Meet the artist responsible for Dwayne Johnson’s new ink!

Just yesterday we wrote about Dwayne and his new tattoo. Today we have decided it is nice to get to know the awesome dude who is responsible for the masterpiece on Johnson’s biceps. Nikko Hurtado is the guy who spent 30 hours working on the masterpiece that is a hyper-realistic bull’s skull that covered up a lot older, and earlier, bull tattoo on the Rock’s upper arm.

All of the tattooers have a story behind them, and Hurtado decided to share his with us. He stated “My first interest in tattooing just came from looking at people’s tattoos when I was younger. My grandfather had tattoos on his forearm and hand, and my cousin was the first fully sleeved person I’d ever seen. He went to prison and came out with full sleeves, and I always thought he looked cool when I was younger.”

Hurtado’s big break came when his friend, Mike Demasi, opened up a tattoo shop in Hesperia called Art Junkies Tattoo Studio. He employed Hurtado even though he did not have any ink at the time. Demasi was confident and trusted his choice mainly because he knew just how artistically gifted Nikko is. This was the point that turned Hurtado’s life upside down and made this San Fernando Valley native leave his job in construction to start doing tattoos. It was a huge leap of faith for him because tattooing wasn’t that popular back then. It reached mainstream popularity sometime mid-2000s when the tattoo reality shows caught on.

After this, the next step for Hurtado was to establish a strong clientele which eventually was enough for him to open the original Black Anchor Collective in Hesperia. After that, a huge break came to him in the form of Los Angeles Artistic Element Tattoo shop on Melrose which was offered to him by the Yucaipa-based artist and the shop owner Roman Abrego. Nikko didn’t hesitate and took the chance while saying “You have to put your heart into it and develop a strong team and a positive team to work well.”

He added “My vision is to create a place where people can go in, be comfortable, and get great tattoos from anyone who’s in there. With tattooing, you’re always dealing with other people, so you want to give them a good experience and feel proud. It was actually harder for me to do that in the desert, because people have to travel to me to get tattooed. If we were to rely on just the desert clientele, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to open the shop in L.A.”

If you didn’t know this before, then you need to know now, Nikko is best known for his flawless full-color portraits and similarly realistic pieces. Yes, we are aware that he is not the only one that uses color realism, but he is definitely the one to go if you want your tattoo to have the combo of colors sometimes used by older European tattoo artists like Filip Leu and Tin-Tin with the level of detail portrayed by black-and-gray artists like Bob Tyrrell and Freddy Negrete. Nikko also confirmed this by stating “It was a little bit of a different style, but I really looked up to guys like Bob Tyrrell because he was capturing so much realism in his stuff. I think it was just a natural process to follow that up with the same type of realism in color. It came kind of intuitively to me because in high school, my art teacher would always tell me to do what I see. I’m always just trying to do what I see and not change it too much, so it seemed really natural for me.”


Hurtado is also a pretty decent guy who actually puts a lot of effort into every tattoo he does. It doesn’t matter if you are Dwayne, Drake, Jenna Jameson or just some regular Joe, you will get the same treatment and same skill. He gives it all, and he puts his heart in every piece he does which makes him pretty unique and keeps him going.

At the end, Hurtado stated “To be honest, when I was really young I used to tell my girl that I just knew in my heart that I would do something that a lot of people would know about. It’s really weird to say that, but I always felt like this was the place where I’d be. I actually feel that I’ll be a lot further than where I’m currently at, and I always just felt that inside of my heart and my soul. I wouldn’t say I’m a religious guy, but I always thought that the energy of the world or God or whatever gave me something to do. I don’t know if it’s the art or the tattooing, but I’m always looking for a way to do something positive and something greater for people to be inspired by. The tattooing part is just the thing that drives me.”