STEELO MAGAZINE INTERVIEW – WITH TATTOO ARTIST JAMES VEGA JR.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with myself and Steelo Magazine and getting to know more about you and the work you do with the tattoo gun.
Can you give us a little introduction about yourself before we get into this interview.
Hi, my name is James Vega, Jr. I’m a young tattoo artist based out of the Los Angeles area. I have always been interested in art, and there are several artists in my family. But when I started tattooing, the artwork just went to another level for me. I knew this was my calling- I was meant to sling ink. This is a Q and A with Steelo Magazine, thank you for taking the time to get to know me.
Now let’s get into this interview with our first question.
When did you first get started doing tattoos?
I began tattooing in 2019 while incarcerated in the State of California.
Before you got started doing tattoos how much time did you put into your drawing, and when did you start to draw?
Before tattooing, I was drawing damn near everyday, for months. I started drawing the same year I started tattooing.
What were some of the things you started off drawing, were they portraits, characters or lettering?
The first things (only things I drew, actually) were portraits of my Lady, and my loved ones.
Do you remember the first tattoo you ever did on someone, and what was it?
I did two first tattoos that I remember: the first one was the name “Marlene” on the homies leg. This was a “stick and poke” type of tattoo due to our limited resources at the time. The first tattoo with a machine was the letter “k” on another homie’s knuckle.
Was there another tattoo artist that you looked up to that inspired you to get into tattooing?
Tattooing behind the wall, you’re moved around a lot. So everywhere I went, I found the best artist and tried to learn everything I could from them. Also, I dedicated myself to the dream of becoming a tattoo artist- so, I put my all into the art. The artists I look up to (then and now) are all the top ink coming out of L.A.
Did you ever have anyone that mentored you and helping you out in the beginning or were you more self taught?
The beginning was more self taught but in the start of 2021, I found a good mentor (and friend) in Greg Duarte.
Which style or styles would you say describes the type of tattooing that you do?
I’m just starting out still, so I try to do anything the client brings to me. I don’t want to limit myself to one style. Most people have been coming to me for Black and Grey.
Can you tell us, what are some of your techniques that you have learned that have helped you to improve with your tattooing?
I cannot discuss the secrets of my artform. This ain’t youtube tutorials, lol.jk. I can do black and gray tattoos with liners and shaders, depending on whether the client wants a smooth shading style… or a textured/pepper-looking tattoo.
What have been some of your biggest tattoo pieces that you have ever done on one person?
Some of my biggest pieces are still in progress. I have like a dozen sleeves I’m working on, and a couple back pieces I’m progressing with. I like to challenge myself with the artwork. Everytime I start, I think this tattoo is gonna be my best one… and when I’m finished: it’s a masterpiece! I’m excited to see my own progression. It never gets old.
Do you mostly do black and grey tattoos or more with color? Which do you prefer to do more of?
I do mostly black and grey, but i dont’ want my clients to think that I won’t do a tattoo for them if they want color.
Which have been some of your memorable tattoos that you have done that made you go WOW that’s bad ass? (Let’s show those photos)
The back piece I’m working on now, makes me say “Wow!” It has a Mexican-American theme… six sessions in. But like I said, I feel like every tattoo I do has to makes me say “Wow! That’s badass!” or “Wow! That’s better than yesterday.” Because each day I try to pull off a more badass tattoo than the day before. I take that approach in life too. I may have made mistakes in my life, but I know if each day I’m a better man than yesterday- “Imma be alright”.
What was the 1st tattoo machine that you ever worked with?
My first tattoo machines were homemade, one out of a walkman and another out of some norelco hair clippers.
And to stay up to date with what’s been going on in this world, how has this world wide pandemic affected you this whole past year?
The pandemic has affected me and my clientele, from time to time. But I have been blessed with work all year round. I’m in close quarters with people everyday, for hours. So It’s all about being cautious. I would like to send my heartfelt condolences, to everyone who lost someone during the pandemic.
Are working at any tattoo shops at the moment? If so can you tell us where?
I am working out of Golden Heights Tattoo Studio, located on Main St. in Lincoln Heights (next to Lanza Brothers Market). Across the street from the San Antonio Winery. There’s a lot of history in these streets, in the heart of the City.
Do you have plans on having your own tattoo shop one day? If yes, what would the name be?
Of course my goal is to eventually have my own shop, but I don’t have a dope name in mind, yet. As of now, I use VEGA TATTOOS for my business. I want to carry my name with pride. Having my last name involved makes me strive to make my family proud, also.
Now if someone is looking to get tattooed by you how can they get in contact with on social media? IG, FB, SNAPCHAT, WEBSITE, EMAIL, OR CONTACT NUMBER.
My website is coming out soon but for now people can book through instagram or email.
Before we close out this interview would you like to give any shout outs to anyone? (If so please do so at this moment.)
I want to give a shout out to my Lady for holding it down for me, all these years. I want to shout out: my brother, mother and father, and all my family. I also want to shout out my mentor for helping me grow. And a big shout out to my supporters/clients that believe in me. Lastly, a shout out to Steelo Mag & DJ Quad for this opportunity. Many Thank Yous.
I would like to say thank you for taking the time to do this interview with myself and Steelo Magazine, I look forward to seeing you continue your success with your amazing talent doing your tattooing. This has been an honor to have you featured in this issue.
Interview by Jesse DJ Quad Morin of Steelo Magazine