It is much more than what meets the eye. The beauty of a tattoo is its ability to express an individual’s story using a permanent art form. With a passion for art and a knack for drawing, Aquiles Reyes is one of Tampa Bay’s rising independent tattoo artists.
Gently flicking the ash off the ember of his cigarette, Reyes begins to tell the story of how his career began.
“I’ve always been a jokester and kept my distance from people. Art has given me a way to open up and express myself,” said Reyes.
Throughout elementary, middle, and high school, Reyes showed an enthusiasm for art. He excelled in his art classes and was known for his abilities to draw. When Reyes would get in trouble, unlike other children, his punishment would often be art related. He would be assigned to paint backdrops and scenery for school plays.
As Reyes grew older, art remained an integral part of his life. His older cousin, Jason, played an influential role. Jason worked as a tattoo artist for Ink Daddy’Z Tattoos and Piercings, which is located in Tampa. Reyes would regularly show his older cousin sketches and outlines of tattoos he drew. Upon accumulating enough experience, Jason was able to get Reyes his own tattooing chair at the shop.
“I felt like it was college for tattooing. I went in there and I became a sponge,” Reyes said.
Ink Daddy’Z was able to provide the necessary tools and building blocks for success that Reyes needed. He was able to further develop his skill set as a tattoo artist, such as his abilities to shade, work with color, and fine lines.
Reyes is well known for the fluidity of his tattoo pieces. He uses watercolor and trash polka, the grey scale version of watercolor, to help blend tattoos together in order to create a smooth transition. This requires great attention to detail, patience, and skill in order to blend the colors together to make them appear in unison.
“It’s simple to the eye but it helps the tattoos stream together in a really crazy, cool, and sporadic way,” Reyes states, taking another long drawl on his cigarette.
He’s spent a lot of time at the shop, socializing and learning from his fellow artists. The experience Reyes received at Ink Daddy’Z helped shape him into the outgoing man he has become today.
Reyes was able to manifest his talents and figure out his next goal for tattooing. After a year and a half tattooing with Ink Daddy’Z, Reyes made the decision to become an independent, traveling tattoo artist.
For Reyes, becoming a mobile tattoo artist was possible because of his solid customer base, consisting of over 800 clients. Reyes is in constant connection with at least 60 of them at a time, scheduling appointments and consultations.
“You have to be disciplined. There are times I want to take a break but I don’t allow myself to take days off,” Reyes says.
Along with his hard work ethic, Reyes believes it’s the overall experience a client receives when getting a tattoo that keeps them coming back. People receive unique and quality tattoos while Reyes creates conversation that is light, kindhearted and welcoming.
“You really get to know people and grow really close with them. A lot of people treat me like family. That’s what is so rewarding about my job,” Reyes said.
Reyes’s constant hustle has brought him ample success. He is now able to expand from tattooing to creating murals, paintings and designing logos.
Generally, he has a $100 dollar minimum for his tattoo clients and charges $100 dollars an hour per session. Time, gas, materials and location all play a factor in determining this price.
Entrepreneur Taylor Brown recently used Reyes to design her company logo for a major upcoming project.
“It reached beyond my expectations. I am in love with it. For a great price I received a beautiful logo for my company,” said Brown.
Since taking his business independent, Reyes has run into some difficulties. He is finding it increasingly harder to relax and hang out with friends due to the constant demand from his job.
“Sometimes when I’m out dancing and the cha-cha slide comes on, I just want to cha-cha! I don’t want to talk about work all the time. I need time to unwind,” Reyes says.
Reyes is grateful for his growing consumer base due to word of mouth. He has aspirations to open several tattoo shops in the future. Reyes plans on achieving this goal by continuing to network and build his name up and increase his credibility.
“Tattooing is a job that has given me more freedom to go out, socialize, network and become the person who I am and am still discovering,” Reyes said.