Hermosa Beach tattoo artist helps memorialize the lost
Gabe Gonzalez estimates that he’s done over 5,000 tattoos.
“It’s a pleasure and I’m a nervous wreck at the same time,” Gonzalez said about how it feels to tattoo somebody. “I enjoy doing it but I’m nervous because I know it has to be right the first time.”
Gonzalez, 24, has been tattooing professionally for over seven years. He’s worked at Hermosa Ink on at 803 Hermosa Ave for a little over a year and a half.
“Tattoos are a classic ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’” said Gonzalez.
“Tattoos are about the person, not about what people think,” tattoo client Drew Prizler, 28, said. “It’s about what you want and why you want it and everybody has their own reason.”
For his friend and client Cody Freckelton, 23, tattoos help tell a story about who you are.
“I just like art and I like how with tattoos you can collect art on your body,” said Freckelton. “But really, they only represent a small aspect of your life.”
To become a tattoo artist, Gonzalez spent two years doing an apprenticeship and is also a certified body technician—certifying him to handle blood.
“I’ve always thought of tattooing as a blacksmith trade—you can’t just pick it up—you have to be trained,” said Gonzalez. “It takes time to learn, I’m still learning. And you should be taught by somebody who’s wiser—it takes a lot of dedication.”
Gonzalez has always been artistic.
“I’ve always been around art,” said Gonzalez. “My dad was an artist. As a hobby he would draw pictures of the family. My uncle got me started tattooing. He picked me up in fourth grade and he had just gotten out of the army and had a tattoo and he explained to me what it meant. That’s when it clicked that I wanted to do that.”
When he was 14 he made his own tattoo machine, and he hasn’t stopped since.
“I just love making art on somebody’s body. It felt right and it was what I was happy doing,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez has done many tattoos on Prizler including portraits of his dogs, a lion on his leg for his grandfather, and even an entire beach scene.
“He’s an excellent artist,” Prizler said. “I like what he does—he does a lot of detail, and if you let him freehand he does even better because he gets to put his own little twist to it and it’s coming out of his brain instead of just being a copy of something.”
For Gonzalez, tattoos are more than just ink on skin.
“I’ve seen everybody from gang members to doctors to soccer moms,” said Gonzalez. “I’ve heard so many stories—everybody has a reason to get a tattoo, I mean, it’s a commitment for life.”
Gonzalez said that some of the most moving tattoo stories are when he is asked to memorialize somebody. Years ago he had a father come into the shop who recently lost his son. Before getting the tattoo, he cried and told Gonzalez that, “fathers shouldn’t outlive their sons.” Gonzalez felt honored to be a part of the moment and tattooed his son’s name and his birth date to help memorialize him.
“He was kinda lost. I think the tattoo helped him realize that he wasn’t gone, he’s still with him,” said Gonzalez. “[Memorializing with a tattoo] shows your dedication to friends and family—it says that they’re more than just a thought to you. It’s always on your body. You never forget a tattoo, but you might forget a memory when you grow older.”
Another father came in and showed him a picture his young son had drawn, and had Gonzalez copy it onto his body.
“He said, ‘why put it on the fridge when I could put it on myself,’” said Gonzalez. “I’ve heard so many different stories from around the world. Everybody has a reason for a tattoo and a story. It’s cool to be there to listen.” ER