The Artist: Carlos Torres

ASH_9364-Carlos Torres Lo Res copyIt was 2 days since I got back from NYC that I received a tag on Instagram from a friend telling me that Carlos was in Singapore. For a split second, I thought to myself “Never would would I be able to meet one of the top black and grey realism artist ever.” However, as the saying goes, if you don’t try, you’ll never know, I tried my luck and emailed Carlos askingif he would be opened to an interview. Well, writing this now and thinking back to when i took up the courage to ask, feels so surreal. If I didn’t ask, I wouldn’t be writing this at all now.

The email to Carlos was a hit, he replied thanking me and that he’ll love to schedule something with me. I was elated. Period. However, due to his limited time in Singapore I didn’t get a reply after that initial contact. It was almost evening now and Carlos was leaving tomorrow. I thought to myself as I sat at home waiting “there’s no chance i guess. Oh well at least I tried. Feeling as though there would be no more hope.”

Just then a text came in, it was from Carlos “Hey this is Carlos Torres here, sorry for the late notice but I will be at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Skypark in about an hour and a half. Hope you can make it and sorry for the late notice.”

After reading it, I literally jumped out of my seat, got changed and made my way to meet Carlos. Couldn’t stop smiling to myself in the train en route to MBS. I met Carlos at the Marina Bay Sands Skypark as he was there doing a little exploration of Singapore and thus we had our interview / chat there.

Carlos was in Singapore to tattoo a client that flew him in for 4 days so that he could get a tattoo from him. It’s honestly a first that I have heard something like this and it sure amazed me.

Before we started the interview Carlos commented that Singapore looks amazing from this view and he was hoping to explore it more. Not so much of the city but the other areas that tourist would not usually see. So I offered to take him out for dinner at Chomp Chomp, which is a multi store, outdoor food venue that served a variety of local delights. However, Carlos already had plans for dinner, so we made a promise, should he ever come back to Singapore, we’ll be heading to Chomp Chomp.

Name: Carlos Torres

Profession: Tattoo artist at Timeline Gallery, San Pedro, CA, USA

Instagram: @carlostorresart


Carlos has been tattooing for 16 years now. He got into tattooing as he lived in a rough neighbourhood and a lot of friends there did jail time. Thus he started out with a jail house machine and tattooing at people’s house.

Recalling the past, Carlos mentioned that:

“The guy that just came out of jail gave me the machine to me cause he made it. As i could draw, they asked me to tattoo them. I wasn’t going to say no cause they are gangsters and so I grew up tattooing these people.”

After awhile Carlos decided to go out to get a professional machine and basically did alot of trail and error before moving to his first shop. In his first year, he worked at a couple of places and then the next shop, So.Cal Rattoo, he worked for 10 years.

” I did super a lot of learning there (So.Cal Tattoo) with Ethan Morgan and Tom Burg. They are truly awesome artist. At that time, there were no one like these guys, so it was great that I had worked there.”

“Basically I grew up with no prioir art training. But from time to time I do attend workshops and private lessons to improve on my skills. Basically I grew up drawing in class and was pretty much always caught by my teacher cause I would be drawing and wouldn’t know the answer to her questions.”

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On his style

Carlos’s tattooing style is very much about black and grey, realism / surrealism.

“However, I don’t really like to do portraits and usually I would like to add my own twist to all my projects, so you know “it’s a carlos tattoo” and it’s something that I can call my own.”

Looking back, when Carlos started out, there weren’t many tattoo artist doing the kind of style that he’s doing. That mad it harder for him to learn and reference. The accessibility to these informations were just not available at that time as compared to now.

“The first few years it was basically trail and error, I wished I had taken a formal apprenticeship to learn the basics and fundementals of tattooing, the techical part of it basically. You need to learn the basics before you break the rules. The accessibility to understand how to make realistic black and grey stuff last on skin was lesser than now. For me Robert Hernandez is the first man to be able to do that.”

Carlos goes on to add a little tip for all you tattoo artist,

“The key to this is to really understand the skin and the basics of tattooing. The importance of realistic tattoo are to making them last for a long time.”

On his influences

For Carlos, many of whom would love to be at his level. His work definitely an inspiration for the younger generations but to every artist, their influences are the ones that they hold truly.

“My influences have got to be Nikko Hurtado, Robert Hernandez, Paul Booth and Jeff Gogue, I totally admire them to the highest level. They are really geniuses’ in what they do. But Hernandez has got to be my favourite artist and also for what he has done for tattooing. Hernandez was basically responsible for my career and paving the way for my style of tattoos.”

With inspiration coming from everywhere and anything, the greatest way for Carlos would be through travelling.

“Travelling has had the biggest impact, exploration of cultures, their art, architecture.With each trip, I try to pick up at least 10% of the things I experience elsewhere that I can file in my brain. When the time comes I can use it to add value and a lil twist to the work i’m doing.”

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On tattoo reality TV shows

We were discussing about the current state of tattoos when the topic about tattoo reality shows came up. He Carlos, he believes that it’s pretty much a double edged sword.

“At first I felt against it, because for me I had to earn my stripes to be a good tattoo artist, I had to learn and basically put in the hard work. But after awhile I realised that it (TV shows) has helped in the awareness of tattoos in general. I have people flying me around to get my work done on them, if not for this awareness, I wouldn’t be talking to you in Singapore now! The awareness to the different types of styles avaliable has improved. The customer now is able to do their research as to what they want and who is the best at this particular style, allowing them to make a more informed choice.”

On his take back from tattooing

“The greatest lesson for me would be staying humble. As badass you think you ever are, there’s always room for improvement. Personally, each time I finish a tattoo I take a look and see how I can improve and push myself to not make the same mistake. And if you’re not humble, you’ll never look at your mistakes and improve on them.”

Lastly, for Carlos, tattoos are his love. The love of his life, and he hope he will be able to tattoo till he can’t physically tattoo. Here’s to wishing him thanks and all the best always. Hopefully we do manage to cross paths again.

ASH_9367-Carlos Torres Lo Res copy ASH_9368-Carlos Torres Lo Res copy Carlos Torres



The Tattoo Treasury

3 Responses to “The Artist: Carlos Torres”
  1. Dennis says:

    Carlos is definitely one of the best! I feel lucky to have found him when I did. Every time I look at my arm I am amazed by the quality of work that he did on my sleeve and the talent and skill that it took to create it. Keep up the great work Carlos.

  2. Luis Ortiz says:

    You do sick work!

  3. Neftaly "lefti" Silva says:

    great interview, HELL OF AN ARTIST!!

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