Cypher Local #1: Josh Lucero

By Daniel Paiz

If you have read any of the local interviews created in the past, then you know highlighting local creatives is imperative to Cypher Sessions. Denver Bites was that first iteration. Due to other projects that series was paused, and COVID-19 has delayed in-person video interviews for months.

So, throwing it back to email interviews is the move for right now. Local creatives in the city of Denver and the state of Colorado are the focus. These creatives will range from music to art to arenas mostly unexplored until now on our end.

This first interview is going to be with Denver-based tattoo and visual artist Josh Lucero. Josh has been drawing for quite some time, and has been tattooing a number of years as well. I ask a variety of questions to try and dig into the person behind the pen; all answers are responses directly from his email replies.

tattoo work by Josh Lucero

Where Josh Lucero started

Cypher Sessions (CS): So let’s start from the beginning here. What first inspired you to start drawing, and to start tattooing?

Josh Lucero (JL): Honestly, I don’t really have any specific thing that inspired me to start. When I was younger it was more of an escape from everything around me. I would listen to music all day and just draw for hours at a time, I specifically remember listening to The Black Album by Jay-Z all the time.

As for tattooing, I wasn’t really into the art even through high school. A year or so after high school, my sister brought me home a magazine where I could order a cheap tattoo kit, and from there on I just practiced on friends and family.

CS: That’s dope how it was an escape for you, I think we all have something like that. So how does drawing and tattooing differ for you creatively?

JL: It personally doesn’t differ too much for me as I do photo realism in both aspects. Of course I get a little more freedom with drawing compared to tattooing but overall they’re very similar. I personally prefer drawing over tattooing, only cause I get to make and create exactly what I want.

CS: Word. Shifting gears a bit, I want to know which pieces for each medium are you the most proud of, and what are the stories behind said pieces?

JL: When it comes to drawing, I couldn’t say what piece was my favorite. I would say any of the drawings of my children as they’re the most important people in my life, and I know when I’m gone these pieces will mean so much to them. As for tattooing, I also don’t know if I have a favorite but one that comes to mind is the Kendrick Lamar portrait I did a few years back.

The day just went really smooth and everything just seemed to sit in the skin really well to make this entire piece look nice. I’m pretty sure he was just a huge fan of Kendrick, and was later gonna also add a J Cole piece.

CS: That’s really cool, when a day unfolds like that. Kind of getting back to your creative process out of curiosity, what’s your process when you start drawing: what do you do first?

JL: First I go back and forth for at least an hour trying to figure out what piece I wanna actually draw. After that I go about it like I do a tattoo stencil, making a simple map of where everything is laid out. It’ll be a really light sketch and have minimal info for the piece.

After that I just work on it every now and then when I can find the time between being a father and husband.

drawing by Josh Lucero

Digging deeper

CS: It’s that continuous creativity, I hear you. That’s so important. So digging a bit more into your thought process, you mentioned your sister brought you a magazine that showed you a starter kits of sorts for tattooing. What were some of the first tattoos you created and what were the reactions of those who received said tattoos?

JL: So I personally can only recall two of my first few tattoos that I did. My very first was on my step dad, it was a few shattered bricks going up his right arm. They weren’t great but I guess they also weren’t terrible because they were supposed to look broken. Anyways, I think he still likes the tattoo to this day and really likes to show off that I did my first tattoo on him.

The other piece I can recall doing early on is a piece on my cousin Matt, it’s a memorial piece for our friend Randy that passed when we were younger. Looking at this piece now I know it could be a lot better, I would have went a completely different way with it. I’m thankful for these people who let me tattoo them early on, without them wouldn’t be where I am today.

tattoo work from Josh’s IG (handle at bottom of article)

CS: That’s dope you had a support system for your craft.

Speaking of, have there been people you’ve mentored or kind of shown the tattooing ropes to since you’ve been tattooing for a while now?

JL: There’s been a few people I’ve tried helping where I could when I first started but none of them really took it far; it’s seemed as if they weren’t as interested. Being in the shop for the last seven to eight years though, we’ve had three apprentices that have become full time tattoo artists. Of course this wasn’t just because of me, but we apprentice someone as a shop so they pick up little things from everyone.

I’m always for helping people though so even though some artists look at tattooing as such a sacred thing and don’t want to teach many people, I don’t mind if the person puts their all into it. Yuli from our shop is the latest to have apprenticed at our shop and she’s a great artist. She really shows love for what she does.

Seeing someone turn what you teach them into something so great like she has makes it all worth it. She now has a skill to use the rest of her life.

CS: For sure. So I’m guessing tattooing collaborations don’t really happen the same way artists collaborate on music, art, etc. but: if so who have you collaborated with or wanted to collaborate with? Who are your biggest tattoo artist inspirations?

JL: I haven’t exactly worked on many of the same pieces with another artist but I have done sleeves or whatnot that have other artist’s work tied into them. I don’t necessarily have a list of artists I want to collaborate with, it’s kinda just like if it happens I’ll go with it and if not then I don’t care either. My biggest inspirations are mostly artist I follow on Instagram such as Eric Marcinizyn, anyone who just does really great black and grey.

I try and get inspiration from anything. At the same time, I also try not to look so much at their work so that I can focus on what I create, instead of drifting too much towards what they do if that makes sense.

Josh Lucero penwork (IG handle below)

CS: Oh definitely, I get that. When it comes to what impacts you, let’s briefly talk about what’s happening today around us. How have COVID and the protests impacted your creativity, and have conversations you’ve possibly had about the protests, race, police brutality, etc. impacted what you create?

JL: Covid has impacted me like many other Americans as in I’m not working right now, I actually hit 100 days of not working today (June 17th) to be exact. The shop has opened back up but I chose to take a little more time to be with my family and stay a little extra safe. I miss work but I miss my little family more when I’m at work.

As for the protests and everything else going on, it hasn’t changed what I create. I don’t like to have much political statements or anything like so in my work, I support the people who do but that’s just not what my art is. No matter what side you’re on, someone still will dislike you for it and decide to not support you because of it.

CS: I hear you. So due to all that’s going on right now and how it’s hard to know what’ll happen next week let alone in a year or so, where do you want your drawing and tattoo work to take you?

JL: Honestly if it can just take care of my children, that’s all that really matters. I would like to get more art done just to make a bigger name for myself so I can continue to take care of them. I just want to improve more and more every chance I get and continue to make people happy with my art, I don’t necessarily have a certain place I want it to take me.

As long as me and my family are truly happy, that’s all that matters.

CS: Cool, cool. I like to ask everyone if there’s anything I’ve missed or if you have any words of encouragement for the readers out there?

JL: If I had any words of encouragement it would be just like I spoke about above. Do all this because it makes you and your loved ones happy. No matter what you choose to create, someone out there will hate it so just do what you want anyways. You can have the greatest lemonade the world has ever tasted but there will still be someone who doesn’t like it.

CS: That’s definitely a solid mindset in today’s day and age. Lastly, where can people find your work?

JL: I only share my work on my Instagram @spaghetti_kray.

always drawing (IG handle above)

That’s all she wrote…

That’s going to do it for our interview with drawing and tattoo artist Josh Lucero. Many thanks to this guy for taking the time to get back to us, and for being one of the first to respond so quickly. His Instagram handle is above and you can follow the link to check out all his dope imagery.

The next installment for Cypher Local should be another fun one, as we’ll continue speaking to another one of Denver’s gems. Make sure to stay tuned, share with someone you know who supports local creatives, and we’ll write to you soon.

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