Tattooing is a personal expression

By Lorne Eckersley

When Julia Vanderloos got her first tattoo five years ago she made sure it could be easily covered with her clothing.

“I was 18 and I didn’t know how my family and friends would feel,” she said on Monday. Now six years later her left arm is “sleeved” with tattoos, her back is partially covered in ink and she has started on a leg, too. And she’s hoping fans of her “body of art” will help her get featured on the cover of Inked, a tattoo theme magazine that runs an annual cover model search contest.

Vanderloos was raised in Abbotsford and moved to Creston five years ago, soon following the rest of her family—mom, dad and three siblings—who bought a farm on the Creston Flats. They have since purchased Paul’s Superette, where Julia works.

Her first tattoo experience definitely wasn’t what set her off on a personal mission to have a beautifully tattooed body (but never her face, neck and chest, she said).

That piece says “Inhale the future, exhale the past” and it includes five sparrows to represent each of her family members.

“I got that tattoo done in Surrey and the tattoo artist was really unprofessional,” she said. “He spent the whole time flirting with my girlfriend and turned a half-hour job into a four-hour one. I was really turned off the tattoo world after that.”

That attitude changed after a serious car accident left her with a permanently swollen right arm in which she doesn’t have much feeling due to nerve damage.

“I decided I liked the idea of a tattoo sleeve on that arm,” she said. She immediately knew who the tattoo artist would be. She had previously taken a girlfriend to Cranbrook and came away very impressed with the artist, former Crestonite Tracie Truscott.

“I loved what she did!” Vanderloos said. “Tattoo artists are like hairdressers—if you don’t click with them it can be a really bad experience.”

She set to work creating a design for her “sleeve”, one that would extend onto her back, as well.

“Then Tracie pieced it all together and made it happen. I really like her work because it’s very feminine.”

“We definitely had a common connection regarding Creston!” Truscott said on Friday. “And Julia is a kind and well-spoken client, with a good grasp of exactly what she is looking for in her tattoo art. It’s important for a tattoo artist and client to have a good rapport.

“The way I interact with clients, is to always remain kind and humble. I am an artist, and I do have specific tattoo art that is more ‘my style’ but one also has to understand that tattoos are personal and specific to the one getting them. While I remain open-minded with their ideas, I will however, try to ‘veer’ them in another direction with constructive comments if I think the idea is not transferable as a tattoo concept!

Overall, it’s about listening to the client, and helping them make the choice that suits them.”

The design on Vanderloos’ arm and back includes “my three favourite animals,” an elephant, a sparrow and a lion. It also features an anchor and compass, a tribute to her grandfather, who was in the navy.

Isn’t getting tattooed painful?

“In a way, but I kind of enjoy it. It hurts, then feels mostly numb. I describe it as like getting scratched by a cat. Over and over again! But the elbow really hurt because there isn’t much flesh there and I don’t think I’ll be getting the other one done.”

Now that she has had the experience of working with Truscott, Vanderloos has plans to continue on with her tattooing project. She has begun to think about designs, which will include mandalas and have “a more spiritual side.” A leg will be the next canvas.

“I’ll just start with an idea, show it to Tracie and she’ll add more stuff to make it look cooler. I have one hundred per cent confidence in her.”

Truscott said that Vanderloos is unusual in that she has specific ideas about what she wants.

‘It is more common to have folks leave the majority of the design up to me,” she said. “I will often sit them down, similar to an interview process. I ask them questions about their life—their likes, what they are drawn to in regards to colour, texture, cultural designs, heritage and background, interests and hobbies. I will glean as much information that will help me produce a design concept that is relevant to them and their life.

“However, there are also tattoos, such as Julia’s, that are more decorative concepts, rather than life stories. Tattoos that are decorative concepts are designed to flow with the physique of the client. The lines should follow the curves, and contours of the body to make the design more aesthetically pleasing.”

While it was not Vanderloos’ original intent to have so much of her body tattooed, the experience with Truscott was transformative.

“Three hours into my first session with her I thought it was the coolest thing ever!”

Asked about how others respond to her tattoos, Vanderloos said she has one quick response.

“Some people hang their art and other people wear it. Tattoos don’t make you less smart, but they don’t define you, either.”

Tattoos, she admits, aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they have become so common that “Now, when I see younger people who don’t have a tattoo, I think it’s kind of funny.”

Ironically, her current partner is tattoo free. Does she encourage him to get inked?

“No, it’s a choice that everyone gets to make for themselves. And tattoos are conversation starters,” the admittedly introverted Vanderloos said. “I see a tattoo and I think, hey, we can talk.”

She is completely realistic that her tattoos might not look as sharp or bright when she is older, and neither will her body, but it doesn’t worry her.

“Maybe we will all have saggy bad tattoos, but who cares? I’ll just be an outrageous granny with purple hair. Tattoos at 80 will be the least of my problems,” she laughs.

Want to cast a vote for Vanderloos in Inked magazine’s contest? Go to

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