When Beto Redfeather first began tattooing a half-dozen years ago, it was just another form of art he was interested in making a career out of. As a former student of the Art Institute of California, the 25-year-old had already established himself in the worlds of graphic design and other institutionalized “creative” careers.
But as soon as he began his apprenticeship, Redfeather knew that tattooing was the path he wanted to pursue long-term. Its culture and creativity meshed with Redfeather far better than any of the office jobs he’d held up to that point.
“I didn’t know anything about an apprenticeship, but it was one of the roughest things I ever had to do,” Redfeather says. “The only thing you do for a year is clean, sweep, set up stations, talk to customers, and do paperwork. I had no car, and the last bus from here was like 10 p.m. I’d be here until like 1:00 every night mopping, so I had to walk all the way up Beach to the 405 just to get home. That was the commitment I really wanted.”
Since his apprenticeship days, Redfeather’s done nothing but make a name for himself in the industry. From black and gray to traditional, Redfeather’s become a Swiss Army Knife within the first handful of years of his career. His artistic background has served him well so far, and his cultural upbringing as a half-Mexican half-Native American kid growing up in OC gives him plenty of knowledge and subject matter for tattoos.
“I tattooed my brothers and friends, and the first tattoo I ever did was on my birth mother,” Redfeather says. “The Native American half of family is very traditional, so it’s a little different, but this job has helped me grow as a man. The other side of my family is Mexican, and they’re very gangster. They’re the ones who have tattoos on their forehead, and everywhere you bring them, people are on edge.”
Redfeather’s recently hit a stretch that no tattooer could possibly be prepared for. After dealing with a minor medical issue that landed him in surgery, Redfeather and the rest of the HB Tattoo crew lost a close friend when Josh Persons passed away due to the injuries he sustained in a motorcycle crash on the afternoon of May 29.
“To me, Josh was my friend, my roommate, my boss, everything,” Redfeather says. “He was so hungry, and it was so refreshing to see that. He was one of my best friends, and there’s a little piece gone from me because of him. He was a free spirit, and just wild and rad. I love him so much.”
With both formal celebrations and vigils as well as friend of Persons stopping by HB Tattoo to mourn their loss and share the young tattooer’s stories, Redfeather’s spent much of the last two weeks sharing tales and creating memorial tattoos for one of his closest friends in the business.
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Just like the rest of his coworkers at HB Tattoo, Redfeather will continue to push forward despite the loss of Persons. It's all they can do, and Redfeather’s future is too bright for him to sit around and mope for too long. From the boldest lines to the most detailed realism, he's already off to a strong start in nearly every style – including designs in galleries such as Sullen Art Collective’s Sublime anniversary collaboration and launch party – and those will likely only get more refined and perfected over the next several years.
“I’ve got a lot of good role models like Filip Leu, Robert Hernandez, and Bob Roberts,” Redfeather says. “Everybody says I have my own style now, but I like to do it all. I want to get into my own style of Japanese, but I also have my own little thing on Americano and black and gray stuff too. I love it all.”
HB Tattoo, 20387 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 374-4948, @beto_redfeather