Tattoo artist pursues lifelong passion working for Meriden studio

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MERIDEN — When Jonathan Cruz was only 7 years old, he began creating artwork for his friends. Something that appeared to be a hobby as a child turned into a career as a tattoo artist. 

As a child growing up in New Haven, Cruz recalled being inspired by his family members who were also artists. Something he was always passionate about was Japanese animation. Cruz said he felt drawn to the artwork because of the style and it motivated him.

“I grew up with my cousins. We would mess around and draw stuff and I would also practice in school...When I would draw for people and they liked it, it would make me feel good. That’s what kept me going in that artistic path,” he said. 

Cruz began his career as a dental assistant, but he knew he wanted to do tattoos. He recalled being nervous to take the first step. When Cruz overcame his fear, he ordered a tattoo set. When it arrived one of his friends let Cruz practice on him. Cruz remembered his first tattoo that night was a smiley face on his friend’s leg. After some frustration from being a self-taught artist, Cruz gave up and continued his career as a dental assistant. 

“People shut down your dreams because they think it's hard, but I’ve always had people supporting me and pushing me to do what I want to do,” he said. 

Cruz was talking to a co-worker one day and she mentioned her husband owned a tattoo shop nearby in Meriden, Fantasy Ink, 77 Broad St. It was a studio Cruz had always wondered about when he would drive past it every morning to work.

Cruz met the owner of Fantasy Ink, John Vance, and told him he was looking for an apprenticeship, which Vance then arranged. For his first design at Fantasy Ink, Cruz returned to an image he had been most proud of creating as an artist, a bird resting on flowers. From that day on, his confidence in his abilities as a tattoo artist grew. 

“His skill is beyond what he thinks,” said Vance. “He is putting out amazing work in a short period of time. He wants to push himself, and his progression has blown my mind.”

As an artist at Fantasy Ink, Cruz said it is important for him to customize his artwork to each person to give it significance. 

“One thing I realized and want to get better at is not being afraid of taking a risk,” said Cruz, now a Bloomfield resident. “If the opportunity is laid out in front of you definitely explore that…If it works out or doesn't work out at least you tried it.”

Cruz said he enjoys black and gray tattoos. He finds them challenging and is able to work with shading. 

“I am very grateful for the opportunity, the way I met John and him teaching me everything he knows makes me feel appreciative of everything in my path,” he said. 

jdiaz@record-journal.com203-317-2386Twitter: @jarelizz

"Fear stops a lot of people from trying new things."

-Jonathan Cruz

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