2009: The Rise and Fall of Kat Von D


As we draw this year to an end, we take a look at an artist that hasn’t been written about a lot lately. 2009 started off as a promising year for LA Ink star Kat Von D. Releasing a book in January, Kat had a sea of devoted fans, many people looking to have work done at her shop and many opportunities in front of her. How, the tattoo community doesn’t seem interested. People aren’t watching the show as much. Tattoo magazines don’t feature her. Tattoo artists will write “No Kat Von D fans” in job adverts. So, what happened?

Kat’s book became a best seller when it was released, and is still quite popular. However, the book left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths. There are some obvious mistakes in the book which should have been left out, and people were put off by how much the book was about her, not the art form. Most were just unimpressed by the lack of real custom pieces, especially where the few she did have were overshadowed by portrait tattoos.

After seeing Kat’s book, everyone wanted to see something else. Whether it was a fan of Kat’s herself who wanted to see more tattoo artists or someone looking for an artist with more talent, people wanted to see more. And they got it.

Kat Von D would probably agree herself there are artists right now who are ten times better than her. Unfortunately for her, if you’re in the spotlight, not being the best is not going to cut it. People saw the work of Joshua Carlton, Chad Koeplinger and (because you all know he’s my favourite!) Thomas Hooper. They were so much better than Kat, and so people started looking at their work, their books, their portfolios and anything else you can put under someone’s nose. Of course, those artists will never be as famous as Kat Von D in popular culture, but within the tattoo community they are a lot more respected.

Of course, the art itself isn’t just why people are turning off their TV sets and looking at real tattoo artists. Those who became interested in tattoos through Kat’s show have had time to stop and wonder why her hairless cat has been allowed to walk over tattoo machines, or why no health inspector has seen the cigarette butts next to her station and closed her shop down. They know now that a tattoo from Von D could be a risky one. And, with that leaves a few more Kat fans feeling a little disappointed in what they trusted to be a safe tattoo shop.

It seems, with Kat Von D, that the things she promised she never gave. She said she was a great tattoo artist and artist, yet stuck to portraits. She preached about safe tattooing, yet tattooed rock stars in their tour busses. As much as it seems we’re bashing Kat here, we’re not. She could still regain the respect of tattoo artists and those in the community. LA Ink is a decent TV show, as long as people realise that that’s all it is, a TV show. However, the smoke and mirrors have come crashing down on Von D’s tattooing, and it’s up to her to prove to people she really is a capable tattoo artist, because those fans she has left aren’t going to be fooled for long.

15 Responses to “2009: The Rise and Fall of Kat Von D”
  1. tatmatt says:

    Ok kiddies, you need a little lesson here. Apparently you all don’t know how reality t.v. shows work. We all know Aubrey was worthless and a total joke on the show but, she came from another joke of a reality show(Rock of Love 2)so her inclusion in LA Ink was totally scripted by the producers of the show. They set it up so that she was hired by Kat’s brother and though it was obvious she had no tattoo shop experience, they asked Kat to keep her on for the added drama(because the show needed something to retain viewership or it wouldn’t have lasted one full season). TLC offered to compensate Aubrey for hanging around and appearing to deal with the “abuse”.

    And Cory(Mr. “No Personality”), Dan, Khoi, Kat’s sister and Kat were asked to insult Aubrey and Paulie at every opportunity. Think about it kids. That simple-minded drama made you guys come back week after week to see how things unfolded in the shop. Shame on you for falling for it.

    And you’re right. Kat is not necessarily a talented tattoo artist-she’s way too young and too limited. She got her start on Miami Ink only because she and friends in the business shoveled in pics of herself and her work when the producers were looking to spice up the Miami show. And they picked her because of her outrageous appearance(which for a somewhat attractive young woman is pretty unusual). From there she got her own show because young naive rocker/goth kids thought she was the greatest thing to come along in years. Now Kat is falling out of favor with those who know better. I just hope she doesn’t go back on the bottle.

  2. Mel says:

    Um, I don’t want to sound like an arsehole, but no one writing on Tattoosday UK really does need a “lesson”, we don’t talk about TV shows, this article was about Kat herself. Admittedly, you can’t talk about her without talking about the TV shows she was in, but the focus here was on her book and her tattooing.

    Nonetheless, what you do have to say is pretty interesting, I didn’t know some of that before! It really goes to show how much these “tattoo artists” have compromised their reputation and work to be on TV. I don’t like to bitch, but it just doesn’t surprise me that she got on the show because of how she looks. Tattoo TV shows can be great if the focus is on tattooing, it just seems that shows like the ones Kat Von D is in bring the whole standard right down.

    Good point about her not drinking again, I hope she doesn’t either, I think that’d be the last straw with a lot of people who already don’t like her; hopefully it never gets that bad again for her.

