Greg James (tattoo artist)

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Greg James at Tattoos Deluxe on September 24, 2012

Greg James is a well-known tattoo artist who is considered "one of America's finest."[1] Greg's tattoo designs and original artwork have appeared in magazines, books, documentaries, and at the Hard Rock Cafe.


At the age of fourteen, Greg began drawing flash for his brother, Tennessee Dave, and eventually apprenticed with him in 1976.[2] From single-needle black-and-gray work to classic Americana tattoos and ultimately the large, custom Japanese artwork for which he has become famous, Greg tattooed continuously in Los Angeles (on Main Street in downtown L.A. and also the Pike, in Long Beach) for nine years as he continued to hone his craft.[1]

Sunset Strip[edit]

"I wanted to do superlative work. So, I made a choice. I would either quit tattooing or try to get in with Cliff Raven at Sunset Strip Tattoo. Cliff hired me. That's the beginning of the story."[1]

In 1985, Greg joined Sunset Strip Tattoo in Hollywood. Originally opened by Lyle Tuttle in the 1960s, the shop was then owned by Cliff Raven and subsequently Robert Benedetti, pioneers and innovators in the Japanese style of tattooing. For over twenty-five years, Greg played a large part in building the stature of the legendary studio, becoming "the real star at Sunset … the tattoo artist's tattooer."[3]

During his almost forty-year career, Greg has also apprenticed numerous other tattoo artists, including Eric Blair[4] of Subculture Tattoo and Dollar Bill of Sunset Strip Tattoo.

Notable clients[edit]

Russell Mitchell, CEO, Exile Cycles
Russell Mitchell, CEO of Exile Cycles with tattoos by Greg James: full sleeves and two hikae, or chest panels, featuring a blue dragon and orange koi.


Custom Japanese dragon tattoo by Greg James
Custom Japanese dragon tattoo by Greg James.
  • Great Northwest Tattoo Convention
  • Hollywood Park Tattoo Invitational[17]
  • Musink Tattoo Convention
  • National Tattoo Association Convention[18]
  • New York City Tattoo Convention
  • Tattoo Body Art Expo[19]
  • Tokyo Tattoo Convention[20]

Tattoos Deluxe[edit]

Custom Japanese backpiece tattoo by Greg James
Custom Japanese backpiece tattoo by Greg James of Tattoos Deluxe.

In September 2012, Greg opened his own tattoo studio, Tattoos Deluxe, in Sherman Oaks, CA (formerly Subculture Tattoo).[21] Over time, Greg has emerged as a thoughtful and moderate spokesman for tattooing.[22] Despite being at the top of the industry and known worldwide,[1][3] Greg has also earned a reputation as "a genuinely nice guy",[10][23] "quiet, modest and understated",[24] "…one of the nicest people I've ever met, and his work is truly amazing."[9]

Of tattooing, Greg says that "So much of what we do is really a personal thing between two people. It's not about the art so much, or the craft, or being the cool guy."[25] "Tattooing to me is like welding. You have to lay the lines down. You're using tools. It [the tattoo] should look like it's always been there. Like it's part of your body."[26] "You know, the average person today thinks tattoo artists nowadays are rock stars. But we go through a lot. We really put a lot effort, time, and communication into what we do. And it's permanent. You can't tear it up and throw it away when you're done with it. All these tattoos that I've done for thirty years--I carry those around in my head with me."[27]


  • Skin Deep: Sunset Strip Tattoo[27]
  • Tattoo! Beauty, Art, and Pain on the Discovery Channel.[10][15][28]
  • Tattooed by Brandon Green, an independent film currently in production by Evergreenimages.[26]

Featured artwork[edit]

