Known for her vivid artwork that often blend Chicano iconography with Patrick Nagel-esque fluorescent hues, Natasha Lillipore has style for days. Her impeccable fashion sense permeates her paintings, culminating in empowered babes that look as though they have the world on a shiny leather leash. In this interview with Natasha, we go behind the scenes for a look at her life and loves.
I’d love it if you could tell us a bit about your background and how you became a working artist?
Art became my thing really early on and has always been a huge part of my life. When I was a kid my mom noticed that I enjoyed it and she’s always nurtured and supported my interest in the arts. I always preferred to spend time drawing rather than doing normal kid stuff or spending time with people. Art was always the one thing that kept me grounded but also allowed me to sort of escape reality. I had always wanted to go to college for art on the East Coast, but as I became a teenager I increasingly had a harder time and my mental health really suffered, so I made art less frequently. I didn’t really think I would live past my late teens, so I dropped out of high school and didn’t make any plans for art school.
I eventually had to go back to high school in 2011 and during that time I met Javier through mutual friends. We instantly fell deeply in love and the light he brought into my life is really just indescribable. Through him loving me so hard and always supporting me, I eventually learned to love myself again and regain my power. One of our shared interests was art and tattooing, so he always really pushed me to pursue art again. About a year into our relationship we moved from my hometown in Colorado to California so he could pursue tattooing. Eventually I started making art all of the time again and started sharing my work online. While that started gaining traction, I made an online shop and in 2014 I was able to support myself full time and quit my day job. Being a working artist has a lot of ups and downs, but somehow I’ve managed to keep it going!
How has your style evolved over time? What films, books, music, artists, etc. inspire your work?
Being self taught, I’ve tried so many different mediums and styles in order to find what works for me and feels authentic. I’ve made a lot of really terrible and embarrassing art through that process, haha. Honestly everything I make embarrasses me, but I just keep making art in hopes that I’ll eventually get to a place where I feel satisfied with my work. For a long time I tried to make things that I thought other people would like, but I always hated everything I made and I’m not even sure why I did that. This year I’ve tried to become really clear about the type of work I want to make going forward. I’ve always been drawn to dark surrealism and fantasy work, like Giger, Francis Bacon, Julie Bell and Borris Vallejo. I’d like to explore those themes and focus on really refining my skills.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given and what’s the best advice you feel you can give to others? How do you define success?
Javier taught me to view my work with a critical eye, which has been huge and something I wasn’t able to do for a long time. I don’t think I can pin point one specific piece of advice, but my very dear friends Chuco and Amber Moreno have always given me the best guidance over the years when it comes to both art and relationships. Seeing how they love, value and support each other has taught me so much. Keep a small circle and surround yourself with good people, love hard and learn the value in being vulnerable, be grateful and present in the moment. To me, happiness is success.
When did you start getting tattooed? What have been your favorite tattoo moments and who are some tattooists you really admire?
I got my first tattoo in a friend’s basement when I was 15. It was absolute trash… Like, the worst of the worst. I wanted a zombie pinup head, which that in itself is a horrible concept, so the guy showed me a drawing and it looked fine. As he was doing my tattoo he started changing the image without telling me, and he changed the face to look like mine… I was devastated! The tattoo was soooo bad. I actually have a photo of the moment I first saw it and he told me that he had “free styled” the face. At least it makes for a funny story now. I eventually got it covered with some more trash, which is now being lasered and will be covered with something else again.
I don’t have a favorite memory, but getting to know Chuco was very impactful. He did my left arm and back, so we really got to know each other during that process and shared some really special conversations. He’s like a big brother to me so I really value his insight. Oh gosh, there are so many tattooers that I really look up to! To name a few, Tim Hendricks, Valerie Vargas, Rose Hardy, Chris Conn, Jack Rudy, Diletta Lembo, the list could go on forever. More than anything I really admire my husband and his work. Watching him dedicate himself to tattooing and constantly trying to learn as much as he can has been very inspiring for my own practice.
You and Javier are basically a legendary power couple. What is it like working together? Does he influence your work at all and vice versa?
Oh my gosh, thank you! He’s both my muse and my biggest supporter. We’ve always really encouraged each other to work hard and to really submerge ourselves in our crafts. He’s always been a huge influence in my work. We’re pretty much always together, so we’re always involved in what the other is doing.
Beyond creating art, what are you really passionate about? How do you spend your time off or vacations? What do you wish you had more time for?
Any free time I have is usually spent with Javier. We usually travel once or twice a month, but obviously this year has changed that. We spend a lot of time playing video games and watching movies together. We don’t ever get tired of being around each other so getting to have so much one on one time this year has been nice. I can’t wait to be able to travel again and see friends though!
Do you have any projects, events, or plans upcoming in the future you’d like to share?
Most of my projects for this year were cancelled, so I’ve just been taking the time to work on personal drawings and create illustrations for merchandise. As soon as traveling is safe, Javier and I plan to spend some time in Japan for work.
Natasha has also started tattooing! Check out her socials to see more, and grab a spot!