- Posted by Carl Hallowell
- On May 7, 2017
Please welcome my first guest article ever on my website, “Behind the Ink” by Lombardo Avila. Lombardo is a great young customer of mine, perhaps an old soul, maybe just a hard worker, above all a good person. Pictured is his sleeve which I helped to create. I handled the praying hands, La luna, Atlas, 13, horseshoe and Zacatecas, Man’s Ruin, and stars and dots background for him. He chose to include me in his article, which I greatly appreciated. I am proud of the statements he quoted me on- I feel it represents my outlook as a tattoo artist well. Perhaps the inclusion of this article on my site will offer you fresh insight into my work and work ethic, and introduce you to this great young man who is already in the process of making his mark on the beautiful world in a big way. Please enjoy.
Behind the ink
Sal Trevino, 56, started tattooing professionally at the age of 13 in 1974. In that age, he said tattooing was just a way to make money. His customers were the type of people society frowned upon.
“The fact is that back in the day, people that got tattooed were looked upon as second class citizens. My customers were pretty much sailors, marines, bikers, hookers, you name it.” Trevino said.
Nowadays, it seems as if you can’t walk down the street without seeing someone sporting some type of ink on their body.
Trevino says tattoos have always been popular but are being welcomed into society now more than ever.
“Now they’re more accepted, not so much popular, actually it’s always been popular it just hasn’t been as open as it is today. You see more of them now as to back then, they were more hidden.”
29% of adults now have at least one tattoo, up from 21% in 2012 and 16% in 2003, a recent Harris Poll found. Millennials are especially tat-happy: 47% of people ages 18 to 35 are inked, according to the poll.
Bryan Black, 29, is a tattoo artist on his eighth year of tattooing professionally. He agrees that getting a tattoo is becoming more popular due to the internet.
“Totally. Just because of how easy it is to find information. You can Google tattooers and information comes up. Information is so abundant on the Internet.”
Carl Hallowell, 43, has been tattooing since 1996. He also agrees, but for a completely different reason. He believes that they appeal to the younger generation due to wanting to get in touch with the past.
“It makes sense to the younger generation. They are looking for a way to connect to their heritage, older traditions, and spirituality in an age of technology and disconnectedness with the earth and each other.”
Even given the obvious, being that the ink is permanent on your skin, not everyone realizes this. It could even hinder your ability to get a job.
“They’re forever,” Trevino says. “Like an example, we had some girls come in wanting to get their fingers done and that’s not something we do here. They’ll say it’s their tattoo but when asked where they got it and they say our shop, people will say ‘Oh my god, they did that?’ They don’t realize it’s a forever type thing, they think it’s a fad, especially much younger people.”
Black also agrees with what Trevino has to say, albeit in a different way.
“It’s permanent, it’s going to last on your skin until the day you die. Everyone’s so quick to buy a Rolex that costs like 8 grand, which someone can steal, but there’s no way to lose a tattoo unless someone chops your arm off.”
Jason Fancher started tattooing in 1992. He says that back when he started and throughout the decade up until early 2000’s, it was mostly men getting tattooed.
“Historically, it’s been mostly men getting tattooed.” Fancher says. “But now, I’d say it’s just about equal to be honest. It’s not really taboo anymore, sometimes I even feel like women get tattooed more nowadays.”
Black agrees with Fancher, although he felt that there is no differences in tattoos between the genders. “Who cares. Honestly. It’s a tattoo.” Black says. “You don’t look at a client that way and no artist here in the shop does either.”
“The only difference for me is that women have curves. When I tattoo, I try to accentuate that, but really there is no difference. Everyone has the right to wear a tattoo.” Black adds.
“There’s some girls now that rock some tough tats. Something you’d use to see like a sailor or something wearing. And then there’s some dudes that want artsy stuff too, but that’s very recent. I see it going both ways.” Fancher said.
And then there is the matter of what future employers policies may be concerning tattoos.
“I think most of them don’t realize it could stop you from getting a job as far as other things,” Trevino said.
At one point, most businesses forbid any tattoos from being visible at work.
Many of the 45 million people in the U.S. who have at least one tattoo are likely to face extra hurdles in the workplace, with 37 percent of HR managers saying body art has a limiting influence on career potential, according to research by the skin-care boutique Skinfo.com.
Jason Adams, 34, is an HVAC supervisor for a commercial leasing company. He has various tattoos on his arm, and as a result has to wear long sleeves at work due to company policy.
“Unfortunately my tattoos have nothing to do with my ability to run a company, or a division.” Adams says. “But it did hold me back coming up as a young guy.”
“They’d say, ‘Oh look at his tattoos, he must be bad, he must be incompetent, he’s going to steal from us,’ instead of judging me of my ability to do the job or not.” Adams said.
Although Adams has struggled with being judged at first glance, he says he doesn’t regret it, nor would change anything.
“I wouldn’t go back. It’s made me who I am and it’s made me work harder than the next person, it’s made me earn it,” said Adams. “It’s not affected me performance wise, am I who I am, and my tattoos don’t have anything to do with my abilities.”
Tattoos are not just a one-time experience. Their significance goes beyond their actual meaning.
Hallowell points out that tattoos can actually help a person in various ways.
“Tattoos can help a person become familiar with dealing with pain and discomfort, lead them to develop or reinforce the values of patience and respect (particularly for their elders), and increase their sense of self esteem.”
Hallowell said he feels very strongly about how tattooing has evolved from its traditional roots and how every year it seems as if the real spirit of tattooing is being forgotten.
“They say the world’s’ oldest profession is prostitution. And on that prostitute was a tattoo.” Black quoted a famous tattoo artist.
To say when and where tattooing originated would be a lie. It’s difficult to pinpoint where it came from. In the USA, records date back to the 1800’s with Japanese and Polynesian immigrants tattooing in port cities.
Martin Hildebrant, a German immigrant, was the first recorded professional tattoo artist. He opened a shop in New York City in 1846, and tattoos became popular throughout the mid 1800’s and during the civil war, especially with servicemen.
“Tattooing is like anything else- it becomes softer and more watered down the more it attracts people who do not really have the heart to be involved with it,” said Hallowell. “The real soul of tattooing becomes more hidden each year, as that which masquerades as tattooing becomes more prevalent in the world of consumer exploitation.”
Hallowell perseveres to keep the spirit alive. Specializing in American traditional and Japanese tattoos, he plans to upholds the value that goes back decades.
“I will continue to preserve the traditions of old school American tattoo work, as well as that of the older tradition of Japanese tattooing,” said Hallowell. “It is very important for me to be a link in this chain- one that stretches back in time and will continue long into the future.”
Black quoted tattoo artist Bob Roberts, when asked what he thinks the future of tattooing holds: “It’s reached a level that’s so gnarly that I would’ve never dreamed of. It just used to be tough guy kind of thing, now it’s on a level where like, this is amazing fucking art.”
“There is no doubt that the whole of tattooing has come a very long way from when Trevino would tattoo customers that were “second-class citizens” and was only a way to make money. Whether or not it’s going to last… It’s reaching a huge level, a huge peak. There really is no limit with tattooing.” Black said.
All these artists love and enjoy what they do. For Black, it’s the professionalism involved in the trade. For Hallowell, it gives him a sense of accomplishment and pride to see the client happy. For Trevino, it’s an artistic outlet– a different media to display his artwork
“I just don’t do tattoos, I paint, I draw, I enjoy it,” he explains. “I mean, what other job can you have where you just listen to music all day and talk shit, you know?”