All About Tattooers: Fandom Tattoo Artist Jess Locke


Welcome to the second installment in the “All About Tattooers: Fandom Tattoo Artist” series! Just like before we’ll be bringing you a short interview with another pop culture tattoo artist. That’s not to say the only work they do is considered “pop culture”, that’s just what we’ll be focusing on (we are a nerdy site after all!). Along with the general tattooing questions, we’ll also dive a bit deeper into one of the artist’s favorite pieces.

Image courtesy of Jess Locke

First things first, let’s get to know Jess a little bit!

Nerds and Beyond: How long have you been tattooing?

Jess: I think like most people in their early 20s I was a bit lost. My family was really encouraging me to go to college, but the only thing I was ever passionate about was art … and I couldn’t afford an art degree. I started getting tattooed around the same time and I absolutely fell in love with the medium. There’s a personal connection to the work that’s not really present in any other art-form, and the thought that someone could resonate so strongly with my own work was really moving to me.

Nerds and Beyond: How would you describe your style?

Jess: My style is still developing itself with every tattoo I do, but it generally leans toward illustrative … close to “neo-traditional” in the way I do my line work but not quite that. Bright and fun and colorful is what I go for haha.

Nerds and Beyond: What’s the easiest area to tattoo for you personally?

Jess: Give me a nice blank calf any day and I’m PUMPED.

Nerds and Beyond: Do you prefer to work with color or stick to black and white?

Jess: Color color color! Blending colors makes my heart happy.

Nerds and Beyond: What are some pros and cons to each?

Jess: Hmmm, the techniques are different but a person’s skin makes a bigger difference to the process than color or b/g ever will! I just prefer color because I find it to be more fun visually.

Nerds and Beyond: Do you enjoy first timers or veterans more?

Jess: I adore giving people their first tattoo! I just remember how I felt when I was in that spot and I want to make it as comfortable as possible for the client. The excitement for your first tattoo is so contagious, I can’t get enough. (Also, just because someone has a lot of tattoos doesn’t mean they’ll sit well!)

Nerds and Beyond: What’s been your longest session?

Jess: Getting tattooed: 8.5 hours. I don’t recommend it. Tattooing: 7-8 hours.

Nerds and Beyond: Was it long because of detail or size?

Jess: It has more to do with time-constraints. I don’t really enjoy working on one person for that long because we’re both worn out by the end, but sometimes it’s just necessary (for example: convention pieces, the client is moving or just visiting, etc)

Nerds and Beyond: Is there a fandom in particular you do a lot of work for? For example Star Wars, Supernatural, etc.

Jess: I get a lot of Star Wars and Pokémon requests (and I’ll NEVER get tired of them! Keep them coming!)

Nerds and Beyond: Is there any character you haven’t tattooed yet that you’d love to do?

Jess: I’ve done about 100/151 of the first gen Pokémon, so I’d love to finish collecting them all someday! Dream tattoo would be the monster from Cloverfield (I have him tattooed on my back but would love to do a tattoo of him as well). Any and all cartoon or anime characters I’m always stoked to do but I haven’t done much Yu-gi-oh! or Digimon and would love to!

Nerds and Beyond: Where can someone find you and your work?

Jess: I currently work at Art Labs Tattoo in Federal Way, WA. All my info is at

(You can also find Jess on Instagram!)

We asked Jess to provide a favorite piece and here’s what she had to say about it:

Image courtesy of Jess Locke

Nerds and Beyond: What about this piece makes it your favorite?

Jess: Oh man, I just can’t get over how delightfully silly it is! It combines two of my favorite things from when I was a kid: Ace Ventura and Pokémon. I just started laughing when I got the email telling me what he wanted. That’s always a good start to a piece!

Nerds and Beyond: How did you come up with the design?

Jess: My client Levi, who wears this piece, wanted it based off a specific cover from Ace Ventura so he sent me the picture to build the pose around. The idea was all him, I just brought it to life!

Nerds and Beyond: Can you tell us a little about your design process in general?

Jess: Almost all of my design-work is done using procreate on an iPad Pro. I resisted switching to digital design for a long time but I’m so glad I did. It’s super efficient and has cut my drawing time in half. I prefer creating custom pieces for my clients and I usually draw up a design the day before an appointment or the morning-of.

Nerds and Beyond: How does it vary piece to piece?

Jess: It really depends on the client and our relationship. A lot of my regular clients trust me to create for them so they relax about a lot of the specifics and I get to have a lot of fun with those pieces. I love having references from clients and getting to talk to them face-to-face about their ideas, but at the end of the day I really hope people are coming to me because they like my work and have faith that I can give them a tattoo they truly love!

Nerds and Beyond: How long did this particular piece take?

Jess: I think it was about two hours? Maybe less, an hour and a half?

Massive thank you to Jess for taking the time to talk with us and share a bit of her expertise! Stay tuned for many more parts to this series, and make sure you check out Jess’ work! If you’re in the Federal Way area, Jess is certainly someone you need to make sure you see.

Do you know of a tattoo artist that does incredible pop culture work? Send us a message with their social media/email and you just might see them featured in one of our upcoming posts!

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