Los Angeles seems to be an integral part of Mister Cartoon. How would you define the city of Los Angeles? I would define The City of Angels as the birth place of low riding, baggy jeans, white t-shirts, fine line black and grey powder shading portrait Cholo-style tattoos, the home of gangster graffiti, and the famous wet sherm sticks.
You mention in your video profile that you remember Vans playing a role in street fashion when you were growing up. What does the Vans brand represent for you? Vans, to me, is Southern California, low riding, surfing, skateboarding 70s and 80s. It was the first time I knew you could customize your own shoes.
I've read that you define tattoo art as a 'sacred arrangement' in reference to the energy you carry during a tattoo session. How did you come to this conclusion? Has your attitude changed over the years while tattooing clients? Every person has a different story, and their skin reflects their story. I tattoo hardened construction workers, pampered housewives, and all the in-between. It’s the only canvas that turns up drunk and has an opinion - that smells, that bleeds, that’s cheap, and the only canvas that is permanent. I have to carry positive energy and meditate before every tattoo because what shows up in the tattoo is the artist’s attitude and positivity. We've seen tattoos enter pop culture via TV shows, clothing brands and celebrity clientele. What distinguishes authentic styles of tattoo from what we see in the mainstream?
What distinguishes me is originality. The next thing is consistency of quality over years. The goal is to do artwork that doesn’t need signing. People will know who did it by the quality. That’s when you know you’re original. I turned down reality shows years ago right at the beginning of the reality boom, but I think I can benefit from the explosion of reality shows. It often relaxes the corporate companies that write huge checks. You know what I mean. It’s much easier for me to approach a Fortune 500 company by not only being a tattoo artist but being a businessman, also. Some old school tattoo artists hate the reality trend. I feel I am forced to make it work for me. You and Estevan Oriol are close friends who stress the need to lead by example among youth. Where did that desire originate? Have you always felt the needed to bring education and empowerment back to your community? I used to teach my art class when I was in 5th grade, and I used to teach the beginner class when I was a 13 year-old blue belt. Getting up in front of people has never been a issue for me. I always felt that I wanted to help and share with people the blueprint of how I did things. Being of service to my community helps me and giving back is the reward. Inspiring the youth is what I feel I have been doing this artwork for. If I can affect one person’s life when I do these outreaches, then I have achieved something (since most of the kids sitting in the room won’t be listening, sitting there thinking of themselves, sexting, whispering to each other, etc.).
The LA Times recently mentioned that MOCA's director Jeffrey Deitch is preparing to curate a street art exhibit at the MOCA. I heard your famed ice cream truck will be part of it. Did you ever foresee this open melding of subculture, pop culture, and fine art? I never thought that the subculture would ever be showcased in such a respected Museum. We never did it for that. We did it for the street fame and for the rush. I am excited about the open minds of Jeffrey and the MOCA crew in showcasing the ice cream truck and excited to be part of such a ground-breaking exhibition. Where are your top five places to eat in LA? 1) Ciros, East Los Angeles 2) Soho House, Beverly Hills 3) Koraku, Little Tokyo 4) Woo Lae Oak, Beverly Hills 5) King Taco, South Central What motto do you live by? You are what you think about. What advice would you give to those who want to enter into the creative field? Don’t try to start at the top. Work your way up from the bottom. There are no short cuts for hard work. Be original. Practice drawing every day. Do not rely on a computer. Surround yourself with good people, and help others along the way. Listen to others. Oh, and work hard.