Even as a kid growing up in Riverside, Jake Masri always knew he wanted to tattoo. While other children wanted to be rock stars or astronauts, Masri knew tattooing was a way he could take his love of drawing and turn it into a viable career.
“I think I was in 7th grade when the idea came to me,” Masri says. “I always drew, and I always saw my friends’ older brothers with tattoos. They really liked my drawings, so they weren’t going to let me tattoo, but they wanted my drawings as tattoos.”
Now 25 years old, Masri has been tattooing professionally for about 6 years after spending a solid couple of years learning the art form through an apprenticeship. Given the opportunity to start his career a little earlier — although not on his friends’ siblings as a middle schooler — he probably would’ve, but the young artist spent a few years bouncing around states like Oklahoma and New Mexico before setting roots down in OC. The near-constant travel meant that Masri rarely spent long enough to establish friendships in any one place, which also meant he didn’t have any guinea pigs for experimenting with tattoos before his formal apprenticeship. Instead, the then-teenager spent his days admiring and doing his best to imitate the detailed artwork found in the pages of publications like Lowrider Magazine
“I always drew with pencil, and I always really liked the gangster stuff,” Masri says. “The stuff that was gangster but still realistic, that’s what got my eye when I was a kid. I mostly stick with that style now as an artist.”
By the time he began tattooing, Masri already had a pretty firm grip on what he wanted to do in the industry. With lifelong favorite tattoo legends like Paul Booth, Bob Tyrrell, and Tom Renshaw, Masri was primarily interested in hyper-realistic designs long before he ever picked up a tattoo machines. To this day, the Fountain Valley-based artist still enjoys nothing more than taking one of his insanely detailed and lifelike sketches and turning them into tattoos.
As part of the up-and-coming generation of young tattooers, Masri has already separated himself from the pack thanks to his detail and precision, but he still has a long way to go before he’ll be getting the name recognition of the guys he’s always looked up to. For now, the Lowrider Tattoo standout can still take a step back sometimes to appreciate the fact that he gets to work alongside the artists he’s been admiring for over a decade now.
“I had favorite artists that I’d see in magazines when I was a kid, and sometimes I’ll randomly meet an artist who I never knew who they were, but I’ll recognize their tattoos,” Masri says. “I went to Big Bear this one time and randomly went into a tattoo shop with my friend because we just like going in and seeing different art. We went into this small little shop, and the guy was known for these big black and gray and color back pieces. I remembered his work from back in the day, and now that I got to meet him as an artist, it was a great honor to show him my tattoos.”
Of course, in the decades since Masri’s heroes were getting their starts, the entire art and industry of tattooing has changed quite a bit. From the tools and styles to social media and popularity, Masri is growing up in a world that caters to tattoo artists a lot better than it has in the past. Even at the young age of 25, the technological advancements don’t go unnoticed by the artist on the rise.
“Whenever I talk with older artists, they always talk about how everything’s evolved,” Masri says. “From tattoo machines to ink and even power supplies and needles, it’s getting easier to put better work in skin. You can get an actual nice drawing into the skin for a nice piece now.”
Lowrider Tattoo Studio, 16014 Harbor Blvd., Fountain Valley, 714-418-9575, @jakemasri