In the Flesh is our series where we admire the most mind-blowing color realism being produced in the tattoo industry right now. Today, we’re talking about a kind of tattoo inception, looking at portraits of tattooists by Nikko Hurtado and portraits of him by other tattooists. Be sure to check out our previous installments, too, like this article on depictions of kung fu movie stars.
The tattoo community is tight-knit: its members end up working alongside each other in shops and at conventions, learning from one another and developing friendships that span lifetimes. One recent marker of the intense bonds that artists share is that some of them have taken up creating tributes to those whom they admire in the industry. Even the foremost tattoo portraitist in the world, Nikko Hurtado, has engaged in this exercise of solidarity, and other tattooers have responded in kind, creating homages to him as well.
Over the last five or so years, Hurtado has made color portraits of a number of his peers, including celebrity tattooists, such as Megan Massacre of NY Ink fame, as well as artists that are not so widely known. Some of his tattoos, like the one of horror tattoo aficionado and pioneer Paul Booth, feature personalities that have been hugely influential in shaping the industry into what it is today.
Hurtado isn’t the originator of nor the only artist to pick up on this trend. Tattooers have been doing shoutouts to each other for decades, but only been recently have such large-scale, high-quality portraits of them started appearing. Now, what probably began as just an inside joke at Black Anchor Collective (Hurtado’s shop) has grown into a phenomenon. Seeing his portraits, a few tattooists — Carlos Rojas and Luka Lajoie — have paid it forward, capturing Hurtado’s likeness on people’s skin.
Having a renowned color realist like Hurtado create a portrait of you must be incredibly flattering, even if you’re someone as famous as Kat Von D. Portraiture is about more than just vanity and social graces, though. It can also serve a very deep, heartfelt purpose, like honoring another person’s life and accomplishments. Hurtado’s depiction of Bob Tyrrell seems to express this deep respect for the black-and-grey portraitists’ contributions to the world of body art. If it were not for innovators like Tyrrell, Hurtado probably wouldn’t be doing tattoo portraits at all, especially not ones of his fellow tattooists.
To see more of Hurtado’s superb color portraiture, make sure to hit up his Instagram. Should you want a lifelike depiction of a loved one, celebrity, or even a tattooist on your body, consider having him design it for you.