With all great stories comes great struggles, lessons, achievements, and hardships. Many of you know Gio through his military background or along his journey of tattooing. We wanted to really let you in to understand the owner and artist Gio Martinez. By doing a fun interview with the man himself, the raw truth pours out of Gio’s memory of the wild path to success.
Creating art has been Gio’s life. From a little kid he was drawing low riders, LA cityscape, sexy ladies, graffiti, all the Southern California Chicano art you can imagine. He grew up fascinated by the many trades of art in that realm such as pin striping, airbrushing, metal engraving. But tattooing was “The wildest thing” he says. “Art was the first thing I excelled at, I hated school, I remember questioning it even in elementary school. Due to that mindset, I was always in trouble and my grades weren’t good.”
Straight out of high school he needed to make ends meet. Being completely on his own tattooing became a little hustle. Tattooing his young friends on gritty Inland Empires kitchen counters became a regular weekend thing. Then he put down the machine and stopped tattooing.
“Ethically I couldn’t continue, the more I learned about tattooing the more wrong I felt about what I was doing.” He realized there was so much more to tattooing than he could even begin to wrap his head around. He realized that doing this independently with no guidance was wrong. So he vowed to not tattoo again until he found an apprenticeship. Not only so he could be respected, but most importantly so he can show respect to this magical craft that he felt he was destined to do.
He did what he felt was the honorable thing and found new ways to make money. From working at a farm under the hot California sun, onto being a cold-calling telemarketer, and then trying his hand at being a personal trainer. He was always hustling.
He needed to get out of his hometown and needed to fulfill this unknown crave for violence. “Ive always had this hunger for intensity and seeing what I was made of. I loved football and especially wrestling, I dabbled in MMA as well after high school. I did some hood rat shit too, sometimes that got intense.” He laughs as he reflects on this time in his life, “But the big thing I felt was holding me back from growing more as a man was leaving my home town.”
He goes on to say, “It just crushed my soul living in the same geographical bubble for so long. To this day I still don’t understand it. Its so crazy to me seeing people living in the same town more than 10 years later still hanging out with the same people from high school. I mean, if people are happy doing that good for them. I got nothing against you, good for you, truly.”
Then came the next huge chapter in his life, Gio joined the Army going straight through to the Special Operations, he wasn’t fucking around. He goes on to say, “When I asked around to buddies that were already in about what unit saw the most action and did actual door-kicking, pipe-hitter shit, the 75th Ranger Regiment was the one and only place to go and Im so proud I was little cog in the machine at some point of its history.”
Over his years he shared stories of his past with his ranger brothers, and of course many begged him to tattoo them overseas. Gio never broke his word to himself. He continued his military career without giving in to the tattooing temptation, even though he could’ve made bank doing it.
I purposefully didn’t have any social media during that time, I didn’t post ‘cool guy’ pics or videos of myself. I didn’t even try to make friends, though that’s inevitably going to happen.”
He goes onto say, “Honestly, my career in there is absolutely nothing compared to so many men of that unit. There are men of a caliber most humans will never experience getting to work with. And unfortunately, some of those men have lost their lives.”
The time had come where Gio’s military time was up. He is officially a veteran. If you know, then you know that transitioning from the military to “civilian world” is tough shit.
Gio returned to a job he was familiar with before the military. He landed a 9-5 construction job, but his mental health and happiness rapidly spiraled. Being bossed around by losers and running circles around every other civilian employee, only to get handed the short end of the stick.
Gio understood finally in order to be happy he needed to follow his calling, art. He left the job and enrolled into school where he began his art education journey.
He enrolled in college full time. Gio immersed himself with being back in school but his main focus was his first academic art class. Very quickly his love for art flooded his spirit. He realized that he could not live without it.
Then all the trade dabbling began. Wood burning, metal engraving, oil painting, digital design, you name it, Gio wanted to try it all. By freelancing he learned all different types of techniques and started his own design company. He created logos and custom art to start his art career, but in the back of his mind was always tattooing.
Gio began his search for an ideal tattoo apprenticeship. Finally a shop welcomed him in and Gio jumped at the opportunity filled with excitement super eager to start learning. Turns out after being there for months, attending school, then heading straight to the tattoo shop until midnight every night, this apprenticeship was not what he had imagined and he quickly left. That shop ended up getting shut down soon after.
Discouraged by experiencing a horrible so called apprenticeship, Gio went back to focusing on school and his design company. He became a member of the schools Design Club. He was surrounded by like minded individuals with all types of different art trades. Gio thrived being in that environment and helped his group of peers win a badass contest his first day in!
Through that experience, he got connected with a friend of a tattoo artist. This led to another shot at an apprenticeship and the rest is history.
Gio was then offered a unique opportunity amongst a veteran business. This business opened a door to start his tattooing career independently. “The stars just kept aligning”, he says.
And so began the War Horse Tattoo Studio business. Independently, Gio has been creating custom designs while running a very successful studio. His business serves the community of Dupont, Washington and the broader PNW area.
The roughly two years of calling War Horse our home, clients, friends, and family have witnessed Gio’s art grow with every session. Offering a variety of styles and killing every single one no matter how challenging. He started to become recognized and connected with other veteran tattoo artists. They opened their doors to him for guest spots and a place to offer continued growth of skills, techniques, but also kindness and a welcoming spirit.
So here we are 22 months in. Successful due to the outpouring support, loyal trusting clients, and Gio’s dedication to never stop learning and creating with an open mind. We have hit a point now where two years in we are rebranding to Violent Delights Tattoo Club to make way for a new professional chapter in Gio’s future.
From all this, I asked Gio what his top three lessons have been on this journey so far, and here is what he had to say.
Gio ends with this,