Legendary tattoo artist Bob Roberts has passed away


The tattoo community lost one of its most beloved members on Thursday after the death of Bob Roberts. For over 40 years, Roberts was a staple of the Los Angeles tattoo scene.

Roberts began tattooing in 1973 under the tutelage of Bob Shaw and Colonel Todd in Santa Ana, California. From there he would work with Cliff Raven before moving up to San Francisco and working with Ed Hardy.

While Roberts is strongly associated with Los Angeles, the first iteration of his Spotlight Tattoo was in New York City back when tattooing was still illegal. He rents a loft and works in one half while living in the other. Eventually, the blight that is New York real estate led to him being kicked out of his lease, so Roberts returned to the West Coast and opened a new iteration of Spotlight Tattoo in a garage on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Angeles. Eventually the place would move to a real store next door, where it still is today.

Over the years Roberts dabbled in many different styles of work, but he always returned to the American tradition that was the backbone of his days by tattooing a dozen people per day on The Pike. Like many tattoo artists of this generation, Roberts realized he wasn’t just an artist, he was in the service business.

“If you’re a photographer, it’s what you shoot, not you. If I want to be an artist, I can go buy brushes and I can go buy paper and make art.” Roberts told BME in 2009. “But, if I want to be a tattoo artist and nobody comes to tattoo me, I’m not a tattoo artist. So the future, where things go and the approach, it’s not up to us, man. We’re secondary .The important thing is the person getting the tattoo, not me.”

Over his 40-plus year career, Roberts must have tattooed thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people. His legacy will be carried on by his son Charlie, who is naturally also a tattoo artist. Roberts will be sorely missed not only by those who knew him, but by all who appreciate tattoos around the world. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the many tributes that have poured in over the past day.

RIP Bob Roberts

And of course, we’re not going to close this article without including a gallery of Roberts art, both prints and tattoos.


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