Erick Holguin is a top notch (mainly) black and grey tattooer who works out of Atlanta, Georgia.
Of course I’m not a tattooer myself, but just judging off of the opinions I have heard about his work by other solid tattooers as well as looking through his profile, he seems like he has the technical aspect really locked down so that his work heals beautifully and it seems like his tattoos are the type that look even better when seen in person because he crafts them so nicely and has such an amazing understanding of the medium.
I was lucky enough to connect with him and got the chance to ask him some questions which he answered incredibly thoughtfully and hope you all enjoy this read.
Do you remember when you first started tattooing? Can you describe a few ways that your overall attitude towards your craft has adjusted since then?
I was 15 when and in a high school computer class when a kid came into class and told me he had a “Tat Gun”. He reached down into his backpack and pulled out some janky homemade machine and some soldered needles in what looked like a vape cartridge case. I asked if I could use it and tattooed my own arm in the middle of a course. Luckily we sat in the very back and with all the computers running you couldn’t really hear the buzz of the machine. That was my first tattoo ever, and it set me up to pursue it further. I went through a series of professions like music and the Army before coming full circle. It took some time and tough luck and perseverance. I ended up tattooing professionally while still in the Army. I really gained my footing while deployed in Iraq, and to be honest, I was able to practice a lot on Soldiers and Nationals. It was during that time my eyes were opened up into what tattooing could be. Tattooers on Social media we’re not as dominant a force as they are now. There were maybe a small handful of (what to me) we’re amazing tattooers. I went from thinking tattoos were for soldiers, gangsters, thugs and whatnot, into something that is a true form of art. So I delved into tattooing… and it consumed every part of my life.
What are the three biggest changes you’ve seen from the time you first entered this industry up until right about now?
It seems the attitude amongst the “professional” setting has shifted. As though the stigmas that are usually attached to a tattooed person are out the window when they see a piece that is held to a higher standard of quality and is visually striking. Since social media has become such a daily source of information, people are now seeing mind blowing pieces of art from around the world.
And because of that I think it has become more common place both professional settings and home life. My parents hated tattoos while I was growing up, because where I’m from it was usually associated with the “lowlife” crowd. But I always loved it, and now they do too. A great piece can change the most stubborn minds.
Funniest or most bizarre experience with a client so far?
I tattooed a woman once who wanted a piece on her foot. “No problem!” I said. I sat her down after drawing it up, and gave her what seemed to be a pretty good experience. At some point her husband comes in and sits with us, he starts talking back and forth between her and I. Seemed like a cool guy. Finally, I finished up her tattoo and sent her on her way. Early the next morning I receive a text. It’s the woman I tattooed the previous day. She writes how she had a great experience and she loves her new tattoo! Ok, Awesome.. She then goes on to say how she wanted to meet up and have some fun. I asked her what she meant and what she wanted to get into. She expresses to me several times that she has never done anything like this but she wanted sex. And the “not from her husband” type of sex. I was flattered. But I declined her generous offer. She told me to stay open and she’ll be around if I change my mind. People are wild.
Three things you wish every tattoo collector/client of yours knew without you having to explain to them?
I notice a lot of people come in for their first tattoo and immediately want to cram a bunch of things into a half sleeve or keep the tattoo confined and condensed into one particular area. I assume they have this idea because it’s typical to think that’s the way tattoos work are supposed to look. But me, I see tattoos much like fashion in a permanent sense. I explain to the client how its proper to be fitted with the proper attire and how to coordinate these fashion choices. My clients usually come around frequently, I try to get them to see the bigger picture for what could be and not the immediate satisfaction on one particular piece. I paint them a picture of their future. How your day to day life is going to be. People greet you differently and speak to you with interest. How the general public has a new perception of you. I take a lot of things into consideration when creating something for someone. I try and help people understand how special this really is.
Favorite part of being a tattooer? Most difficult part?
Personally, I think my favorite part of being a tattooer is the instant gratification. I get to create something out of nothing in a lot of cases, and have great conversations with interesting people from all walks of life. When I finish a piece I get to be proud of it. And watch the client light up with happiness. Its like watching your kid do something cool for the first time..and getting paid!! On top of that I get to be around the people I choose. The ones I work with. Whom I absolutely love and adore! For me, I’ve hit the lottery. So I don’t see too many difficulties come my way. The difficult things in my life rarely come from tattooing.
What’s usually going through your mind as you tattoo for so many hours?
Mostly the word “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!!” at 220mph!! Then I put on some Stevie Wonder or George Clinton and that usually fixes things for me.
What keeps you hungry?
I look forward to the future. There is one thing in the future that keeps me hungry at the moment. I’d love to go into details but all I can offer up is The Dojo 3.0. My wife and I are looking forward to bringing this to fruition.
Three most common mistakes you see a lot of tattooers making right now?
I think there are plenty of great artists out there. But tattooing is a completely different thing. There is a technique to keep these tattoos long lasting and looking good. And I have seen plenty of really great artists tattooing things that look good momentarily. Tattoos that look good for the picture are cool, but it sucks when they are misleading.
Toughest lesson you’ve had to learn since being a tattooer?
Over time I’ve gone from young stubborn and cocky, into what now feels like confidence. I’m confident I don’t know a damn thing, and when I learn something new, I can delve into it. But learning something is an evolving process. And new things are learned everyday
Biggest changes you predict to see in the industry over the next three to five years?
At this rate who knows. There’s been such a vast expansion of tools and skill sets. And now technology, corporate companies and politicians are in the mix.i have no idea what changes will come from these entities, but as long as those who know the industry are at the wheel i feel we can navigate this amazing industry in the right direction. As to the artists ability the Sky’s the limit!! So I’m just going to star gaze for a while and enjoy what we have now.
Thank you to anyone who took the time to read this piece of content, and of course a huge thank you to Erick for his time and energy here. Be sure to follow his amazing feed of work on Instagram @thetattooninja.