It’s been almost 12 years since Juan Teyer first got inducted into the world of tattooing, but it’s something that’s surrounded the 26-year-old artist ever since he was a little kid growing up in gang-ridden neighborhoods back in the ‘90s. But when the SoCal native began tattooing, he didn’t think of it as a possible career path — it was just something he’d always seen that he wanted to try out one time.
“I got into tattooing real young because everybody in my neighborhood was already tattooing,” Teyer says. “People were always getting tattooed around me, so I just kind of tried it out one day. I was always drawing, so it was just something that happened. It wasn’t really something I chose to do for a living, it just kind of ended up working out like that. I took it real serious once I started, and I had a lot of people helping me. Those people were really the key to making me a lot more serious about it.”
Teyer has always made the most of the people surrounding him. These days, the established artist works alongside icons like Chuey Quintanar at Deer’s Eye Studio and Bob and Charlie Roberts at Spotlight Tattoo. It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that an 11-year-old Teyer spent all day admiring Quintanar’s work on his friends and neighbors, and that’s just one of the reasons the younger artist will never take his surroundings for granted no matter how long he’s in the industry.
“Working with people like Pint, Casper, Spencer Briggs, and Chuey Quintanar has been one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Teyer says. “All of those people have been super big influences on me, and I remember seeing their tattoos ever since I was a kid. It’s why I’ve been able to get so good. I get to see firsthand how good tattoos are done and how they’re worked out. It’s been a real privilege to work with those people throughout this whole time since I started.
“I’ve learned so much from them — like just to consistently stay a good person, because you hear a lot of stories and you just want to be one of the good ones,” Teyer continues. “I think it’s really important to represent tattooing in a good way, and I just want to make all of the people I look up to proud.”
Stylistically, Teyer likes to dabble in a little bit of everything. Rather than focusing on the black and gray work he grew up with, the tattooer’s background servicing walk-in clients at a street shop taught him that the only stylistic limits he should put on himself are the ones he gets paid for. Of course, in a world where so many artists want to specialize in one specific thing, Teyer’s open-mindedness has made him a popular option both among other tattooers and a wide range of clients.
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“Getting to see both worlds is the best thing,” Teyer says of his varied styles. “I want to try everything, and I come from working at a street shop where doing all of that stuff is what I had to do. I don’t care what I’m tattooing as long as I’m tattooing. I just like moving my hand. If it’s a cool subject, that’s even better — but if it’s not, then I’m just happy that I’m still tatting.”
Styles and coworkers aside, Teyer’s laid-back mentality allows him to continue to grow as an artist without freaking out over the ups and downs or daily minutiae of the tattoo industry. Rather than setting any lofty goals for the future or stressing out about tattoos in the past, the humble artist is pretty content with where he’s at and where he thinks he’s heading as long as he gets to keep doing what he loves.
“I take everything as it comes, and so far I’m really happy with how it’s all working out,” Teyer says. “I want to do some more traveling and do some things that I didn’t expect, and I always want to make sure I can bring something to the table and keep learning. It’s all been a privilege so far, and I don’t know what I’d be doing without it.”
Deer’s Eye Studio, 11823 Slauson Ave., Santa Fe Springs, 562-945-5550, @juan_teyer