Chris Garcia: Permanent Portraiture

With a clientele that ranges from Miley Cyrus (and her dad Billy Ray too!), the boys of Metro Station, cage fighter Brandon Vera to Boys Like Girls, Chris Garcia is go-to guy for Hollywood stars. Beyond that, he has also inked regional and local acts – he has worked on his brother Jamir of Filipino band Slapshock along with the rest of its members and also Malaysia’s own Moots of Pop Shuvit and Project E.A.R. Recently in Kuala Lumpur last February for Macbeth’s launch of their new collection, Chris worked on They Will Kill Us All’s frontman Edwin Raj’s forearm. JUICE took the chance to sit down with the man and posed him with random queries on his trade.

Tattoo is a complicated art drawn with high alertness, any misstep would ruin your client’s skin, it’s only natural then that for one to become a tattoo artist they have to go through ritualistic apprenticeship. However this US-based Pinoy tattooist skipped that tradition and was entirely self-taught, which is something of a stigma in the hardcore tattoo community. Amazing still, Chris’ forte is in portraiture – one of the harder styles of tattooing – you’d think something equivalent of practical training would do him good. Yet despite what you’d think, Chris is a natural talent with a prominent presence in the community; he’s one of the more renowned tattooists when it comes to drawing portraits on your bare skin.

Chris has been living in the States since ’93, but it wasn’t when he moved back to the Philippines for a few months and received his first tattoo that his interest in body art grew. Ever since then, Chris used his own body as a guinea pig before moving to his family and friends (you don’t want to know how bad he botched his first tat on himself). As his skills slowly picked up, he was hired by Yorktown’s Ancient Art before his prominence led him to Virginia Beach’s Ink Gallery. Soon after, Vegas popular tattoo parlour Club Tattoo snagged Chris, which has been his home base since.

As it turns out, Chris stopped inking his own body for years now. Not due to the lack of space left on his body – one of the most immediate features about him is how little tats he has on his body for a tattooist – but because of his heart condition. Any attempt at tattooing his body could lead to heart failure, it’s an ironic fate for a tattoo artist. Still, Chris is thankful that he can still do his art on others, which is “an honour,” according to him.

While Chris’ interest in arts is ingrained in him since he was a teenager, he’s actually an engineering graduate who had spent 5 years working on a doctorate through a NASA grant. However science never gave him the artistic, spiritual, and financial satisfaction that he’s gotten from tattooing. Chris’ science background is a far cry from what you’d stereotypical associate body art with, and it’s also a good case to pose to your parents if they ever denied you of your artistic pursuits. It can pay better than science!

To end our conversation on an icky note, we asked Chris what was the worst body part he had to work on. He answered a geriatric woman’s lady parts to the gagging of all of us present. He wasn’t perturbed by it though, just as a doctor would be unperturbed by the same. And that’s a damn good advice for aspiring tattoo artist, have some balls. Despite his self-taught history though, Chris told us getting an apprenticeship is the best route for aspiring tattoo artists. Not everyone is Chris Garcia.

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