Created in partnership with Bulleit Frontier Whiskey. Click to explore the board
For years Los Angeles was thought to be a cultural wasteland. It was where trash culture lived — television, movies, porn, generic hair metal — and was never given the serious consideration that New York City, San Francisco, and others received. But the tables have turned as the City of Angels has been going through a renaissance of sorts as a group of innovative chefs, fashion designers, and artists make their mark. Leading the charge is a generation of tattoo artists that have staked out LA as their frontier to create a wholly original style of art.
Recognizing this, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey partnered with 24 artists from SoCal to create the world’s first tattoo billboard — a massive 32 foot long wall covered with tattooed leather that showcases the incredibly diverse body art scene that exists in the LA region Each tattooer was given a panel of leather to give their own personal touches to, we’re talking complete artistic freedom here, and then the pieces were assembled to create an ode to the melting pot that is Los Angeles.
With this massive, one-of-a-kind project, Bulleit celebrates the city’s entire tattoo community in a bold way by showing all of the different styles thriving in the city. None of the tattooers knew what their fellow artists were doing, so they were as surprised as everyone else when they saw the fruits of their unique collaboration unveiled.
One of those tattooers was Amelia Rose, a Maine native that found her way to LA via Brooklyn, who is new to both the city and the tattooing industry, but that gives her an interesting insight into the scene. “I honestly haven't been here long enough to pretend I can say anything about it with authority,” Rose explains. “But from what I can tell, just like California itself, there are a lot of varied people, with varied styles and backgrounds all doing wildly different things.”
The entirety of the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey tattoo billboard. Photo by Elizabeth Dixon
Rose started her apprenticeship with Jason Schroder (owner of Incognito Tattoo and another contributor to the billboard) just under two years ago, so she’s still trying to find the style that best suits her. “I feel like that's something that I'll settle into way later on. Right now I just try to do what my client wants,” Rose says. “A teacher of mine once said that no matter what you're creating, as long as your hand drew it, it will have your style in it, so I like to tell myself that when I feel down about not being as experienced or developed as an artist yet.”
For her section of the wall, Rose went to a couple of her favorite muses — plants and animals. The piece is both striking and playful, depicting a coyote surrounded by succulents, stars, a potted cactus and, for some odd reason, a hot dog. As a whole, it gives a pretty good idea of who Rose is as an artist. Coming up with the imagery for the piece was the easy part. Actually applying a tattoo to a hunk of leather? There was the real challenge.
“I thought it was actually not going to be a big deal to tattoo the leather, but it turned out to be insanely time consuming and difficult,” Rose says with a laugh. “It was also super loud, like a helicopter landing. I had to work on it at home it was so loud.” It turns out leather is exponentially more difficult to work on than your average client.
The genius in what Bulleit did by creating this tattoo billboard is seen in the multitude of different styles and voices involved. When viewed in sections, two individual pieces may look as disparate as imaginable, but when seen as a whole it is an accurate representation of what makes the Los Angeles tattoo community so special. “I think not knowing what the other parts were going to look like made it turn out even better because no one was influenced by the other panels,” Rose says. “I had no clue what the final piece was going to look like, and it ended up all working together really great!”
For a young tattooer like Amelia Rose this experience allowed her to meet new artists and work with a respected brand like Bulleit. More than that, it helped reinforce what has been her favorite aspect of the tattoo industry since she picked up her first machine. “One thing I love, which is different from a lot of other jobs, is the camaraderie with other artists from all over the country, and world,” Rose explains. “It's amazing to make friends through traveling, and to be able to work together, share ideas from across the map and have such an interconnectedness with people who do the same thing as you.”
Created in partnership with Bulleit Frontier Whiskey. Click to explore the board.