OFF THE BOARD: ERIC DRESSEN

Eric Dressen spent the last three decades wreaking skate havoc on the streets of Los Angeles. His newest weapon of choice is the tattoo gun and today he spends the better part of his days blasting ink under the skin of skateboarders looking to get an original piece of Dog Town. Read more with Eric in our August 2010 issue that’s onsale now!

Directed & Edited by Suziie Wang. Marquee photo by Dave Chami. For more Off The Board videos click here.

FIRST TIME UNDER THE KNIFE
In 1989, I got on Santa Cruz and started hanging out with Jason Jessee. He was one of the first tattoo guys I really knew. His arms were tattooed and I thought it was so crazy. He would always tell stories about the dudes he was getting tattooed by—guys like Mark Mahoney, Danny Romo, and all these cool, veterano cholo dudes. I ended up booking an appointment with one of Jason’s homeys and got my first tattoo. I think I was 24.

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
Around ’99, I went crazy and started getting tattoos all the time. I was hanging around the tattoo shop every day. It was similar to how I got into skateboarding. I just got obsessed with it. I started studying tattoos like I studied skateboard magazines. One day, I started helping customers. I became the helper around the shop and learned from the bottom up—setting up, cleaning up, sterilization, scrubbing tubes, making stencils, helping customers, dealing with people fainting, and making needles.


WATCH AND LEARN

Learning to tattoo was super frustrating. I had no idea how hard it was. After I got my apprenticeship, I started learning how to draw. It took me three years before I started tattooing people. Just like how I learned to skateboard, I would learn by watching—watching their techniques, watching how the were pulling lines, and watching how they were shading. It’s the same way I studied Jay Adams and Tony Alva in my favorite skateboard magazines as a kid.

RESPECT TO THE O.G.s
I have to give props to the O.G. skateboarder tattooers—Bill Danforth, Freddie Smith, Randy Janson, and Art and Steve Godoy. They were the first dudes. They were hardcore back when everyone was scared to get tattoos. They were the first guys getting them and giving them.

PAINTING YOUR LANE
I’m really into the traditional 1940s stuff—classic, traditional sailor style. That’s what I like to do the best. I also do a little black and gray work. Pretty much everyone I tattoo is a skateboarder, and so I do a lot of skate logos too—lots of Independent logos, Jim Phillips art, and a lot of Spitfire tattoos.