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Featured Tattoo Artist: Rick Walters - The Man Behind the Beard

Posted on December 22 2015

One thing that is easy to love about  Black Market Art Company is their dedication to the unique and amazing artists of the tattoo and low brow world. They have displayed thousands of pieces of art from hundreds of different tattoo artists over the years on their shirts, prints and accessories. They are all things tattoo, so it’s no wonder that one of their most celebrated artists, is the legendary Rick Walters.

Who is Rick Walters?

Rick Walters isn’t just some old tattoo artist that people mildly admire, he’s THE old tattoo artist that people admire like some sort of living tattoo shrine. What is incredible about Rick Walters not only as a person but as a tattoo artist is how much he has experienced throughout his lifetime. He has seen tattoo culture grow from the crude, yet precise methods of the past, to the refined and sometimes overly complicated machines of today. He’s watched legendary artists come and go and seen the purpose of tattoos shift from mostly being an assertion of rebellion to being accepted by society as expressive storytelling.

Rick grew up in California. He was the kind of kid that your mother warned you about. Gruff, rough and spit-in-your-face tough, it’s a wonder he wasn’t born with a tattoo machine in his hand. But it didn’t take him long to get into the practice.

His first tattoo? As with any fledgling tattoo artist, you expect the work to be crude. You expect the artist to be in his young 20’s or even teens. But Rick? No...he beats them all. Rick’s first tattoo was the words “born to raise hell”, done with using the painful poke method, on his own leg when he was 10 years old. The truth behind that first tat couldn’t have been more spot on. That boy had no apologies even then and the Rick Walters of today doesn’t either.

Rick has had the advantage of seeing his tattoos age on his customers over decades and has learned a great deal about not just the ink of today but the way ink will look years from now. This has influenced his techniques and style as well as those of whom he has apprenticed throughout his career.

Story of Rick Walters Hates You

If you’ve heard of Rick Walters. Then you’ve probably heard that  Rick Walters Hates You. You can see his bearded, grimacing mug across t-shirts, buttons and art prints. But does he really hate you?

Well, here’s how the story goes  as Rick tells it:

Rick was out riding his motorcycle back in 1974 through San Fran and decided to stop at a photo booth on a whim. He sent one of the photos to his sister which came back to him decades later through Facebook. A friend of his commented that he had a “fucking hate you” look to it, which prompted someone to send Rick a package of Rick Walters Hates You stickers which he passed out to everyone. Later, at an art show, they distributed posters of his face glaring at you saying Rick Walters Hates You and it took off from there and sticks around today. Eventually, his iconic scowl was rephotographed with the caption Rick Walters Still Hates You. It’s a testament to his humor.

Rick Walters Tattoo Style

Rick has always been a big proponent of traditional tattoo craft. He has his own line of ink that uses the traditional 7 colors. He also has had several pieces done using hand-poke and advises all artists to learn their machines. To Rick, the reason you do art, is just as important as the art itself and learning your machine is integral to understanding your art.

His flash pieces can be found on Black Market Art’s men’s and women’s t-shirts and prints. His flash work is elegant and shows off his creative nature while sticking with the traditional style of American tattoo styles.

Rick Walters currently tattoos at several tattoo shops around the country, making him the oldest practicing tattoo artist in California today. He enjoys doing traditional American style tattoos but appreciates a good challenge. 

He’s a remarkable artist with such a long history in tattooing and tattoo culture that anyone who has the opportunity to meet this inked wizard shouldn’t miss it. 

For those who don’t venture toward the West coast often, you can still appreciate his work by picking up a Black Market Art shirt or print. 

Just remember, Rick Walters doesn’t really hate you, he just looks like he does.


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