Ever since he started tattooing his friends and family while in art school at Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, Ricardo De Cruz knew that the worlds of painting and tattooing would forever be linked for him. A decade later, he’s one of the most revered artists not just at The Raven & The Wolves, but in all of Long Beach and Southern California.
As the shop’s resident expert in the spooky, surreal, and fantasy types of pieces, De Cruz doesn’t just get to flex his artistic skills on all sorts of dark subject matter, but also his creativity. While the variety of skulls, monsters, beasts, and everything in between may be a burden for some artists to invent day in and day out, it’s a natural progression for the devout artist. After all, he got his earliest beginnings putting his own spin on some of the most famous supernatural figures.
“I liked to sketch a lot of comic book characters as a kid,” De Cruz said. “I would have comic books or cards or something, and then just copy that on to paper — but it was all freehand. I also doodled with Sharpies on the arms of all my homies when we were kids, and I guess that was like tattooing for me at that age. Plus, I’ve always just loved horror and all that stuff. As a kid, I was watching every horror movie I could find.”
After more than two years at The Raven & The Wolves, De Cruz is now a fixture at the studio as both a tattoo artist and a painter, but it was only a matter of months before that when he felt lucky just to be asked to contribute a painting to the first annual Blood & Fire art show. De Cruz had never really interacted with Carlos Torres or much of the rest of the crew before that evening, but after displaying a piece in the gallery and hearing that the shop would be expanding, he knew it was his opportunity to join one of the top tattoo families in the world.
“My growth [since joining The Raven & The Wolves] has been huge,” De Cruz said. “I'm still learning a lot, but there's just so much inspiration and so many artists here that are very talented. Everyone that works here is really into fine art — whether it’s painting or drawing — and everyone is always helping each other. Just by working next to them, it's been helping me grow. It's been a very blessed experience.”
In addition to being The Raven & The Wolves’ resident dark art and horror expert, De Cruz also holds one of the most valuable specializations in the entire industry: coffee expert. The former Starbucks employee not only fuels himself with caffeine to balance his career and home life as a loving father for his 3-year-old son, but also knows the importance of a good cup of coffee rather than the usual swill one can find in some tattoo shops. For that matter, it’s almost as important as the artistic freedom he’s earned from much of his clientele.
“Coffee helps everything, but having clients give me artistic freedom and is probably the main thing that motivates me,” De Cruz said. “That makes it exciting for me, because it doesn't give me boundaries or walls. I can go anywhere within the subject matter. It gets me excited when I have that freedom.”