These days, you can walk into nearly any tattoo shop in nearly any city and find someone doing decent geometric tattoos. The rise of the mandala has given many artists a new stream of revenue, but (like any other style of tattoo) not all mandalas are created equal.
Beyond just laying down clean lines and picking the proper placement (those underboob mandala tattoos have to line up just right, after all), there’s plenty of creativity and skill that goes into an amazing geometric tattoo. That’s where San Clemente’s Brad Reis comes in, because while your neighborhood artist can do a serviceable job, Reis takes geometric tattooing to another level.
“I never really saw myself doing any particular style when I got into tattooing, but [geometric tattoos] were something I just picked up with days and ran with it,” Reis says. “It’s crazy to see the progression of it. I think a lot of people now are trying to take it on, evolve it, and make it their own, but it’s so much easier said than done. You really have to put your hours into it and refine it.”
As someone who’s only been tattooing professionally for four years following a stint of amateur dabbling, Reis has already earned the respect of artists twice his age thanks to his artwork both with and without complex geometrical patterns. But even just a handful of years ago, the Renaissance Studios artist didn’t view tattooing as anything more than another medium he could try out.
“I always gravitated toward any kind of art, and tattooing began as just another facet to explore my artistic abilities – it was just the facet that stuck,” Reis says. “One of my buddies was working in a shop and I had four older brothers who were all getting tattooed, so I was around it before I even realized that I was around it.”
Eventually, Reis began learning the ins and outs of tattooing from his friend. Although the artwork was something that had drawn him in initially, it wasn’t until Reis realized how much freedom – both in the art and the lifestyle – tattooers can have that he really began to consider it as a career.
“It’s essentially just a ‘create your own destiny’ thing in a sense,” Reis says. “I really liked that and ran with that. I looked up to everybody who was living the dream and doing tattoos. I knew I could do that.”
Before taking his talents to South County, Reis cut his teeth doing walk-in tattoos in Orange. But while cities like Orange and Anaheim certainly have more artists and more clients looking for ink, Reis has seen more repeat clients and bigger projects since moving to the southern portion of OC.
“[The South County tattooing scene is] not really put out there as much as others because a lot of the people who are down here already have a sense of what they’re looking for and know what they want,” Reis says. “In Anaheim and bigger areas, you have such an array of artists that can provide you with anything you want. San Clemente and Dana Point are such small places that there aren’t as many names to fill the voids. There are just the artists here that people know and they go to that artist for what they do. They want to come back to the same guy. They want that relationship and that trust.”
Many of those repeat clients come back to the 26-year-old Reis because they know they’ll get some of the best geometric ink money can buy. Sure, he still works on other projects, but why wouldn’t he sink a lot of his time into the style he’s brought to a whole new level? As for all of those other tattoo artists looking to step up their geometric tattooing, Reis has some simple words of advice.
“You have to make it something that speaks to you as well as speaking to your clients,” Reis says. “Don’t try to copy what other people are doing or worry about what the scene is doing. If it’s good, it’s good, and people are going to vibe on it and people are going to want it. That’s how you get that recognition and respect for it.”
Renaissance Studios, 131 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, (949) 388-6044, @bradreis_tattoo