I first met Tracy Lang during my Friends of the Farm series. She and husband, Mark Taylor own Vireo Farm, which is a sublet of Johnson Farm, one of the oldest farms on the island (to read more about that, click here). For me—and most people for that matter—first impressions are a big deal, and Tracy is a big personality, who you can’t help but admire. As we toured Vireo and I learned more about her, I discovered she’s an incredibly talented artist, not just wall art, but body art as well. Tracy owns Ryderville Ink, located in downtown Bainbridge, and wanting to learn more about her, we met at the studio a few weeks back.
The studio is located on Madison Avenue (at the corner of Parfitt Way), as you climb the stairs to the second floor, you’ll notice medium and large-scale artwork adorning the walls. Tracy explained that her tattoo studio (and the staircase leading to it) function as her gallery in addition to her tattoo studio. Once inside the studio itself, Tracy told me a client was coming in so that I could observe the process of her craft first-hand. This particular client had come to Tracy with his fiancé requesting custom images that spoke to their individual heritages. Tracy had already applied the first part of his body art, and was working on enhancing it with color and additional detail.
Typically, she explained, clients will bring their own images or describe what they’d like and Tracy would sketch it out for them. She also has several sketches on display that clients can choose from. Tracy specializes in illustrative and detailed images, often in the form of something from the natural world, such as plants, trees and animals. This can require several sessions to complete. Although she noted, it can be a painful process and each client determines his or her threshold, coming back at their discretion for more enhancement. Her studio is a welcoming environment and her clients’ comfort and well-being are Tracy’s first priority.
She also offers mentoring, internships and apprentice positions, and currently employs Ana Dueñas, a former student. Ana began studying and making art at a young age. She specializes in fine art and painting, which led her to explore the art of tattooing. Under Tracy, she studied for 18 months and has an additional 18 months professional experience.
In addition to Ana, Megan Carney is interning and learning the craft. Megan’s love of tattoo art can be seen throughout her own “physical canvas” which mimics the work of The Drolatic Dreams of Pantagruel (Les songes drolatiques de Panatgruel), which—according to travelbetweenthepages.com— is a bizarre, Brueghel-esque volume of humorous and grotesque woodcuts published in Paris in 1565. This, Tracy says is a tribute to Megan’s own sense of humor, making her body art all the more poignant.
Regardless of what the client is looking for, Tracy and her team deliver original and individual body art for each person that walks through her door.
Tracy was born and raised in Oregon and grew up surrounded by artists. As a toddler, she would sit on her grandmother’s lap and watch her paint on canvas. When she critiqued her grandmother’s work, she was unceremoniously tossed from her lap and given her own art supplies and told to do better. When she was eight years old, her uncle began to teach himself the art of tattooing. She frequently joined him in his home shop, watching him create the machines, fashion the sharps and etch design into skin. At the age of twelve, she started portrait modeling for her aunt, who was a member of the Pacific Northwest Transparent Watercolor Scene, which introduced Tracy to the world of watercolor. All of this exposure would eventually shape the artist Tracy has become.
Watercolor, for the most part was Tracy’s passion early on. Observing her aunt’s watercolor group, she discovered a love for the process—the drag of the brush across rough paper, watching the colors intermingle to create an image. “My watercolor style has always been hyper loose and verging on uncontrollable, so I learned early on to use very thick paper and to pile the color on in multiple layers,” she explains in her artist statement on her website.
In her mid-twenties, Tracy traded her watercolor paints for India ink and paper. She wanted to master the art of black and white, which evolved into a style that was a cross between Asian essence and Germanic intention. Many of her artist friends noted that the pieces resembled woodcut prints, and although Tracy wasn’t initially interested in woodcuts, she quickly realized the medium was perfect for creating large art. Tracy purchases handmade paper from a 450-year-old paper factory in Japan, the paper is made of pure mulberry with a deckled edge. She then takes two large pieces of plywood, transfers the desired design to one sheet, applies the ink and “sandwiches” the paper between the two pieces of wood, which she nails to the floor to create a seamless image.
“Each large woodcut print takes over a pound of ink. I print on the rough side of the paper. The non-traditional side,” she explained. “After all my years in watercolor the thought of losing the rich, coarse natural pattern of hand-built paper to the back of the art seemed nonsensical.” The result—although the mediums are different—is that of a large, yet unconventional tapestry.
In addition to her woodcut pieces, Tracy creates laser print “collages”, a time consuming and multi-medium/layering process. She begins with photographs of the subject matter(s) she wishes to incorporate, which she transfers to a color transparency, she then adheres them to her wood or metal background with an acrylic gel medium. From there the images are burnished and once dry, she washes it, which gives the artwork an almost “painted” appearance. She also incorporates her woodcuts into the laser pieces as well as images from books and pictures. She pointed out one particular piece, noting that some of the images were from her husband’s childhood Boy Scout book. Her laser prints are a continuous story, with each new piece, she pulls out a portion of her last favorite print and incorporates it into the next piece.
When filmmaker Aaron McNight saw Tracy’s digital transfer work, he was interested in learning more about her process. She took him to many of her favorite spots, and from that experience, McNight created a short documentary called Damage & Repair / The Art of Tracy Lang (River to Sea Films). Its wonderful journey through her mind’s eye and the things that inspire her.
Tracy noted that being able to create art is one thing, but being able to share it on multiple online and media platforms is another altogether. To that degree, she works closely with Eric Swanson at Viking Web Design and Tory Smith Felkey and Nick Felkey of All Media Internet Marketing to create perfect online images of her all art work both on canvas and on the body.
Tracy has won multiple awards, including The Amy Award for Emerging Artists (Arts & Humanities Bainbridge) and has exhibited her work in galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest, including BIMA, since 1995.
Looking for a perfect holiday gift, how about a “couples” tattoo session? Contact Ryderville for details.
Ryderville Ink is located at 330 Madison Ave S Suite 206, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 | (206) 855-9458
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