Danny Trejo

One of the busiest actors working today, Danny Trejo literally embodies the story of Black & Grey tattoos. He received his first tattoo from a simple needle and thread while in a California prison in the 1960s. That large chest tattoo has since been named the world’s most famous tattoo, as Danny has shown it numerous times in his films and TV appearances. In Tattoo Nation, Danny shares the story of how he dedicated his back tattoo to a special day he enjoyed with his children at the beach. The back piece was done by renowned tattoo artist Mark Mahoney using an electric single needle machine in the photo real style. This look has captured the imagination of tattoo enthusiasts worldwide. Danny’s passion for Black & Grey is shared by his daughter Daniella, who gets a tattoo alongside her father in Tattoo Nation.

Ed Hardy

Through the international chain of stores that bear his name, Ed Hardy is perhaps the most famous artist in the world of tattoo. Even before his art was branded on apparel and accessories, Ed was a pioneer in the field, pushing the tattoo art form to new heights and publishing books that told the history of the craft. Through a chance meeting at a tattoo convention in 1977, Hardy met Charlie Cartwright and Jack Rudy, the tattoo artists from Los Angeles who were offering the first professional prison style Black & Grey tattoos. The rest, as they say, is history. Hardy recognized how special this new style was to the art of tattoo and immediately got involved with the guys in L.A. When Cartwright left the business, Hardy established Tattooland with Jack Rudy to preserve the Black & Grey shop just as thousands of Chicanos were embracing the “photo real” style to pay tribute to their neighborhood, loved ones and religious figures.

Charlie Cartwright

The son of a Kansas Pentecostal preacher, Charlie Cartwright was enamored with tattoo at an early age and began tattooing other kids in the neighborhood using the hand poke method. In the early 1970s he came to the Pike amusement park in Long Beach, California, to learn how to use electric machines. But Cartwright wasn’t fond of color tattoos nor shops that offered only cartoon-like tattoos on their wall. He resolved to open up a tattoo shop one day that would encouraged clients to come in with their own tattoo designs and ideas. When Cartwright chose East Los Angeles as the spot for his new shop many of his peers thought he was crazy. When he told them he wanted to apply mostly Black & Grey tattoos they were certain of it.  What Charlie was did was make history, and the Chicano community beat a path to his door, eager to wear the kind of photorealistic fine-line tattoos that before then were applied most often in prison.

Jack Rudy

When he left the Marines in 1975 Jack Rudy started working for Charlie Cartwright at his tattoo shop on Whittier Boulevard.  Rudy and Cartwright both shared a preference for the Black & Grey tattoo style seen from Chicano artists in prisons throughout the southwest. Together they perfected the single needle tattoo machines that allowed them to deliver, in a professional setting, exceptionally fine detail that brought shading, texture and depth to the art of tattoo. After Charlie moved back to Kansas, Jack continued perfecting the art of single needle fine line with Ed Hardy at their Tattooland shop.  As conventions and tattoo contests began to flourish in the 1980s and 90s, Rudy’s dogged determination to establish Black & Grey as a major genre in the tattoo world attracted many admirers. Now a legend in the world of tattoo, Rudy still runs Goodtime Charlie’s Tattooland in Anaheim, California.

Freddy Negrete

For most of his teen years, Freddy Negrete was incarcerated in the California Correctional system. While imprisoned, Freddy began to apply his considerable drawing skills to tattooing other inmates, using hand poke or homemade tattoo machines fashioned from cassette player motors, guitar strings and batteries. Freddy also began adding his tattoo designs to templates while working in a printing shop that happened to make the stationary other prisoners throughout California used to write letters home. By the time Freddy got out on parole many of his designs had become iconic images in the Chicano community and favorites for people to copy as tattoos. When he joined the team at Tattooland, Freddy became the first professional Chicano tattoo artist, and his popularity in the East Los Angeles neighborhoods helped put the shop on the map. Freddy Negrete now works at the Shamrock Social Club tattoo shop on Sunset Boulevard in L.A.

Mark Mahoney

Perhaps best known for his Shamrock Social Club tattoo shop on Sunset Boulevard and his long list of celebrity clients, Mark Mahoney has always been partial to the single needle. He perfected his unique style while he worked at Tattooland with Jack Rudy in the early 80s. Mahoney started as a tattoo artist in 1977 working out of a motorcycle clubhouse in Boston when tattooing there was illegal. He became well known for his craft in the midst of the punk scene and has stayed relevant and influential in the tattoo world ever since. Mahoney has tattooed numerous celebs including Mickey Rourke, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, The Notorious B.I.G., Cher, Heather Locklear, Britney Spears, David Beckham, Rihanna, and Russell Brand.

Mister Cartoon

Mark Machado, better known as Mr. Cartoon, is a Chicano tattoo and graffiti artist. Young Cartoon grew up in the harbor area of Los Angeles airbrushing t-shirts and Lowrider cars before adopting the legendary Black & Grey tattoo style. Cartoon has tattooed Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Eminem, Bow Wow, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé Knowles, Danny Trejo and Snoop Dogg. In addition to tattoos, Cartoon is often sought after to help companies such as Nike, Toyota, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS with their brand identity. Together with friend and frequent collaborator Estevan Oriol, Cartoon owns Joker Brand Clothing.

Kate Hellenbrand

Kate started tattooing in 1971, after the women tattoo artists that were born of WWII, like Painless Nell and Mildred Hull, and before the new generation. She was mentored in Hawaii under Sailer Jerry, an icon in the business, when she was his last student and he was her first teacher. As a farm girl from Utah, Kate was a long way from home working alongside Jack Rudy and Freddy Negrete in East L.A.’s Tattooland during the turbulent late 70s there. She has the distinction of having the longest career of any other female in the world of tattoo. She continues to tattoo at conventions and shops around the world, and presents her lecture on the global appeal of tattooing “From Voodoo to Vogue” at museums and universities.

Corey Miller

One of the show favorites in the TV series LA Ink, Corey Miller began tattooing at the age of 15. Influenced by traditional and classic styles, Miller specializes in Black & Grey portraits and dragon art. He is also known for his freehand work and his talent for drawing directly on the skin without any stencils. A student of tattoo artists Jack Rudy and Mark Mahoney, Miller is the owner of a tattoo shop in Upland, California, Six Feet Under, and he tours and plays drums for his band.