Bass guitar of Nikki Sixx
Custom bass at the Hard Rock Cafe in Tampa, Florida, hand-painted by Greg James for Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe.
  • Greg hand-painted a custom bass for Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe after tattooing the band while on tour with them. It's installed as Memorabilia in the Hard Rock Cafe of Tampa, Florida.[2][29]
  • Guitar Pick Guard artwork for The Illustrated Note.
  • The Tattoo Encyclopedia: A Guide to Choosing Your Tattoo (with Terisa Green, published by Simon & Schuster, 2003) - Greg illustrated hundreds of tattoo designs for this popular book, sold globally in four languages with 50,000 copies in print. It is perennially an Amazon Top 100 bestseller in Education & Reference > Encyclopedias > Art.[30]
  • Skin & Ink Magazine (2003 - 2005) - Featured column "What Tattoos Mean" with Dr. Green.[31]
  • Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo (published by Penguin, 2005) - Contributing tattoo artist.[32]
  • Tattoo Savage Magazine - Black Veil Brides: Day of the Dead[33]
  • Tattoo Magazine - The Art of Greg James.[34]
  • Tattoo Planet Magazine[35]


  1. ^ a b c d 101 Most Influential People in Tattoo
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Chronological Crue - Views - Mr. Cre Tattoo".
  3. ^ a b "Marisa DiMattia's Guide to Getting Inked in LA - Gridskipper".
  4. ^ Eric Blair Bio
  5. ^ "Artist of the Month - May".
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l HRH The Official Magazine of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Summer/Fall 2004
  7. ^ "Tattoo Guide". 4 May 2015.
  8. ^ "John Corabi – The UNION Asylum Interview - Book Reviews & Editing by Elizabeth A. White - Crime Fiction, Thriller, Noir".
  9. ^ a b Tattoo Magazine, December 2012, Issue 280
  10. ^ a b c d "Greg James".
  11. ^ Pauly Greenwood @ Sunset Strip Tattoo Hollywood. YouTube. 21 February 2012.
  12. ^ "Horisho Mindscape Tattoo, Japan". Big Tattoo Planet.
  13. ^ "Untitled Document".
  14. ^ adella-music. "The Purdy Doll".
  15. ^ a b Greg James on Tattoo! Beauty, Art, and Pain. YouTube. 4 October 2012.
  16. ^ "Léa Vendetta". Big Tattoo Planet.
  17. ^ Hollywood park tattoo invitational 6/28/11 Greg James presented by hollywood keith tv. YouTube. 7 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Artist List - Official National Tattoo Association Website".
  19. ^ Tattoo Body Art Expo Hall of Fame
  20. ^ "Erika Stanley Bio - Erika Stanley's Art & Tattoos".
  21. ^ "Greg James' Tattoos Deluxe".
  22. ^ "FilmOasis: Company Bio".
  24. ^ "Russell Mitchell - Exile Ink". Big Tattoo Planet.
  25. ^ SUNSET STRIP TATTOO. YouTube. 2 February 2009.
  26. ^ a b TATTOOED the Trailer. Vimeo.
  27. ^ a b Greg James of Tattoos Deluxe in Sherman Oaks, CA. YouTube. 3 October 2012.
  28. ^ Film Oasis
  29. ^ "Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe / Sixx: A.M. : "Famous tattoo artist Greg James hand painted this bass for me. It now hangs at Hard Rock in Tampa." #Gibs… - Pinterest". Pinterest. 28 April 2012.
  30. ^ "The Tattoo Encyclopedia: A Guide to Choosing Your Tattoo: Terisa Green: 9780743223294: Books".
  31. ^ "Contents September 2004".
  32. ^ Ink at
  33. ^ Breakaway Radio, Tattoo Savage Magazine
  34. ^ "TATTOO Magazine March 2000 No. 127 (World's largest selling tattoo magazine, Sunset Strip Ink, The art of Greg James, Crowe & Dwyer's premier tattoo party, Tattoos by Erick Lynch): Billy Tinney: Books".
  35. ^ "TATTOO PLANET Magazine September 1999 (The Worldwide Atomic Tattoo Magazine, Dr. Lakra, Mario Teli, Greg James, Giancario Capra): Robert Butcher: Books".

External links[edit]