Edgar Marquez is no stranger to Long Beach’s tattoo scene. Although he was born in Mexico, the veteran Long Beach Ink Assassins artist has watched South Bay tattooing grow from an important part of the area’s history to one of the best scenes in the world over the last couple of decades. He started getting tattooed when he was just 16, but he really had no interest in tattooing for a living. Years later, the artists tattooing Marquez would start to notice his sketches – even if the client had already picked a career he was enjoying.
“I’d always been drawing but it never crossed my mind that I was going to be doing this for a living,” Marquez says. “When I’d go get tattooed, the guys at the shop would ask me if I wanted to learn how to tattoo since they always saw me sketching, but I just told them that I loved welding. I was making good money as a full-time welder.”
Eventually, those tattoo artists would convince Marquez to try his hand at tattooing. He wasn’t quite ready to give up the serious paychecks of an experienced welder, but tattooing served as a creative outlet that was quickly drawing him in. As Marquez sees it, welding actually taught him some of the skills he still uses as a tattooer – and there was certainly a lot less wiggle room.
“Welding is a pretty precise trade,” Marquez says. “If I messed up on a line in welding, I’d get fired. There was no ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ You just get fired. I think that helped me in the transition to tattooing, because I knew I couldn’t mess up any line work.”
For seven years, Marquez continued to weld while tattooing on the side. Now that he’s closing in on a decade of experience as a full-time tattoo artist, Marquez has established a solid clientele. But for those first few years when he was tattooing without the financial benefits of welding, things were pretty tight for the Long Beach veteran.
“I went from making $55 per hour to sometimes $55 in a week,” Marquez says. “It was tough, but I think that’s really what makes you appreciate those who are willing to come in and pay you money for what you do.”
But while many tattooers rely on mediocre artists at local shops to inspire their early work and teach them the industry’s ropes, Marquez was able to learn from some of the best in the business right off the bat. Aside from heading down to Bert Grimm’s legendary shop for some ink on his 18th birthday, the tattooer was also able to look up to the modern tattoo legends of the area like Opie Ortiz and Carlos Torres along with some of the truly old school guys like Jack Rudy and Bob Shaw.
“By getting tattooed at such a young age, it gets rammed into your head about how you should be,” Marquez says. “Just seeing how [older tattooing legends] talk to you and how they do things, it teaches you respect for the industry. Even when I just started tattooing at my house, I respected the industry. I didn’t want to take away from the guys who were already there. I still look up to so many of those guys. If you don’t have somebody to look up to, then you get stuck.”
That’s not to say Marquez is trying to imitate anyone though. As a firm believer in bringing unique artwork back into tattooing, the Ink Assassin can put his own spin on everything from the most delicate flower to a demonic skull. After all, his tattooing career was originally born out of his love for drawing.
“When I tattoo, I mimic what I’m drawing,” Marquez says. “I’m trying to stay away from the super soft shading and the super clean line work, because I’m just sketching with it. I’m not worried about following the perfect tattoo rules because that’s not how I sketch. I like to just sketch with a needle and see what happens.”
Long Beach Ink Assassins, 737 W. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, 562-599-3908, Instagram: @ediablo