Tattoo Artist Ricardo Sturdivant Talks Life, Style, and Linework

Interview with Ricardo Sturdivant by Amanda Peukert

April 6, 2022

From his unexpected beginnings in the industry to his realization that community and camaraderie are as essential to the craft as cartridges are to needles, expert tattooer Ricardo Sturdivant is no stranger to trial and error. In fact, even when it comes to tattoo studio software, Ricardo has had his fair share of failed ventures – until recently, that is.

Linework had the pleasure of speaking with Ricardo about everything under the sun, including the closure of his own shop, why discomfort keeps him highly motivated, and how Linework has helped him progress as an artist.

Linework: You’ve been tattooing since 1998, roughly 24 years. How did you get your start in the industry?

Ricardo: I always liked tattoos, but I didn't know that I wanted to do tattoos. I moved around a lot as a kid – back and forth between Illinois, Texas, New York, all over the United States, really. But around 18 or 19, I eventually ended up back in Texas. One day, I took my art to a tattoo shop and the artist liked it. I started hanging around the shop and he started showing me some stuff here and there. When I finally moved back to Illinois, we kept in touch. He kind of just schooled me from across the country and started helping me out with supplies and stuff. I eventually got hired at a local shop and dug my feet in a little deeper. The rest is pretty much history.

Linework: So, your involvement in the industry was somewhat by chance.

Ricardo: Big time.

Linework: Being that you moved around a lot in the early years of your life, where do you consider home?

Ricardo: Well, I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but I've lived in Illinois since 1993. I've met a lot of really solid friends here, I started a family here, and everything is pretty much here. I would say Illinois is my home, for sure.

Linework: What shop do you work out of in Illinois?

Ricardo: I just recently closed my shop, Candor Tattoo, and now I’m working out of Art Kore Tattoo.

Linework: Why’d you close Candor?

Ricardo: Well, I’d been doing the solo thing since 2013, but I honestly started to go a little stir crazy. I was hanging out with the Reinventing the Tattoo crew and it really opened my eyes to what I’d been missing: interaction with the community, interaction with like-minded people, etc.

Linework: How would you describe your tattooing style?

Ricardo: I’m a little more illustrative, I’d say. I prefer black and gray over color, but with that said,  I also do a lot of color tattoos. Everything I do is heavily influenced by traditional Japanese principles, for sure. I don't do a whole lot of Japanese-style work, but its principles are always present.

Linework: What’s your favorite medium aside from tattooing?

Ricardo: Charcoal and oil painting.

Linework: What keeps you motivated?

Ricardo: Discomfort has been my major motivator lately – putting myself in scary places and moments, exposing my vulnerabilities. You’ve got to get comfortable with discomfort – that's what helps you grow.

Linework: Switching over to the business aspect of tattooing, what’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to the administrative side of the industry?

Ricardo: I’d say people outside of the industry trying to cash in on what they see as dollar signs. That’s the thing I really liked about Linework, it was created for tattoo artists by tattoo artists.

Linework: What do you typically look for in tattoo studio software?

Ricardo: So, I’ve actually invested in a couple of different software programs and they absolutely sucked; they all ended up being geared toward salons. What I look for in software is a program that won’t just keep track of my clients, but also keep track of the money they spend, the time they’ve spent with me, etc. I also want software that’s going to keep track of tax information for IRS purposes. As an artist, when I see numbers, I start to sweat. I’m looking for software that takes care of all those things for me. Linework does it all.

Linework: Oftentimes, tattoo artists are reluctant to embrace advancements in the industry – and rightfully so. Why do you think tattoo studio software like Linework is important to the growth of the industry?

Ricardo: I think we avoid new technology because it’s just another thing we have to deal with, but it’s important because it keeps us organized, takes the legwork out of a lot of the administrative stuff, and ultimately helps us progress as artists.

Linework: What are some advancements in the industry you just can’t get behind?

Ricardo: Some of the educational stuff out there I just can’t get behind. People are so enamored by the idea of tattooing, but with these “tattoo schools,” you're experimenting on people with something that's going to last forever. You also don’t get to have the same personal connections that you would with an apprenticeship; you just pay your monthly fee or whatever and receive a “tattoo degree” or “diploma,” which literally means nothing in this industry.

Linework: What’s one piece of business advice you’d offer to newer tattoo artists?

Ricardo: Don’t party so much [laughs]. Set some small goals for yourself and keep your eye on the prize, whatever that may be. Don’t get swept up in the money side of things. Do your homework. Put in the work. And invest in good software like Linework.

Follow Ricardo Sturdivant’s tattoo journey on Instagram at @RicardoSturdivant