Artist Interview: Brandi Bruce
Written by Baylor Meche
This month, Mindzai is shining the spotlight on one of our most bad ass clients, Brandi Bruce. She’s is an experienced artist with skills in, illustration, graphic design, and tattooing. She’s currently at Lady Luck Tattoo in Hattiesburg, MS and a resident of New Orleans Louisiana. We sat down for a Q&A with her to hear about her experiences as an artist and what brings her style to life.
Q: When sitting down to create, do you listen to any type of music or other media to get the creative juices flowing?
A: I’m a pretty big audiophile and have a decent vinyl collection so I tend to listen to just about anything and everything. Lately at the shop we’ve been having Dopesmoker by Sleep and The Sword on repeat. I think it’s pretty cool, but some of the younger kids don’t agree haha.
I’m also a huge Star Wars fan, and when my friends and I get together to watch The Mandalorian, we’ll put Dopesmoker on for certain scenes to make up our own Star Wars music. It’s totally nerdy and weird but we like it.
Q: Speaking of Star Wars I’ve noticed you use a lot of the references within your art. What sparked this interest you have with the series?
A: I’ve always been a pretty big fan. It was this thing my dad was really into when I was a kid. It was always on in the house constantly. One of my biggest memories is watching it for the first time. I was born in ’83 so it had been out for a while already. It was a big cultural thing at the time, but my dad made sure to hold back all the secrets so when I watched it for the first time I could have all of the genuine reactions. It was something the two of us had always been able to share.
Q: If you could collaborate or study with any one artist, who would it be?
A: Ahh that’s a really hard one. I’ve already gotten to work with so many brilliant and amazing human beings. The guys I’m working with now are nothing but family. If I had to choose, I’d say Dave Koenig up in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve never gotten to work with him; he’s just a good friend of mine. I have several pieces by him and he’s such an amazing artist who’s been supportive of everything I’ve done since I started. If we could work together in a shop for a week, I think my life would be complete.
Q: Is there a specific event/moment in your life that made you want to become a tattoo artist?
A: So I went to art school and got my Bachelor’s in Graphic Design and Illustration. During my second year I was approached by a few guys who wanted to start a weekly newspaper. They liked my portfolio and asked if I’d join their project. I went in with them, and we started doing a weekly news and entertainment publication up in Omaha, Nebraska. So I was doing art direction, general management, graphic design within the newsletter. I was also still doing a lot of freelance illustration for movie posters, CDs, bands, and children’s books.
A couple years into it, one of my clients who was a tattoo studio reached out to me. They had been following my portfolio and ended up offering me a free apprenticeship to learn how to tattoo. Keep in mind, this was back in the day when female tattoo artists weren’t really abundant. I had never even considered this was an opportunity I could pursue. I decided to try it out, knowing my newspaper was there for me to fall back on. I ended up really enjoying the apprenticeship and my career sort of started from there!
Q: Well it seems like it definitely worked out! I’ve actually gone to several female tattoo artists myself, and it seems like they all faced some sort of challenge when trying to get an apprenticeship due to the stigma against female artists. Did you experience a lot of that when starting out?
A: Haha yeah absolutely. You know, it’s so much cooler now. People aren’t big assholes like they were back then. I still have so many stories about people being apprehensive to letting me tattoo them because I’m a woman. Sometimes wives will be upset about me tattooing their husbands equating it to a sensual experience. I’m like dude no I’m putting you through a world of pain and it’s got nothing to do with that.
Being a military spouse who’s traveled a lot to different bases, I’ll get the crazy traditional military people who are apprehensive about letting a woman tattoo them. I’ve learned you’ll face a lot of old fashioned mindsets and fight around it. When I walk into a shop, I take the gender out of it and show that I’m a hard working motherfucker so no one can say anything just because I have boobs haha.
Q: Woah that does sound intense. Going from there, is there any advice you’d give to women or anyone in general who want to get into tattooing?
A: BUST YOUR ASS! Haha.
But honestly, moving from shop to shop through the years I’ve gotten to work with people of all sorts of experience levels. It doesn’t matter if you’re 2 years in or 30 years in, you just have to keep busting your ass because if you don’t love it, you probably shouldn’t be there. Tattooing and art is strictly a passion project, and you’re not gonna make it unless you put 100% into it.
Be sure to check out Brandi’s work on her instagram @brandibruce and stay tuned for more spotlights on some killer artists!