It’s a refined kind of magic.
He remembers that very feeling when he got his first tattoo at the age of 23: an outlined half-sleeve of John the Baptist with his head on a platter like in the Book of Matthew.
I remember looking at the tattoo artist and the tattoo device he held in his hand. I was mystified by the machine. It looked like a steampunk doorbell but felt like a jackhammer. And I was fascinated by his technique, the way he broke down the tattoo process on an illustrative level: pencil sketch to line work to color. The process just clicked with me.
He now tattoos professionally at our Orlando shop but, first and foremost, Chris is an artist.
His earliest memories of art go back to the third grade, where he remembers admiring a kid in his class for being able to draw the Ninja Turtles freehandedly.
It amazed me. Not so much his skill, but his ability to figure it out. It made me realize that anyone could do it—that I could do it.
Chris had always been the kid with the art kits and coloring books, but that experience made him instantly more analytical about the creative process.
I love breaking it all down. It’s all about having a can-do mentality and building a library of tricks that I can tap into at any time to recreate something I love.
From that moment, he stopped doodling to kill time and started appreciating and enjoying art in its true form.
I’ve also been a guitar player since I was ten, and I apply the same logic every time I play. You see grunge bands in the ‘90s who weren’t amazing technical players, but they were writing songs that were meaningful. No one is born an amazing guitar player or artist. These are things you can work at and continue to grow. It’s that realization that helped me unlock a path in my life where I was able to utilize my creativity to interpret the world.
Before we were graced with his presence here in Florida, Chris grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts where he lived until he was about 30, then moved to Connecticut where he stayed for the past eight years.
I got my apprenticeship from a really awesome guy who I met through the hardcore music scene in CT. I’d been in touring bands for about 10+ years, and when I stopped doing that, I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life.
He was working a terrible retail job at the time but doing art on the side. It was then that he was commissioned to do a t-shirt design for a hardcore band called Death Threat, one of Chris’ favorites growing up.
Wes, the guitar player from the band who was also a tattoo artist, said my stuff looked tattoo-able and asked if I’d be interested in learning more about the craft.
Chris jumped at the chance, but his apprenticeship with Wes wasn’t quite what he’d expected.
I thought my apprenticeship would be bootcamp, but it wasn’t at all.
Wes is still my friend to this day. I was very lucky to have a super talented guy welcome me into tattooing without making me scrub the grout with my own toothbrush. My mentor treated me with a lot of respect and valued my opinion on things. If we ever disagreed on something, we were open and able to share our thoughts.
When Chris started his apprenticeship, he didn’t really understand the process of how tattoos worked.
I had a very rudimentary understanding of what happens in the skin, but not what the machines did or differences in inks versus acrylic paint. I wasn’t even sure if I’d latch onto it, so I made it my entire life.
Chris buckled down and immersed himself in all things tattoo.
I ran at it full force while working a full-time job. I’d come home every night and stay up until about 2 or 3 in the morning taking machines apart to wrap my brain around the tools before I started putting tattoos on my friends.
His mentor instilled in him the helpful reminder that there’s always room for growth.
If I ever mentor an apprentice myself, I’d want them to take the same approach. I’d want them to be aggressive about promoting artist growth as well as foundations for placement. It’s just as important to have a strong fundamental base of drawing as it is to be able to apply a great tattoo.
That’s something Chris still works on to this day. And his style has evolved because of it.
When I started tattooing, I was just trying to do the things I’d done digitally or on paper as tattoos. It made me start to see where Traditional tattoos fit the body and held up better over time, and why that style has remained timeless.
So when he first started tattooing, he focused on simple, flat Traditional tattoos. But not for long.
I came back around to the things I was doing beforehand in my art: more illustrative and Neotraditional pieces with multiple line weights and super bright colors. It’s just what feels natural to me. But having vacationed in the tried and true was a great indicator for me to see what worked and what didn’t.
That learning experience is arguably what makes Chris such a great tattoo artist today.
Now my approach is a lot more about making each tattoo fit the aesthetic of the person who will wear it. It’s about having a bit of insight into what they want and what their expectations are when it comes to the final product. My style has become more fluid for that reason.
Chris won’t let you walk out with a muddy or badly placed tattoo.
There have been times where people come in and show me an unrealistic tattoo that they’ve seen on the internet; something someone’s photoshopped and can’t be done well in real life. Like the Declaration of Independence tattooed on a fingertip. Even if that were possible, it’s not going to have staying power, so I won’t recommend it.
Tattooing isn’t just about being a good artist, it’s about setting proper expectations for what ink will look like in the future—5 years healed, 10 years healed, and so on.
Another person called to ask if we can do light-up tattoos. I’ll be the first person to tell you when something isn’t real or when it won’t hold up over time.
What Chris won’t tell you though, is that your tattoo has to be meaningful.
My favorite tattoo is of Orange Bird, a Disney character specific to the Florida parks. It feels the most sentimental and precious to me, but I don’t believe every tattoo has to have deep meaning for you to enjoy it.
There’s something special about getting a tattoo just because you like it.
We’re lucky to have Chris on our team here at Hart & Huntington. His open-mindedness, dedication to the craft and willingness to learn is contagious. And it inspires countless happy customers. But his legacy here is truly happenstance.
Just before we left Connecticut, my wife and I wanted to buy a house. We weren’t happy with the options in the state, and always loved coming to Florida on vacation, so we decided to move to Orlando. The plan was for me to open up my own tattoo shop.
But then one day, when visiting Universal Studios, Chris happened upon our store in CityWalk and popped his head in.
I genuinely enjoy getting to know other tattoo artists, so I walked into H&H to meet all the people who worked there. My wife and I love going to the theme parks, so we knew we’d be in the area frequently. I happened to show our manager Todd my portfolio while I was there.
Todd chased Chris down the stairs before he left and offered him a job.
It was pretty serendipitous how it worked out.
It’s safe to say Chris has no regrets about not going it alone.
I now get to tattoo people from all over the world. There’s something inherently valuable to meeting people from different walks of life every day.
But it’s not just the clients that make Chris’ job so enjoyable.
Being in a shop full of world-class tattoo artists is a treat. The men and women I work with are so good at their job, in all aspects of tattooing. There isn’t a day I don’t come home impressed or inspired.
It’s great to be able to walk station to station to look at what my peers are doing. We learn from each other.
Most tattoo shops out there have their flagship guy that holds the place together.
Not here. Anyone at the shop will give you a rad tattoo. Literally, anyone. It’s refreshing and energizing. I come into work excited to see what my friends are doing. And the management and counter staff who handle the initial interactions with our clients do such a phenomenal job. It makes my part of the bargain so easy.
Chris gets up every day ready to do his thing and do right by his wife.
I come to work for two reasons: to work as hard as I can to make a better life for us and our two beautiful cats, and to grow as much as possible. I don’t want to coast or go stale.
Even though his apprenticeship days are long gone, there are still nights where he doesn’t sleep because he’s working on a project.
Nothing is as valuable to me as the tattoos I’ve put out there. I’d much rather be remembered by the people who have gotten tattoos by me versus any industry awards or accolades. I treat every tattoo I do like I’m being hired by a new boss for 1-10 hours.
I want to make sure they’re happy with the work I’ve done and that it’s something they appreciate for years to come.