Photos by Jason Goodrich
Sarah Elizabeth grew up thriving on creative expression, and now, as an adult, she has built a life around it. Elizabeth found her calling as a tattooed model and tattoo artist while growing a community of others who share the same passions. Aesthetically, she is most drawn to black ink, visible through sprawling monochrome pieces and her blacked-out chest. In this interview, Elizabeth dives deep into why centering her life around art was the best decision she ever made.
Can you start off by telling us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
I’m originally from Wisconsin, but I currently live in Arizona. I’m very goofy, I love to travel and I have two pups. I’m a full-time tattoo artist—find me on Instagram at @sarah_elizabeth_tattoos.
What drew you to tattooing?
I’ve always loved art, drawing and painting. It took me a while to get into tattooing. I actually went to medical college right out of high school, but art has always been a passion of mine. Tattoos have also always interested me.
What’s life like as a tattooed model?
I have been a tattooed model for about 10 years now. It has been so much fun. I absolutely love creating art with photographers and networking with other models and photographers.
Did people’s opinions of you change after you became heavily tattooed?
For the people who don’t know me, absolutely. But for the friends I’ve had since before the tattoos, they treat me exactly the same. My appearance has changed, but my soul never will.
How did you feel after getting your chest blacked out? What made you decide to do it?
Getting my chest blacked out was very painful. I did it all in one session, I do not recommend that to anyone. It was basically a triple cover-up.
What was your journey to becoming a tattoo artist?
I would say there were some obstacles. Apprenticeships are not easy, especially mine. I was very broke at the time and it was a lot of commuting to get to the shop. I was living in Chicago when I started, the shop was an hour outside downtown and I had no car. The experience was very humbling overall.
How would you describe your tattoo style?
I would describe my tattoo style as surrealism, black-and-grey realism, geometric and blackwork. I really love combining styles and creating interesting, unique pieces! I’m always trying to come up with something new, fresh and different. Making my own creative masterpiece is satisfying.
Did you experiment with other styles before landing on your current specialty?
I actually started out doing traditional and neo-traditional tattoos in full color.
Where do you get most of your artistic inspiration?
For me, that’s a loaded question. Because I can find inspiration not only just from other artists, but also from everyday life—such as photography, nature, Instagram… I could keep listing things. I get inspired by life around me.
What has been the most rewarding part of being a tattoo artist and model?
The most rewarding thing about being a tattoo artist, honestly, is that it truly gave me a purpose in life. I feel blessed to be able to create art as my career and be able to share it with others, making connections with people and [helping] them feel confident and having an amazing experience. The most rewarding thing about being a tattooed model is probably being blessed with amazing opportunities like this one. Also, just networking and making connections with other people in the industry and just having fun!
If your tattoo career dissolved into thin air today, what do you think you’d be doing next?
Oh wow, that would be a nightmare if my career disappeared! I suppose I never thought about that because tattooing truly is my life. I would probably be a makeup artist, another one of my passions.