OCWeekly — February 18, 2016
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Under Their Skin
Josh Chesler

Dainty—and Proud of It <br /> <br /> Devin Mena of Laguna Tattoo<br /> <br /> As the son of an artist, Devin Mena has been involved in art for as long as he can remember. As soon as he was old (and adequate) enough to make a career out of it, Mena began doing artwork for companies such as Starbucks and Bacardi. His work was featured in everything from advertisements to body-painted models, but well before that he had taken an interest in tattooing.<br /> <br /> “I was always drawing on myself with markers before I had any tattoos, so it looked like I had a different sleeve every day,” Mena says. “Someone asked me if I was the one doing all of this artwork for Bacardi and such, and when I first turned 18, she asked if I wanted an apprenticeship to tattoo.” <br /> <br /> The Riverside native’s apprenticeship lasted three years while he also tattooed out of his house. He started every morning at 4, working as a barista at Starbucks, and then would go straight to the tattoo shop to apprentice until 8 p.m. The 16-hour days didn’t leave much time for anything else, but it paid Mena’s bills through the late 2000s. “I was working my ass off, but I really wanted to learn to tattoo,” Mena says. “It was worth it for me.” <br /> <br /> Mena spent what little free time he had getting tattooed by the artists he most looked up to. That way, he could use the tips and tricks he learned from them on his friends, who he was tattooing out of his bedroom. When his apprenticeship ended, one of the tattooers who’d been mentoring him was opening up his own shop and gave Mena a chair to take care of the small tattoos and walk-in traffic.<br /> <br /> “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I’d do a little script or infinity signs or whatever on walk-ins until I got comfortable,” he says. “I would always get stomachaches before every appointment I had for the first year—I was so nervous.” <br /> <br /> After those first few rough years, Mena was given the opportunity he’d been seeking. The owner of Laguna Tattoo was ready to offer him a part-time job so he could learn from those whom he considered to be among the best around. (In the past, renowned tattoo artists including Lindsey Carmichael and Brother Greg have tattooed there.) While Mena’s style might not resemble theirs, he still respects the traditions and heritage they laid down for him, as well as the great reputation of the shop he calls home.<br /> <br /> “I really started to learn a lot more when I moved down here,” Mena says. “Tattooing in Riverside, no one was that good up there. It was mostly a bunch of tweakers who didn’t know what they were doing. The guys [at Laguna Tattoo] were really professional old-school guys, so I really learned a lot from them on the history and traditions you should know if you’re going to be a tattooer.” <br /> <br /> It’s those old-school traditions that allow Mena to tattoo in his own personal style without compromising the integrity of his work. “My style is super-girly,” he says. “I do a lot of flowers and fancy script and dainty single-needle tattoos. Like, 90 percent of my clients are girls, and that’s fine with me because girls have better skin for tattooing. That dainty look, if you push too hard, it blows out, but if you don’t push hard enough, it won’t stay over time. I’m really picky about line work, so I don’t know what’s different, but it holds up.”<br /> <br /> LAGUNA TATTOO 656 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 497- 3702; www.lagunatattoo.com. Follow Mena on Instagram:@devinmenatattoos.<br />