While some tattooers brag about traveling to SoCal from some small Midwestern town because they were tired of being a big fish in a small pond, Eric Machado’s tattooing journey is the opposite. Rather than being the one good artist in a town of a few thousand people, Machado’s responsible for some of the amazing tattoos that have come out of São Paulo over the last several years. With roughly 12 million people, São Paulo isn’t just the biggest city in Brazil, but also the biggest in South America. But tattooing’s popularity is still relatively new in Brazil, so coming to America this year has been a very enlightening experience for the young Machado.
“You see many more tattoos on the neck, face and hands here,” Machado says through a translator app on his phone. “In Brazil, it can be difficult to find a job if you have tattoos. You can have one small tattoo on your arm, but not like here. You don’t see girls with [sleeves] there.”
For now, Machado spends much of his time traveling between the two countries to share his knowledge and skills in both locations. He’s still working at Mordenti Tattoo in São Paulo, but Machado’s also spending time at the Newport Tattoo location in Costa Mesa to both learn from others and teach his own methods.
Beyond OC’s cultural appreciation for tattoos, life as a tattoo artist in America is easy compared to some other parts of the world. In Brazil, Machado says the taxes, cost, and limited availability of top-notch tattooing supplies can bring down even the best tattooers and shops. While artists and shop owners here love to complain about the rising costs of tattooing equipment, the expenses an artist endures in countries like Brazil are so high that it often doesn’t make financial sense for an artist to even do a small tattoo.
“It is much easier here, and I am looking forward to the possibilities,” Machado says in Portuguese before his phone translates it to English. “In Brazil, there are many good artists, but there are limitations there. It is much easier to access everything here, and I can learn from other [great tattooers].”
Thankfully, Machado’s realistic style translates into any language. From perfectly replicated portraits to fine art designs, the young artist’s detailed work is incredible with or without a language barrier. Even Machado’s lettering is taking on a certain flair that crosses timeless California-esque script with a South American twist.
While some might see Machado’s developing English as a potential problem when dealing with customers, Newport Tattoo’s owner, Kareem Masarani, jokes that he might start pretending not to speak English after seeing Machado’s conversations with potential clients.
“Most of the time, when someone wants to change a super-realistic tattoo, it’s for the worse,” Masarani says. “I see people who want to change something with him, but they give up pretty quickly once they realize that he doesn’t understand. Then they end up loving the tattoo.”
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Beyond just allowing Machado to study at his shops, Masarani is also putting in the time and effort to get the Brazilian a work visa in the near future so he can officially join the Newport Tattoo crew. Given Machado’s nine years of tattooing experience and lifelong pursuit of fine art both on his own and in classes, it certainly seems like he’d be a welcome addition to any local shop.
As for the most difficult part of adjusting to American culture while still progressing his tattooing skills, Machado doesn’t even need a translator to convey that much.
“My English,” the artist says with a laugh.
Newport Tattoo, 1765 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, 949-515-1600. Instagram: @ericmachadoart