From adversity to artistry

Hailing from the Philippines, Victor Rodriguez's family moved to the United States when he was 11 years old.

Because of his very Hispanic name, the people he grew up around assumed Victor could speak Spanish, which he couldn't. This prompted Victor to come up with what he called his "tattoo name."

People started talking to me in Spanish, and I didn't know how to speak Spanish at all. I knew I needed a new tattoo name, So I just smashed my name together so it didn't sound so Hispanic and came up with VRod.

While VRod had a great life in the Philippines, his father was a college professor, and much of his extended family came to the U.S. through the Navy. But, his uncle encouraged his dad to bring the family to the States to give them an even better life.

We came to Long Beach, CA, where my dad worked in the shipping yards. My family moved around a lot, and my two older sisters did well for themselves, but I was more of the black sheep of the family, getting in trouble a lot.

His journey to become a tattoo artist may have been an arduous route, but with a desire to succeed and “hunger” to be an expert, VRod mastered tattooing—finding success in his own right.

I was just kind of working, trying to stay out of trouble, and that's when I met my wife. She had a pretty stable career as a hairstylist. That's actually how I came into tattooing. I was tired of working two jobs and didn't want to live like that for the rest of my life. I knew I wanted the stability that a career provides—the kind of stability my wife had.

Tattooing was always in the back of VRod's mind. Feeling that his background and life experiences made him a perfect fit, he decided to follow his heart.

When his wife caught wind of this, she immediately pulled some strings and bought VRod his first tattoo kit. Wasting no time, VRod assembled the tattoo kit and got busy. His first client, of course, was his wife.

My wife pulled some strings and bought me my first kit. It was a big deal because it wasn't easy to find that stuff. I asked, 'What do you want me to do with this?' She said you want to be a tattoo artist!

From there VRod started tattooing out of his apartment.

I was tattooing my friends, family, and wife, just trying to figure out how to tattoo. I did this for about eight months, and then there was an incident at the apartment. Some guy wanted to bring all his friends. I think he was trying to rob me.

Deciding it was getting too risky to have strangers coming in and out of his home, VRod decided it was time to move his craft to a tattoo shop.

My wife made a list of the tattoo shops around Ventura for me. I went to every tattoo shop. In that area, it's super hard to get in if you don't know someone in the business or have a solid portfolio. I started to think it was pointless, but I went to this one small tattoo shop, and the owner was actually being interactive with me. He said, 'I like your work, but I wanna see your tattoo.' So I grabbed my wife and gave her a tattoo.

That's where VRod's story begins.

When I started tattooing, I was hired to cover the night shift. The owner sort of put limitations on me, I would talk to the walk-ins, and then if it was something he thought I could do, he’d let me take it.

VRod worked at the shop for almost two years until the lotus tattoo that he did for a client caught the owner's eye—taking VRod’s career to the next level.

The owner said, 'Man, that tattoo came out amazing!' I was so thankful and appreciative. Then he said, 'You know, that tattoo just kind of showed me that you're ready for any client that walks through that door.' And that's how my entire career started.

Soon after, the owner of the tattoo shop pulled in an apprentice.

We just kind of grew together for like six years. I busted my chops when that happened. I was like, I wanna be good at this. So I just pushed myself to be the best I could.

Eventually, VRod's wife suggested they move to Vegas.

I always thought I was not good enough for that city–I wasn't ready, but my wife said you should try it.

So VRod and his wife set out for Vegas.

It was tough to start over. I had a solid clientele. But my wife made a list of the hundreds of tattoo shops in Vegas, and we picked the top ten.

After a few years of tattooing in Vegas, VRod's skills and talent led him to Hart & Huntington Las Vegas. While some tattoo artists organically come into tattooing through art, for VRod, it was the other way around. His quest for knowledge and skill led him to explore the fundamentals of art in order to master tattooing.

I wasn't really into art when I started tattooing.

But I knew that if I wanted to be good, I needed to really know art. That's when I went full-blown on art media. I found out what everybody was doing and everything I could about oil and graffiti paint. I just want to understand everything about art. I was so hungry! I wanted to absorb as much as I could so that I couldn't pick a path. And, I continued like this until tattooing and art became second nature.

These days, tattooing is second nature for VRod. He's built a first-class portfolio and a solid client base, and we're pretty lucky to have him here at Hart & Huntington Las Vegas. Come on by or call to set up a consultation with VRod, and you'll quickly discover why everyone that crosses paths with him comes out with a new friend and a pretty fantastic tattoo.