Artists: Pete Vaca
Phoenix Tattoo Company
2161 E. University
Tempe. AZ 85281
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing in 2001.
How did you get into tattooing?
I was always interested in tattooing for as long as I could remember, but I never thought I could actually see myself tattooing because at that time it seemed like such a closed-off, carefully guarded art form, so I just never pursued it. I do like to say that I got into tattooing by sheer luck—I never went and tried to get into tattooing, but I feel that tattooing found me. I was asked to paint a mural by a shop owner in El Paso, TX. After the mural was done, he told me the other artists at the shop liked my style and asked me if I wanted to tattoo. Having been interested in the art form, I saw it as an opportunity and jumped right in. I still ask myself today if the dude brought me into tattooing because they really liked my style, or because he couldn’t pay me for the mural, ha ha. I never did get paid for that mural, and I don’t mind because if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be tattooing now.
Where did you apprentice?
I started there, at the shop that asked me to paint a mural—I worked there for a year. But I felt I never really
got any true substance or training in tattooing until I started working at The Ink Gallery in El Paso with Alfonso Calderon. There under his guidance is where I learned most of my values, ethics, and respect for tattooing. He had very strict traditional ideals about tattooing, things that I saw lacked in the previous shop.
What conventions have you worked at?
I’ve worked at a few conventions: Worldwide Tattoo Tour in Anaheim, CA; Tattoo Expos in San Diego, Pomona, and Fresno, CA; Texas Tattoo roundup in Dallas, TX; Tattoo Showdown in El Paso; and my all-time favorite, Hell City.
How do you describe your style?
I like to describe my style as undefined, if that makes any sense. I don’t think I have a specific style per se because I love to do all types of styles, but if I had to pick a specific style I guess I’d say it’s illustrated and painterly.
What inspires you as an artist?
I’m inspired by pretty much anything and everything— music, daily events in my life. The guys
at Phoenix Tattoo Company keep me highly inspired each and every day.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I don’t know if anything really sets me apart from the other artists. However, I have noticed a trend lately that everyone wants to be famous and stuff like that—that’s cool and all, but that’s not why I am in tattooing. My
personal belief and philosophy is that I didn’t join this race to finish first but, God willing, to
be one of the few left standing.
What other mediums do you work in?
I love to airbrush and I dabble in watercolor, but over the past couple of years I’ve really gotten into oils.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
I could go on for days about the artists I admire most, but some are artists like Salvador Dalí, Alphonse Mucha, Robert Williams, Todd Schorr, Mike Roper, Bill Canales, Jeff Gogue, Steve Moore, Eric James, Fritz Andrews, Josh Carter. The list goes on and on. Every day I find another artist that inspires me somehow, some way.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I look forward to doing some larger scale work—sleeves, back pieces, etc. I really love Japanese-influenced pieces, and anything involving creepy girls or subject matter.
Is there anyone that you would like to tattoo?
I prefer easygoing, open-minded clients who are fun to be around and who can trust me to do a good job, and who don’t just see me as wearing the paper hat and ready to make it your way.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
Do your homework. You don’t have to get tattooed by me, but make sure your artist holds himself and
you, the client, to the utmost highest standards. Simply put, don’t take shortcuts, and expect the best quality over quantity. Cheaper is never, ever better.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
I have quite a few ideas I’d like to tattoo, but one specifically: I’d love to do a Battle Royale full back piece,
shoulders to back of the thighs.