Rob Galvan is SanTana to the core. Before he ever even considered working in a tattoo shop, Galvan packed his weekends with tattooing friends and family out of his own home.
“I paid one of my buddies for a tattoo on my ribcage, and he used that money to get a tattoo machine kit from a magazine,” Galvan says. “About a year later, I was still watching him tattoo, so he gave me the kit because I could draw really well. That same day, I started tattooing.”
For the next handful of years, Galvan tattooed part-time out of his home. Although he loved the art form and saw a possible future with it, the young artist wasn’t quite ready to make it a full-time job.
“I was working a lot with a full-time job in construction, so I couldn’t tattoo very much,” Galvan says. “I’d be tired when I got home, so I was just tattooing on the weekends. I started making more money on the weekends than I was doing 40 hours at work during the week, so I just said ‘Fuck that’ and quit.”
After two more years of tattooing on his own, Galvan finally took his skills to a shop. “Working at a shop is better because you get to learn from other artists too,” Galvan says. “Everybody pushes each other. You can see something that somebody else is doing and take it to put your own spin on it. You see somebody do a badass piece and then you want to do a badass piece.”
Five years later, Galvan’s evolved from just working at shops to owning his own spot, Pharos Ink in SanTana. The no-nonsense shop – named after Galvan’s late cousin, a graffiti artist – is comprised of the same team the artist has been traveling to tattoo conventions around the country with for the past years. I
“We’ve been trying for so long to make this happen and so many people have turned us down,” Galvan says. “Nobody wanted to have a tattoo shop. There was this one guy in Orange made us three months to get all of the permits and get approved, and then this guy said the neighbors didn’t want us there. We tried everywhere and finally found this spot.”
Now that Galvan has his own shop, he can finally run things exactly the way he wants them for the first time since he was inking out of his own kitchen. He wants to keep the crew within his small group of professional friends (at least until they franchise out to other locations), but Galvan knows that he won’t be able to go forever without bringing in some fresh meat. As someone who learned the hard way, the experienced artist knows just how valuable learning to tattoo in a friendly shop environment can be.
“It takes you a lot less time to learn with an apprenticeship,” Galvan says. “If I’d started taking an apprenticeship and doing it the right way then instead of taking me five extra years to work in a tattoo shop, I could’ve done it in two. You don’t have to figure out what the right way to do something is, somebody just tells you what the right way is.”
Pharos Ink, 13912 Ponderosa St., Santa Ana, Instagram: @rob_galvan_tattoos