I&D Americana Specialist Javier Rivera
Javier Rivera is a man of few words, but those are words you can hang your hat on. Brief in speech and deep in integrity, Rivera makes tattoos as honest and simple as his personality—and they are built to last. Rivera is known for his bold and dark neo traditional designs, has a sublime sense of taste and flow with script lettering, and is beloved in Atlanta and across the country for his very straightforward, very distinctive style.
Rivera is of Puerto Rican descent, born and mostly raised in Delaware with a ton of moving around in between. He spent a lot of time drawing with family members as a child, and hardly remembers a time where art wasn’t a big part of his life. Tattoos, however, were a different story. We got him to open up a bit for our readers and share a bit of his journey and artistic philosophy.
First things first, what was your first exposure to art?
“I can’t even tell you my first exposure to art. I’ve been surrounded by it, in some fashion, since I was born. One of my aunts was very artistic, always drawing, and my older brother used to always draw too. He would always duplicate comic book covers and posters that he would like. I remember stealing some of his drawings just to show them off to my elementary school friends.
“I suppose the first time I actually thought about tattooing was when I got my first tattoo at the age of 18. My family consists of traditional Puerto Ricans, so none of them really had tattoos. I don’t really have that ‘My grandpa had old Navy tattoos’ story. To be honest, I don’t really know why I started getting tattooed in the first place myself. I guess I just thought they were cool. I went to art school for a year or two in Delaware and was big into graffiti in high school, but getting my first tattoo is what really made me think that I might be able to do it–and that it just might be the creative outlet for me–not to mention a really fun job.”
It is said that if you do what you enjoy, you never work a day in your life. How did you to actually learn to tattoo?
“I was in automotive school I would help out with anything that required an artful hand –banner and flyers for events and such. One day I was drawing on my desk, a huge mural kind of thing, and it just so happened that the daughter of my instructor was working at this tattoo shop as a piercer. Unbeknownst to me, she took photos of my desk and took them to the guy who owned the shop she was working at–before I knew it he had me in the shop cleaning tubes.”
I heard you had a pretty lightweight apprenticeship, as far as actual guidance, and that your dissatisfaction with your skill level led you to seek information elsewhere. What was that like?
“I have a lot of pride in the fact that everything I have and know about tattooing has been built with my own two hands and obsession. I remembering scouring magazines and books and even photos to see if I could find any labels or names on bottles of ink or boxes of needles from tattooers I admired just for a little hint. Learning on my own has also kept me extremely humble and open to new techniques, which I definitely appreciate.”
Who has influenced you the most along your way?
Oh man. The list is huge. First and for most, my brothers in arms Sean Rhodes of Honor and Iron in Lewes, DE, and Kris Dilworth of Tough Luck in Rehoboth/Dover, DE. Without them I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. They’ve really taught me a lot. I really like Seth Wood’s work a lot, as well as Xam and Valarie Vargas–their designs are so thought out–relatively simple yet dynamic. I’ve been a follower of Mike Giant since high school; Ryan mason, Wendy Pham, Scott Silvia, Eckel, Matty Mooney, Nate Kostechko Tim Hoyer, Tim Hendricks, everyone from Skull and Sword, Bart Bingham, Jasmine Wright, Jim Sylvia…I can go on forever…and I’m sure I’d still miss some. There’s always someone out there doing cool shit. Outside of tattooing, Mucha’s work influences me a lot, as well as old 1800s engravings and scientific illustrations.
“I guess it would be considered “Neo-Traditional” in the aspect that it’s traditionally based, but not traditionally ruled. I’m definitely more on the traditional side of things, but I don’t adhere to any strict rules. I use bold lines in conjunction with fine lines and a limited pallet, though wider than red, green and yellow. Coming from a illustration/animation background, there’s definitely some illustrative qualities and exaggerations. Kelly Doty once decried my style as being “occultish/alchemic”– I like that… and I think it’s pretty accurate. So…occultish-illustrative-traditional. I also do a lot of lettering, and line work “pen and ink” style tattooing.
And you’re loyal to the coil, correct? Why? What’s your daily driver? What’s the most unique machine you own?
I am loyal to the coil…not to say I don’t own a rotary or too. I have a couple tricks that only a rotary can accomplish. It’s always good to have an arsenal at your disposal. My daily drivers right now would be a Scott Sylvia set I have, as well as a Chris Quidgeon and definitely Seth Ciferri liners…But my Scott Sylvia’s are by far my favorite right now. They are super solid machines built to last. Highly recommended. As far as uniqueness goes…I guess my most unique would be a Seth Ciferri shader. It’s from one of his “Easter basket” runs.
What influences your art the most?
“Everything. From old advertisements to the natural patterns of wood–everything influences me. I find myself studying everything I look at to some degree, whether it is the application and brush strokes of a hand painted sign or the way smoke rolls off a lit cigarette on a still morning.”
What types of tattoos would you love to do more of?
I would definitely like to do more tattoos on a larger scale. I’m pretty fortunate to have some open clients as far as designing goes…but I would really like more of that. I really enjoy when people come in, and give me one or two ideas as far as subject matter and then let me do my thing. I think they get a better tattoo that way. I’m also in the process of composing a sketch book of sorts. Full of line drawings that I’m titling “Illustrations for the Epicurious”, so I’d like to do more of those once I get that ball rolling a little more.
How do you stay inspired? What makes you want to pursue art every morning when you wake up?
I stay inspired by seeing all the good work constantly being pumped out, by my co-workers at Ink & Dagger and otherwise. I don’t want to half-ass anything. I want to constantly try to be the best I can. There’s no point in watering down our craft with tattoos I’m not proud of. I love tattooing. So I gotta treat her right in any way I can.
That’s just beautiful Javi, how do people make an appointment for your delicious skin ornaments?
People can get a hold of me for appointments by emailing me directly at Jrivera.Inkanddagger@gmail.comor by calling Ink&Dagger directly at (404) 373-6655. Or they can go to the Ink&Dagger website and fill out a client form.