Pretty in Ink: 4 Top Tattoo Artists
ZHUO DAN TING
Based in Folsom
How long have you been a tattoo artist? I’ve been tattooing since 2001, so for around 20 years.
Where do you work? I’m the owner and an artist at Shanghai Tattoos (shanghaitattoo916.com) in Historic Folsom and also of the original Shanghai Tattoo in Shanghai, China, which I established in 2007. I currently work full-time at the Folsom location.
How did you get into your craft? I’ve been into art since childhood. My father was an art teacher, [and] we used to spend a lot of our free time drawing together. When I got my first tattoo at 16, I fell in love with the art of [tattooing] and decided I wanted to pursue a career in it which wasn’t easy living in Northern China where tattoos were frowned upon.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Many [people and places], but the most important [thing] is to be happy and healthy. When I’m in a good mood and feeling clear physically, mentally, and emotionally, the inspiration rolls in.
What are some of your popular designs? I do many styles of tattooing. My most popular is portrait work, realism styling, Asian styles (traditional and watercolor), and brushed Chinese calligraphy.
What is the most memorable tattoo you’ve done? There have been so many! I completed a bodysuit in early 2021 in traditional Chinese design based on the stories of the Monkey King. It was really cool to have the client’s trust in my vision, and I love how it turned out.
WILLIAM “WILD BILL” HILL
Based in Roseville
How long have you been a tattoo artist? Over 50 years. I built my first tattoo machine at 14 and began experimenting with tattooing on myself and [my] friends. I bought my first tattoo business license in 1974.
Where do you work? Wild Bill’s Tattoo (wild-bills.com).
How did you get into your craft? The first time I walked into a tattoo shop in 1972, at age 17, I knew it’s what I wanted to do. It took many years of 10-12-hour days and hard work to get where I am today; I drew every spare moment I had, a lot of the time with a pen, so it was a lot like tattooing because there is no eraser.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Roxanne (my tattooist), Jack Rudy, Ed Hardy, and Brian Everett.
What are some of your popular designs? Realistic fine line, and black and grey.
Based in Newcastle
How long have you been a tattoo artist? About 48 years.
Where do you currently work? Liberty Tattoo (billlibertytattoo.com).
How did you get into your craft? I was giving tattoos back in the ’60s and ’70s. It was hard to get into—no one would tell you anything! I ran into a [couple of guys] who set up a shop in Sacramento and became friends with them. [I told them] “I build custom motorcycles and if you teach me to tattoo, I’ll give you one of them…” so that’s essentially how I got started. I then went back to college and took a lot of art classes, which helped a lot.
Where do you draw inspiration from? The internet is a big information center where you can find anything, get inspiration for all kinds of stuff, and rework [different designs] into your style. With that said, I also get some inspiration from a lot of old artists; it just depends on what the design is.
What are some of your most popular designs? Right now, nature (trees, etc.) designs are really popular, but it goes in cycles. When I first started, it was Harley wings, then roses, unicorns, pegasuses, sunflowers, and tribal arm bands. I like doing realistic tattoos and colors, but it depends on the individual and what they like.
What is the most memorable tattoo you’ve done? It’s hard to pick just one, but possibly a back piece with trains that just goes on and on!
Based in Placerville
How long have you been tattooing? 13 years.
Where do you work? Royal Six Tattoo (royalsixtattoo.com).
How did you get into your craft? By pure luck. I [delivered some prints] to my friend at Black and Blue Tattoo in Hayward and was hanging out while traffic died down. At the time, his client wanted a Detroit Tigers emblem, and my friend didn’t know much about sports, [so I drew up the emblem] and that’s when my friend suggested I get into tattooing. The rest is history.
Where do you draw inspiration from? My art is mainly based on life experiences. I had a lot of hard times as a kid, so when I draw, it’s oftentimes based on things going on personally.
What are some of your most popular designs? A lot of people look for black and grey tattoos from me, especially roses, which I love. I relate to roses, because they’re beautiful and grow in every type of terrain and weather.
What is the most memorable tattoo you’ve done? There was a girl who grew up in this area, [got into some trouble], and was going through a very tough time. I tattooed the word “surrender” for her.
by Bella Nolen
Zhuo Dan Ting photos courtesy of Zhuo Dan Ting. William Hill photos by Taylor Gillespie. Bill Liberty and Jaime VI photos by Taylor Gillespie. Jaime VI tattoo photos courtesy of Jaime VI.
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