My Squirtle Squad Inking at Sacred Art

May 2, 2022

Tucson is a city renowned for its resorts, cuisine, sunsets, and … tattoo studios! With a major university and an air base nestled within city lines, there is not end to the demand by folks — including local Tucsonans — to ink their bodies with something memorable.  We have a high density of tattoo shops with a great variety of artists that are experienced in different styles of ink work. 

Thanks to social media, the search for the right artist has never been easier. Artists use these platforms to display their work and build an online portfolio that is accessible with just a hashtag. Clients can sift through thousands of posts and find inspiration for work, similar pieces to a tattoo they want done, or just look for an artist that they enjoy the work of and can reach out to. And that’s what I did!

Scrolling through the Tucson tattoo hashtags on Instagram

With a couple tattoo ideas held in mind, I opened Instagram and scrolled through the hashtags scouring for work similar to what I was thinking of and maybe even inspiration for a different tattoo. These hashtags in tattoo posts can acts as filters, putting all the posts that come from Tucson artists together. The most popular amongst these hashtags are #tucsontattooartist, #tucsontattoo, and #aztattooartist. These all vary in the scope of the search, whether they’re coming from the artist’s page, include shop pages or personal accounts posting their own tattoos, and how large of an area you want to search within. 

Since this was not my first tattoo I was familiar with the process and found myself just enjoying the mindless scrolling through all the amazing work and pieces posted online. I used #tucsontattooartist as my search engine and was looking for posts from artists that were generally going to have good line work and with some previous pieces done that were similar to what I had in mind. That was how I found and got in contact with Sacred Art Tattoo on Speedway artist Angel (@Burlyboitattoos on Instagram). Going to Angel’s page I found his preferred method of booking in their bio, stating simply to “DM to set an appointment/consultation!”. So, I sent a direct message asking for availability, discussed the work I wanted done, and set up my appointment for the Friday of that week.

The tattoo concept I went with for this appointment is from the popular 2000’s children’s TV show Pokémon. From one of the most popular episodes there is the Squirtle Squad, a group of water turtle Pokémon that engage in funny antics and antagonism with the main cast of the show. I had this episode on a VHS recording and definitely spent a lot of time watching the TV show as a kid so I thought it would be funny and a nice tribute to that as a tattoo.

On Friday, I headed out for my 4 P.M. appointment at the tattoo and piercings shop Sacred Art on Speedway, a location that is no stranger to university students. I opened the door to the small but spacious room and was greeted warmly. Since I had arrived ten minutes early I took a seat on the unexpectedly comfortable couch to the right of the room. Sinking into the cool cushions of the couch I felt some relief from the sweltering mid-day sun and also the nerves I had entering the building.

Five minutes later, Angel came out to the front and called me over to talk about the stencil (the pre-drawn design of the tattoo that is temporarily placed onto the skin for the artist to work with in ink). I walked over to the computer and he asked me to send an updated picture of the idea I wanted. Then he let me know that it would take a little bit while he changed the stencil. Once this was ready, I walked over to his station and he printed out a couple different sizes of stencil for me to look at and pick out one I was comfortable with. 

I chose the side of my right quad as the area of needling to leave some space on my thigh for future work to be done. Then, after shaving the area and moving the stencil one time for placement, we were ready to begin.

I laid on my side with my head resting on a pillow with another pillow nestled between my knees propping up my right leg to expose the side of my quad, the workspace. Angel warned me that the parts of the piece that extended to the back of my leg would get “spicy” and I braced myself for the first lines as the buzzing of the needle kicked into the air.

The pain of tattoo lines are unique and even with experience you can only do so much to prepare yourself mentally. I did my very best to stay rock-like still as the needle felt like it was ripping through the top layer of my skin. The one thing that helped me cheat through some of the pain was the piece of gum that I had clenched tightly on as the needle came back down to contact with the stencil. After a while my leg rewarded me by going numb around the tattoo area which made the pain much easier to deal with. 

We took a short break once all of the line work was finished and I was able to take a nice moment to myself to admire the lines. I got a crucial cup of water and laid back down for the shading portion, which went very fast as I was happy with how the tattoo was turning out and asked for just the Squirtles’ sunglasses to be done and check if I wanted any more shading. I prefer to stay quiet and to myself during appointments like haircuts and tattoos, but Angel made conversing very easy and natural as the pain surely made it easier to open up. The whole tattoo process took around two hours but it felt much shorter as I was comfortable. My experience at Sacred Art was extremely positive and the artists there made the process as easy as possible and I give a huge thanks to Angel for the tattoo and his time.


Jason Huynh is a Biosystems Analytics & Technologies major at the University of Arizona