Ozzie Mendez – Tattoo Artist (Interview)


Hello Ozzie, Thank you for giving Steelo Magazine the opportunity to interview you and getting to know more about you and your tattoo work.

Interview by Jesse Morin of Steelo Magazine

So tell us how you got started with tattooing? First of all, I want to thank Steelo magazine for recognizing my work and for giving me this great opportunity to share my tattooing journeys and adventures with you guys. I started tattooing when I was 15 years old. It’s been a lot of ups and downs not an easy path. I had to learn the hard way you will know more about it here. One day I was at my sisters house and her husband showed me a home made ink and tattoo machine that he built, So he asked if I wanted a tattoo and I said sure, he gave me my first and most painful tattoo, that shit hurt like hell but than I was interested on the machine he made and I was drawn to the way it was made. For some reason I always like to learn and I’m really curious when I see anything that has a mechanic and the way mechanics work. Besides art I always been creative in many ways and I saw my self as an inventor. He gave me my first homemade tattoo machine. I used to take it to school and the girls loved me. My room was full of girls, when I started to do them I was popular and I gained a lot of friends.

How long has it been since you first start tattooing? It’s been 22 years since I started tattooing. I’ve been doing it on and off. At first back in the 90s, it was hard to learn the trade you either learn from someone that knew or trial and error. I learned the hard way. There was no internet, no google images, no photo shop and the needles didn’t come pre sterilized. There was no transfer paper, no disposables, it was bad. I tried asking the shops in Hollywood to become an apprentice but they were a bunch of haters and assholes. They kicked me out laughing at my drawings. They were mostly white traditional Tattoo artist. One time I was motivated and I prayed to God to help me find a job as an apprentice and I promised that I was going to walk all day without taking the bus, so I got my drawings ready and I walked. I hit every tattoo shop I can find, plus I looked for a normal job as well. I walked all day in my Chuck Taylors and then I asked a guy that was playing games on a ps2 at a tattoo shop if they where interested in buying my drawings and another guy answered yes! The owner is doing a tattoo he will be out soon, so I finally felt like I was going somewhere. I was happy until I asked the tattoo artist if I can sit on the couch and he said no if you’re not getting a tattoo you can’t sit. I felt offended because I have walked for more than 8 hours, my feet where killing me so I waited outside the shop like the asshole said for 2 hours. I finally see the owner and then he just ignored me and started doing another tattoo. So I gave up, I was mad and felt that I did all that for nothing. I even felt mad at God for not helping me after I sacrificed my self and walked so much.

What was it about tattooing that caught your attention and got you started? First it was the girls I had my room packed with females all day everyday and they all had a crush on me. I didn’t know what I was doing with a homemade machine with a motor that was so fast sometimes the needle flew out the tube and got stuck on the wall. That shit was dangerous! but then I met my wife in high school and there was no more females in my room. I went on with my wife, had kids with her and I had no one to tattoo. I had a few clients but I fucked up a lot and I scared a lot of people so I went on and off, sometimes off for more than 2 years, but I wanted to get better at it because I wanted my art to be out there and be recognizer thru Tattooing.

Is there a tattoo artist out there that you look up to and if so who is it and what is it about the artist that you like? There are a lot of tattoo artists that I like, one of them is Placazo. I did a tattoo of a heart and banner with the words no heart no art and I asked a lot of tattoo artist if they could critique my work. Out of 100s of assholes the only asshole that responded was Placazo. I call him asshole cuz I asked him if he can like some of my pics on IG and he didn’t LOL. I was also watching a video on Youtube and how Niko Hurtado was saying not to affiliate with lower level artists, his art is great but he forgot where he came from. Plus he forgot he was a low level artist as well, but I don’t give credit to them I don’t even try to learn from their work. Most of it is printed, follow the lines, let’s use photo shop after we finish, and you know the rest. I have found and met real artists but one that I really admire is some cat by the name of shy boy. He’s like me in a way I always see him working on something not just tattooing but he uses his talent to do many things. I really admire a very humble and dedicated artist.

