When I first decided that I wanted a three-quarter sleeve tattooed on my arm, I didn’t go to just any old shop. I spent over two years trying to find someone who was not only an artist, but someone who specialized in the style I was interested in. I Googled tattoo shops all over Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Canada — until one day I stumbled upon Justin Ormiston’s website. His business, Electric Uprising, was located in Whistler, British Columbia. I lived there while I was in graduate school working on a student travel visa, and still frequently visit to go mountain biking and skiing.

After falling in love with Justin’s beautifully detailed and shaded drawings, I sent him an email to set up an appointment. This is where things were different from any other place I had been tattooed. Justin responded by saying that yes, he would love to meet me to discuss the possibilities of working together, and that we would decide our next plan of action from there. What makes Justin one of the best is his drive to connect on a deeper level with every person he tattoos. This connection coupled with his talent is what makes Justin’s artwork so memorable and genuine.

When our consult day came, I told him about myself and about what I was interested in getting, and he was on board. We set up a date for me to go in and get tattooed.

My first day in Justin’s chair was an important one for me. I knew that I wanted my arm tattooed, but I was extremely worried about how upset my mom would be if I came home with a part of my body that was so visible covered in art. I know what you may be thinking — why was I, a 29-year-old woman, so afraid of what my mom would think? Well, my parents’ opinions have always been extremely important to me. I hate disappointing them. So, when I got to my appointment and told Justin, he didn’t tell me to just get over it. Instead, he took on the role of a friend. After pausing thoughtfully for a few moments, he said something along the lines of this: “You need to live the life that you want to live. Your mom will love you with or without an arm tattoo. If you decide this isn’t the day to go your own way, that’s fine. But I hope that one day you will.” I thought about what he said. I thought about my mom, then I thought about what I wanted — and then I replied: “Let’s do this.”

Now, on my left shoulder, there’s a tattoo of my dog, Lukos, who is half wolf, half husky. He has been with me my entire adult life, through the good and the bad — and is still my favorite trail sidekick at 13 years old. I am part Native American and part Greek, which is why the woman tattooed just under Lukos has paint on her face and feathers in her hair; and also why Lukos has a headdress. The woman also resembles my mother when she was young. On my under-arm, there is a portrait of my horse, Shaheen, who died at 35 years of age. The tattoos on that arm mean so much to me — I’m happy when they bring other people joy as well.

It’s been five years since I first met Justin. Am I thankful for the beautiful artwork that he created on my arm? Yes. He exceeded my expectations as an artist. But I am more thankful for the friendship that has grown from the hours I spent in his chair and how we have continued to support and follow each other’s families. Friends can come into our lives when we least expect it, in places we least expect them to. So when good people pop into your life, don’t let them get away.

Now, let’s take a few minutes to get to know Justin better, in his own words.

How does one go about getting tattooed by you?

Most of my client base has developed by word of mouth. The best way to go about getting tattooed by me is to send me an email that includes your ideas and concepts or a personal story that you would like to convey in your tattoo. From there, we meet for a one-on-one consultation to discuss the possibilities.

What sets you apart from other tattoo artists?

I’ve been called “The West Coast Ghost” by other tattooists because I am very anti-social when it comes to the tattoo industry. I’d much rather be in nature than at a tattoo convention.

What’s your background?

Before tattooing I was very involved in snowboarding, coaching and mountaineering.

What are your passions?

Surf travel, everything on two wheels, drumming, trail building, hunting for food and of course time with my friends and loved ones.

Any words of wisdom for our readers?

Choosing an artist to tattoo you is in my opinion a close second to choosing a life partner. You would do well to choose an artist whose artwork you are attracted to, someone you enjoy spending time with, laughing, learning and sharing. After all, tattooing is a timeless piece of art and experience forged for a lifetime. Shopping for a tattooist is basically a dating game of the art-collecting world. Don’t pick someone or something to appease anyone but yourself.

The Sea to Sky Highway in Beautiful British Columbia

Justin’s business is now in Squamish, British Columbia, a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts which is 37 miles from Whistler and 40 miles from Vancouver, B.C. Whether you are into hiking, biking, skiing, climbing, kite-boarding, fishing, camping or just sightseeing, the Sea to Sky Highway that runs from Vancouver to Whistler has you covered. It is a beautiful stretch of highway, boasting some of the most breathtaking mountain and water views in North America.

It takes my husband Andy and me just under six hours to get to Squamish from Yakima, so every time I have an appointment, we make a trip out of it. Justin is typically booked up three to six months in advance, but there are other extremely talented tattoo artists at Electric Uprising, like Alex Wigley. Depending on the season, we either bring our skis or our bikes (or both — certain times of the year you can ski at Whistler and mountain bike in Squamish all in the same day) and the rest of our adventure and photography gear and spend a few days on the mountain and on the trail before I get tattooed.