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Brandy Campbell Interview

“Do you mind if I do my hair?”

I stepped through the door into a narrow tattoo studio, fit between two stores on Pandosy Street in downtown Kelowna. The studio, aptly named Narrow Waters, showcased a bold orange and green logo that spanned the wall. A tattoo apprentice waved at me from the back of the room.

Brandy Campbell, 24, has a light, airy voice and a way with a blank page. As an artist for her entire life, she remembers when she was a child; sitting beside her mother as they drew together. Sitting across from me, she twirled her mint coloured hair into curls using a straightener.

“My mom has always done art my whole life and my dad carves, my grandmother paints and my stepmom paints… but my mom was who really got me going,” she said. “That’s all we did growing up is just drawing.”

Her mother was a piercer, so Campbell was already accustomed to the sights and sounds of a tattoo shop by 10 years old. Her drawing style is like a comic book. The graphics are considered to fall into the neotraditional definition, which uses thick lines to prevent the tattoos from blending together as they age, but adds flow, bold colours and movement.

“More of a mixture of cartoony realism,” she said.

Campbell shows me a mix of drawings, from popular “cute” vegetables to realistic faces. When she was younger, she focused on realism, copying images how they are interpreted truthfully, but it got boring after a while.

“Creating your own thing, having it bold and flowy or whatever feeling you want to get from it, it’s so much more fun rather than copying,” Campbell said.

Campbell never liked school, or working to meet deadlines, but with her art she excelled.

“I’m a really bad writer, having projects done on time was hard for me. I always did OK in school, but I just never wanted to apply myself. I think it’s just the whole concept of being forced to do something. Here it’s great, I can finish anything ahead of time and it doesn’t matter, it’s just wanting to do it.”

And it’s something she can’t live without.

“I went through this weird phase where I didn’t want to do art, because it was something I had done my whole life, but I wanted to find out who I was without it; so for a while I just kind of suppressed it… before I realized it’s kind of the only thing I’m good at,” she laughed.

Her talent continues to improve with her apprenticeship. There is no test to pass in Canada to be a tattoo artist, but it is typical for young artists to seek apprenticeships before they delve head on into the tattoo world. Campbell is completing her three-year apprenticeship at Narrow Waters Tattoo, working with Brian Joubert, the shop’s owner.

It was difficult at first. Joubert had her drawing seven images a week, which equated to about 60 hours, on top of a full-time job, before he decided she would make a suitable apprentice.

“I would schedule when to have a bath and when I could sleep and I would probably stay up for two days in a row at least once a week,” she said. “I think I lost 10 years of my life in that time.”

The payoff was worth it. While working to complete her apprenticeship, she’s learning every day through a hands-on approach. As an artist, it’s the most realistic way for her to make money, she said. Being a young artist, she’s not worried about the public’s opinion or how she sets herself apart.

“I don’t think that’s for me to decide. I know what I like and what I want to be inside, I can’t say what the public thinks I am.”

After living between the central Okanagan and Vancouver Island, she plans to pursue other ventures in Montreal one day, to continue expanding her talents.

© 2021 Merrymen.

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