Industry Ink: Ernest Robledo
There’s a sweetness about Grand Catch’s Ernest Robledo that defies his full bodysuit of tattoos—many of which are a bit risqué, he confesses sheepishly. “I’m virtually covered,” he says. And while his face is some of the last available real estate, “I don’t think I’ll ever do my face. I promised my mom.” While most of the tattoos could be covered up if a career change ever demanded it, it would be difficult to disguise the wide necklace of roses on his neck. “You can’t wear a turtleneck all day,” he quipped.
Robledo got his first tattoo at age 14, the family crest in the middle of his upper back. He was born in the U.S., but his family is from the Philippines, with a long military—and tattoo—tradition. His unifying theme is life and death, and the tattoo style is American traditional, many of which are his drawings inked to life. He had a stint as a tattoo artist, but preferred being on the receiving end.
Among the curious visuals are mottoes: “It’s as easy as slipping away,” on his right arm (“I had a temper as a kid,” and a hard life growing up, he says), and “Hard Head” on his fingers. There’s an image of Shabari, the Japanese tradition of bondage rope art, on his left arm, along with a few other R-rated ones, so we quickly returned to his right arm, where there is a surprising full-length drawing of Audrey Hepburn, a movie star from the ‘60s. “She’s the love of my life,” he says, somewhat tongue in cheek. “I grew up in the ‘90s and we didn’t have satellite” so he was stuck watching old movies on TV.
To Robledo art is freedom. “Art isn’t always meant to be understood,” he says, “but that doesn’t mean it can’t be appreciated.