By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS staff
While many tattoos come about for symbolic, artistic or even absurd reasons, two Tucumcari artists said they entered the tattoo world for love. Actually, they did not get their first inking for love, but learned their craft because of it. Here are their stories.
Robert Alarcon said his wife told him she would not get a tattoo unless he did it. So he said he picked up a tattoo gun and taught himself the fine art of art of inking. Some five years later, he is owner of Outlaw Tattoo on Tucumcari Boulevard, and she has a purple and black butterfly tattooed on her abdomen.
Although this Tucumcari native said he has no formal art training in any of his work — and never underwent an apprenticeship that often involves mopping up magenta ink — he has long been an artist. In addition to painting, chainsaw art woodcarvings and silk screening, Alarcon plays drums in a band — appropriately named Skin Deep.
And yes, he has his tattooing, which he said he bones up on from tips from an experienced friend in Amarillo and attending conventions – not to mention his clientele.
“I get a lot of tourists because of the location,” Alarcon said. “Some are out collecting tattoos,” he said. “Others stop on the spur of the moment.”
He said recent out of towners he’s inked include a California man who came in for a tribute to his mother who just died and a guy from Texas who had spied the nearby
Teepee Curios store.
“The guy came in and said ‘I saw the teepee; I want that little man,’” Alarcon said. “I didn’t know what he was talking about so I went out to look and saw he meant a kokopelli.”
Some of the more unusual requests, Alarcon said, was tattooing a teardrop near a man’s left eyeball, touching up a woman’s eyebrows and inking an 80-year-old man in a wheelchair who pointed right to a skull on the wall and said “I want that.”
Alarcon said his most successful work was repairing a guy’s bicep that was botched by another artist.
“It was supposed to be a coyote but it looked like a hot air balloon. About half the work I do is cover-ups,” he said.
Alarcon recommends anyone seeking a tattoo should think safety first.
In addition to checking a tattooist’s portfolio, Alarcon said to examine the shop.
“When you choose an artist, check their sterilization process,” he said, displaying his autoclave, ultrasonic cleaners and sealed needles. “Wherever you go, you should ask.”
J.P. Broughton said he started tattooing because of a girl. Not just any, girl, he said, but one who worked in a tattoo studio that he began to frequent in his hometown of St. Louis.
“She was hot,” Broughton said, “so I would find reasons to hang out there.” What better reason, he decided, than to learn the art of tattooing.
Since then Broughton has apprenticed and then tattooed at several shops from St. Louis to Amarillo to Tucumcari, including Alarcon’s Outlaw shop.
“I chose to help the family,” Broughton said of his career move from Outlaw to his own newly opened shop behind Bubbles, his uncle’s pet and video store on South First Street. The tattoo shop has been opened about a month and Broughton said he uses a dry clave and autoclave to sterilize his equipment.
Broughton said when he’s not helping out in the video store, he’s somehow involved in art, something of which he said he’s always been fond.
“When I was a baby I drew on so many walls in the house,” he said, adding he is still hungry to learn more. In addition to his art classes at Mesalands Community College, Broughton said he attends tattoo conventions and reads up on the subject frequently.
“People who do tattoos are still stereotyped as rough and tough,” Broughton said. “But it’s mostly artists and new schoolers – people who get art to go as far as it can.”
Some of the far-reaching tattoos Broughton said he has already done include a pinup girl on his own thigh and a tattoo on a man’s private parts.
“I charged extra for that,” he said.
Although he said he was scared of doing portraits for a very long time, Broughton said he gets gung-ho about taking a challenge and his profession.
“I put my heart and soul into every tattoo,” Boughton said. “I didn’t do my job if the person is not walking out with a (very big) grin.”