By Monica Morones

Young, talented, and driven Tattoo Artist Temo Aldrete isn’t defined by a style but more of a look. You know it’s his work when you see it. Vibrant colors, geometric shapes, and stippling, are some of the trademarks of his work. As an avid collector of tattoos for the last 16 years, I have my own personal stereotypes about how people are treated in tattoo shops and by artists, but Temo was open, friendly, and humble as ever and showed me different. I went to go have a chat with him at Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo in Palm Springs and I loved how open, clean and professional their shop was. We got to have a heart to heart about how he started in the game and what drives him to be the best he can be.

MM: How old are you and where are you from?

TA: I am currently 28 years old and I am from Guadalajara. My father brought us here when I was 2 or 3 years old for a better life.


MM: How did you get into art?

TA: At a young age I didn’t have many toys or things to play with so out of boredom I picked up a pencil and a piece of paper and I just started drawing everything I saw. I started drawing my family members and kept at it. In middle school I had an art class and we had to draw something for the county fair so I drew this Indian. I got first place and I was like this is kinda cool, I can do something with this. It sparked something in me.

MM: What is your favorite medium?

TA: I like to work with anything I can get my hands on whether its tattooing, spray painting, acrylic, chalk, watercolors, or even building stuff out of wood.

MM: Did you go to art school or are you self-taught? And what are your thoughts on that?

TA: I learned about certain tools to use in high school. I didn’t learn shit in college. I went to C.O.D. right after high school and didn’t really feel like I learned anything. They offered more classes for nursing and teaching at the time and I wasn’t comfortable with the whole critiquing process. I didn’t like the critiques. Who is to say that a person could have done a better job? Do you want to see the same painting or different interpretations? An artist’s way of painting is their way and you shouldn’t try and tell them it’s wrong or change them… in my opinion.

MM: When did you start tattooing?

TA: I got into tattooing by accident. I was into screen printing at the time. I was offered the chance to learn how to tattoo and did my apprenticeship with Alyssa King at Modify at the time. She was my mentor and teacher and I didn’t touch skin for 7 months. The first time I did was nerve wracking. You watch someone do it, but you don’t understand it, so you don’t know what you’re looking for. It was a simple little star on a chick’s back. I completed a full year of my tattooing apprenticeship until Alyssa left the shop and moved to L.A. I had to figure it out from there. It’s all trial and error. Every tattoo I do my technique is different. I want to keep teaching myself new things.  I don’t want to stay content with one technique. I don’t want my approach to a tattoo to be the same every time.

MM: What would you describe as your style?

TA: I don’t think I necessarily have a style. As far as the style I’m still trying to figure out the process of tattooing and how to make a better tattoo each and every day and not be content with where I’m at and try hard to get better and better.

MM: What is your biggest struggle as an artist?

TA: I think the biggest struggle is time. You can’t buy time. Once you lose it it’s gone. Finding an equal balance for everything is a struggle.

MM: What artist/artists have influenced you the most?

TA: That would be my friend and artist Gabriel Gonzalez, rest in peace. He was a big influence and how I got into tattooing and why I still continue to tattoo. I like to learn and study from different artist that I’m surrounded by at work, from your local carpenter, to welder, to mechanic. But most of my studying comes from James Haun who is a fellow tattoo artist.

MM: What do you think of the art scene in the Coachella Valley?

TA: The art scene out here seems to be opening up a lot more and giving up and coming artists the opportunity to express themselves, which a few years back wasn’t happening.

MM: What is the most touching story about a tattoo you have done?

TA: This kid came in once wanting a coy fish on his side, probably 19 years old. He was telling me that his dad was dying and he had to have a certain surgery and if he didn’t he was going to die. So he joined the military so that he could get the benefits and have his dad get this life saving surgery because they were dirt poor and they couldn’t afford it. If you think about it, there’s a chance that that kid was going to go to war, he could get blown up in Iraq or who knows what could happen so it’s basically a life for a life. He sacrificed his life for his dad. When we were almost done with the tattoo, his mom called and told him his dad had the surgery and he was going to be fine now and we only had the tail left to do but he said, “I’m done dude. I can’t finish it.” You could feel in his body a sense of relief and you knew that he was strong for his dad. When he came back to finish it, he was in more pain than before so it’s crazy how the mind works and the pain you can endure.

MM: In the tattoo/art world EGO is a big issue. Why do you think that is?

TA: I can’t answer the question for every single person as to why artists have a big ego. I’ve talked to a couple of artists from out here and it just seems that in the valley everyone has an ego, which is pretty dumb because it’s such a small desert. We should all work together and help each other out. There is a lot of talent here. You don’t have to drive to L. A. to get a good tattoo, we have great artists right here in the desert. But we should all be working together instead of everyone just being out for themselves so we can build a reputation of good artists here in the desert.

MM: If you were asked to be on a Tattoo reality show -would you and what are your thoughts about it?

TA: Not going to lie to you, I’ve tried out before. Had an interview with a TV show and it just wasn’t for me. It’s more for ratings and they wanted people to act out. They were looking for that person that’s going to start drama instead of how talented that artist can be. Don’t get me wrong TV shows have helped out in some ways where people that would have never gotten a tattoo are getting tattoos now, but it just wasn’t me. I’m not an angry guy or dramatic.

MM: What is the root of your inspiration?

TA: I would have to say my family. How hard my father and mother worked for us to have a better life in this country and better opportunities. If they were able to come to this country without anything and make something out of themselves, I owe it to them to become something and make them proud of what I do. The other day my mom said she saw a girl that had a tattoo and someone had asked the girl, “Who did that tattoo?” and the girl replied with, “Oh a guy named Temo in Palm Springs.” Now my mom is traditional, she’s not ok with tattoos, hopefully one day she will be, but she saw that and she said “eses mi hijo” (that is my son) and to me that showed me that she is proud of me, which I can’t even describe to you in words how that makes me feel.

You can see more of Temo Aldrete’s work: