When you look at the definition of “OG” in the tattoo industry, a photo of Kasperio should be right next to it. As The Raven and The Wolves’ longest-tenured artist, Kasperio has been there and done that for virtually everything in the tattoo industry.
A lifelong artist who grew up drawing before moving into the graffiti scene as a teenager, Kasperio began hand-poking tattoos at the age of 15 before scoring his first tattoo machine. Soon enough, he was tattooing his friends in high school and the other neighborhood kids before moving into a tattoo shop based out of the Del Amo Plaza indoor swap meet at the age of 22.
In the decades since, Kasperio worked at — and ran — some of the finest shops around Southern California before settling in with The Raven and The Wolves crew. Now, he passes along the wisdom of the “before times” to the team’s younger members.
“Before there were computers, you had to draw everything on the spot if it wasn’t already on the wall as a flash design,” he says. “You were limited to getting what was on the wall or what the artist already knew how to draw. Then around 2006, the internet started taking off with Myspace, and then it was Facebook, and then you started seeing the TV shows, and after that was Instagram. It was only for bikers, gang members and sailors before, but all of a sudden you had people with a fine art degree watching the TV shows and getting into it.”
While Kasperio might feel that some artists rely on photo editing software too heavily as a crutch, he’s also aware that the popularity and expansion of the tattoo industry is what made high-end studios like The Raven and The Wolves possible in the first place. It’s a situation he’s happy and proud to be a part of after running his own shop in Huntington Beach, and one that he values everyday. Not only does being a part of the crew allow him to become a better artist and push himself everyday, but he gets to do it alongside his old buddy, Carlos Torres, while teaching the next generation some of the tips and tricks he’s picked up along the way.
“Respect your elders — no matter if you think that you're better than them — and never forget the history of how you came to be where you're at,” he advises up-and-coming artists. “Be humble and don't mistreat anybody because they're old or outdated. Some of these younger kids only care about how many followers and how many likes they get, but it's not all about that. You have to maintain some of the history of where you came from, how hard it was to get to where we’re at, and how much the older generation has paved the way.”
When he’s not tattooing, Kasperio spends a lot of time with his ever-growing family. But during the rare opportunity that he has a free moment, you can almost always find him working on a classic car. While rebuilding an engine may seem like more of a puzzle than an art form, he can’t help but see the similarities between his hobby and his career.
“You want to customize your body to be different, just like you want to customize your car so it doesn’t look like everybody else’s,” he says. “Plus, it’s about commitment. If you want good pinstriping and all the other stuff, you’re going to pay a painter $20,000. It’s the same thing as if you want a full backpiece from a top tattoo artist.”