When Looney, an OG Shoreline Crip from Venice Beach, CA, was incarcerated, he learned how to tattoo using a Walkman motor and an ink pen. Although illegal, being a “scratcher” (someone without formal tattoo training) in prison gave Looney the ability to cross the cultural divides that normally exist between different segments of the population and helped him gain respect amongst his fellow inmates.
Since his release, Looney has worked on building up his tattoo skills and continuing to learn by studying the works of Paul Booth, Bob Tyrrell, and Mister Cartoon. But since most of his training was done inside a prison cell instead of through an apprenticeship at a tattoo studio, he’s constantly had to prove to others that he’s more than just a scratcher. VICE catches up with Looney as he tattoos his friend Blue Rag and learns about his tattoo journey.
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