Tattoos are a form of self-expression that have been around for thousands of years. The number of people in your immediate circle who have at least one might surprise you, and more often than not, there is a story to go along with it.
Tattoos are a form of body modification whereby ink is injected into the dermis layer of the skin which changes the color of the pigment and creates beautiful body art that remains forever. First introduced to the Western world in the 18th century, this form of body expression has grown in popularity ever since. Tattoos are still taboo to some parts of modern society because of their association with gangs and other questionable groups. However, it appears they are now growing in favor as they grow in popularity with the general public.
Joaquin Hernandez is a thirty-one-year-old local tattoo artist whose notoriety has spread far and wide since starting his business almost a decade ago. Born and raised in Queretaro, Mexico, a small town two hours outside of Mexico City, Hernandez moved to Texarkana with his family in 2000. The oldest of three children, Hernandez and his wife Sabrina have two wonderful children, Sofia and Oliver. Hernandez is not just a tattoo artist, he is a tattoo collector. He is building a body suit of tattoos from various artists across the country and plans to continue until it is complete.
Hernandez is a driven person who has always been interested in art. His inspiration comes from several places and experiences, including the stories he hears from his customers. When asked about his art and how he entered the tattoo world, Hernandez says it just kind of fell into his lap.
“It was never something I considered a possibility for a job or career. I have always loved art and wanted to do something in my life which required an art education, whatever that was. Although that never happened for me, I continued to work on my skill on my own and eventually life led me to meeting the right people at the right time, introducing me to the tattoo industry and launching me in a completely different direction (than) I ever envisioned for myself. I fell in love with it immediately.”
Most of us have a limited understanding of the behind-the-scenes world of tattooing. We see the art and the work, but what drives a tattoo business? According to Hernandez, the demand for tattoos is higher now than ever before.
“I think social media, movies, sports, music and every other aspect of our culture has made the industry explode as we see our favorite artists, athletes, personalities and influencers getting tattooed. It is right there on our phones and tv in high quality and finding artists to make that happen for us is just as easy.”
Hernandez is right. We see tattoos every day on social media, on the internet, on television, in our favorite movies and just walking down the street. There are more than 21,000 tattoo studios in the United States, and another one opens every day. Some reports say people are more likely to have a tattoo than an iPhone!
The desire for self-expression and the high demand for tattoos has led to a boost to local economies. Approximately 84% of tattoo shops are locally owned and over $1.5 billion is spent on tattoos annually. According to Hernandez, demand for tattoos depends primarily on where you live in the world. In the United States, consumers can pay up to $400 per hour for a good tattoo, while prices in Europe will be closer to $200-$300.
“With the demand exceeding the supply, and with social media and the desire to express yourself in the form of tattoos also extremely high, it allows good artists and shops to elevate their price point.”
According to Hernandez, a thriving shop depends on the owners, the artists and the clientele. Social media has aided tattoo businesses in their ability to share their work with a broader audience.
“Whereas before, you could only hope your client, whom you did your best work on, would show and tell their friends or family, you can now post a good photo of the work done by you or one of the artists in your studio and it can be seen by thousands.”
Not all people get tattoos for the purpose of self-expression. Some get them to remember a loved one who has passed, and some are dedicated tattoo collectors, spending thousands of dollars on works from various talented artists across the world. Collectors, like Hernandez, do not express their own ideas in these tattoos, but instead allow the artist to represent themselves.
According to Hernandez, becoming a successful tattoo artist can be a long process. Mastering this business requires more than just art. A good tattoo business owner must love and respect his craft. He must seek out other artists and shop owners from the local area and learn from them, as well as practice daily, drawing and studying tattoo related images. It is important to search for apprenticeships to further his education and become familiar with the various health risks associated with tattoos. He must become aware of illnesses and infectious diseases and know how to properly clean and care for his equipment. Knowing the health risks for artists, such as vision problems, carpal tunnel, tendonitis and back and hip issues is a necessity. There are also business matters to consider, such as health insurance and retirement. And most importantly, he must get tattooed!
Tattoos can be a beautiful form of self-expression, a permanent memorial to a loved one or a personal collection of art by respected artists. However, for a business to be successful, it takes focused attention to details and marketing skills to promote your talent. Thanks to the internet, television, movies and sports, tattoos have become less stigmatized by society. Joaquin Hernandez is an obvious master of his artistic craft and creates tattoos sought by the rich and famous. Less often acclaimed, however, is his mastery of the business of tattoos. When you put the two together, you find the key to his success. Art is beautiful and necessary, but according to Andy Warhol, “good business is the best art.”
A sampling of Joquin's work. To see more of his art, visit his instagram @quinhernandez.