There’s a young man in Lalaland who’s been earning recognition as an authentic genius thanks to the shocking realism of his sophisticated tattoos. Hollywood celebrities like Drake, Post Malone, Chris Brown and even Nicky Jam all carry Ganga’s designs on their skin. The story of this tremendous Spanish artist is an example of courage and self-achievement. Not only are musical artists some of his biggest fans, but also a surprising amount of elite athletes.
Even though Ganga, 29, is not very open with the media, due to his shy nature, he welcomed HOLA! USA for an exclusive interview in his new studio in Los Angeles, days after the limited series of his first collectible toy figure was sold out in record time.
“I came to L.A. years ago from San Francisco, with the intent of evolving as an artist and setting up my own studio. I had a lot of requests from clients who wanted to get tattoos with me, so I moved here and started from scratch. In Spain, I already have four businesses. My dream was to have one here, in Hollywood.”
Professionally, everything started when Ganga met one of the world’s leading musical icons: Drake. “I gave Drake a tattoo almost six years ago. He was the first huge client I ever had, making me go ‘Wow.’ I was in London while he was on tour and I gave a tattoo to one of his best friends. He liked the work so much that he said: “Stay here three weeks, I want to get Lil Wayne’s portrait.” Throughout that time I met Adele, Beckham Junior and lots of more people, creating great connections and providing me with lots of opportunities that I’ve learned how to take advantage of.”
Ganga has always loved drawing and even though there were no official artists in his family, they were all skilled with painting, providing him with his foundational knowledge. “My grandmother, my uncle, my mother… they all painted. It’s something that always attracted my attention, since I was little. My aunt was sick of always hearing me say the same thing: ‘Auntie, paint me a witch,’” he says, laughing. “Now I have all of my family working at the studio,” he says with pride.
He recognizes that the support of his parents was fundamental for his success, elevating him to fame without knowing it.
“The first time I told my dad that I wanted to do tattoos he said, ‘Let’s go! Buy yourself a tattoo machine and practice on me. I’ll pay for it and you’ll pay it back at some point.’ It cost approximately 150 dollars.”
His parents are ecstatic over their son’s success. “They’re more than happy. Thank God, having me grow up here, that helps my studies and my businesses prosper in Spain and my artists are more motivated. My whole team is growing,” he says.
Ganga was raised in one of the most humble neighborhoods of his hometown of Murcia. “I’ve always been drawing, since I was in school. I was very inspired by Dali. I loved to do letters and that’s why when I was twelve, I started getting into graffiti. I didn’t have any practical training, everything happened very naturally. My school was to practice and practice. Realism has always attracted my attention, but I couldn’t do it. It always came out looking very wrong and for a 14 and 15 year old boy that was very tough. When I was 15 or 16, I started watching ‘Miami Ink’ and when I saw the tattoos I thought, ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’”
His friends from the street were his first tattoo test subjects. “My friends trusted me because they knew I made graffiti and also knew me from the neighborhood.”
Before he moved to the U.S., his parents, with whom he remains very close to, advised him in regards to taking on this ambitious adventure. “They told me to do things right, to do what makes me happy and that, if that was it, then to go for it all the way. They told me they trusted that everything would go well and that’s what has happened. It’s going well,” he says.
“I have two brothers. The little one is 20 years old and is learning how to make tattoos. My other brother, who is 25, is already doing tattoos. My Dad works at the studio too.”
Before turning 30, Ganga is a sought after artist and has achieved dreams that people spend their whole lives building. We caught him off guard when he told him we’d love to know what his biggest dream is, something impossible to achieve. “Oof, I don’t know, dreams are so big…” After a brief and thoughtful pause, he said: “And they’re already happening! What I wanted most in this world was to take care of my family, to make sure that nothing was missing for them in terms of finances, to always be there for them,” he says.
“More dreams, I don’t know.” He thinks about it and then says: “To have a good time! To have the time to do what I want to do and to be able to board a plane home to Spain if I miss it, eat a tortilla, hug my loved ones and come back. Even though I don’t like to waste my time. I like where I am. I love to work. It doesn’t feel like a job. I enjoy it too much. My thing is to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that, that way I stay creative.”
Ganga’s creativity helped him break a record before he moved to the United States. His tattoo, ‘Metamorphosis’, is the biggest tattoo ever made, inked on synthetic skin. “That idea came out of wanting to make a painting, a work of art, something that I could keep for myself and maybe hang up in my house or my studio. I had the idea and then I thought, ‘Why don’t I make a tattoo?’ So I ordered a giant piece of synthetic skin and told myself, ‘I’m going to make the biggest tattoo in the world.’ Now that I’m evolving as an artist, I’m going to bring it here because people are going to love it,” he says with conviction.
