Artist in spotlight: Nouvelle Rita

My name is Nouvelle Rita. Originally, I’m from Portugal, but currently I work in London. I started tattooing in 2013, and I think it has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.

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Before tattooing, I had just finished university. I was looking for a job or an internship, but in Portugal, it’s not easy to find either of them. At that time, I was married to a tattoo artist who had been tattooing for five years. Even though I was around tattoos and tattooing, I had never thought that I could do it as well. But since she had all these extra supplies at home, one day I just decided to try it out myself – and I really loved it!

Now that I think about it afterwards, it was a moment that really changed my life. At that point, I was living through a tumultuous and quite dark phase of my life where lots of things changed simultaneously, and I really needed something to get a hold of. I needed a purpose in my life, and I think tattooing was that purpose.

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Back when I started, I think I mostly did it for my own sanity and mental health, even though I couldn’t put it in those words then. I was living through hard times, and tattooing challenged me and gave me something else to think about. Every time I was tattooing, I could focus on that without thinking about other things too much.

Tattooing also helped me to value myself more, which was something I couldn’t do back then. So in the beginning, I was mostly doing it for myself, and then other people started liking what I was doing as well.

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Finding my own style was also something that happened by chance. First, I just wanted to practice lines, because they are the base of everything and I wanted to be good at it before I went to shading or anything else. I started doing drawings where instead of shading, I used lines to give shade, shape, and volume to the object.

When I was still practicing, I was inspired by Luke Dixon’s style of drawing. He’s an illustrator who does lots of linework, and I really enjoyed drawing that style as well because it felt so challenging. So, I started doing my own version of linework and adapted it into tattooing.

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My artist name Nouvelle Rita was the first and the only name I really thought of. Nouvelle means ‘new’ in French. For me, tattooing meant a beginning of a new era and new me, so the name made sense to me. It also reminds me of Art Nouveau, which was the period of very big changes in art and architecture. During Art Nouveau, they started doing things completely different, and that’s what I wanted to do myself: something different.

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In the beginning, I wanted to be as anonymous and impartial as possible, but nowadays I think it’s okay to be a little more personal. Queerness is a big part of me, so I added it on my Instagram bio, too. It’s not only for people who feel they can relate to me but also for those who think they aren’t okay with it. If they aren’t, this is how they will know it beforehand and choose some other artist instead.

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I’ve never had any problems with being a tattoo artist and queer, but I still feel it’s good for other people to know. It’s more like, I’m queer, so why not tell people that I am? Maybe it’s also a way someone else can see it and think like: “Hey, she’s queer, she’s been through shit but is alive and well; I’m also going through shit, so maybe one day I will be good as well.”

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The first person I tattooed was myself. I tattooed a moth on my leg, and three poppies around it afterwards. My mom helped me to put the stencil on my skin. We tried it like four times and every time we did it, the stencil went a little more crooked. As a result, the moth turned out to be quite wonky. I added the poppies around the moth, so you couldn’t see it’s that wonky… but it still is.

I’ve never been into the whole “being famous”-thing. I’ve never wanted to be famous, and I still find it hard to picture how many people follow me on Instagram, for example. I think sometimes when people get recognized for what they’re doing, it makes them lose the sense of why they’re doing it. I don’t want that ever happen to me.

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During these 4,5 years, tattooing has given me so many new things to experience. If someone would’ve told me five years ago that I would be doing all these things in the future, I wouldn’t have believed it. Tattooing has helped me to get out my own comfort zone, and I’ve started traveling more and meeting other people more.

Before, I wasn’t very good at talking to people, but it doesn’t feel such a heavy thing anymore. I enjoy talking with my clients and connecting with them.

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I think tattooing is always a pretty special moment for both of us, the client and me. It’s not just stamping something on someone and then leaving with your paycheck. It’s something that people have thought about for months or years, and tattoos can change completely how someone sees themselves.

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I usually don’t like asking too many questions from my clients. I think that if people want to share their story with me, they will, and if they don’t, it’s completely fine, too.

I remember this one girl, for example, who wanted to get a hare tattoo from me. Her dad had died recently, and during the funeral, they saw a hare that came out of a hole and went off. As she saw that, she felt it was like her dad escaping, as his soul was now running free. I think tattoos are a powerful thing, and therefore tattooing itself shouldn’t be taken lightly.

For me, tattooing is still pretty much something that gives me a purpose and makes me feel that I have value. And if other people see value in my work as well, it’s a great thing, of course. Every day I get to do what I love and at the same time, I can make other people happy with it, so I think it’s a pretty good deal.

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