Art has always been there for me, through good times and bad. I was born in 1964, so I’ve seen my share of both. Singing and drawing were my first forms of art and self-expression. I was born the fifth child in a Mexican family of seven, in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Art was not esteemed as much in everyday American culture as it is today. I spent my childhood drawing in the back of the class and roaming the streets when not in school. School felt like a prison to me; drawing was my happy escape.
My first recollection of seeing tattoos was at about eight years old. My Uncle Phil and his war buddy Mitch had colorful dragons and anchors and eagles that had been inked overseas to memorialize their time in the Vietnam War. Their tattoos seemed bold and brave to me, and I often wondered at the adventures they certainly must have represented. As I grew older, I began to see more and more tattoos, especially on returning Vietnam soldiers, and tough guys of the Chicano street culture in my neighborhood.
Tattooing saved my life. Through dumb luck or some sort of divine inspiration, the tattoo gods smiled on me and blessed me with this wonderful way to make a living and provide for my family. I have been a professional tattoo artist since 1997, and I am forever grateful to my tattoo familia, clients and coworkers who have filled my days and nights on the journey. I opened my first shop, Easy Street Tattoo, in 1999. I now own both Avenue Tattoo and Anchor Rose Tattoo in Santa Rosa.
Tattooing has changed a lot in the last 25 years. When I started, customers would pick their ideas of self-expression off the shop wall, designs created by tattooers. (I remember fearfully picking a skull for myself off the wall in the ‘80s! Seeing the result filled me with pride and made me feel like the coolest guy in the world.) Today, customers bring their own ideas for us to create for them—infinitely more personal and self-expressive. There is something for everyone, a rich diverse industry where you can be creative and be yourself.
I learned a long time ago from one of the great tattooers that came before my generation: “Take care of tattooing, and it will take care of you.”
You can find me tattooing most evenings at my Anchor Rose location.
532 College Ave, Santa Rosa
3020 Santa Rosa Ave, F