Photos by Andrea Genota
Swear to god, it’s impossible to find tattoo artists who aren’t themselves inked to the nines. This is the natural order of things, but it’s still pretty amazing — tattoo artistry is one of the few professions in which you proudly display and endorse the work of your contemporaries. To an extent, you are also your own model for your personal journey with the art form, and how the art form has characterized your life.
And there are no better people to ask about the ins and outs of the inked life than an alumnus of 55 Tinta and a former Goodhand Tattoo apprentice. Sherilyn Santiago a.k.a. Gigie Bear and Kean Mendez got into tattoo artistry via similar arcs — having both come from fine arts backgrounds in college, they were surrounded by creative people, some of whom were already doing tattoos. Now Gigie works as an independent tattooist at 28 and Kean at 23 is rising up in the ranks, both enjoying a pretty solid reputation as all-around dope practitioners in their field.
They came to our little photoshoot with their flesh and limbs looking like murals in their own right. We asked them about the tattoos that mean a lot to them, and what it means to do what they do.