In the concrete jungle of Los Angeles you find yourself interacting with artists on almost every corner and every block. In such a crowded environment, Jose “Twenty” Araujo is becoming a master in the art of standing out and creating a name for himself.
We first came in contact with his work earlier this year At Original’s Magazines “Por Vida” art show, and since then have been following this young artist as his work develops like the nascent skyscrapers all over this city. Born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and being raised in Los Angeles has given him a taste and appreciation for traditional fine line black and grey tattooing. His bold work captures the essence of Chicano Art, with additional influences from Americana, Gang Writing and Prison art. Carving out his own niche, Jose continues to surprise us with everything he does.
This Friday night Jose will be releasing a collection of pen drawings in his first book “Good Times Vol.1” with Diablos Book Club.
We noticed you go by Jose “Twenty” Araujo, what’s the story behind “Twenty”?
The “Twenty” is for my friend that passed away. His name was Anthony Camacho. Anthony was one of my best friends growing up. This signifies a few personal things that tie to him. No matter what he will forever be remembered.
Can you tell us about Diablos Book Club?
Diablos is an independent art publication, we try to work with artists who wouldn’t usually take the time to make zines themselves. We want to help push artists we believe in and support in order to create a community and network of up and coming artists with a similar vision. Ultimately we want to create something personal that’ll stand the test of time, something that will mean just as much to us in 20 years as it does now.
We see that you dabble in other art mediums besides tattooing, can you tell us how you ventured from one medium to another?
For me it started with the pencil on paper, then paint on canvas, 35mm photography, tattooing, pen drawings, painting with gouache and ink on heavy water color paper and more recently I’ve been working on installations. I just like to create in my head… it all connects in the sense that it’s me making something out of nothing, it’s something you make no matter the subject matter or medium. I also like building tattoo machines with shit I find around the house. To me it’s all about creating, moving, staying busy. The only times I’ve ever been in trouble was when i wasn’t doing those things. When I get bored I get into trouble so I do whatever I can to keep my brain pushing.
All the world’s a stage and permanently drawing on someone can be fucking nerve racking, how’d you get past this?
I had to get past that as soon as I decided to make the move, as a tattooer I feel like one of the most important thing is confidence. Without confidence everything is basically fucked, if you don’t believe you can pull a line then you won’t. If you don’t believe you’ll ever get better then you won’t. Positivity and confidence is key for me, it plays a major role. I’m nowhere near as good as I want to be, but with a negative attitude, fear, and nervousness nothing good will come. I’m a firm believer in the law of attraction, it’s the way I live my life.
Did you have a tattooing on oranges phase? Stick and pokes?
I definitely had a tattoo on oranges phase, my dad used to tattoo my uncles, aunts, and neighborhood friends and he would tell me to just practice on oranges. He said it was the closest thing next to skin, so I did that a bunch as a kid. I would go grab some oranges at the market, then his tattoo supplies, and just draw skulls and hearts on them until the oranges were filled. I never did stick and pokes, but i did carve an LA on my hand in high school and spread black ink all over it. It stuck until I got it covered recently haha.
What’s your favorite thing about tattooing?
I love the history, the culture, the people, the job. i don’t think theres anything else out there like it. It’s a very personal art form, getting a tattoo is something you always remember whether the tattoo means something or not. I have a lot of tattoos myself and out of all my tattoos there are only two that actually mean something. But I remember every event of every tattoo that I have, from my first tattoo by Eric Dressen until my most recent from Julio Casagrande.
We first came in contact with you work earlier in the year at the Originals “Por Vida” Art show, was that your first time exhibiting in a show? Can you tell us more about that, what medium was it?
That wasn’t my first time exhibiting work but I feel like it’s the first of all the Teen Angels/Originals shows that my work was noticed on a more highlighted level. I’ve done all the shows thrown by Rich and for this one I had these two pieces that i’ve been working on that I really wanted to show. I felt like it fit with theme of the show, and both pieces told stories on their own and together. I usually work with Gouache and Ink, those pieces were both Gouache 18×24”.
Can you tell us how you developed your current style? What kind of stuff did you start out doing?
My style comes from a very chicano/latino influence, it comes from looking at murals and gang throw ups that are now gone in the west side, finding my dads old stash of Lowrider and Teen Angels magazines, and from old black and grey tattoo flash by tattooers like Col. Todd, Mike Malone, Bob Shaw, Ed Hardy, Jack Rudy, Mike Brown, and Phil Simms.
I started off doing color american traditional tattoos. I felt like anything you want to get into, you need to know your history. And like anything you start with the foundation, in this case american traditional. I knew I always wanted to do black and grey work but I didn’t know how to go about it. Doing traditional work helped me find my way into fine line tattoos and how to lay them down.
Is there a reason you work with black and grey?
I love the way black and grey tattoos heal, the way they age, and its always just been something I’ve seen growing up. The end goal was always to do this, Fine line, single needle, chicano inspired tattoos that will stand the test of time and age in a classic manner.
Who are some artists you look up to?
I’m always inspired by people like Michael Duke, Tomas Tumbleweed, Kane Navasard, Adam Vu, Gustavo Martinez, Julio Casagrande, Matt McCormick, Alexis Ross, Mario Ayala, Daniel Albrigo, Teen Angel, Phil Simms, Gajin Fujita, Robert Meinhardt, Date Farmers, etc. etc. etc.
If you were a professional wrestler what would your theme song be?
“Walk on by” by Mr. Isaac Hayes
Of course we have to ask, where is you go to taco spot? What kind of taco?
El Chamecla taco truck! Their truck parks in Santa Monica on 11th Street during the week and in Venice on Rose Sunday mornings. I fuck with Buche and Chicharron tacos heavy.
Los Angeles is the city of…
Dreams, Hood tales, and Romance.