From a young age, Kenneth Carlos had a natural talent in drawing and throughout the years would perfect his craft. With a background in art and design, he would customise sneakers and apparel as a means of income whilst still in school.
In 2009 aged 19, Ken Carlos manifested his desire to become a tattoo artist. From humble beginnings to jumping around on the London tattoo scene and working at world famous Lowrider Tattoo, he has now started a new venture with his friend and business partner JP. “The Getaway” – a private studio, specialising in Fineline, Single Needle Black and Grey tattoos.
Now, for 2021, Footpatrol and Ken Carlos have come together for our next instalment of our ‘Communi T’ series.
Known for his fine lines, Ken now brings this signature style to Footpatrol in the edition of two t-shirts. With both featuring a reimagined gas mask on the front, the backs of the t-shirts are brought to life with two standout designs.
Footpatrol: Ken Carlos, welcome and thank you for joining us as our latest collaborator in the Footpatrol Communi-T project. How have you been?
Ken Carlos: Yeah I’ve been good man, surviving through these crazy times, you know just always keeping it moving. And thank you for giving me the opportunity to work on this project with you guys. It’s been a fun one. I’ve shopped at foot patrol since I was a young teenager, the one that was in St.Anne’s court with the shoes in the cages haha.
FP: You recently opened your own Tattoo shop, The Getaway. What’s it like to be able to have your own dedicated space to showcase and produce your work?
KC: Yes, so I’ve recently just opened The Getaway, a private studio with my road dogg and business partner JP in the heart of East London. It’s been a long time coming. So for those that don’t know us we’ve been in the tattoo industry for like 12 years now, working in different shops all across London. It’s a tough industry to get into but we chucked ourselves in the deep end, trying to get experience and learn off many great artists. To finally come together and open a space where we can go back to the roots of why we really love this thing, it’s been a blessing. And when people come through I think that can really feel the energy of all our 12 years of influence and development in the game.
FP: At which point in your life did you decide you wanted to become a tattoo artist, did you have any background in art?
KC: I’ve been drawing since I was like 3 years old man. So I used to do some graffiti with my homeboys, on the street and customising people’s clothes and trainers with their tag names, crew names etc to make money. I actually did an art foundation after college in Central Saint Martins, and they pushed me toward graphic design even though I was more into Fine Art. But my interest in tattooing was ingrained in me from early and led me in that direction. I had already started tattooing in the summer of ‘09 with JP before uni started, so by the time the term began, within the first two weeks I dropped out haha. I was hooked!
FP: Has that always been the goal or did you have other plans where you wanted it to take you?
KC: Opening our own studio has always been our long term goal, running in the background though. I think I always create new goals in my head, short term, long term, some have been achieved some are still running. But the studio was always one, it just had to be at the right time. We paid our dues, we tried to do it in the most respectful way within the industry. And to be honest, the never ending goal was just to be sick at tattooing. When you’re young you look up to all of these amazing artists, I still do. I’ve met many Jedi’s along the way and I always just wanted to earn the respect of my peers, my clients and hopefully become an old wise master myself.
FP: What about some of the pieces you have worked on over the years, is there one project that has stood out the most?
KC: That’s a tough one. If I had to choose one, it’s a backpiece I’ve just finished on my boy Kingsley Hayward. Bro is sick with the lettering and hand styles, I’ve been tattooing him for like 8years and we finally got to work together at Lowrider Tattoo London, shout out all of those guys. It tells a story of a typical day in our lives at a tattoo shop, exaggerated, animated. Kingsley himself as a skeleton character tattooing a sexy chick’s face but blown upscale for that powerful, striking look. The backpiece, if I could describe it, is an accumulation of all of my experience and knowledge so far, I tried to purely create something in my style that I’ve developed all of these years for him. We have similar interests. You know like elite rappers when they drop mixtapes, trying to flood the streets with that heat. And the people are waiting for their album. For me this is it, this is me like dropping my first album haha.
FP: What drew you to the aesthetic of Fine Line tattooing that you showcase in your work?
KC: So when I was 14 still in school, my boy showed me pictures taken by Estevan Oriol, the famous film photographer from LA. Film shots of the Boo Yaa Tribe, with SAMOA in old English on their stomachs. The way he captured them, it was gripping you know which led to me finding out about all of his other pictures of gangsters in LA stunting their tattoos.
It was just too real, of course I then found out about Mister Cartoon, he was the first real influence in my career as far as tattooing goes. I remember he had a blog on MySpace, talking about the history of tattooing and how you should do your research and pay respect to some of the OGs that laid the foundations for this fineline style before us. Me and JP we did just that, we saved whatever money we could for the first few years and flew over multiple times to LA, the Mecca of Black and Grey Tattooing. We got tattooed, hung out in their environments absorbing all the energy and history behind that style. That’s when I discovered people like Jack Rudy, Mark Mahoney, Freddy Negrete, Jose Lopez, Chuey Quintanar and more. All of those guys and their circles, those are the guys that drew me to this style I work with today. And my boy JP, he’s been with me on this journey and all through the trenches. We constantly push each other to always do more and try to take it to the next level.
FP: Walk us through the design that you have made for this Communi-T project?
KC: The Theatre Masks are a motif deep rooted in Fineline Black n Grey tattoo History. Smile Now cry Later, comedy and Tragedy, Life’s ups and downs, smiles and frowns, The agony and ecstasy, the gift and the curse, life or death. Whatever you associate these masks with, it is a powerful image we can all relate to.
Our complex minds can be a never ending cycle of changing emotions. 2020’s Recent events have seen us go through these emotions, happiness, sadness, laughter, anger and more. We step into this world knowing who we are, or with a mask on; and though things out of our control can affect our thoughts daily, ultimately life is what you choose it to be.
FP: So one question which we always ask our Communi-T collaborators. If you had to describe your work in 3 words, what would they be?
KC: Quality over Quantity
FP: We really appreciate you spending some time with us to talk about you passion and of course your Communi-T, before we let you go is there anything you want to share with the Footpatrol readers?
KC: Yeah man, thanks for all your love and support. Make sure you go and grab one of the tees releasing cos once they’re gone, they’re GONE! Check us out Instagram @ken_carlos and @tattoo_jp @getaway_studio stay safe live life.