By Derrick White
Start Me Up – When I asked local artist, Cora Rountree what started her on the path to becoming an artist she answered, “Art is the only thing I was ever good at or made sense to me. I was always coloring, crafting, or making the best school project possible when I was a kid.”
I first met Cora more than ten years ago in the art department at Tyler Junior College. Her unique talents, work ethic, and quirky personality stood out, and she was soon selected as one of the performance grant students. Performance grant students are given a modest scholarship and charged with exhibiting their artwork. A student showcase allows artists exposure as well as the experience of creating exhibition-ready work. Students display their art at a professional level and are integral in curating and installing the show.
“After receiving the performance grant and learning I could, in fact, be an artist made me switch to an art major,” remembers Cora.
Hang Fire – After TJC, Cora transferred to The Art Institute of Atlanta and received a B.F.A degree in Illustration and Graphic Design. “There was a lot of trial and error trying to figure out how to make money with art but still have creative freedom. I tried working professionally as a graphic designer for a while. I made things from wedding invitations to billboards to cycling apparel, but I was losing my creativity. When I made the move back to East Texas to be near family, I decided to make a career change, a big one,” Cora states.
Slave – It turns out Cora needed to find the right medium and tools for her creative expression, one she could passionately be a slave to, and it continues to hold her interest. The artist affirms, “I kept doing magazine ads for a company in Denver. I began teaching painting at Pinot’s Palette while I apprenticed to become a tattoo artist. I was spending all of my time looking at tattoos, drawing tattoos, and spending all of my money on tattoos, so it made sense to me. I now, on a daily basis, sell my artwork. Before I became a tattoo artist, I would sell a painting every now and then. Now, for the last three years I work by appointment only, people send me ideas, and I create something special just for them. Tattooing is definitely the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s permanent, no erasing. Your canvas moves, complains, and bleeds. Your machine vibrates, the needle vibrates, and your back hurts. There are so many factors, but the fact people daily ask for me to put my artwork on them forever amazes me. Paintings can be damaged in fire, floods, tornados, or stolen by a roommate. A tattoo is with the person until they die, or lose a limb.”
Neighbors – Cora lives on a small farm in the woods outside of Tyler with her many animal neighbors currently consisting of four dogs, two donkeys, two turtles, a tortoise, and some fish. She spends most of her time at Red Rooster Tattoo (1214 E. Marshall Ave., Longview) with a very talented group of artists, including her mentor who taught her the art of tattooing, Tyler Weisenberger. She laughs, “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be able to give people forever art. He actually introduced me to my boyfriend, his brother.”
Worried About You – Every career and situation comes with its own set of frustrations. Before, for Cora, it was not being able to make enough money from doing something she loved. “In my current job the most frustrating part is putting your heart into something, and then it’s not what the client has in mind. No worries. We will continue to work together and find a happy medium.
Tops – “We at Red Rooster Tattoo want to give people the best tattoo possible. Each of us has our own unique style, and we place people with the best artist for the tattoo they want, states Cora. You can check out Red Rooster on Facebook or Instagram at Red Rooster Tattoo.
Heaven – Cora’s favorite artist is Sandi Calistro (Denver based painter and tattoo artist). “When I lived in Atlanta, I went to an art show and saw one of her paintings of a circus lady holding a monkey, very stylized with large eyes but still perfect. She even drew little tattoos all over the lady. I can still see it perfectly years later. I looked her up on the internet and realized she was a tattoo artist as well and living in Denver. I was already planning on moving to Denver so when I realized that’s where she lived, I immediately booked an appointment with her. I began going to get tattooed by her every few months for a few years. I still get tattooed by her actually. It was she and her co-worker that asked if I had ever considered being a tattoo artist. At the time I was making good money doing graphic design and thought I was set in my career and too old to make the change. She’s truly talented, and the way she does things are heavenly unmatchable,” exclaims Cora.
Waiting On A Friend – When asked about some of the most important things art brings to her life Cora replies, “People and happiness. Some of my best friends and most important people in my life I met somehow through art, whether from school, in a class, at a show, at a job. Art brings people into my life. Art brings happiness into my life as well. When I worked the corporate design jobs, I was overworked. I never did anything fun or creative for myself. I was losing who I was. I was becoming stagnant. Now working in a creative environment where everyone I work with is inventive, it keeps my creative juices flowing, and they push me to create which makes me happy. Making art is a release, a therapy in a sense. An artist could go crazy not being able to create.
Keep up with Cora’s art, tattoos, and/or animal shenanigans on Instagram at @lovecoratattoos.