By Alyssa Sperrazza
When U.S. Marine John Reaves bought Ink Addiction in June, he turned a hobby into a career.
Reaves served in the Marines from 1990 to 1998 and started tattooing two years after enlisting.
“Our corpsman Brandy was a tattoo artist,” Reaves explained. “You see, in the Marines, we don’t have medical personnel. We get ours from the Navy. His wife got pregnant and back then tattoo artists didn’t make the kind of money you can make now so he joined the Navy to pay for the baby and take care of them. He saw my drawings one day and said, ‘Man you should try this out,’ and I did and it kind of become a hobby for years.”
After Reaves completed eight years in the Marines, he kept up the hobby while building tankers for the oil fields and railroad companies. Tattooing was still something he just did for fun until a fellow veteran convinced him it was something he should pursue further.
“I started thinking about it and talked to a few local shops… I’m from Arkansas so this was when I was living in Arkansas,” Reaves said. “And one of the local shops in Paragould, the owner had another shop and a tattooing school cause in Arkansas you actually have to go to school for this. He’s a former Marine and he just kind of talked me into getting my license and I started going to school.”
Going to school for tattoos and piercings, Reaves said he learned everything from the obvious “how-to’s” to the skin and the different effects ink has on it.
“It’s not like [Oklahoma] where you kind of watch an artist and then you go take a test in front of a computer,” Reaves explained. “In Arkansas, your final test is in front of the Health Department.”
Reaves moved to Oklahoma for his wife and now has two daughters, one son and a couple of grandchildren. He began drawing at a young age and knew he could excel at art.
“I was nine years old and I did a portrait of my uncle in pen and ink and it actually went to state competition,” Reaves said. “So that’s when I was like, ‘Wow, I might be okay at this.’ When I was younger I would just flip through magazines until something just clicked. Then I would just start drawing, not how it was in the magazine but how I saw it. My grandfather was actually highly upset that I went into the Marines. He was in the Army… Korea. But he really wanted me to go to college for art and I was like, ‘Nah I want to get the hell out of Arkansas.’”
Reaves has done more tattoos than he could keep track of, preferring to design his own, paper and pencils lying on the art desk where he works from. Reaves said there are a couple of tattoos that have stuck with him, ones that were memorable and special.
“One was a memorial half sleeve for another veteran and then one I had one not too long ago that’s a full sleeve,” Reaves said. “Those are probably my two favorites so far.”
People that go to Ink Addiction get a variety of tattoos. Reaves admits he prefers custom orders rather than Pinterest walk-ins, but it’s whatever the customer wants.
“Some people come in and they say they want a tattoo but they don’t know what they want and that’s no help whatsoever,” Reaves said. “Course we get a lot of messages on Facebook, asking about tattoos and such, and I always tell them to come in cause it’s easier, you start talking to a person, getting a feel for them. To me if you can’t get a feel for a person then you can’t really design them a tattoo for them. Unless they’re just dead set on a Pinterest tattoo.”
Besides art, Reaves shop reflects his love of movies and comics, his collection of figurines, photos and other memorabilia placed on shelves, hanging on the walls and in the display case. Reaves said he loves owning his own shop, happy to have his own place where he gets to finally put that hobby to full-time use.
“There’s nothing like doing what you love.”