In the beginning how were you practicing? Were you tattooing on yourself or did you have any friends that let you tattoo on them? In the beginning I practiced mostly on my self and friends. I had some bad infections in the beginning for experimenting and making my own ink. It is funny how no matter how your skill levels were there was always someone willing to get a tattoo.

Ok thinking back do you remember the very first tattoo you ever did? If so what was it and how did it come out? I hate to say it but my first tattoo was on one of my school mates that asked me to do his girlfriends name Lisa. He asked me if I have done lots of tattoos already and I answered like I was already a pro. Sure I guarantee you that it will be nice if not ill give you your money back which was $5. I never told him but it was my first tattoo. I can’t remember how I did it but I can tell you 3 days later I see him coming towards me not mad but concerned. His tattoo was a big thick scar with no ink he told me he didn’t take care of it so, I told him I will retouch it but I never did.

Before you picked up a tattoo gun did you use to draw a lot, and what types of things did you like to draw? Before I started tattooing I was already dedicated Artist. I was determined and I already knew that something would come out of it and being involved with art ever since second grade I got more dedicated. Art has given me the greatest pleasure and got me out of trouble. Also I ignored and blocked all the problems I faced during my childhood. I drew everything, mostly stuff out of my head. I didn’t like to copy no-one else’s work.

Did you ever have a mentor that showed you how to tattoo? Or were you self taught? Before I started tattooing I practiced drawing all the time I drew on the bus, park, school, house, zoo you name it I see everything and I memorize everything that’s why have no trouble doing freehand work. I can freehand tattoos without the stencil or markings. Art has given the greatest pleasure and got me out of trouble. Also I ignored and blocked all the problems I faced during my childhood it was hard growing up I always felt better when a pen and paper was with me.

When you first started tattooing did you ever make a homemade tattoo machine, if so what did you make it out of? I spent countless hours alone in my room as a teenager. I had a collection of motors wires needles bent spoons, tape and many parts that I got from destroying my mother’s appliances, she was pissed! I even made wireless machines using a 9volt battery. I used to use it in class when the teacher wasn’t looking. That didn’t last long. I did my second tattoo on my wife in class a 9 volt battery and a small heart stenciled on her shoulder until someone whispered “nice” it was my math teacher got caught and got suspended. I think I was happy to be suspended for the fact that I got to draw all day.

What are some of the things you do to prepare yourself before you start tattooing on a client? I prepare my self with all my weapons to combat cross contamination and I focus on trying my best to find gaps in the process to have a cigarette break lol. Tattooing and owning 2 businesses plus a wife it’s a bitch, no time to rest, I’m always busy doing and preparing for my adventures learning as I go and always looking for accomplishments.

What are you more known for when it comes to your tattooing style, is it more Traditional tattoos or is it the New School style of tattoos? I think it’s both. I think it’s a bit old school more like early new school. I don’t really learn from the new school I’m a bit more stuck in the old ways. Also, my style is a bit graffiti semi realistic influenced, and my script is more like made up I believe my lettering is Unique. I learned my best tattoos I have done are the ones I created.

Is there anybody famous that you have tattooed before, if so who is it and what did they get tattooed on them? The only famous person I tattooed was from the Raiders. I have no clue what his name was. I’m bad with names and Sports he got a wolf that I offered him for free in return to bring his team mates. About 3 days later he brought 3 more guys everyone was excited. but they wanted free tattoos as well, so I felt offended that this guy got tatted for free in order to bring more clients and he didn’t care if I got paid or not, so I told them to book an appointment for 3months. The 3 months passed and I reschedule them for 3 months for being late, they were pissed. I don’t care who you are, you betray or use me and you don’t get shit.

And what about the techniques? Have techniques changed since you started tattooing? Yes I have to say that Tattooing is mostly trial and error at first you really have to go thru learning a lot of techniques in order to find the one that really fits and accommodates to your style and no they have not changed I use every technique that I’ve mastered to get the job done.




Instagram Link Click Here ——> Ozzie Mendez Tattoo Artist

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