Tattoo artist, Emmanuel Mendoza drinking coffee out of a black mug in his tattoo shop.

The Tattoo Series: Meet Emmanuel Mendoza

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What is the Tattoo Series?

This highly caffeinated collaboration shows our undying love of tattoos and the culture that surrounds them. Nine supremely talented tattoo artists from across the country share their flashes of genius—all inspired by coffee—the bold and ever-bountiful elixir of life. The art-inspired merch directly supported the local artists who designed them.  

Meet the Artist: Emmanuel Mendoza

Hailing from the heart of Buckeye Nation, Columbus, Ohio, Emmanuel Mendoza shares his flashes of genius with us—always fueled by strong coffee. His Death Wish Coffee tattoo design features a Raven and Reaper scythe with droplets of blood—symbolizing the sacrifice to the coffee gods. 

Emmanuel Mendoza sitting in his tattoo shop wearing a black t-shirt with a raven holding a coffee bean.

Unfiltered Q&A with Emmanuel Mendoza

1. Are you a coffee drinker? If so, what’s your favorite roast, and how do you take your coffee?

Honestly, I’m new to coffee drinking since becoming a first-time dad. I prefer a medium roast when it comes to my drinking. My palette isn’t there for the darker flavors just yet! I love flavored creamer—don’t judge me! I know I'll probably get shit for that. Haha! 

2. Do you have a favorite coffee shop in town?

Not really. I prefer the coffee my fiancée and I make at home. But if I had to pick, it would be Stauf’s Coffee, which is a couple of blocks away from the shop.  

3. What inspired you to become a tattoo artist? Did you always know it was your calling?

This question is asked a lot by clients and friends. I think the freedom you have as an artist to create and be sought after for your style really inspired me to become a tattooer. I definitely didn’t always know I wanted to be a tattooer. Actually, when I was little, I wanted to be an architect. But realizing how much math and education was needed to become an architect, that pushed me away from becoming one.  

4. What was your initial exposure to the tattoo world, and when did you first add your own piece of ink to your skin?

My first exposure was when I was about 10 years old and we would go visit my grandma. She would take us to the store with her, and on our route, there was a tattoo shop. So we would walk by it all the time. Eventually, I snuck away and walked into the shop and sat there until I was kicked out. That small time I was in the shop had a huge impact on my life and my journey to becoming a tattooer. I think I was 15 when I got my first tattoo at a friend's house. I tattooed myself when I was 17 or 18. I can’t remember—not the best decision looking back.  

5. When did you know you wanted to be a tattoo artist? How did you get started in the industry?

At a very young age, I knew I wanted to become a tattooer, but actually becoming one took a very long time. I initially started tattooing at home—not the best idea—but you make with what you’re dealt. But after about 2 years of doing that, I was given a chance to work at an actual shop in Northeast Los Angeles called Evil or Sacred Tattoo. 

6. How long have you been tattooing?

I’ve been tattooing for 11 years now.  

7. How would you describe your tattoo style and how you got to it?

The style of tattooing I do would be best described as illustrative tattooing for its intricacy. I would say after many years of constantly drawing and trying to figure how I want to execute my tattoos, I ended up where I am now.  

8. How has your style changed over the years?

I would say it has changed from bolder and more simplistic to more complexity in line work, detail and color—but at the same time remaining readable. 

9. Can you tell us about your own tattoos?

I have a complex collection of art on my body, and by that I don’t mean the best—solely speaking for my early years of getting tattooed (ages 16-20) though. One of my favorite pieces I have is the one I got in remembrance of my mom. She passed away when I was 11 years old. That left a huge hole in my heart, so I had to immortalize it on my body forever! The rest you’ll have to see in person! LOL!  

10. How many tattoos do you have?

Haha—honestly, at this point, just one giant piece. Everything just mashes together. So let's just say most of my body. 

A man wearing a black t-shirt with a crow holding a coffee bean and a sythe.

11. What inspires your work?

My inspirations vary from painters, graphic artists, graffiti writers and tattooers.  

12. What does the process behind your tattoos entail?

Process, huh? Well, I like to look up subject matter that inspires me, and that can be from animals, anything and everything in nature, sci-fi movies, etc. Then I start rough sketching it in my sketchbooks or my iPad, and then I slowly but surely work on the sketch till I get it to the correct composition for the body part or just the idea I had for the tattoo.  

13. What do you like to tattoo, and what would you like to do more of?

So, I really like to tattoo anything from the occult, world mythology, ancient folklore and dark imagery—really anything I can make weird and creepy.  

14. What does a typical day at the shop look like for you?

Since COVID-19, I have started tattooing early, around 10 a.m., which I prefer. I'm an early bird, so I get in around 9 a.m., clean my station and set up for my tattoo. Maybe I’ll do some last-minute homework of the piece I’m about to execute, and then I start the piece. Nothing too special, just straightforward tattooing.  

15. What do you like to do outside of the shop?

Outside of tattooing . . . hmm. I’ve picked up many hobbies throughout the years, but I would have to say making art and cycling are my passions outside of tattooing.  

16. What’s your biggest pet peeve? Personally and in the shop?

Ignorance and being rude. I will not have it one bit! 

17. What’s the strangest tattoo you’ve ever done?

I feel like I tattoo a lot of strange things, at least for normal, non-tattooed folk who see my work. LOL! So that’s a hard one to answer.  

18. What is your favorite thing about being a tattoo artist?

I like not having to answer to anyone but myself. I get to dress how I please, make my own hours and create awesome tattoos. What more can I ask for?  

19. What is the tattoo scene like in Columbus, Ohio?

The tattoo scene in my area is very diverse and young. I feel like most of the tattooers in Columbus talk to each other and support one another.  

20. What moment in your career are you most proud of?

I am most proud of when I hit 10 years as a tattooer. A decade is a long time to be doing the same thing and still enjoy it. I'm proud I’ve come this far as a tattooer. I never thought tattooing would be considered a career—or even a respected career—when I started, so I’m really proud of that. 

Grab a Cup of Coffee (and maybe a tattoo) with Emmanual: