We had the good fortune of connecting with Courtney Michael and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Courtney Michael, how do you think about risk?
I believe no risk, no reward. It’s super hard and can be scary to take a risk, to jump into the unknown, but if you have passion and drive towards the risk you’re taking, then you’re that much closer to your dreams. I think intention is everything, if you have a positive intention behind moving forward in your life, then risks can be a huge learning experience. Risk taking has played a huge role in my life and career! I feel like one of the biggest risks I took (so far) is learning to tattoo, I put 100% of my being into my apprenticeship, knowing that tattooing is what I’ve always dreamed of. Whatever obstacles I had to encounter, I knew I just had to put my head down and get to work in order to get to where I wanted to be. It was very challenging, but in the end the reward was worth the risk!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Oh man, I’ve loved art my whole life. I remember seeing my first heavily tattooed person when I was younger, I was obsessed to say the least. I told myself that I wanted to learn everything I could about tattoos, and I never lost sight of that dream. I took a few art classes in highschool but really got to explore art in college. I just loved creating with my hands. I graduated SDSU with a degree in graphic design, which wasn’t my forte to be honest. I wasn’t good at the computer arts, there was just something about painting, Screenprinting, drawing; I just excelled better trusting my hands than a computer mouse.
Back to my career, it was kind of a long and disappointing road trying to get a tattoo apprenticeship, but a dream I never gave up on. I think part of thickening your skin is being rejected or doing the hard work to make sure it’s what you really want. I walked around tattoo shops all around San Diego, with 3-4 portfolios full of tattoo paintings. Rejected at all of them until I was put in contact with the owner of Nothing Sacred from an old coworker. I brought in my portfolios, had a sit down with Todd and started in the shop the next day! I didn’t think I could feel more excited. My dream was turning into a reality. After a 2.5 year apprenticeship that survived a pandemic, I ‘graduated’ to a tattooer. I had a lot of hard days in my apprenticeship, what kept me moving forward, after what seemed to be 2 steps back every other day, was progression. I slowly started to see progression, and I never want to stop! I never want to stop learning and growing.
I want to create things for people that make them happy. I want people to leave the tattoo shop with the best experience. It’s not about the money to me, I understand it’s a job but I’m so lucky every single day that I found my passion and I’m living my dream. I’m forever grateful for that, I’m absolutely obsessed with my life, and it’s just the beginning!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Not to be biased but I think we all know how magical Southern California is! I’ve lived in San Diego my whole life, again very grateful. If I was asked for my perfect week in San Diego here are a few things I would say to check out:
-the beach! Let’s go to wind n sea, it’s my favorite. After wind n sea we’ll grab a bite to eat at my all time favorite vegan cafe ‘Trilogy’, oh man the perfect tacos are to die for!
-the zoo! I mean it is world famous, but it’s also a nice few mile walk if you want to try to see as many animals as you can! I wouldn’t recommend it in one day, but maybe break it up into two days and plan out what you want to see.
-a hike! We’ll go to Torrey pines for a nice mellow beach hike, you hike up a hill but the views are worth it!
-a taco shop. I don’t want to say just any taco shop but San Diego has the best taco shops! If I have to pick one for a visitor I’d say check out Pokez downtown, they have meat and vegan options so it’s super versatile and DELICIOUS.
Those are definitely on the top of my list. There’s so many neighborhoods in San Diego to explore that all have a different vibe. Downtown has some cool rooftop bars, in north park you can find a lot of crafty little bars and restaurants, university heights has some yummy places to eat and a cute little park, ocean beach is our OG beach neighborhood, pacific beach is there for all your party needs. San Diego is truly a rad place to grow up! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to my family and my friends, and especially my mentor Todd Smithson. My family always supported me in following my dreams, never questioned what I decided to do with my career, just wanted me happy. My friends are my cheerleaders, they believe in me before I do. And my mentor Todd, he had the patience to give me a proper tattoo apprenticeship and taught me everything I know so far.