Veronique Gray was fascinated by her aunt’s tattoos at a young age. So fascinated that, at the age of 15, she nagged Chad Gilbert for a summer job at his brother’s shop. She laughs, “now I find [this] hilarious— a 15-year-old trying to work at a shop as a summer job.” It wouldn’t be long before Chad noticed her talent, though. When Veronique was done with downhill ski racing, she enrolled in Lakehead University’s Fine Art program. Reviewing her art, Chad asked her if she wanted to apprentice at his shop, Think Tank Tattoos, in Thunder Bay Ontario.
She now works at Electric Grizzly Tattoo in Canmore AB. She loves the energy and people she works with, “we all support each other creatively. It’s like a family,” she explains, “the four of us all compliment each other’s personalities, we try to make sure our clients have a good time and everyone is taken care of.” The shop is low maintenance and stress-free, which could be why everyone cranks out awesome art, especially Veronique.
When we asked Veronique to describe her style, she paused, “I can never tell if I have a style. I like to use color; I know that much. The brighter I can make stuff, the happier I am.” Inspired by nature and outdoor activities, her art is high contrast. She finds that high def photography emphasizes color and captures images in a way that gets her excited. She incorporates flow patterns, contrast, atmospheric perspective, and lighting tricks in her tattoos to make them look more interesting, much like these cameras do the world around them. When she’s outside, she pays careful attention to the details of the world around her and that is captured in her art pieces.
If she’s not tattooing, Veronique has a lot to do. She likes to keep tattooing in balance with her other goals and activities. Currently, she’s started the Free Ride World Tour Qualifiers for skiing this year. Every day before work in the winter she goes skiing. In the summer, she goes hiking before work with her dogs. She enjoys other sports like golf, skateboarding, yoga, and mountain biking. She believes taking care of your body is vital for a tattooer, “working out and stretching is going to keep your career lasting without injuries.”
She also enjoys painting landscapes and nature subjects. She travels a lot, recently going to Japan for skiing, Hawaii for surfing, and a lot of inner-Canada traveling here and there for outdoor activities: skiing competitions, backcountry adventures, camping, and visiting with all the people she meets across Canada from sports and tattooing.
What advice do you have for someone planning his or her first tattoo?
It depends. I wish I had the larger spaces left for a full back or a leg sleeve, so if I could do it again I’d get the biggest projects, but that’s not for everyone. If you just want a small to medium tattoo go to a tattoo convention and scout. Take your time; that’s a good one. Don’t just “settle” because your impatient; trust me lasering them off hurts a thousand times more. Find an artist who does what you’re looking for. Do your homework for this permanent project small or large you’re about to embark on. Don’t go to a realism tattooer to get a watercolor tattoo – that’s not what they are focusing on and there’s enough social media out there for the clients to properly check out tattoo artists and what they do best. Patience and homework.
What advice do you have for a tattoo artist who is just getting started?
Draw. Buy every drawing book you can find and draw every exercise in it while you still have the time to do just that. Once you’re swamped with clients, it can be daunting to try and better your art on your own time. Draw until you fingers feel bruised and you wrist hurts. The you have a ton of your own references to work with for your future projects, and you will have half the drawing time because you’ve already drawn 100 lady faces, 50 mandalas, 30 different bird angles, etc.
Contact Veronique Gray
Email for appointments
Images © Veronique Gray