We were recently with the FACTORY311 team in East Hollywood, when 311’s Creative Director Nicholas Hardy, Daniel Haim of Bloginity, photographer Lionel Deluy & Matt Plunkett music & fashion photographer passed a cool looking tattoo studio. They came over for business, but much to everyone’s encouragement, thought the only way to make the trip memorable was to get a tattoo… ‘when in Rome’.
As the sun shone down on Hollywood, picture four guys trying to ‘look cool’, swinging open the studio doors and stepping into the reception of a chilled -50 degree air conditioned artistic oasis. This was, Under the Gun. Pushing forward to the reception and making a brave attempt to blend in with the heavily tattooed regulars, Haim, Hardy, Deluy and Plunkett started to scale the artists’ portfolios.
The guys at Under the Gun had a mean stare, but our apprehensions were unhinged as Ryder, the Studio Manager of Under the Gun strode over and totally broke the ice, he was really cool with us and started to chat over our ideas…
After nine or so books we came across the work of ‘Chente’ and fell in love instantly with this top artist (and dude) of Under the Gun. Born and raised in the city of Los Angeles, his work is known to be some of the best in the industry. Chente is also one of the best-known black-and-grey tattoo artists in the tattoo world, and Nick knew he was the one.
Having Chente as your tattooist isn’t that easy, with waiting lists as long as Muscle Beach and way into the 7 month mark, Under the Gun weren’t about to let one northern lad jump that. Ryder told us it was going to be impossible, he suggested other artists & tried every deterrent in the book to express his unavailability, but being told you can’t have something, just makes you want it even more doesn’t it?
Psyched by what we had all seen, we left the tattoo studio and wanted to return with the intent to be inked by this guy. Nick had to fly back to London town by the end of the week so waiting wasn’t an option, we knew that we had to come up with something special to get them to listen to us. We returned to Matt’s studio that evening and thought over different idea’s of how we could speak with Chente.
Ryder organized a meeting to speak with Chente the very next day and we put our case forward… To put it frank, Hardy was cracking it. Meeting Chente at face value, we were nervous to say the least but it’s always cool when you meet an artist you admire and they turn out to be really cool, really humble, and just enjoyable to be around.
Looking at him, he wears the true Hollywood style of a classic flat peak, flesh tunnels in his ears & signature ink on a ‘don’t mess with me’ build, so as he happily shows some of his DIY beauties to us on his own skin, he tells his story…
Chente’s career started as an artist during a stint in the Californian prison system, and before then he was always using homemade tattoo machines that floated around his East LA neighborhood. He talked about how he acquired the dream of simply doing something that he loved to do, by sharing his sketches and ideas. He expressed his strong passion for his kids and closeness to his father, an obvious man of truth, a provider for his family and a dedicated art collector.
The studio is covered floor to ceiling in collectors one-off’s from the likes of Sean Barber, Nikko, close friend Tim Hendrix and Jeff Gogue. Chicano-style tattooing and tribalism had a major influence on the shape of Chente’s style which stemmed from his LA roots. It’s obvious to us that this is a complete lifestyle to him, a strong team and network has evolved out of years & years of loyalty and devotion to the industry. He had clearly built this rich and inspirational archive of artwork up along with the strong relationships with each artist through his dedication and love for the what he does. And so the needle finally dropped, we came to realize that Chente was in fact the owner of Under the Gun.
So, we explained to him all about the company FACTORY311, the meaning of the agency and what we had built up from scratch, which had similarities to his own memoir, and concluded with how we had decided to finish this trip. The number 311 is significant to us as its the starting point for FACTORY along with a lot of additional personal links to the number which mean a lot to Hardy, and Chente really took to the significance to this number and to what we were asking him to do.
Nick wanted to make the final commitment to his company by branding himself with these symbolic digits and to our delight, Chente thought it was an honor to be asked to be the one to do the job.
Chente, like the professional he was & knowing the message in the design, worked his pencil and paper like the true master he is and within an hour the tattoo design was perfectly sketched up ready for the ink!
Daniel and Matt then watched on as Nick, still confounded and amazed that this super-talented artist was now working away on his calf, began to brand him with the freshly drawn 311 illustrated motif after managing to skip the queue.. that’s L.A baby.
Chente has since been commended with many awards from tattoo conventions from all of the States, but his very first award is the one that holds the most importance to him, revealing that ‘Nothing replaces that feeling of winning your first award’.
A BIG BIG Thanks from all of us at Bloginity and FACTORY311, and thank you for making us feel so welcome. Chente will forever be embedded into the skin and foundations of the 311 agency for the rest of time…
Check out the rest of Chente’s portfolio at the Under the Gun Studio …. and to check out Nick’s tat see below. Thanks to Matt Plunkett for taking these great photos.