Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

  • The Hornet and Inside Fullerton are on summer break and will return on August 26, 2024. Please send any tips or inquiries to Jessica Langlois at [email protected].

The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Tattoos, and The Stories they tell

Tattoos have for centuries been a form of storytelling — from each line, shape, color and form tracing a particular narrative. Although not a typical canvas, tattoo artists give a home to meaningful art onto the human body, portraying the person’s most cherished stories.

Tattoos have a long history across the globe. Throughout each culture, tattoos carry different meanings and give individuals the opportunity to hold these on their very being. Local tattoo artists of Orange County share their most memorable tattoos in reflection on how they got into the business of body art.

Chris de Armas working on stencil for client
Chris de Armas working on stencil for client

Chris de Armas, 33, a tattoo artist at American Vintage Tattoo, Anaheim, (@chris_de_armas) had an affinity with art, from an early age, as his father was an oil painter. Around the age of 13, De Armas recalls recreating the famous “Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette” (1885) by Vincent van Goh. To do this, De Armas would use his father’s oil paints, cementing his connection with art.

During his teenage years, De Armas would often accompany his older brother to get tattooed, and, as he would watch, his passion for art grew, specifically the passion for creating body art. Influenced by the “Punk-Rock” sound, De Armas saw tattooing as a way to follow the “do whatever you want” lifestyle.

At the age of 18, after networking with tattoo artists, De Armas obtained an apprenticeship that allowed him to experience first-hand how others got inked. De Armas’ tattoo style is American traditional, with additional experience in fine line and Japanese tattooing. When it comes to his most meaningful piece, De Armas showcases a “12, 12, 12” tattoo on his thumb. This tattoo is about his father, himself, and his son, who although born on different months, share the 12th day in common.

Chris de Armas, "12, 12, 12"
Chris de Armas, “12, 12, 12”

Leann Galvan, 29, is a tattoo Artist at Autumn Moon Tattoo, Anaheim, (@Leanimal_Tattoos). Growing up, Galvan knew that she wanted to be an artist. Sketching and drawing have always been a crucial aspect in her life. In high school, she practiced her artistic skills, where she moved past black and white drawings to incorporate color. Originally Galvan wanted to be a graphic designer, but after considering her peers’ push for her the join the tattoo industry, Galvan decided to look for an apprenticeship. She has been professionally tattooing for 10 years and her style is neo-traditional, while also expanding outside of this style to meet her client’s needs.

Finding inspiration during tough days is what fellow tattoo artists share in common, especially when surrounded by innovative peers and visionary clients, who bring their own stories to the artists’ ink table.

“We’re a different type of artist. We’re commissioned artists, so I’m not creating things that are inspired by my life, I’m creating things inspired by your life. So that’s what keeps me going. I have inspiration every day through my clients,” says De Armas.

When enduring times of difficulty, Galvan finds inspiration in the shop. “I do it for people, I do it to make people happy.” In relation to facing adversities, Galvan’s most meaningful tattoo is a portrait of Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture, done by her former boss.

Leann Galvan&squot;s portrait of Michelangelo&squot;s "David" sculpture
Leann Galvan’s portrait of Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture

Galvan explains that while other “David” renaissance commissioned pieces are seen with David standing over his defeated opponent, Michelangelo’s piece demonstrates David during his conscious decision of whether to engage in battle, per the meaning of the original sculpted piece. “[David] is making the decision and I think that’s where heroes are really made when you make the choice of what you are going to do and stick to it and follow-through,” says Galvan. For her, the meaning of this piece is a reminder of leadership and remaining committed through trials and tribulations.

Artists of all kinds may use different canvases to not only showcase their skills but also to shed light on different meanings and expressions.

Mikhail Barrett, 31, a tattoo artist at Goodfellas Tattoo Shop, Anaheim, (@shootdamoon), has been tattooing professionally for the past decade. Reflecting on his childhood, Barrett recalls being exposed to the world of art through his grandparents, who were artists. As a teen, Barrett picked up the art of graffiti and began working on his artistic skills, not knowing he would enter the field of tattooing with an American traditional style. Barrett would eventually enter the body art business by giving himself his first tattoo — a diamond piece on his thigh.

The most meaningful piece Barrett has on himself is a tattoo that his friend did, which took seven hours from start to finish, in honor of his mother. It presents a woman looking into the mirror with the reflection of a skull. A reminder for him that, “No one is perfect” and that everyone makes mistakes.

Mikhail Barret: Woman looking in the mirror with skull reflection
Mikhail Barret: Woman looking in the mirror with skull reflection

“I’m from a family of six and I’m the middle child, so I feel that I got it pretty rough, especially from my mom,” says Barrett. This piece has allowed Barrett to begin a healing process with his mother, to turn the page and create a new and healthy relationship.

His advice for a prospective tattoo artist is to start sketching, drawing, and continuously push oneself. The next step is to find a mentor, to be under someone’s wing to learn the ins and outs of the occupation.

For first-timers getting a tattoo, it is important to do the research and choose the right artist for the job. With today’s social media platforms, finding a great tattoo artist has become a smoother process.

“When you get a tattoo, you’re putting on the outside of your body what you love the most on the inside,” says De Armas.