Interview With An Artist: Kelly Killagain, Tattoo and Fine Artist

My sister is a badass. She makes amazing art, she puts some of that art on people's bodies, and she has lotsa cute animals. You guys have been asking me to interview her for a little while, so here are your questions and mine answered!  Make sure you follow her art and support it when you're done reading!

Kelly Killagain has been tattooing since 2013 at 777 Tattoos in Manahawkin, NJ. She specializes in linework and dotwork, commonly known as blackwork, and also enjoys watercolor/abstracted color tattoos. Kelly also sculpts and paints and sells her work online and at craft shows. Her work can be found at or on Instagram (@kellykillagain). Be sure to check out her booth at The Makers Festival in Manahawkin on September 16th this year!

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1. Are there any parts of the body you would never tattoo? Why?

Genitals. Because genitals.


3. What are some no-nos someone can avoid when booking an appointment/getting a tattoo?

I prefer people to book an appointment because they’ve seen my work and enjoy it enough to place trust in me and my style. That’s a great environment for good art to grow. However, there’s a surprising amount of people who don’t look at portfolios before booking with an artist. That makes it a little hard to find common ground if our style doesn’t match what you’re looking for, so definitely make sure you find an artist that makes sense for what you’d like. Then there’s the hagglers, the timers (also known as the “I swear it’ll only take 15 minutes” people), the micro-managers, and the “I found this online, I want you to copy it exactly” people. Just don’t be those people and have faith in the artist you choose. All I want to do is make great art that both you and I are proud of.                                                                                 

   4. What has been your favorite moment in your career so far?

It’s hard to say. I think I cherish the small moments more. I once tattooed a cancer ribbon in memory of a woman’s mother. During the session we got to know one another and I found out who her mother was—my old English teacher who inspired me to embrace creativity. When we connected the dots, both of us got a little emotional. I think it made the tattoo a little more special for both of us.

5. What is your favorite part of being a tattoo artist?

I have some really amazing clients, so meeting and working with them has been great and it makes it all worthwhile. I also have some of the coolest coworkers that I’m proud to call family.

7. Why did you become a tattoo artist?

Honestly, I never thought I would be a tattoo artist. I felt too awkward, too anxious, and too shy to even talk to a tattoo artist let alone try to become one. I was a fine artist at heart, so I went to art school in hopes of cracking the code of how to be an artist for a living or to simply land a job in the arts. Halfway through, I met the Pallotta’s, the owners of 777 Tattoos, while receiving my first tattoo. They opened my mind to the possibility of tattooing and about a year later I worked for them as a part of an internship/apprenticeship. I’ve been full time since 2013 and it’s safe to say I’m still pretty damn awkward, my anxiety is through the roof, and I’m still shy, but I’m making art every single day and that’s more valuable than trying to look cool while doing it.

8.How does it feel to tattoo someone? Weird or normal or....?

Weird mixed with normal. I draw on people for a living. That’s really weird. I also have no idea what other functioning adults do at their jobs. I can safely say that at this point, gloving up and marking people for life feels way more comfortable than trying to fax something.

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 9. How does it feel to be the sister of an amazing author?
*This was not my question lol*

Nice one, Nikki haha. It feels great. I think all three of us Colligan sisters have been super supportive of one another in each of our different paths. If we ever want to pursue something, we know we have at least two super fans right off the bat




10. If you could tattoo anything on anyone, what would the tattoo be and who would it be on?

I’ve been having this urge lately to do some sort of animal related flash sheet where people can choose what they’d like and a percentage of the profits would go to a local animal shelter.

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11. What other kind of art do you create? What inspires that?

Small sculptures, paintings, drawings. Everything I create sort of revolves around animals in some way and how weird humans can be in relation to other species. I also seem to make a lot of cats. It just happens.

  12. What does a typical day in your life look like?

Wake up early, have coffee, finish linework for the tattoos I’ll be doing that day, walk my dog, I’m at the shop from 11am - 7pm. Some days I come in a little earlier, other days I stay a bit later. I either work on one client all day, two clients who asked for medium sized designs, or I can do multiple smaller, simpler designs in one day. I usually get home by 7:30, have dinner, and then I sit on my iPad all night composing designs for the next day. I usually work until I feel comfortable finishing it with fresh eyes in the morning.

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13. How do you balance everything?

Good question. I haven’t really figured it out. I think the only thing that’s proven to force me to balance tattoo art with personal art is by committing to craft shows where I have to exhibit/sell work, which means I HAVE to have inventory, so I have to use my time away from tattooing wisely.

14. What has been your favorite tattoo/client?

Well, that’s like picking your favorite child so I can’t do that. But I do have a few clients that I am too awkward to ask to lunch or go out for coffee with, but I would TOTALLY be friends with them outside of their tattoo appointments. They’re that awesome. And I think some of my favorite tattoos are the ones that I might’ve stressed the most about, so I have to remember that pushing outside of my comfort zone is usually worth it.


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