A Gilroy tattoo artist was featured Jan. 9 in a competitive tattooing TV show called “Ink Master,” which aired at 10pm on the Spike network. If he wins, he would receive $100,000.
Daniel Silva, 24, who works at Rock Zone, at 1323 First St., is the youngest competitor on the show in its 10th season. Last year he beat the Season 8 winner in a San Francisco televised face off in front of a live audience after which he got 500 requests for tattoos.
His life is a real come-from-behind story. At 20, the Gilroy High School graduate served a year in jail for dealing cocaine and marijuana. He got out and lived on friends’ couches and garages for a year, while he saved up money for a $300 tattoo machine and worked in retail.
He got a station at Rock Zone when it was the only place that would give him a spot because he was so inexperienced and hadn’t served an apprenticeship. His first month he had three customers. He had four the next. But after spreading his art on social media his clientele grew geometrically. He’s now booked a year in advance. The popular TV show found him as a result of his strong presence on social media. The fact that he’s so young and facing much more experienced competitors made him a real darling on the show.
“The trade is super hard to get into,” said Silva. “You can’t learn it in school. It’s one of those trades where you have to know someone to learn it. For me it wasn’t not a normal thing. I just taught myself studying YouTube videos. Every tattoo I did, I tried to better myself.”
He did his first tattoo at 16, when a friend who owed him money and had a tattoo machine had him ink a skull on the palm of his hand.
The detail of his art is highly praised by fellow artists on the show and by clients, called “canvasses” on the air. “Once you prove you are good, people come after you,” he said.
He bills himself as a “fine artist,” not someone who puts the cliched butterfly on backs.
“I’ve never really done weird, crazy requests,” he said. “I draw something I want to do and post it on social media and people come in. I’ve never really done random butt tattoos or face tattoos or dumb stuff that people would be walking down the strip in Las Vegas and say, ‘this is a dumb idea’”.
He denies twice as many requests for body art as he takes. “I do body art, not tattoos,” he said.
He spent a month in a house in New Jersey for the show, which filmed 16 episodes. It looks a lot more glamorous on the air than in real life, he said.
“It looks luxurious on the show,” he said. “It was filmed upstairs and we slept downstairs, like an army barracks. We lived together, ate together and shared one bathroom.”
He had to pay rent back home for his space and home, so, broke even with what the show paid him to appear.
Client Raul Cerna, an Infiniti car technician, drove from Modesto after waiting for six months for an appointment to have body art on his arm. He had seen Silva’s work on social media and paid $800 for the work.
“I love it,” he said. “I love the detail in it, his line work is amazing. People love how clean it came out, the detail. They just love it.”