It’s hard to believe that after 18 years of tattooing as a career, Carlos Torres still refers to himself as an “amateur” tattoo artist, but his Instagram bio would argue otherwise. A largely self taught artist, Torres initially learned how to tattoo in a garage in the South Bay area of California. Fashioning his own machine from scraps and practicing on his neighbors, Torres unknowingly began his career as a tattoo artist, but it wasn’t until he was at So. Cal Tattoo in San Pedro when he finally began to feel like he could make a career out of his work. Focusing on black and grey realism and surrealism, Torres’ work is like looking at an old photograph, unsurprising as he says he prefers to shoot his own reference photos.
Combining elements of photo realism with surrealism, Torres creates completely unique portraits with as much precision as painter — another unsurprising feat as Torres is a fine artist as well. In an interview with Los Angeles Magazine, Torres says that in order to gain constant inspiration, he looks no further than the art world. “I really study value, contrast and the way light hits objects,” Torres says. “I’m always trying to study how depth works, and I guess you could say I study a lot of black-and-white photography.”
Eighteen years later, and still going strong, Torres is an artist’s artist. He is everything black and grey realism hopefuls aspire to, and perfectly encapsulates both the artistry and nitty gritty beginnings of the tattoo community.