Born and raised in New York, Nicole Palapoli aka NY Nic, 33, has been an artist since she could hold a pencil. From early on, Nicole spent hours alone in her room, leading her enrollment in advanced art classes at Hofstra University. After graduating high school, she received two college scholarships and wound up at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, studying drawing, filmmaking, fine arts, anatomy, animation, art history, and graphic design.
NY Nic’s ambition led her to an internship at MTV Studios followed by a study abroad campaign focusing on painting at the Accademia di belle Arti in Florence, Italy. Nicole wrote, directed, designed, animated and shot her own animated short film and earned her a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts in Animation in 2002. After college, Nicole was the Art Director and teacher of a small Art School in Queens, learned skills as a faux finish painter, muralist, furniture designer, window designer, and portrait artist. Her sculptures, photographs, drawings and paintings were featured in and earned awards in galleries in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens and she did guest demonstrations for Queens artists through an educational/cultural fund. Her talents were used painting faces of the animatronics in the world famous Christmas windows of Macy’s on 34th Street.
After receiving her New York State Teaching License, Nicole was hired as an art teacher at Forest Hills High School in Queens. Very quickly, she knew she had made a wrong move. After randomly watching a couple of episodes of some tattoo show, something clicked in her head. The next day, she decided to quit teaching with no game plan, just a gut instinct to become a tattoo artist. The very next day, one of her students asked Nicole about her future plans and NY Nic said she would become a tattooist. The student’s cousin was opening a tattoo shop that summer and gave her his number. She put her teaching career on hold and risked everything.
In 2007, Nicole began an apprenticeship at a tattoo studio in Brooklyn. She practiced on latex sheets and then on willing friends. Nicole was broke, moved in with her grandmother and went into debt. She traveled an hour and half to get to work and then another hour and a half to get to school trying to finish graduate program requirements. She sacrificed the stability and security of a teaching job, a retirement package, paid vacations and holidays, etc. all for tattooing.
Nicole struggled in the beginning of her apprenticeship, the equipment felt so foreign , the pressure of getting it correct in one shot was immense, she couldn’t sleep the night before a tattoo. She got through it by learning to trust herself as much as the client trusted her. She wanted to quit so many times, but just kept working hard, stayed focused and constantly critique her work and study images of artwork that inspires her. She knew this was the right career for her, because every bit of knowledge and skills she had acquired up to that point were put to use every day in challenging ways.
These days, NY Nic is the owner of and artist at Body Language Tattoo in Astoria, New York. Astoria, which has earned a reputation as an emergent and diverse melting pot of cultural exuberance, proved to be the perfect location for Body Language, as it draws dedicated tattoo clientele from New York’s major metropolitan markets.
NY Nic works in any style that her client prefers, but tends to gravitate towards full color, photo-realistic work with illustrative elements. Anything with rigid geometric patterns or symmetry drives her crazy, but she can do it. She won’t tattoo anything that she finds offensive, and she won’t accept a cover-up project if she doesn’t think it will do her work justice. She was trained on traditional coil machines, but soon after switched to rotary machines because they are low maintenance and her hand cramps up less due to their light weight and also increased her speed.
Nicole’s relationship with her clients vary from quick and quiet sessions, to countless hours of laughter and deep conversation, transforming into friendships. She feels very connected to the people whose bodies she has adorned because a piece of her and her artwork travels with them throughout their entire lives. They see her to commemorate relationships, births, deaths, milestones, achievements, failures, all of life’s experiences. She turns their bodies into walking art galleries filled with memories, dreams and beauty and is proud, honored and humbled that they continue to ask for her artwork.
With the strain on the national economy, one would imagine that the tattoo industry has been suffering, which is not the case. Serious clients find ways to support their desire to wear top notch artwork from talented artists. Nicole began her career during hard times, and still manages to have consistent, loyal and dedicated clientele ready and willing to pay her for her craft. Admiring artists like Dmitriy Samohin, Nikko Hurtado, Kris Busching, Niki Norberg, Justin Hartman, Paul Acker, Teresa Sharpe and Kelly Doty, her drive to become a better artist day by day is always there.
The tattoo industry is becoming so popular that not only are the client bases broadening, but the amount of artists are broadening as well. Nicole’s prediction for the industries growth in the years to come is that artists who develop their skills will excel and so will consumer knowledge of true talent, leaving the less talented and unmotivated artists to slowly drop out of the game and the industry’s artist oversaturation will correct itself. In the future, NY Nic sees tattoo acceptance growing steadily, artistic skills increasing and causing one another to break new ground on each piece of work.
Tattooing has been around for thousands of years and is here to stay. As the tattoo community grows, it will shatter old stigmas and help to make our society less conservative. Tattooing has taken art out of galleries and decorated live canvases to walk the streets for the entire worlds eyes to see and Nicole is honored to be a part of this boom in the tattoo world.