Sometimes, it’s about learning what not to do that makes us great at our work. This may very well be the case for Adam Natonio. His career started in a few shops that didn’t exactly hold the highest standards.

“The people I worked with didn’t exactly make clients feel comfortable. They had that rock star attitude. I learned what not to do for sure.”

He started in one shop as an apprentice and worked his way up to manager, where he learned just about every aspect of the business.

“The experience was bittersweet. I’m grateful to have learned how to set up, clean the shop, put machines together and the business side of it. But I saw the way some of the artists treated clients and I didn’t like it at all.”

So he left his first shop and worked at a couple more where, unfortunately, he saw more of the same. What do you do when you love the art but don’t agree with the business? Start your own thing.

“I opened up my shop and basically did the opposite of what those shops did. I made clients feel comfortable —from the paint color on the walls to the music I played.”

Adam got back to his roots and the reason he got into the business of tattooing in the first place. He is an artist and it started long ago, when he was just a kid.

“When I was about 6 years old, my mom realized I could draw. She was an artist, too.”

He is also a musician and went to college for music. So between his family’s talents and his own, Adam was bound to have an artistic career.

“There is a similar feeling you get from tattooing and music—staring at a piece versus the sound of the guitar.”

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The trait he carries that helps him evolve as an artist: competitive. Adam’s inner critic pushes him to work harder, learn more and grow. He loves a challenge.

“When I first started tattooing, it was so nerve wracking. I’m putting something permanent on people’s skin, you can’t screw that up! A few years in though, I really got more confident. I started looking at artists that were better than me and surrounding myself with them to keep learning and getting better.”

Better is an understatement. Adam’s work is incredible and sought-after by people from all over the world. He loves to do portraits and has a signature realism style. One of his favorite pieces was a back tattoo he did on a woman of an elephant. It won awards and was featured in Ink Magazine and on the Ink Master commercial.

“I love the colors and it was the first back piece I’ve ever done. She loved it too, which made me happy.”

Portraits aren’t easy to do. That is exactly why Adam likes them.

“I’m drawn to portraits because they’re hard to pull off. And I like a challenge.”

What he really loves to do are movie tattoos. He’s a movie buff and loves the classics; Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and Marvel Movie characters like Spiderman.

“I would love to do more Star Wars tattoos. That doesn’t get old.”

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Some of Adam’s other artistic endeavors

The other thing he wants more of? Growing as an artist. That’s why he likes being a part of the Hart & Huntington family.

“Here, you’re not working with kids. People respect each other and our customers. We’re on the same page and it’s about doing great tattoos. I learned quite a bit, colors, portraits, machines and most important, how to go out of my style. I am now learning watercolor.”

The one thing Adam wants his clients to know is that it’s important to calm down, because you’ll mess up the work.

“It’s not fun when you get an over-reactor. (He laughs.) I try to help them calm down so they don’t mess up their piece.”

At the end of the day, he just wants you to be happy.

“I hope to make people happy—with the experience and with the tattoo.”

It’s just that beautifully simple.