When looking in the mirror in the morning, you’re most likely to notice your unclean pores and slightly-darker-than-yesterday bags under your eyes. But when Aaron Mason looks at you, he sees your skin as a canvas, one he’s going to turn into a piece of art that, were it not attached to you, you’d gladly cut off and hang on your wall.
For Mason isn’t your average tattoo artist. At just 25, he displays a skill and versatility normally difficult to find in men who’ve been in this business twice as long. Of his six years spent inking, four of them have been at Soul Expressions in Temecula. Owned by Daniel Adair, Mason recalls the time he spent apprenticing under him fondly, saying that “he showed me the ropes.”
This succinct statement paints an incomplete picture of Mason’s artistic education, however: Aaron grew up surrounded by art. His mother, Dayna, is an art instructor at Riverside City College, and a major inspiration on his work. What first drew him to the scene, though, was punk rock, and Horiyoshi and Regino Gonzalez are among those he lists as some of his influences. But perhaps the biggest guiding force is Riverside native Jeff Soto, who he interns under. Soto’s influence is expressed most strongly in the way that he’s “shown me ways to look at art,” explains Mason.
His outlook has been utilized for some interesting experiences as well. “I was asked by this one guy to do a stick figure sitting on a toilet reading a newspaper,” he laughs. “It was only about an inch tall, and the guy passed out, too!” Contrast that with what he says are the most difficult tattoos: portraits. “There’s no room for error.”
When he’s not in the shop finishing a piece, or working under an icon of the current pop art scene, Mason’s planning art shows for the shop, giving exposure to other artists and helping to build a community. His last effort, Mi Vida Artista, opened to great reviews back in March. For his new show coming up next month, he’s enlisted various artists to each create five six-by-eight-inch pieces and sign them on the back. Aptly named “Give me 5 on the Down Low”, the pieces themselves will be displayed blind, with no one’s name visibly on anything, and each will be sold for $100 or less. Between his ever-increasing tattooing abilities and his new ideas for getting art out there, Mason’s the perfect embodiment of Horace’s timeless words. (Shaun Rosenstein)
Soul Expressions Tattoo, 27326 Jefferson Ave. #15, Temecula; www.soulexpressionstattoo.com.