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Music and Arts with Tattoo Artist Ruben Barahona

black and white photo of an artist tattooing someone's arm

Dan Lorenzo: When did you first get interested in tattooing?

Ruben B: I grew up in Guatemala. Back then tattoos were associated with crime and gang activity so tattoos were a “big NO” in my family and culture. Obviously, growing up as a teenager that loved metal music and wanted to be different, that was the first thing I did when I turned 18. Believe it or not, having visible tattoos ruined my chances of landing any “normal” job, so I was working in a call center to pay for school.  I was living pay check to pay check, and life was hard. Circumstances pushed me to look for something else. I believe that life is too short not to be happy, so decided to give tattooing a real shot. I’m glad I did!


Was it hard to come to America legally for you?

The immigration process is long, tiresome, and expensive. I come from Guatemala, a country that has been in the news a lot around the issue. I have two children who are also Guatemalan, and I cannot imagine being separated from them. My heart goes out to all the families who’ve had their visas denied or revoked, and especially to those who’ve been separated from and/or lost loved ones. Honestly, I had it very easy compared to most, because my wife is originally from the US.


What is it you like about working in NYC?

I find inspiration everywhere in NYC!  It feeds my soul and my competitive side. I push myself to be better everyday, and as the saying goes, “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.” Also, New York is a central hub so I’m able to specialize in the tattoos, style, and subject matter I choose (for the most part).


collage of various portrait realism tattoos done by Ruben Barahona


There are so many tattoo artists. If a young artist asked you advice about getting into tattooing at this point in time, what would you tell them?

I would tell anyone getting started to be an artist on paper first; it will put you ahead of the curve. Enjoy the learning process because it will be long...


There are a lot of great artists and then there are some on the "next level" like you. Is it God-given talent or the amount of time you put in or learning tricks of the trade? In other words, how did you get to the "next level" in your opinion?

I think it’s a matter of practice and passion for what you do. I think my success has come mostly from HARD WORK. I’m always looking to learn and be better. It’s almost an obsession.


close up of full color dobby realism tattoo done by Ruben Barahona


What music have you been listening to lately?

I listen almost exclusively to one genre of music: metal. Lately I have been listening to a lot of:

  • Vessel of Light - new album, Thy Serpent Rise (go and see them live)
  • Death - album, Human (check Vacan Planets and Cosmic Sea)
  • King Diamond - album, Fatal Portrait (this must be played at least once a day)


You're a real metal head, aren't you, Ruben?

Oh yes! I started listening to heavy metal music as an escape of my reality growing up as kid in Guatemala. High poverty rates, economic instability, and lack of basic human resources... so heavy music was my strength.

tattoo artist ruben barahona holding vessel of light music album


Was the Vessel of Light CD your first album cover?

Yes, it was. Definitely very close to my tattoo design process.


Would you like to do more album covers?

Of course, this was FUN!


Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?

I’m grateful to all my clients and sponsors for the continued support.  If you would like to get tattooed by me, please email me at [email protected]

Check out more of Ruben Barahona's work on Instagram @rubenbtattoo

mayan black and grey tattoo sleeve by Ruben Barahona