  3. Ken Dixon says:

    I’d very very happy with a Kat tat. All the folk at that studio seem to be very talented.

  4. Gypsy says:

    well… It is my dream for Kat Von D to do a Phoenix tat for me when I have one years sober. I am a recovering alcoholic myself at only 21 I knew that if I didn’t stop drinking I was going to lose even more then I already had. It takes a lot of courage to realize and accept ok wow. I really am an alcoholic and if I take just one drink it will lead to 10 drinks and then 20 and so now. From their if you are truly alcoholic it will lead to violince instiutions and death or jail.
    It really is life or death. Wether she goes to AA or not I don’t know but I do know that she is a beautiful, smart sexy, woman, maybe she is note is all she is cracked up to be but I she has real talent and no one is a saint the point is she is willing to grow and I think she willing to grow as an artist. However she is known mostly as a portrait tattooer.

  5. Miami ink is a great serie, I really love kate she is so cool. I hope they will continue it forever:-).

  6. maori tattoo says:

    LA ink is an awesome show, I really love the cool tattoos, that are done during the show. A great source of inpiration.

  7. I think Kat is the biggest tattoo artist ever. Her tattoos are just amazing. I love to watch LA ink with her.

  8. Rita T. B. says:

    I stopped watching LA Ink about a year ago. Got sick and tired of the constant circus like melodramatic nonsense atmosphere which Kat seemed to always produce around her. Casually tuned in about a month ago to learn several things, not the least of which was that Kat had a drinking problem at that time. It all made sense then. I admire her very much now, she seems to be struggling. I know the silliness and “character” on the show are there to produce drama. I don’t think they are needed; I really hated Aubry. I just like looking at Kat, and I am a 58 year old woman, and certainly not a lesbian. I hope the show stays on the air for a long, long time, or until Kat gets tired of the hype.

  9. David D says:

    First off, I have zero tats. Nothing against them, just not for me. However my wife has two full sleeves and many others about her gorgeous body. If there is one observation that I can make as someone basically “outside” the scene is that the drama seen in LA Ink can, at times, seem rather tame to the drama I’ve seen my wife’s artist go through at various shops he’s been with. No thanks, I’ll stick with the trades myself!

    • Mel says:

      Yeah, sometimes tattoo studios can be full of drama. To be honest, though, it makes the ones that are chilled out and care about the art a little more special, personally. It’s like any job really, I guess- some people would rather take on the “rock star” status and tell their friends they’re cool for being an artist, and that’s fine, as long as they don’t expect to be in business in a couple of year’s time, know what I mean? It’ll come to a point eventually, where all the posers and jokers are gone, and we’ll be left with good, quality artists. Or at least, that’s what I’m hoping for!
      Thanks for reading, David :)

  10. Rafi says:

    hey i m like you Kat Von D will you meri mi

  11. Jemmy says:

    I must admit, I am one of those “naive goth/rocker kids” you talk about. I discovered tattooing through watching LA Ink a couple of years ago. It’s what made me study and work my arse off in order to become an apprentice, not for the fame, but for the smiles on peoples faces when they’re impressed with your artwork.
    It was only later on that I discovered the show (plus Miami Ink) was very over-dramatised and unrealistic, and that I could find more impressive artists hidden outside of the media.
    However, I still like to watch it now and again, just to see what’s happening in Hollywood, and I still admire Kat Von D and her show for inspiring me in the first place, even though I’ve now moved on to better things…

    • Mel says:

      I don’t think you’ve been naive for letting something inspire you, Jemmy! People have been inspired by a lot worse, and let beautiful things come from their efforts! I think the thing with Kat is though, that there are a lot more people than you who’ve ended up finding better artists. When everyone’s turned away from Kat, I reckon she’ll end up being better, to be honest, because she’ll have to try a lot harder to maintain the attention she gets. From the episodes I saw, that is what she wants, yeah? ;)

      Sounds like you have a good thing going on though mate- if you ever have the time, I’d love it if you shared some pictures if you’ve already started on your first tattoos :)

  12. Kate says:

    I am totally over Kat. I use to be a HUGE fan. Last season instead of letting her show be about the artists work and the clients stories she allowed the addition of Aubrey…huge mistake. I also really resented the way she treated Corey. I don’t believe that was scripted. I think she started taking him for granted and he got burned out. She came across as having a HUGE ego, and being a total whiner. I hope this season she goes back to being about the tattooing and the clients that go to her shop. As far as her work, she is good and can do relly decent flash work and totally rockin portraits. Not everyone can do portrait work and she excels in that. No one can be perfect in all tattoo genres. I wish her well, but she is going to have to really work at turning things around and get rid of the soap opera drama. I don’t think dragging Nikki Sixx in is going to help her either.

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