Mike Ronquillo of All Seeing Eye Art Firm has been tattooing for over 15 years now, but he admits that he didn’t always take it so seriously.
Immediately after finishing high school, Ronquillo moved down to San Diego and started doing henna tattoos on the beach. The then-teenager’s boss quickly realized Ronquillo had the artistic talent to start doing permanent skin art. Despite not having any professional tattooing experience, Ronquillo was given a chair (and a bit of a fake tattooing backstory) at his boss’s new shop.
Aside from a couple of years when the Brea native also worked as a graphic designer, the tattooer never looked back after his informal apprenticeship (learning from artists like Sergio Silva), although he feels as though he certainly could’ve been more productive for the first portion of his career.
“I’m comfortable and I’m booked, but I feel like I should be a little bit further for as long as I’ve been doing it,” Ronquillo says. “The first eight years, I thought I was a cool guy who did tattoos. I kind of went with the scene for a minute and went on cruise control. I definitely thought I was way better than I really was.”
It wasn’t until Ronquillo got to Goodfellas Tattoo in Orange (“not the famous one, the neighborhood shop”) that he really started growing into the top-notch tattooer he knew he could be. After coming into his own at Goodfellas, Ronquillo took over for one of his former coworkers, Turbo Qualls, at All Seeing Eye. In less than two years, Ronquillo has established himself as the next wave of one of the top studios in Placentia.
But now, Ronquillo is looking to expand his name beyond the city and break into the national tattooing scene. Thanks to keeping a solid relationship with the folks at Goodfellas, Ronquillo gets to attend the local tattoo conventions without paying for a booth of his own—a cost that often prevents smaller studios from attending shows. Paying for convention booths isn’t the only downside about running your own studio, but Ronquillo sees more positives than negatives. As much as he misses the camaraderie and family he built at Goodfellas, the artist enjoys the freedom and convenience All Seeing Eye gives him.
“There are certain things that I miss, but there’s also no distractions so I can focus on my art,” Ronquillo says. “It’s just me and my client, and that’s really nice. You really can’t beat being your own boss, but you just have to hustle a little bit harder. That’s fine, because that’s what I should be doing anyway.”
Over his 15 years of grinding, Ronquillo has seen the tattoo industry grow from a taboo subject only discussed by bikers and outlaws to a commonplace topic discussed all over the world. As an artist who considers himself versatile in both mediums and styles – from traditional tattoos to realistic oil paintings – Ronquillo sees clientele from all different walks of life. For every guy who comes in to feel like a badass, there’s a grandma who just wants some beautiful artwork.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
“It’s dinner conversation now,” Ronquillo says. “Everyone’s got one. A big percentage of my clients are old ladies and people like that. I know there’s a lot of guys who only do writing or only do portraits, but I get bored. I like to try different things, and I find the more you know, the better you get.”
Ronquillo’s desire to continue to improve his art in every direction is one of the things that helps him stay booked solid month after month. The tattooer knows that he always needs to be getting better if he’s going to keep up with everyone else in the industry.
“You have to stay ahead of the curve,” Ronquillo says. “I’m always learning and always working to get better. You have to keep that fire lit under yourself.”
All Seeing Eye Art Firm, (714) 348-9377, @tattoomike17