The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

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Student tattoo artist makes their mark

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Photo Courtesy of Serena Hinahon
Serena’s creativity stems from childhood and continues to this day. But they only started getting more serious about their projects in middle school, and quarantine gave them more time to work on them and discover new things, like tattooing.

Senior Serena Hinahon adjusts their grip on their needle and focuses closer on the minuscule ink dots being applied. As one dot goes astray, Serena winces, worried that the person might notice the mistake. Thankfully, though, it’s not an issue, because they aren’t practicing their tattoo on a person. They’re just practicing on a grapefruit.

Three years ago, Hinahon’s mom noticed drawings on their legs that looked like doodles done with Sharpie. But after a couple days, the drawings remained, so she asked why they weren’t wearing off. To her surprise, they were tattoos Serena had done on themself in their free time.

“I was in shock and awe all at the same time,” Serena’s mother, Charmaine Hinahon said. “I have one tattoo, so I knew what the needle feels like when piercing your skin, it is painful. I was impressed with the amount of determination, creativity, and tolerance to pain it took to carry the tattoos out on their own body.”

The original tattoos were done during quarantine, a product of boredom and an outlet of expression. Serena began tattooing using the stick-and-poke method and has continued with this technique, using pre-packaged sterile needles and tattoo ink purchased from tattoo shops.

“The process starts off with the design that you want,” Serena said. “I put it through this stencil machine and it transfers onto transfer paper. You’re able to put the stencil itself on your arm or your leg, wherever you want it. And you’re able to just tattoo as you go along.”

Serena’s tattoos include a full-length bat, a colorful flower, and a walking TV man. While Serena says none of the drawings have deep meanings behind them, they draw inspiration from things they enjoy, such as music and their little sisters’ drawings.

“I hope they are able to hone their creative process and grow in confidence with their many forms of self-expression to be able to share their creativity with the world whether through music, writing, or tattoos,” Charmaine said.

One of Serena’s tattoos is a ghost, in honor of music artist Phoebe Bridgers, and another for Clairo’s debut album. However, tattoos are not the only art form Serena participates in; they also write for The Teen Magazine, whose writing team consists of hundreds of college and high school students.

“I write about music,” Serena said. “I love reading books and writing books in general. I used to be into writing screenplays when I was in middle school. I’m just really big on writing and music and being artsy.”

Serena’s creativity stems from childhood and continues to this day. But they only started getting more serious about their projects in middle school, and quarantine gave them more time to work on them and discover new things, like tattooing.

“They just have a natural sense of creativity,” Serena’s friend, Isabella Sotille said. “Especially over so many different mediums, whether it’s art or literature.”

When Serena isn’t tattooing themself or a friend, they practice on synthetic skin, or fruits like oranges and grapefruits to imitate the texture of skin. They are always trying to progress to make their art better and more professional.

“They’re always growing,” Serena’s friend, senior Hawk Hudgins, said. “Their creative growth is humongous. They’re a beautiful human.”

Another artist who inspires Serena is a tattoo artist known on Instagram as ‘Sad in Jail Tattoos.’ Serena admires their style of art that differs from their own because of the descriptive shading.

“I love her work,” Serena said. “It’s her technique. It’s not like how I do doodles, it’s way more advanced. It’s very descriptive and she does sheeting on stick and poke.”

Serena ideally wants to attend college at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), to study the film and TV program there, but they are also looking into school in Seattle, Washington. They don’t know what exactly they want to major in yet but have considered multiple possibilities.

“I’ve been looking to get into tattooing professionally out of my own studio,” Serena said. “Or anything like that. But I haven’t received an apprenticeship or anything like that.”

Apprenticeships are training programs in tattoo shops where more experienced tattoo artists teach the art to the trainees. Apprenticeships are necessary to receive a Tattoo License, so they can learn everything from sanitation to design.

“I think it’d be a good way to make money,” Serena said. “I think it’d be a good way to make new friends and connections. I have fun with it, but it’s scary to tattoo people.”

Serena expressed that, although they’ve been tattooing for around three years, they still get scared about the permanent product of their work. However, they said that they are always happy with how it turns out in the end.

“Even when I’m doing tattoos on myself,” Serena said. “I always think that I’m gonna mess it up. Or it won’t turn out the way that I want it. When I’m tattooing other people, I get the most nervous.”

While Serena has become known around Bowie for their artistic lifestyle, when they were younger they were more hesitant to appreciate tattoos as a form of self-expression.

“I don’t know why, but it always freaked me out when I saw people that were all tatted up on their arms, their necks, and stuff,” Serena said. “But I think as I got older, I thought it was a cooler way to express yourself.”

There has always been a stigma around tattoos, dating back to the 1950s when teenagers used tattoos as a sign of rebellion. Even today, the social construct remains that people with tattoos are viewed as intimidating or even threatening, but Serena sees tattoos in a different light.

“I think tattooing is its own form of expression,” Serena said. “Like how people wear clothes, when people play music, or stuff like that. I think it’s just a way to show what your mind is like and a way to connect it to your appearance. It’s a way to express yourself. I look at my tattoos and I did them all at certain parts of my life. It’s cool to look back on.”

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