Gettin Inked with Luis Ponch

Interview with local tattoo artist in Mexico City.
How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a tattoo artist?
I was 14 when I discovered the art of tattoo and at that moment I knew I wanted to be a tattooist.

What were some of the first things you started drawing that became tattoos?
When I was younger I would look through the dictionary and try to copy some of the illustrations that I found there.  One of my favorite things to draw then were marzipan roses. 

Is there a special style of drawing that you are known for?
I really don’t have a special style of drawing.  I enjoy tattooing all styles, whatever the person wants I can draw it.  I’m studying different styles as much as I can this way I can become an all around artist, it’s the best way to excel in the industry here in Mexico.   
How does your family feel about you being a tattoo artist?
I think my father is very proud.  My parents both support everything I do artistically.  They say they are my number 1 fans. They really love me.
What are some of the obstacles you had to overcome to get to where you are now as an artist?
Just getting established in the Mexican tattoo culture was quite a battle.  In the beginning there wasn’t much to learn or get ideas from.  But now things are changing, there are more creative people in the industry and the culture is becoming richer and artistic.  I’m glad to be practicing now when things are changing for the better. It’s a good time to learn and stuffy different techniques.  
Has being a tattoo artist made your life better?
Definitely, Yes! Because of the culture I surround myself with positive people and stay away from dangerous situations.  I had many friends who have changed over the years and have either gotten killed or ended in prison. I wouldn’t want that to happen to me.  I’m glad I had tattoo culture give me both a spiritual and material experience that has made my life better.  I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot and practice my craft in other countries.  Without hesitation I would continue this type of life style and hope to grow into old age doing what I love.  This is what being a real tattoo artist is all about. 

How has your art played a role in Mexican culture?
I was fortunate to have a friend who hosts a TV show on a popular channel in Mexico every week.  Here we get to talk about tattoos, the culture and the how it has become less taboo in mainstream society.  It’s a small production but I think it plays a role in letting people know about the culture and what it means to us. 
Is there a special group of artists you look up to in Mexico for inspiration?
There have always been many artists that I admired and have looked up to for inspiration.  I try to study their work through their photos and videos so I can improve my technique. Some of these artists include Filip Leu, Guy Aitchison, Paul Booth, Jack Rudy, and Marcus Pacheco Everett.  Also my favorites are Hanky Panky, Victor Portugal, and Shige Dmitriy Samohin.  I could probably fill up a whole page of artists I like but these are good artists that I look up to for inspiration.  

What's the most difficult part of being a tattoo artist in Mexico City?
I think that educating people about the positive aspects of the culture so they stop bashing our profession.  Also there are a lot of people out there who make tattoos just for the money and they don’t really take time to study and understand the culture.  Trying to make people understand the price of certain tattoos because of the time and effort it takes to make one, some people think that all tattoos are all the same. 
What is the craziest thing you ever tattooed on somebody?
Well right now there are a lot of things that I tattoo that are crazy, but that comes with the profession.  I have tattooed once “al pastor” a favorite Mexican food on someone, and also have done tattoos on places I’d rather not talk about.  But I don’t think any tattoos are strange because they all have a special meaning for each person that wants one. 
What are some countries you have lived in and practiced your art form?
I’ve had the opportunity to stay in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Norway, Italy, and the United States. In these places I was able to meet artists and learn more things towards perfecting my craft.

Is there a special experience you had while being an artist that you will always remember?
There have been many most of which I don’t remember.  But the one I do is the time Hanky Panky tattooed me.  It was when Red Hot Chili Peppers came out with their album Blood Sugar Sex Magik.  Their artwork was an inspiration for the tattoo and what made it more exciting was that Hanky Panky used to do tattoos for the band as well.  So for me it was a real connection between the band and my tattoo.  This one I will never forget. 
What advice would you give to young people who want to become tattoo artists?
I think it’s really important to appreciate the culture first, learn about its history and the people who have made it exciting and fresh.  They shouldn’t worry about doing it for money, but maybe more for respect in the community.  The person should be thankful that people give them the confidence to let them decorate their skin.