HESPERIA — Ink goes a lot deeper than the skin for Aric Taylor.
After being mesmerized by watching his own mother get tattoo after tattoo, Taylor decided to make his foray into the artistic world.
From that naval base where he fell in love with the seemingly simple art form as a teenager, Taylor’s now set to compete and represent the High Desert, along with fellow local artist Carlos Rojas, on the ninth season of Spike TV’s “Ink Master,” premiering on June 6.
Both men tattoo at Black Anchor Collective, a shop on Main Street in Hesperia. While Rojas was unavailable for an interview, Taylor spoke to the Review last week about his work on the show.
“It was a great experience all around,” Taylor, an Apple Valley resident, said. “We met a lot of people who we knew of but didn’t know (in person), and we saw some artists we’ve met before. We received a lot of criticism, but I never took it to heart — it was fun.
“I felt like I was just at a tattoo convention. I’m a pretty relaxed guy.”
It’s that relaxed nature that’s helped take him through nearly two decades of drawing permanent designs on others’ skin, as well as being on the receiving end of the color-filled needle.
He moved to the High Desert when he was 18 after he’d done an apprenticeship at that same naval base tattoo shop where he watched his mom get inked many times.
“I would go there every day after school and kept bugging them,” Taylor said with a laugh. “They got so sick of me and said, ‘OK’ after we sat down with my mom to make sure it was OK.”
A couple years later, he decided he needed to escape his hometown, so he came here with some friends, at least one of whom told him about Crossroads tattoo shop, where he got his first local job when there were fewer than half a dozen tattoo parlors in the Victor Valley.
“I was at Crossroads for about 10 years, Art Junkies for another 10 and I’ve been with Black Anchor ever since,” he said. “And where I am now, I still push myself every day to do a better job every time. I like to go to work and have fun, not to just work. I like to make sure my customers have a great experience, and that’s the way this shop is set up. I’d say 90 percent of my customers travel from (out of the area), some from around the country, some from all over the world even, and we always want them to have the best experience.”
Now being a competitor on this season of "Ink Master," Taylor believes it’s his and Rojas’ opportunity to give back to the High Desert in a way.
“I was really excited to go on this show to solidify our little shop and help put the desert on the map,” he said. “It’s kind of cool to give something back to the community in that way — to show (viewers and our neighbors) that there is definitely a reputable shop up here, one that’s been on TV, so they know us before they even come in.
“It’s a nice way to say there are good tattoo artists in the desert, from Carlos, to myself, Jamie, Matt, Nikko — we’re all really established.”
Taylor and Rojas represent one of nine hometown shops, a new twist to the "Ink Master" series this season, produced by Truly Original and airing on Spike TV. All of the episodes have already been taped, and while Taylor couldn’t reveal details of what happens on the show, he sees tattoo TV shows as one of the reasons the old stigma surrounding skin ink has lightened over the years, he said.
“I’ve heard it all in my time,” Taylor said. “My wife and I are both tattooed up, and I used to get people staring at me when we’d be walking around somewhere. Now, I get even older ladies coming up to me, saying, ‘Oh, I like that tattoo on your leg,’ pointing out that they’re colorful, realistic, stuff like that.
“My extended family hated that I wanted to be a tattoo artist. It was the ‘biker presence,’ military and gang stuff, and it wasn’t something that you could make a lot of money doing. They thought it was a waste I wasn’t going to college. But a lot of people are opening up to it more and they realize it’s not such a bad thing anymore. I mean, I’m tattooing those same senior citizens who used to criticize tattoos. I tattoo firemen and policemen, public figures get tattoos — it’s a good thing that it’s all on TV now. It’s in people’s faces a lot more and I don’t think it will ever burn itself out.”
Watch how Taylor and Rojas fair as they face a tough panel made up of musician, filmmaker and artist Dave Navarro and renowned tattoo artists Chris Nunez of “Miami Ink” and Oliver Peck of Elm Street Tattoo. The show kicks off at 10 p.m. June 6.
See examples of Taylor’s and Rojas’ work by finding Black Anchor Collective on social media or visiting www.arictaylortattoo.com or www.blackanchorcollective.com.