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Art is diverse and has many different branches, with one of those branches being tattoos. Everyday, different people are sitting in chairs, expressing their individuality by being a canvas for an artist to express their artistic image. Within the past decade, the tattoo culture on Long Island has grown and Nassau County has become home to many talented tattoo artists.
Plainedge High School alumni, Mike Rubendall is an internationally renowned tattoo artist. Rubendall, with a predominant focus on Asian influenced art, opened Kings Avenue Tattooing in Massapequa.
“I would say I have a contemporary approach to traditional Japanese tattoo design,” said Rubendall, whose tattoos are tailored for each individual client.
Rubendall’s interests in art and music sparked his interest in tattoos.
“The tattoo culture had this underground, rough and tumble reputation…it had some sort of magic lure that sucked me in and I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do,” said Rubendall, who was motivated to make it in the tattoo world after coming from a small town.
In 1995 Rubendall landed an apprenticeship at Da Vinci Tattoo, which is located in Wantagh and owned by Frank Romano. This apprenticeship incorporated more than tattoo shop operations, including cleaning toilets and hot rods.
“Basically, I did anything that I was asked because that’s what I needed to do to get me where I wanted to be,” mentioned Rubendall whose relentless drive allowed him to never give up. “I truly believe hard work and happiness drive everything, and you’re only as good as your last at bat. So I was never content with my ability; I always wanted to be better.”
Rubendall appears across a variety of media, from Spike TV’s Ink Master to HEY MAGAZINE: Modern Art & Pop Culture in France.
“I want and hope to be one of greats some day and to leave behind a real legacy, one that will give back to tattooing since I feel so blessed to have found this incredible art form and have it as such a big part of my life to this day,” said Rubendall, who is not mesmerized by the fame. “Being a part of Kings Avenue and seeing my vision evolve into our vision…it’s touching to hear people tell me that Kings Avenue had a positive impact on their lives. [Tattooing is] my ultimate muse, and what I was destined to do.”
Clark Seiger, an artist at Kings Avenue Tattooing, is inspired by timeless imagery and those who have laid the path to where tattooing is today.
“I want to create a tattoo that will last the test of time and remain in style as the trends come and go,” said Seiger. “Every day is different, every new piece presents certain challenges and you’re constantly preparing for the next project… In order to be successful in this business you really have to love it. Tattooing has allowed me to make a career of something I would do for free.”
Artist Lance Levine of Lark Tattoo in Westbury is an artist who mastered the craft of black and grey, realistic tattoos and is inspired by Rubendall’s work and professionalism.
“I did not want to be a jack of all trades. I wanted to master one specific genre of tattooing,” said Levine, who comes from a family of artists and began drawing portraits at the age of eight.
Levine drew his whole life, but has been a tattooing for eight years.
“Being able to create every day and use my artistic abilities is amazing,” stated Levine, who also hopes that he creates tattoos his clients want to brag about. “Quality work and having the customer leave feeling great.”
Another talented Nassau County tattoo artist is Bobby Petraglia at Skin Deep Tattoo in Uniondale. Petraglia, also known as Tat2Bob, is a unique artist with more than 20 years of experience in the industry.
“I have a wide variety of styles… I pride myself in being able to do anything that comes into the shop,” said Petraglia, whose longtime passion for drawing lead him to realize he would end up in the art industry. “I have been lucky enough to learn from so many talented fellow artists… one of the most humbling things is that there is always something new to learn.”
Whether it be tattooing professional baseball player Jose Reyes or meeting with new clients, Petraglia has built an extensive clientele base. Petraglia’s ability to conquer any tattoo given to him stems from his drive and lifelong commitment to tattooing.
“When I turned 18, I dove in head first to the tattoo industry and gave 150 percent,” said Petraglia, who considers himself a custom artist. “I specialize in free hand work. I usually draw the piece on skin rather than using a stencil. Tattooing to me, is a way of life.”