The Art of Tattooing

THE EXPERIENCE OF BEARING TATTOOS

Coco explains that the bearer of the tattoo, as well as the tattoo artist, brings an artistic vision to the tattoo. “I believe that you shouldn’t have to be rich to enjoy a good piece of art to carry around with you. Nobody can take it away from you. Like, I always say, you can be butt-naked and nobody can take it away from you. And I had an uncle who was a Marine, and I was eight years old and I asked him, ‘Hey, why you got grandma on your chest?’ and he said ‘Well, when the ship goes down I’m not going back for the pictures. So instead I got them on me, they’re always gonna be with me.’ So I always kept that in my head.”

So is the customer the real artist? “Well, not entirely,” admits Coco.

“You can’t go to a mechanic and say, ‘I want you to put the engine like this.’ You can’t do that. So they give me an idea and I give them a couple of options, and whatever catches their eye, I flow with that. That’s how I do it. But,” he laughs, “you should see the drawings they come in with—the stick figures. Yeah, they come in with their own ideas and I’m like, ‘Yeah, okay,’ and I take their picture and give them a real picture.”

On the connection between artist and customer, Coco turns serious: “You shed blood together. We say you’re like blood brothers. Blood and tears.”

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Coco is serious about the connection between artist and customer, “You shed blood together. We say you’re like blood brothers. Blood and tears.” Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum