Whether you’re looking for precise and ornate lettering or picture-perfect black and gray, Joey Zazueta is just the artist for you. As one of the resident artists here at the Raven and the Wolves, Zazueta — pronounced like “soft sweater” for those without a knack for Spanish — was introduced to the tattoo world through his brother-in-law, who tattoos in Las Vegas.
“He introduced me to graffiti and kind of put me on the game, but he learned under a lot of respected artists, so I got to be around that at a young age,” Zazueta recalls. “I realized that I really liked the environment, the people, and the art. And that's where I started to fall in love with it.”
From there, Zazueta trained and refined his skills under a few different Orange County-based artists — primarily Allan Rivera of Renaissance Studios — while keeping up more conventional jobs like the Apple Store and being the art director for Suavecito to pay the bills. But as Zazueta grew more confident in his tattooing, he understood that he’d be better served by putting the time and effort into further growing his artistic skills rather than working a day job.
Early in his tattooing career, Zazueta would find himself designing and tattooing any project that came through the door for up to 15 hours per day, 7 days per week. It was during that stretch when he realized that not only did he have an appreciation for intricate lettering, but his background could make him one of the best at it.
“I've always loved lettering — even before I started tattooing,” Zazueta says. “My mom and my sisters have very nice cursive, and I always loved it. My sisters would talk on the phone with her friends for hours, and she would just write really pretty words in cursive on a piece of paper or a box or anything that was around. So when I learned cursive in second grade, I just never stopped using it. Then, when I got introduced to graffiti, I learned about letter structure and how you can make these beautiful pictures with letters. That's when I started to get more creative with it, seeing how I can create my own or whatever.”
After meeting the Raven and the Wolves’ owner Carlos Torres when Zazueta was a teenager, the young artist knew he wanted to work with him even before he started tattooing. After getting his footing alongside Rivera at Renaissance Studios, Zazueta was one of the top artists Torres looked to bring on to his team. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I just love the constant growth and inspiration of being here and being around a good team,” Zazueta says. “Some environments are very negative, or you're around people that have really shitty attitudes, because a tattoo shop is kind of like a pirate ship. We're all pirates, and no one wants to be told what to do, so it’s rare to have an environment that not only pushes you to get better, but also inspires you and is a positive environment to be in. I don't think I've ever seen another creative space like this.”
Outside of tattooing, Zazueta enjoys painting, Polaroid photography, and parenting his adorable daughter, Valentina. He also considers himself a reformed skateboarder, but would be open to exploring other boardsports.