show would want me. I’m pretty much a homebody. I mean, I’m taking care of my 10-year-old brother, Brandon!

10. What was the hardest part about the competition?
You’d never know what you were doing for the day. You were always in the dark. And the time constraints. It’s stressful in the moment. I’m really into the big tattoos (and) that takes time.

11. What do you dream about?
Really pushing the artistic side of things into a fine arts (direction). A lot of tattoos people get (are) as a memorial or they think it’s a fun thing to do with family and friends. Now people are really planning out their bodies. It’s very much a selection process now. A lot of artists are coming to tattooing now. They’re challenging the boundaries of tattooing.

12. What’s the hardest part of tattooing for you?
It’s a tossup. Sometimes it’s hard because you want to give them the tattoo they want and the tattoo you want to do. It involves trust. Tattooing is one of the last forms of commissioned art out there.

13. What’s the hardest part for the client?
The trust factor. Trusting the artist. Sitting still. And the pain. Different parts of your body (produce) different pain.

14. Who would play you in “The Teresa Sharpe Story”?
Milla Jovovich, Leeloo from “TheFifth Element.”

15. We hear you have some unusual pets. Tell us about them.
I have a Sphinx, a hairless cat, named Elan. And I just got a pet African pied crow named Eric. He was bred to be a pet and he’s awesome!

16. What are some trends you’re seeing in tattooing?
People are moving into becoming collectors. Full body suits. As the generations shift, the people who got the first tattoos are the ones doing the hiring now and they don’t care as much (if people have visible tattoos).

17. You’ve done a lot of tattoo conventions. Does it bother you when people watch you work?
It’s something I’ve dealt with since high school. When you sit around drawing, people are always looking over your shoulder. And besides, unless you’re going to lock all your drawings in a basement, people do art because they want people to see it.

18. What advice would you give someone considering getting a tattoo?
If you’re not sure you want one, you probably shouldn’t get one. If you do, you’re committing to the pain, you’re committing to the money and the time.

19. If you had one super power, what would you want it to be?
Teleportation. I’d get places faster.

20. Who was your favorite teacher and why?
There are two: Don Schwartzentruber, my high school art teacher. He was the most willing to push kids. He was always pushing me. And Lyle Salmi, at Milliken University, my painting teacher. He’s very harsh. He’d expect a lot and he didn’t hold back. I loved him for that. Everybody thinks their art is (perfect). He’d let you know (it wasn’t). You need that perspective. He’s the kind of teacher that keeps you motivated. You need a guy like Lyle to really push you to see if you had what it takes to be an artist.

First appeared in the September 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.


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