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Posted: September 14, 2012 4:16 p.m.

More than skin deep

Local tattoo artist sticks with her passion

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Most children would learn from a spanking, and Beth Rockmore is no different. She learned, but not the lesson her mother had hoped. She learned that no matter what happened, her art was worth fighting for.

To look at her, no one would think the heavily tattooed lady with the clear blue eyes was a shy child growing up in Stone Mountain. But there's more to Rockmore than meets the eye. From the moment that she got that spanking for coloring on her mother's walls, art became more than a pastime; it became a passion.

"I remember doing a mural on my mom's freshly painted white wall when I was about 4 years old," she said. "I saw that wall and was like ‘Wow!' I think my mom was on the phone or something, and I closed the hall doors and just went to town. It was like a giant canvas to me. I used every color [of crayon] I had - the big set. I remember the spanking I got too," she said, laughing.

But the spanking didn't put her off art, it made her want to do it more, making her career choice as an artist and tattoo shop owner perhaps not so surprising.

"I think all through school I was really artistic," she said. "I was always doodling when the teacher was telling us what to do. It really just went from there. My grandmother is an artist and she started me painting with oils when I was 14. I still paint with them now."
Although she continued her art, she decided to stay home with her two children when they were babies.

"I would go and paint while they napped," she said. "And I would sell my paintings to make money."

She's done tons of art since then. Some commissioned, some just for her, but Rockmore still remembers the hardest piece of commissioned art she ever did. Around 1987, she had someone bring her a sketch made in the 1940s of a railroad blueprint that had never been built and he wanted it on canvas.

As her children got older, Rockmore decided to go back to work. She tried a corporate job but couldn't get into it. A friend from high school made a suggestion that changed the course of her life.
"I had a friend from high school who had two [tattoo] shops. He was always trying to get me to do it. Finally one day when my kids were bigger... I just jumped in and fell in love. With the art. It's so different from drawing or canvas or clay or hot glue gun," she said with a laugh. "I love it."

Rockmore sees a huge slice of Covington in her shop off Pace Street. She has lawyers, preachers and stockbrokers who come in, as well as people straight out of the Newton County Jail, coming in to get their jailhouse tattoos worked on professionally. And while she loves her job and the career she has chosen, it's still all about the art.

"When I do a painting, I'm usually in my little office or at home, and I like to be tuned out and alone because the paintings are more one-on-one and my emotional stuff is flowing onto the canvas.

"But a tattoo is more intimate because it's with another person. It's their emotions, what they want and their feelings and their art ideas mingled with mine going onto their body. Giving a tattoo is a kind of a rush for me, and a painting is like an emotional release.

"But it's such an honor if someone comes to you and wants your artwork. It's kind of like giving them a piece of you. It's hard to explain, but it's like no other job, career, no other feeling, really."

Rockmore's artistic talents have been passed on to her children. Her daughter works in music promotions and in doing artwork for bands. Her son, still in high school, wants to be a tattoo artist like his mom.

"I'm trying to discourage that," she said, smiling. "He has this killer brain, he's really smart. I'd like him to learn to tattoo and then go and be a doctor or a lawyer. I think all moms want that for their kids though."

And while there is a stigma attached with tattoos and those who proudly display them like Rockmore does, her family is just as normal as anyone else's.

"We can all sit down together and paint or do a wall mural," she said. "We do play Monopoly, but we nearly kill each other. And we all cheat!

"There is this misconception that we're all jailbirds or gangsters or bad people. Most people I know in this world would do anything for you, for a stranger. Anything at all. But I think artists see things different. We see the world differently."

You can take a peek into Rockmore's artistic world by visiting her shop or Tiki Tattoo on Facebook. Her art is on display - both on wall and body canvas.

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