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Meet Karina Brownlee - Class of 2013

Karina Brownlee graduated from Fort Madison High School in 2013. During high school, she was involved in choir, art club, yearbook, and football managing her senior year. In yearbook, Karina was the photo editor her junior year and editor her senior year. Karina Brownlee now works as a tattooer at Nine Dot Studio in Burlington, Iowa.

Change of Plans

Originally, Karina’s plan in high school was to become a graphic designer. She wanted to work for a magazine. “My junior year of college I started working at a tattoo shop as a body piercer. I fell in love with tattoos and working in a shop environment. Then I realized that graphic design wasn’t for me and that becoming a tattooer was what I really wanted to do. I had known Chuck Day, a local tattooer, for a few years. I let him know that I was moving home and volunteered to help around the shop. Then I spent time answering phones, talking to clients, cleaning, and sketching.

Eventually, I built up the courage to ask him for an apprenticeship. After a month-long “trial period,” he said yes. I spent the next nine months improving my drawing skills, practicing tattoo designs, and completing a daily drawing assignment from Chuck. When my drawings started improving, Chuck decided to let me practice tattooing on grapefruits and fake skin. Chuck always told me that the day I tattooed my first human would be a surprise, and that I wouldn’t know until I got to the shop. I came to work on August 10, 2018, and Chuck said, “Call your Uncle Bob,” whom I had been keeping on call for this very moment for the past month. Bob got to the shop, and we decided to tattoo a small honey bee on his thigh, and the rest is history,” said Brownlee.

Karina’s first tattoo!

Influenced by FMHS

Karina’s career path was influenced by her time at Fort Madison High School. “Erin Slifer and Kathy Neff inspired me to become a better artist. Todd Mcghghy and Andrew Troxel inspired me to become a better person,” said Brownlee. Her involvement in high school led to what she does now. “If I hadn’t taken art classes or been in yearbook, I would have never realized I could pursue art as a career. I chose this career, knowing that it’s the only thing that would make me truly happy in life. I wake up blessed to be doing what I love,” said Brownlee.

In addition, Karina Brownlee likes to spend time gardening and doing yard work with her grandmother. She also enjoys practicing yoga and spending a lot of time in nature.

Favorite Memory at FMHS

“One of my favorite memories is running to center field, after watching the Bloodhounds win the homecoming game my senior year,” said Brownlee.

Advice for Current FMHS Students

“Trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to change paths if you’re not happy with the current one you’re on,” said Brownlee.

Karina’s Goals for the Future

“I want to continue to grow as a tattooer/artist, travel more for work, and continue to make my clients feel good about themselves,” said Brownlee.

Life Motto

“You can’t soar with eagles if you’re spending time with chickens.”

What Does FMCSD’s “Come Learn and Grow” Mean to You?

“I think it means that you should continue to show up for yourself on a daily basis and never stop challenging yourself to become a better person. Be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking and how they can improve your life and mindset. I always try to remain self-aware and work on improving areas where I know I am lacking,” said Brownlee.

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