interview with Jose Perez jpj - tattoo | Dark Water Studio 11/04/2016 

Q: What made you to become a tattoo artist? How long have you been tattooing?
A: To be honest I fell into tattooing after I got laid off from my job doing counter tops as a master fabricator. I was on unemployment for about 3 or 4 months, during that whole time I was dabbling with tattooing, nothing serious. My friend recommended I get professional equipment and to check out a tattoo party. I just started messing around and never stopped. As I do with everything, I set my goal that if I was going to do this I was going to give it my all, and I did. I was exposed to tattooing when I was 16 years old. I goofed around and built my own machine out of a Walkman motor and guitar strings, but don’t do that! I enjoy the art aspect most and how you could accomplish such beautiful art on skin, it intrigued me. Now, I have been tattooing almost 14 years and have never looked back.

Q: Did you feel inspired by someone?
A: My family, my mom, my kids, and my girl. I want to make them proud of me, It's why I work so much. A lot of things inspire me. Mainly I am self-inspired and try to motivate myself and look at the positives. I strive to be better and push myself as much as I can. I call it “the hunger from within” just wanting to succeed. I want to be the hardest working person in the room and push as hard as you can to meet and surpass goals.

Q: Your black & gray style is amazing. Something that really impress me is your ability to pay extra attention on details, can you give me a little description of your style?
A: First off, thank you and thank you to everyone that continues to follow and support me. If it weren’t for you guys, I wouldn’t be where I am currently. My style pushes the limit on texture and detail. People have told me not to, but I want push the limit and stand out. It’s all about getting the right reference photo and I have always been a very visual person. I wanted to achieve something that other artists weren’t doing at the time. Now I feel bad sometimes that I don’t add enough detail. My style is tiring to achieve, with different depth and textures in a piece, which makes it feel like the image is really there. I like to play with a lot of that stuff but my style is black and grey realism.

Q: Dark motives and portraits are basically the most eye-catching designs in your portfolio. Would you say that those designs are you specialty?
A: I guess my specialty is realism. I post and do a lot of the same stuff. I did a skull then I did them for a year, same with animals and women’s faces. Seemed like that was what my followers wanted. I try to switch up my designs to offer new images for viewers and potential clients. This year, I have bigger projects I’m working on and I and really excited post and share with you guys so stay tuned! Now I am only accepting new and fresh ideas and much bigger pieces.

Q: Being talented gives you more creative freedom for sure. Have you ever thought to work on something completely different, or you like to keep it "simple" and give your style a signature?
A: I’ve been keeping it simple and working with clients and taking their ideas and running with those, but this year I’m focusing on more custom and new concepts, larger scale custom pieces for the upcoming year. For example, storyline back pieces and full sides of the body, that’s what really gets me pumped.

Q: You're also a good drawer. Every tattoo piece is unique, that means you draw sketches for each of your clients? Tell me more about the creative process of tattooing.
A: I don’t really sketch anymore; I have in the past but its very time consuming. Now, I use high-resolution stock images or I do my own photo shoots. I also do a lot of freehand with pieces. It’s a combination of everything really, I will stencil and freehand in the same piece, freehand is great for riding the curves in the body or adding more dimension when you have the client there with you and you’re moving body parts.

Everything is custom, to fit the specific client I am working with. I do it all different ways depending on the body part, concept and detail. Defiantly use my stencils for the heavy detail. Freehand, if the client lets me rough draw it on and trust me enough to do my thing. Personally, I believe it makes that piece more dope and I am generally happier with those pieces that some of my better or even best pieces have been freehand.

Q: I love the fact that you put extra energy on sharing great tattoo tips on your social media. I love your YouTube channel, looks awesome and very professional.
A: I started my own youtube channel and teaching seminars because I wanted to give back to the industry that has been so good to me throughout my career. I have been pretty much been self taught along the way and I just wanted to give back in a way that was beneficial to young artists today because now, the industry is growing at a lot faster pace and there is a lot more that goes into it now then when I started.

- Did you feel that there should be more tattoo artists sharing great stuff on the net so people can educate themselves or at least get inspired by someone's work and tattoo story?
Honestly, that would be great if more artists would, we could all learn so much from everyone and make this industry into something really great from all of the fantastic artists together.

Q: Tattooing is not an easy job, it requires a lot of dedication, time and passion. I guess you have a very busy schedule all the time. Do you feel a bit overwhelmed at times? How do you cheep up yourself when inspiration goes down? Do you have any (creative) hobbies?
A: You hit the nail on the head. Yes, a lot of times I’m overwhelmed and I even feel like it's too much to handle at once but I have a great team that’s helping me now and things are going great. You have to be very passionate and dedicated to setting your goals and working very hard to accomplishing them. Putting your head down and working hard. Really wanting it and getting up and going for it, that’s what it’s all about. Spare time is scarce in my life, I juggle a lot. Currently my team is working hard to try and restructure how my time is divided. I’ve worked so hard for 14 years and now it's time to balance things out a little better now that I’ve gotten so far. Now I tattoo a little less and can make time for me to keep my head straight. Spend time with my family and sometimes take a little me time too. Understanding that balance, I’m very extreme and I sacrificed a lot to get where I am (friends, family and loved ones). I set my eye on the prize and worked to get there and will continue to do so. I won’t stop because I want to succeed, but most of all it keeps me motivated. Sometimes I look at the stars to remind myself how small my problems really are and how we make them bigger. I think about my kids and their future and wanting to change my bloodline, a new way of being and living. I want to give my kids a better life and education then what I had, like any parent does. It’s hard, but I try to balance and I am constantly looking back at what is driving me to be better. In the down times when you feel overwhelmed is when you have to look back at what drives you most. And most importantly always remember don’t give up and keep pushing. “Always be the hardest working man in the room”, like The Rock always says.

For fun, I like to fish, it really relaxes me, and all that matters there are the fish. When I’m fishing it’s all I’m thinking about and it really becomes just some me time. Only thing that sucks is that I can’t do it as often as I’d like to. It’s been close to 3 years since I’ve gone seriously, besides the time I was with my kids and caught a tiny little bass. So I would like to schedule in some more time for fishing for my mental health. I also really like sport shooting and going to the gun range, that also makes me focus on something else and changes my mindset. I like watching movies with my family too of course. Lately, I have been helping my friend Trouble, whom I have known for years, record an album. It’s a good time and a good distraction that I really enjoy. I also enjoy bow and arrow targets and dancing midgets. Something that might surprise you, I do collect antiques avidly which decorate my new studio and gallery. I really like collecting old quality things that are 100 years old that, but are still in working condition. I chose showcase that in my studio to show more of myself. So far I’ve heard a lot of good things about my collection so far when they walk in and see the place, some people ask who my designer but it’s just pieces from me collecting from over the years.

Q: Where are you located now?
A: Dark Water Studio 501 Willow Blvd. Suite #100 Willow Springs, IL 60480

- How can my readers make an appointment? What's the procedure?
It all starts with an email submission of the piece to

Q: Do you have any plans for the near feature?
A: Yes, we are working on getting an instructional DVD in the works and a portfolio book coming out. Keep an eye on my website We’ll have my 1st Sullen t-shirt coming out next year. Sorry it took so long Uncle Jeremy! I will be traveling to New York a few more times this year, doing more instructional seminars, working on my YouTube channel more regularly with updating videos, we have a lot of guest artists coming into the studio, interchanging our art gallery every few months and really focusing on my art myself. As a side project, I’ve been helping out a good friend of mine making an album. When it’s done, I will be sure to let guys know!