Carlos Torres

Artists - Studios - Issue 7

Accomplished, modest and a maitre of the black and grey realistic tattoo, Carlos Torres gave HeartbeatInk an exclusive interview about his career and his relationship with the tattoo and the Fine Arts.

When and how did you first start tattooing?

I was nineteen years old. In the beginning I used to tattoo at home which was probably not good, but that's how I started. I think my first tattoo was done in 1996. I have an ugly picture of it too (laughs). Back then it was really hard to get an apprenticeship. I slowly learned, practiced more and more on people and then I worked in different shops. I got fired from the first shop I worked in, back in 1998. One day I went to this well-known shop with my portfolio and they were like “you wanna work here”? That shop was “So Call Tattoo” in San Pedro, LA and I stayed there for ten years. That's where I did most of my learning. The guys there, Tom Berg and Ethan Morgan, were geniuses!


Now you have your own tattoo studio?

Yes. It's like a collective of us that own the studio. It's like a private studio – gallery type of thing. So everybody has freedom to come and go. I think that it is good for artists to have freedom, to be able to do what they want to do. I believe that I have learnt the most while being on the road; going to conventions, doing guest spots, so I think it is important to have freedom.

What is your relationship with Fine Art?

I never went to Art School. I never had a “formal” education. I started painting, rather recently, six – seven years ago. Once I realized I liked it, I focussed on it; I started attending some workshops from masters. I enjoy doing drawings and oil paintings. Our tattoo studio looks like an art gallery when you walk in and we are tattooing in the middle.


How would you describe your tattoo style?

I like black and grey. I like realism, but because I draw a lot, I like being able to add something different to it, like a touch of surreal style. I try to add a lot of flow because I think it is important to put flow on the body, so you have a little bit of movement.

Did you start from the beginning doing solely black & grey tattoos, or did it gradually progress?

You have to learn all the rules first and then you develop your personal style. So in the beginning I was doing everything, including colour. Black & grey was something that I was attracted to. I find it timeless; like a black & white photograph will always look cool no matter what. It also works well with tattoos. I am happy to just do black & grey.


How do you see the American tattoo scene at the moment?

I don't do too many shows in America. I only do like two of them. I like coming to Europe to be honest. I like the scene in Europe. Don't get me wrong, I' m not knocking anybody around, but I think that people in Europe are a bit more creative. Back home tattooing is a lot more like portraits - just realism and not so much about the drawing anymore, while out here some people are doing some really cool surreal stuff. It just attracts me.

How do you see the future of tattooing compared to the past?

Well, hopefully we'll all still have jobs (laughs). I have been tattooing for long enough and I have a good taste of the older and the newer tattoo “era”. In the old days tattoo was more “underground” and that made it perhaps cooler. But at the same time, now that the tattoo is more mainstream it is also cool because people can access your work publicly a lot easier and therefore I get more artistic freedom. Nowadays, I receive emails that ask me what I want to do. Moving forward, oil painting and fine art is what I really want to do. I almost want to see who wants it... I put my paintings online, people see them and they want a tattoo of my painting.

So the internet has highly affected tattooing?

Yes, I think that it is a necessity.


What inspires you in order to be creative?

I get inspired from tattoo conventions, museums, talking to people, travelling and observing the different architecture; that's why I like Europe so much, it's perfect for what I do. The architecture here is amazing.

Have you been to Athens? I think it would be interesting for you to visit the Parthenon and other highly important antiquities, as well as some of the museums here...

Unfortunately I haven't been to Athens yet. The truth is that I would love to visit Athens. Perhaps in 2014... Travelling has been a little tough because I don't have time to paint. This year has been really packed. I've been on the road all the time. I kind of have to pick and choose every year which tattoo conventions I'm going to attend; maybe a few new ones. It's hard because I want to be everywhere (laughs).

What would you advise a young person that wants to become a tattooer?

Apprenticeship is the best way; even though I didn't really apprentice and you must work hard. I think that if you put hard work into this business, it will come back to you. It is also very important to stay humble. Nobody would ever be the “best” and nobody probably should ever think that way. There are too many good artists. It is good to be modest; you meet nicer people, like you guys (laughs).


Photos & interview by Ino Mei.


















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Carlos Torres Fine Art







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