Ambitious, in the best sense of the word, Ganga is careful with strangers and an open book with those he is closest to. “I don’t trust easily. I have a very narrow social circle and that makes me think, why look for more? Why invite more people into my life? This is a big city and you have to be careful. There’s people out there who’ll sell you a motorcycle which turns out to be a bicycle.”
This is Ganga’s M.O., and what he staunchly believes. “I believe in the law of attraction, based on the book ‘The Secret.’ I’ve applied it to my life since I was 16 years old. I have everything written down and everything is accomplished. Now I add new things. I write everything down and I go through a list crossing things off. It really works! I believe in being very positive always, even when it’s hard, I believe so much in energy. The majority of the time, when you’re sad, you have to be creative and then everything happens.”
Married and without children yet, his devotion for his enterprises has earned him spots in magazines like Forbes, who named him as one of the leading entrepreneurs in branding.
“I consider myself fifty percent an artist and fifty percent an entrepreneur. I am very simple.”
“I’ve been here in L.A. for two years and I don’t even speak English. What I am is very reasonable, which makes me evolve very fast,” he says with an easygoing attitude.
What Ganga enjoys most about L.A. is the climate. “It’s very similar to mine, in Murcia. I love the food. You always hear in Spain that here you only eat burgers, which is not true. There’s a huge amount of wonderful restaurants. Another thing I love is that there’s thousands of things you can do here for entertainment, which is great. And the cherry on top is that the opportunities to grow as an artist pop up very quickly. The opportunities that there are in L.A. I think only exist here. There’s no other city in the world where you can grow more,” he says.
What he enjoys the most when facing a new tattoo is “the moment where I connect with the person I’m going to tattoo and I feel comfortable. After, when I’m making the tattoo, I’m so focused on that and I find an escape, I don’t focus on my problems, on whether I’m stressed or not, or on something that I’m obsessing over. Making a tattoo is my moment to disconnect, where there are no stressors. When I tattoo, I relax my mind and art takes over.”
Despite his experience and years in the industry, sometimes, when he finishes a tattoo, he’s surprised. He thinks, ‘I made that?’ “Even though there’s no way you can have perfect days, those days when you’re centered and motivated, it’s okay. That’s art and when you do it every day over several years, you never know if on Wednesday you’re gonna have the right attitude at work or not, but what I do is to focus a little before I tattoo and that’s it.”
With such high profile clients, it would seem logical to see them and get nervous, but for Ganga, that’s not a problem.
“No, I don’t get nervous, although sometimes I struggle with the position and posture… For example, If I’m tattooing someone who is very famous in some house and I feel like there’s no light. Feeling uncomfortable makes me very nervous, but it’s happened very few times and I’ve solved those problems when they’ve occurred. Since the majority of my clients are in L.A., what I do is I take my portable bed, my light, and have everything with me.”
His favorite tattoos to make are the ones that are “not too big, not too little. I made a 10 centimeter tattoo of Tupac that I loved.”
Regarding the position in which the art world regards tattoos, in a derogatory way, he is in complete disagreement. “That changed a long time ago. Now tattoos are seen as an art that’s growing and that’s primed to keep growing.”
Everything inspires him, but being an entrepreneur and working and creating new things is his biggest source of inspiration. “While tattooing gives me plenty of inspiration, my true inspiration is work. I love being an entrepreneur, creating a business, setting up a studio, waking up and thinking who am I gonna call to set up the lights?”
Any other talents? “Singing in the shower,” he laughs. Then, more seriously, “I like doing everything that’s creative, I like making things. Now I have a new collectible toy -- he says, referring to the first toy collectible he’s made -- “and it’s one of the most successful things ‘I’ve ever made. That people have put their trust in me and have loved it so much is very exciting and motivating. In less than a minute the toy was sold out, there were many units and I thought ‘let’s see what happens here’ and it was incredible, I can’t believe it.” His first toy collectible design is that of an astronaut, carrying a tattoo gun on his back. He named it after his own essence: dreamer. “A big part of my team is focusing on that direction, I’m developing a crew to take charge of all of that.”
The idea of making his own toy came to fruition “because I’ve always bought collectibles. Since I was little I’ve loved toys. Since I was 13 or 14, I surrounded myself with toys. I didn’t play with them, I just wanted to look at them. Since then I’ve always loved the idea of knowing I could make one of my own, designing it, but making it a reality? How? That motivated me. I had to do it! I made it all on my own, step by step, I looked for the fabric and it was another adventure. People think it was sold out in a minute! But the process took about a year and a half to complete.”
Ganga ends the interview by sharing one of his projects, “Here people can come get their tattoos, but I’m setting up an academy where I can teach those who want to get involved in the tattoo industry and hope to learn from the best.” Do you think he’ll make it? We’re sure of it!