Anna Burns

Every artist has a backstory, every artist came from nothing.

I love to read stories about people and hear about the paths of others, so I had an idea to reach out to my sister colleagues to find out more about them. I was so surprised and excited that they were willing to open up and share their stories with me.

We are more similar than we know, no matter where we are.

This first story is by my dear friend, Anna Burns. I hope you enjoy it. She was very brave to share this with us, thank you Anna!

Facing Your Giants
by Anna Burns
PMU Artist, Atlanta, Georgia

I was born into a creative family.  I grew up watching my father create beautiful wood carvings and paper origami.  The primary caregiver in my home, my mom, sewed beautiful evening dresses.  She also had charcoal portraits she made in college that I discovered hidden in our home which inspired me tremendously.  

My father had a respectable collection of comic books from Jack Kirby and other greats.  I remember thumbing through them as a child with my older siblings, being inspired and drawing from them.  This was our favorite pastime.

I attended a prestigious art school in Pasadena, California and earned a degree in Illustration.  I remember particularly loving figures and portraits as my favorite subjects.  I had hoped to be a fine artist and to produce gallery work but this dream quickly faded as the realization of making a living from it was not very profitable.

Enter the start of my commercial art career path.  I began working for Disney creating products with Disney characters on them. This lead to illustrating how to draw books for Disney and eventually to storyboarding for different animation studios.  The work was fun, creative, and challenging.  It was in this industry that fellow artists shared their love of video game art, manga, and anime to me.

Starting a family was a big adjustment.  I moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta with the focus on being a stay at home mom.  Leaving work to raise a family was a particularly difficult choice since I was on a professional career track.  It really was a hard adjustment but I am glad I did it.

Times were trying with one income.  I was not the best money manager and I loved to frequently spend money to relieve the stress of motherhood and child rearing.  In fact, I was so good at buying merchandise at a discount sale price that one day my husband told me to do him a favor and stop saving him money.  Motherhood is hard work.  Many times when the dishes were cleaned, nothing was noticed.  However, when the dishes were left sitting, I got a complaint.  I sure am glad those days are behind me now.

To help with the financial situation, when my oldest turned six, I started to teach art privately.  I met a tattoo shop owner who wanted to set himself apart as he was tired of tattooing from flash.   I taught Anton some fundamental elements of art: how light and shade effect materials and form, volume, perspective, and composition.  He was so impressed with my knowledge in art that he offered to mentor me as his tattoo apprentice.  It is at my beloved Anton Johnson's tattoo shop, Celebrity Status Tattoos that I first worked as a tattoo artist and discovered a new canvas for my art: the human skin.  Rest in peace, dear brother.

Around the time I was working as a body art tattoo artist, an older friend of mine approached me and mentioned a friend of hers in her sixties was getting a tattoo. I could not wait to hear the rest of the story as I assumed her friend was as conservative and proper as she was.  Needless to say, a few weeks later, she inquired of her friend about the tattoo and it turned out to be a nipple tattoo.  This was the first time I had heard of medical tattooing or permanent cosmetics.  She sparked in me the idea of pursuing permanent cosmetics and I have never turned back since.

Thinking back, my mother-in-law, my friend, is a breast cancer survivor.  I remember her getting her areola tattooed and it had a big impact on her confidence.  I set my mind to wanting to help women regain their confidence and to learn areola tattooing. After doing my due diligence, I enrolled in a permanent cosmetics school in Florida.  I used some of the family savings and I went to live and study in Florida for three and a half months.  My boys were eight and six at the time. It was a huge financial and emotional sacrifice.  I missed my children incredibly each and every day I was away from them.  And, they missed me.  Four hundred and sixty hours later, I earned certifications in many aspects of permanent cosmetics including: eyeliner, eyebrows, lips, areola, tattoo removal, skin needling for scar reduction and collagen rejuvenation.

I started my business with no business plan and not much in my pocket.  I had a shot in the dark and I went for it.  I am still learning about budgets and expenses as I go.  What I love about being a business owner is it gives me scheduling and artistic freedom.  That said, the freedom of expressing and developing my own artistic style means a lot to me as well.  Being an artist in the field of permanent cosmetics is not easy.  There are so many skills one has to acquire: professionalism, customer service, bedside manner, design, color, attention to detail, mastering the skin, your technique and your equipment whether manual or machine.  As with learning any new techniques or aftercare, unwanted healed results  do happen occasionally.  Most times they can be adjusted at the next visit. However, more often than not, I want to hang my hat and give up because I feel so deflated.  Booking appointments and trying to keep a full schedule can also be a challenge when you’re starting out.  When depression hits, I linger in bed a little longer than I should...then at some point, I get up, turn on my computer and start looking at the different forums and get inspired by the best works out there.  This spurs me into getting out a practice pad, needle, gloves and ink out and practicing.  

I would have to say Tina Davies, Lanette Scherr, Mary Ritcherson, Rhonda Vacanti, Will Anthony, Daria Chuprys, Shauna Macgrath, Linda de Leon, Michelle Knapp, Lillian Lang have been generous with giving me their time, moral support, or pushed me to stay focused on my journey.  These artists, their stories and journeys are a great inspiration to me.  It is very important to have people that truly care about you and want to help you along in your journey to success.  I would say, treat everyone with respect and reverence and they will open their hearts and minds to bring you up along with them.

Anna Burns, CPCP
Anna Burns Permanent Cosmetics
1218 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Suite 204
Atlanta, Georgia 30327
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“I set out to design a microblade that I knew would put our needs first as artists.”

- Tina Davies