Ernie The Tattoo Artist Talks About His Take on Tattoos

Ernie Lanzalotti is a 22-year-old tattoo artist from South Jersey. He got his first tattoo at the age of 16 and has been working as a tattoo artist at Dave’s Tattoo Shop in Philadelphia since he was 18-years-old.

Tattoo artist Ernie Lanzalotti

Ernie Lanzalotti showing off his tattooed torso.

When I first walked into the back room of the tattoo shop to meet with Lanzalotti, he was “pushing ink,” as he says, into the side of a thigh of a young woman. I was impressed when he looked up and greeted me in a very friendly tone and then went right back to what he was doing, not even missing a beat in the tattoo he was drawing. My first thought of Lanzalotti upon sitting down for the interview was “Wow, this guy has A LOT of tattoos.” In fact, Lanzalotti says he has been getting a new tattoo once to twice a month since he was 16, sometimes even more often than that! It was even easier for him to tell me where he wasn’t tattooed instead of where he was.

“The only parts of my body that aren’t tattooed are my thighs, my lower back, my neck and my face,” he says.

About half of the tattoos on Lanzalotti’s body he drew himself and had them applied by trusted fellow employees.

“Most of the tattoos on my body actually don’t have a sentimental story behind them. Being a tattoo artist, you get bored sometimes when there are no customers in the shop. A lot of the time, someone will draw up a sketch and say ‘ok, let’s put this on you’.”

Lanzalotti says he enjoys his work and has been perfecting his art for years.

“I really like the atmosphere,” he said. “And I like the people, listening to their tattoo ideas and the stories behind them. I also like pretty much being my own boss, making my own hours, nobody telling you exactly what you have to do. But there is still that want to push yourself and make your work better and become a better artist.”

Lanzalotti's tattoo of his dog, Rocco.

One of the most important tattoos he ever did was one for his mother and aunt when his grandmother passed away.

A tattoo on Lanzalotti's shoulder.

“They both got crosses with wings on them. That was the most meaningful tattoo I’ve ever done so far,” Lanzalotti said.

He told me the most difficult part about being a tattoo artist was first starting out as one and learning how to tattoo the right way and the best way. In order to improve his work, he practiced on himself quite often.

“I think every tattoo artist has tattooed themselves when they start, just to know what it’s like and how they handle it,” he told me. “You mess up on yourself a lot.”

Lanzalotti's latest work in progress.

Something I always wanted to know, since I don’t have any tattoos myself, is does getting a tattoo really hurt? Just in case I ever decided to take the plunge myself. I figured since Lanzalotti is a professional, he’ll tell me the truth.

“All tattoos hurt.”

Darn it!

“I know people say they don’t hurt, people say they don’t feel it. But they hurt. They’re not unbearable, but they don’t feel good.”

Well, thanks for making me even more nervous just thinking about it!

Check out what Ernie has to say about tattoos below.

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