From the streets to the tattoo seat

Mexican-born and West L.A. raised street artist turned tattoo artist Danny Mateo admires that luchadores wear masks to conceal themselves, without caring about people knowing their real identity. He transfers that mentality over to his artwork. “It’s about the art; it’s not about who makes the art,” says Mateo. He wants people to fantasize about who the artist is and create their own mental image of their appearance.

“It kills the whole magic,” says Mateo. “You just want to keep them wondering who the person is ‘cause it doesn’t matter about race or ethnicity.”

Mateo was once addicted to the graffiti art lifestyle.

“The adrenaline you get when you go out mobbing illegally, it’s just something you can’t describe, but you have to do it in order to feel good,” he says.

He was going out three or four times a week until four or five in the morning. Now, he only paints walls legally which he says is not as exciting, but still addicting because he can be more creative.

“The more walls you get, the better you feel about yourself, and the more you want to do,” Mateo says.

In all his years as an artist, Mateo says tattooing is his biggest accomplishment.

“Some people, it takes them years to learn what I learned in one year, so it was a big accomplishment to me,” he says.

Mateo says for him, tattooing is a bigger addiction because, “your work will be on them until the day they die.”

Mateo feels that learning spray-can control and how to use colors helped him transfer certain techniques to tattooing.

“I learned how to blend because I know how to blend with a can so I know my colors and what colors to use,” he says.

Mateo has only been tattooing for a year, but he already has his own chair at Black Rose tattoo shop in Venice, Calif. on the boardwalk.

Mateo could not care less about being known by his face, just as long as his work is known. He does not want a fancy car or clothes. All he wants to do is support his family without a struggle. Mateo also works closely with local street wear company Coup Street. He and creative director Jared Shapiro have collaborated on various T-shirt designs and event graphics. You can check out his work on Facebook at Itscalledart or on Instagram @DannyMateo.