I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. I was always drawing, since I was a kid, and mostly tried to render civil war paintings from civil war history books. I attended Charleston County School of the Arts for both middle and high school, where I studied music and played the cello. My older sister was a musician and pushed me to study music and play the cello.
I have been tattooing for three years now. My uncle was biker, and he was covered in tattoos, which always fascinated me as a child. I would always put those temporary tattoos on my skin, trying to be like him.
I got my first tattoo when I was 18 at a shop in Charlotte owned by an old biker by the name of Snake. My first tattoo was an American Traditional panther on my arm. Since that day I knew I wanted to be a tattooist, and I tried to get as many tattoos as I could.
I moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when I was 18, where I attended Coastal Carolina University. I did my first tattoo on my roommate in college, which was some tribal dragonfly he chose off the internet. I fell in love with the trade right then and there.
Every summer I would spend back in Charleston working as a line cook. I remember I would take a portion of every check and get tattooed whether it was a big tattoo or just a small tattoo. I would watch every move of the tattooist, hoping to pick up a new technique or trick.
My senior year of college I wandered into Karma Tattoos of Myrtle Beach to get a skull that looked like a Big Mac on my finger covered. This is where I met tattooist Miguel Valentin, who did my tattoo. I kept asking questions about tattoo techniques and apprenticeships. He told me I could bring him some of my artwork and he would critic it crucially for me.
I spent two weeks putting a portfolio together and took it to him. He looked at it and told me I had potential, and said that I could hang around the shop. However, I wasn’t allowed to step foot in the shop without a new drawing, and my first task was hearts and banners, 5 to a page. I did what he said, thinking I did an awesome job. He looked at and said “Do it again”.
I did as I was told and showed the next pages of hearts and banners to him and got the same reply of “Do it again”. I hung around the shop for a couples of months drawing and asking questions before he took me on as his apprentice.
I apprenticed under Miguel for about a year, where I learned how to tattoo the right way, and how to respect and appreciate the art. He always was testing me, mostly mentally. Miguel ended up having to move to Florida, due to family obligations. Two months after Miguel left, I moved to an area right outside Charlotte where I work in a tattoo shop for about a year. It was definitely an awesome experience, however I felt I wasn’t growing as an artist.
Miguel reached out to me, saying he was going to be in Myrtle for a couple days, so I drove down to see him. He asked if I would like to come to work at Stevie Moon Tattoo Studio where he was working. I replied that I would have to think about it.
About a month passed, and I gave him a call to ask if that offer was still good. He told me he would have to talk to Stevie about it, and he would get back to me within a couple days. A couple days passed and he called back telling me that I needed to come down for couple days to show him and Stevie that I was serious about it.
I drove down to Fort Lauderdale and spent a couple days with him and Stevie, talking about art and tattoos. The atmosphere that these two had created within the studio was incredible and welcoming. I knew by the vibe and experience after those couple days that this is where I was going to grow, not only as an artist, but as an individual. It was right where I needed to be.
Stevie and Miguel offered me a spot in the studio and replied “give me one month and I’ll be down”. I went back to Charlotte, finished up that month at the shop I was at, sold my furniture, and headed for Fort Lauderdale.