People took notice of Stroke of Genius tattoo artist Erin O'Dea's creative side early. So much so, that her third grade teacher wrote on her report card, "art is her favorite subject, but she lets it preoccupy too much of her time." Turns out the teacher couldn't have been more wrong about what she should be focusing on. O'Dea went on to make artistic pursuits central to her life, studying art at Broward College and eventually becoming a tattoo artist.
New Times: You paint a lot of celebrity portraits. But your work seems more amusing and whimsical than critical. What is it about celebrity culture that appeals to you (for the purposes of your artwork) and how do you choose whom to paint?
Erin O'Dea: Early on, I was painting people I knew, and I think the "celebrity" thing started with the Bill Murray I painted a few years back. I can't think of one good reason not to paint Bill Murray, so I continue doing it, I've probably painted at least 20 by now. The others are usually characters in Wes Anderson films. I am not interested in celebrity culture as much as I am in individual actors or actresses playing roles I can relate to for one reason or another.
What do you think of Art Basel? Celebrity hellhole or better than ever? Did you go this year?
Art Basel has been growing into an insane Megatron of a party. I usually attend openings/parties pre- or post-Basel weekend. That's when all the good stuff happens and you don't need to walk five miles to your car. I did a group show called Vinyl Vision, which showcased so many great artists and friends whom I look up to.
You're a tattoo artist, where the canvas can be pretty small. The times I've seen your work, it's been really big. Is there a connection? Do you utilize really large canvases to explore space or more detail with your art?
I never enjoyed painting small. Although the "canvas" for a tattoo is much smaller, it is a completely different medium with traditions and guidelines to follow, aside from the client's requests. When you paint, those restrictions are gone. Now that I have a studio and can make a mess painting, I can paint larger. Large canvases are just more fun, I think.
What can people expect from your series this Friday? New stuff, old stuff?
I have a Morrissey that's pretty new, a Danny Trejo, two new Bill Murrays, and two new freight train paintings on which I collaborated with Atomik.
What about in the future, any new subjects you're looking to explore in your painting?
I have been playing around with doing some HBO series characters, some Muppets, and more train collaborations. I've been messing around with dry brushing and tattoo flash format for designs, too. Who knows? Art is a never-ending adventure.