Derek Portra Tattoo

Derek Poitra

Custom Tattoos & Fine Art Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation

About Derek Poitra

The Beginning

So this tattoo art entered my life kind of out of boredom and the help from my neighbor Ozzy. I was sitting on my porch in the housing projects back home (Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation) like I usually did back then, I was 13 years old and I was drawing. My neighbor came over and looked at what I was drawing and said “ you should tattoo that on me”. I laughed at him and said I don’t even know how to tattoo and I’m 13. The next day he came over and showed me this home made machine he made for me to tattoo him with. I was really intrigued at the prospect of tattooing something I drew on somebody’s body, how rad. I did not know anything about the standards of practice in this industry; I didn’t even use gloves, or alcohol to clean the skin, what the hell was a stencil? I tattooed with some ink he had made for me, ashes or something like that, with spit for the carrier. Hahaaa.. This was my first stab at it, so to speak. I ended up tattooing a lot of people for the next year or so. Upgraded to India ink and still never wore gloves. I think about this brief stint in my life and knowing what I know now it fucking grosses me out. I never considered tattooing as a career and just had fun marking up people. I always had the drive to be an artist and pursued painting and drawing as my carrier choice. I wanted to be a fine artist and that’s what I pursued over the next 8 or 9 years of my life. I eventually went back to tattooing out of survival; paintings and drawings are hard to sell. I still never knew the true potential of this choice. I moved forward really uneducated and in the dark. I started tattooing for free at first and was horrible at it, made a lot of scars and really horrible permanent marks on people. This was the beginning…


As most things are when you move forward with them they grow and you grow with them. These bad experiences are almost necessary to achieve the kind of growth that is needed for someone trying to learn something, especially something as vast as tattooing. I know that not everyone wants to start out this way but it seems to be the normal way of educating yourself when you have no other option. It is good to know what not to do and not repeat these mistakes. Although I am not a master I always remember a quote I read that says “ a master has failed more times than a beginner has even attempted “ so this helps me accept that I must fail to move ahead. I want to say thank you to all of my past victims for helping me grow as an artist and tattooer, some of whom I still have the honor of tattooing since I was 13. I want to say that it has been a long journey since then to now, I have sought out the proper way and met some really awesome people along this path that have given me what words cant describe. I have been lucky to have meet some really great artists and learned from them what I would consider the proper way of conducting myself in this art medium. I want to say thank you to these individuals.

I was told that we all start out in the muck and some of us rise out of the muck and become the cream. I think this is true with anything in life. When things get hard and faith becomes slim you have to push yourself to keep going and never lose the belief in your vision. People in your life that you love and love you are sometimes the worst support when you set out to do something different than the normal. They will tell you to go and get a “real” job and try as hard as they can to bring you back to their reality. Hold on tight to what you believe and don’t lose faith in yourself. There seems to be a need for passionate people in life, they are the ones that can inspire others to lift themselves up and step out of the darkness and become the light. I am a believer that from humble beginnings come great things. I want to become great at what I do I want to become something better than I am and continue to try and achieve my truest genetic potential. This story is what I believe to be a reflection of that. I never see myself as better than others or having all that I need, what I know for sure is that I am grateful and humbled to be able to do what I do for a living.


Inspire Me

Inspiration, as an artist it comes from many different sources and is one of the most important elements to creating art. I find inspiration in nature and in the city, from the land and the people and things I encounter on my journey through life. I also find inspiration from the ideas I get from people when they tell me what they want for a tattoo, I wish I could say that I am inspired by every idea I hear but sadly I am only inspired by what catches a current interest I have, or something that I have always wanted to do as a tattoo. I like doing colorful multi session work that I design with your idea. I like doing portraits occasionally and some black and grey work.

Things that I do not like to tattoo are tribal, drawings that your little brother or cousin drew for your tattoo, infinity symbols and the like, and your boyfriends name on your neck. Things like this are not that appealing to me as an artist or person.

I would like to say that I am honored to be able to tattoo people for a living and it is something that I take seriously and have a great amount of respect for. This tattoo medium is a vary demanding medium to work in, it is equally demanding on the artist as well as the collector. The time and effort put forth to do this is no small undertaking. If you choose to start a large project with me please consider the time and money it will take to finish this commitment and make sure that we can do it in a timely manner. Pain is another factor in getting tattooed, you have to be able to deal with the pain of getting tattooed for long sessions and make sure that you eat good and bring a snack to eat during breaks, this always helps. There are steps to creating all out custom tattoos that sometimes cant be put on hold and done later, they have to be done to completion before we can stop. So if you are considering me to tattoo you please keep these things in mind and consider the commitment we are going to make to each other.

I would like to tattoo people that are willing to take a leap of faith with me and trust in my ability. People that are dreamers and believers in the impossible, the seekers and open minds of this time in life . So if you have a dream or a vision lets grab it together and make it happen. To me this medium is more than just an artistic expression, it is a leap of faith and a spiritual journey. I take this to heart every time I am asked to tattoo somebody no matter what size the tattoo ends up being.  

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