Jesse Frausto may have only left Los Angeles to move to Phoenix in July, but his tattooing has already built a following here in the Valley in just six months.
After winning multiple awards at several conventions for his black-and-gray realism work, Frausto started to make a name for himself as an elite portrait artist, solely by word of mouth (and with a little help from his portfolio via Instagram). Sure, Frausto realizes that he could probably dabble in tattoo styles other than photorealism, but for him, it's more about doing what he loves.
"I do a lot of photorealistic black-and-gray pieces, a lot of portraits, because that's what I've always loved to do," Frausto says. "Before I started tattooing, all I would draw were faces. Everybody has their preference, so you do what you feel comfortable with. I don't knock the guys who do traditional at all, that's what they want to do. You do what you love."
Unlike many tattoo artists who are drawn to tattooing from a very early age, Frausto was reluctant to begin tattooing. He waited until he was "an old man" at the age of 25 to do his first tattoo.
"I've always been drawing ever since I was little. When I was in high school, my brother, my dad, and my cousins were always telling me I should be a tattoo artist, but I didn't want to do it," Frausto says. "When I was 25, I was at a shitty job, and a girl saw me drawing and said I should tattoo. That's when I decided to start tattooing."
Frausto, now 32, is currently tattooing out of Karma Tattoo Studio at 10630 N. 59th Ave. in Glendale, but he will soon be switching to a more permanent location at Black Castle Art Company in Peoria as soon as it opens. Aside from Karma, Frausto has also done guest spots all over the Pacific Northwest and has gone as far as Ohio to tattoo at conventions.
"I love meeting new people and getting to know local artists everywhere I go," Frausto says. "I love conventions because I get to go see new places and meet new people I otherwise wouldn't get to meet, and I get to tattoo at the same time."
Traveling and meeting new people might be a huge perk of tattooing for Frausto, but the artist says his real joy comes from pleasing his customers.
"My favorite part is just making the person you're tattooing happy," Frausto says. "I'm always honored they chose me to put something on them for the rest of their life, particularly when it's a portrait of a loved one, because that's something that means a lot."
Of course, tattooing portraits of everyone from movie characters and celebrities to pets and family members isn't the easiest of styles. Many tattoo artists tend to stay away from doing portraits altogether because of the level of precision required. Frausto believes that the key to a good portrait is simple, it's just a matter of attention to detail.
"Getting every little detail right is really important," Frausto says. "If you mess up the eyes or any one little thing, it's not going to look right. I try my best to get every little detail possible in every tattoo, because I want to make the person getting the tattoo happy every time."
What are some of your tattoos? My first tattoo was a set of five skulls for my dad and my brothers and sisters. After that I just kept getting skulls, but my other arm is all clowns. My chest and stomach was done by my friend Josh Duffy, because I thought it'd be really cool to have a Four Horsemen tattoo.
What's a memorable tattoo you've done? I worked on a tattoo for over 15 hours straight once. I started at 3 p.m. and didn't finish until 5:30 in the morning. I didn't know that I'd be staying that late for the tattoo, but I wanted to see it done. It wasn't even done at the end, that was just the first part of it. It was for one of my buddies, and it was a portrait of his brother that he got on his chest. It took so long because his brother had tattoos, so I had to tattoo all of his brother's tattoos onto the portrait.
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What's the most important thing to you about a tattoo? It's pretty much just not being a dick. The person comes to you because they love your work, but no one wants to get tattooed by a dick. I'm nice to pretty much everyone who comes to see me.
Would you change anything about your tattoos or tattooing if you could? Yeah, I would. There have been some times where people have to go somewhere or are in a rush to do something after, and I wish I could've taken more time on those pieces to get all of the little details in.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone getting their first tattoo? Think about it. Think about it. Think about it. You don't want to just get anything for your first tattoo. Also, think about if you're going to add anything to it. Make sure it's not blocked off and that it flows with everything if you think you might want to add to it later.