From a young age, tattooist Steven Avalos was interested in art. At the age of 5, he invented a character for himself, a “kid villain.” Avalos explained, “The kid was evil, but he was also good because he loved making art.” Over twenty years later, Avalos is now the owner of Greenpoint’s newest tattoo studio—Evil and Love Tattoo.
Before setting up shop in Greenpoint in early January, Avalos had worked for eight years as a tattooist at Dark Child Tattoo in Long Island. In addition to a desire for his own studio he felt that his artwork would be more respected in a neighborhood like Greenpoint. “I heard from people that this was a real up-and-coming neighborhood, with lots of artists,” he said. “I wanted to come somewhere where art was more accepted.”
I recently had ink done by Avalos, after deliberating for several months on which studio to choose. Picking an artist is a significant decision, so I scoured the city. I traveled to several shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but they seemed too commercial. I also ventured down St. Marks, but the area’s seedy atmosphere (most tattoo parlors are fronted by a head shop) was an aversion.
Then one day, while walking down Franklin Street, a gleaming gold and black sign proclaiming “Evil and Love Tattoo” intrigued me. The logo, designed by Avalos, featured an umbrella with a gazing eye. “The eye signifies somebody searching for a good idea,” he later told me. He added that the lightening bolts and umbrella symbolize a storm. “In a storm, you might be struck by lightning. [Metaphorically] you’re ‘struck by lightning’ when you get a great idea. You’re touched by God in a way.”
While I was contemplating the insignia, an employee inside waved to me. Encouraged by her friendliness, I stepped inside. The shop was spacious and clean, with full-length windows facing the street, and walls adorned by decorative art. Definitely a step above the cramped, dark parlors lining St. Mark’s Place. Avalos came out to greet me. Unlike previous artists I’d met who merely quoted me a price, Steven was engaging and encouraged me to come back. Having gotten a good vibe from the place, I did.
Next week was my tattoo consultation. Avalos was patient while deciding the design/placement of my tattoo (a black rose). He wanted to give me exactly what I envisioned. “This is like retail in a way, since I’m selling a service,” he explained. “I don’t discriminate on any tattoo that a customer decides they want to get. I know some shops that do discriminate.” When reviewing shops I learned that consultation with the artist is paramount. Both artist and customer should agree on a design before ink touches the skin.
It was finally time to get tattooed. Here, I realized the shop’s motto, “a mixture of pain and excellence,” is fitting. Though getting tattooed was painful, Evil and Love’s employees lightened the mood. I was provided with hand warmers (it was cold that day!), and friendly conversation by Avalos and his cousin, Melanie Rodriguez, who serves as the receptionist. Most importantly, it was a pleasure to walk away with excellent new ink!
I received a custom tattoo (an original design, rather than an image chosen from the artist’s portfolio.) “We specialize in custom work,” Avalos said. “There’s no set style to what we do. We do everything from cover-ups, to photorealism, to American Traditional. I’m most interested in American Traditional.” Other artists on the Evil and Love team include Chris Wilkie, who also specializes in American Traditional, and Amanda Rodriguez, who specializes in black and gray work.
Avalos, who has a degree in Graphic Design, and uses paper as a canvas as well as skin, hopes to eventually turn the tattoo studio into something more. “I’d like to make this space partly into a gallery for fine art,” he explained. “I’ll hang my paintings and paintings by friends who are artists.” He added that he feels Greenpoint is custom-made for new galleries. “This is a real friendly neighborhood. There’s great restaurants here, and a big art scene here, including for fine art,” he said.
Evil and Love Tattoo
Price: $100 per hour
211 Franklin Street