Online UpdateTaming a Tattoo Gun: Going Beyond Aesthetics


El Vaquero Editor in Chief

Don Pyne’s Tattoos

Lilliana Alexandrian’s Tattoos

Jessica Moreno’s Tattoos

Joshua Avery’s Tattoos

Oliver Moore’s Tattoos

Stephen Hotchkiss’ Tattoos

Susan Aksu’s Tattoos

Valerie Walker’s Tattoos

BAùrd By’s Tattoos

Bret Adams’ Tattoos

Carlos Villareal’s Tattoos

They are about as common as breast implants and tummy tucks in Hollywood and heroine junkies on Skid Row. Nowadays tattoos can be seen just about anywhere and on anyone.

While some, mostly old, antiquated folk, deem tattoos obscene, others find that staring down the barrel of a tattoo gun goes beyond just being an art form. Choosing to be inked is a lifestyle.

Oliver Moore, a 23-year-old history major, is covered in tattoos. His affinity with ink dates back to the age of 14, back when Moore claims to have been “young and stupid.” However, it was Moore’s interest in art that led him toward the path of tattoos.

“When I was a little kid I was always drawing, sketching, doing graffiti,” said Moore. “When I first started to learn how to render stuff [objects] I [learned how to do it] by seeing tattoos- All my art went [toward] that direction and [that’s when] I knew I was going to get a lot of tattoos.”

Today, a tiny star emblazoned on his left calf commemorates the beginning of Moore’s love affair with ink. His chest, arms, legs and stomach are adorned with colorful pigments and designs, most of which Moore himself has created. Some, like the traditional Japanese art work, have a significant meaning to Moore, while others are just random renditions of his favorite things, like sushi.

“I love sushi,” he said. “[I] grew up kind of poor so the biggest treat we can get was my dad taking us out for sushi.”

Moore wanted to get something tattooed on his stomach to fill up some empty space. He brainstormed on different designs that would do the trick and at the same time have no real meaning because according to him, he does not “give a s–t.”

“I was thinking of random objects to put [on me] with wings,” he said. “I love sushi and at first I thought about getting a single roll with rice coming off of it, the seaweed kind of getting peeled back, but I said, ‘you know what, f–k it, I’ll just get a whole plate.'”

In the future, when he is financially stable, Moore wants to get more, as he calls them, “skin fillers,” tattoos that do not really mean anything.

“Right now, I don’t have a lot of money,” he said. “I want to be totally covered, at least from neck to wrist.”

As far as what people may say about his tattoos or the designs he chooses to carry on his flesh, he could care less.

“[The] tattoos are for me anyway … I love my tattoos, ’cause they’re mine.”

Baba, owner of Vintage Tattoo Parlor in Highland Park, knows a thing or two about random tattoos. He has done just about every design imaginable on just about every place one can think of.

“I’ve done my initial on a clitoris, and I’ve done ‘f–k the police’ on some guy’s cheek,” said Baba.

The 38-year-old tattoo artist has been in the tattoo game since 1989, when on a whim, he traveled to New York City where he would hone his skills under the guidance of tattooing legend, Jonathan Shaw.

A Los Angeles native, Baba’s interest in tattooing developed as he walked past the World Famous Emporium tattoo shop on his way to school. Then 6 years old, he would hang out in front of the shop only to get kicked-out and have objects thrown at him.

“Guys would throw s–t at me and I’d throw s–t at them,” he said. “The magic of tattoos has been instilled in me since I was a baby.”

Throughout the decades, there has been a surge of tattooing hotbeds. According to Baba, New York City and San Francisco were responsible for pushing the envelope in the ’80s and ’90s, respectively. But times have changed and Baba believes that L.A. is the best place to get a tattoo.

“You have four tattoo shops that are pushing the envelope beyond belief; Shamrock Social Club, Spotlight Tattoo, True Tattoo and some f—–g hell-hole called Vintage,” he said. “Between us four, there’s nothing that can’t be done in this town.”

Baba describes the pain of a tattoo as a cat scratch, with each individual taking something personal away from the experience. He claims that women tend to put more thought into getting tattoos. Student Kate Pollack agrees.

Pollack, a 19-year-old photography major is subtlety inked. Her shoulder blades cater to roses, one representing Pollack and the other representing her sister.

“I really wanted to get something that involved my sister [because] she’s a good influence,” said Pollack. “I wanted [something that represented the] garden of life-It’s [the rose tattoos] a bond [between us] and since she wouldn’t get any tattoos, I got one for her.”

Pollack especially loves the feeling she gets from being inked.

“I’m really small [so] having all [of] these big tattoos makes me feel like I’m so much tougher,” she said.

Among her other pieces, Pollack sports two violin f-holes, tattoos which were inspired by American artist, Man Ray.

Pollack sees tattoos as a positive thing. She sees them as an aesthetic choice that has the potential to change the way one looks at themselves and a way of standing out and releasing stress through the pressure of a needle. She also sees tattoos as a way of bonding with fellow tattooed individuals.

“I get really excited if I go to the grocery store and the checker-has a full sleeve (an arm entirely covered in tattoos) underneath his shirt,” said Pollack. “I’m looking forward to seeing my whole generation grow up. We’re all going to be really interesting looking when we [get] older.”

Pollack will be attending Art Center in the spring as fine arts photography major. Her goal is to someday own an art gallery, job which she assures will not halt her tattoo addiction.

“It’s not going to stop, it is addictive,” she said. “Tattoos are lovely.”