In this interview, we wanted to find out what a tattoo artist wanted to know about another tattoo artist, so we had "Espi" and his cousin Carlos Espinoza sit down with Nikko Hurtado and his wife, Joanne, to pick Nikko's brain about his work and his way of tattooing. Espi's experience in tattooing has given him so much throughout the years, and one of the most valuable things is meeting great people like Nikko. Espi first met Nikko at the Expo Tautaje in Mexico, and he couldn't figure out what had impacted him more... his art or his insight.
With a great passion for tattooing and the mentality of "Try to be the best artist that you can because that will take you the furthest," it's unquestionable why Nikko's imagery is so captivating. He manipulates colors to show emotion and adjusts contrast to draw you in. His art is more surreal than a color copy. He's armed with no gimmicks or secrets, just knowledge and dedication. Nikko went full circle, from being a collector of Lowrider Arte to now being in it. So here goes the completion of that circle. To check out more of Espi's work visit his website at www.espimausoleum.com.
Espi: How did you start off and where were your beginnings?
Nikko: I used to draw a lot, and just like any other kid watch cartoons. I remember that I used to draw Bart Simpson for all of the girls in class just to get them to like me. This was the beginning for me. When I moved up to the High Desert in California, I took a drawing class in junior high. I really liked it; it taught me a lot of things like drawing upside down and using the right side of the brain. So I just kept drawing from there. When I reached high school, I continued to take art classes and also started taking classes in Pasadena. My friend and I would drive down to the Pasadena Art Center every Saturday for these side-school classes. That was the beginning of just drawing in general.
Espi: Let's talk about some of your history.
Nikko: I was born in the San Fernando Valley in 1981, and the first the experience I had as far as tattoo wise was through my grandfather and my uncles. They had home-made tattoos done with needle and thread. As far as art, no one in my family drew so they didn't know where I got it from. As a kid, I was super inspired by comic books, especially Marvel comics, because that's what taught me how to draw. I used to copy what I would see in it. I owe a lot to comics. Right after that, Lowrider Arte rides in at about the age of 12 or 13.
I used to draw a lot of cars. My art history isn't really crazy, I just drew at home and had fun. In high school, I learned the most from this one teacher; his name was Mr. Samuels. I never finished my projects in school but I learned a lot. He was a great teacher. He taught me what to look for, proportion and perspective. I remember that real well. Then in the Art College of Pasadena, I took graphic design one semester, illustration, a video class, and drawing. At the time, I kind of took it for granted. I wish I could have embraced it more because I could have learned more. The experience itself was really great and I still learned a lot.
Espi: For someone who's trying to learn color theory, as far as manipulating colors, what would you recommend to them?
Nikko: I recommend colored pencils. You know, it's not frustrating if you work with them a long time. The key to that is you can't put too much color down, you kind of have to build it. Put a little by little and see what colors make together, and also buying a color wheel will help in this as well. Color wheels will teach you a lot as far I know.
Espi: What were some of your earliest experiences in tattooing as far as what styles you started with?