More Than Skin Deep – The Art of Tattooing

by Donia Moore
When you first see it, you can hardly help but reach out to stroke the luxurious flamingo’s fluffy feathers with the headphones. Listeners?

If you see stunningly realistic flamingos, 3D sea turtles cruising an aquatic reef, or a sweet-eyed elephant with a penchant for blowing a jet of water through the air, you’ve probably wandered into one of the galleries. of art in San Clemente. Look closely. These works are available for purchase, on your (skin) canvas or on theirs.

You won’t find any shortcuts here, either in the work or living room areas. The gallery is like the cozy living room at your best friend’s house, with plush armchairs and a big screen TV next to a charming fireplace.

Third Generation San Clementean

The Living Art Gallery Tattoo and Lounge is one of the oldest tattoo galleries in San Clemente. Owned by the third generation of San Clementean Monte Livingston, it has been in operation since November 2011. And Councilman Chris Hamm was very supportive of bringing this traditional art form to town.

Monte has lived and worked his entire life just minutes from his family home in San Clemente. Concordia Elementary School, Shorecliffs Middle School, and San Clemente High School were his basic training grounds. It was through his art classes at San Clemente High School that artist and teacher Rick Delaney became his most influential mentor.

Different people for different shots

Monte employs five other talented artists, each with their own specialties and styles. Hayley Schwied works in traditional and assembly line work. A graduate of Laguna College of Art and Design, she is the gallery’s microblading specialist. Britta Christiansen works in watercolor and trash polka tattoos. Jason Weaver’s talents include realism, traditional, black and gray and line art. Austin Rinaldi’s talents lie in neo-traditional and black and gray art. Art Valencia also works in black and gray. Designer and manager Brenna Standlee keeps it all together. Many examples of their fine art prints are available for sale at the art gallery.


Through the use of microblading, Hayley has developed an expert technique of recreating brow lines that have disappeared by accident or design.

The art of microblading is a recently revived procedure that creates much more realistic eyebrows. They often even appear to have individual hairs, rather than the standard cosmetic permanent makeup eyebrow tattoos. Microblading, also called microstrike and feather touch, is a form of semi-permanent makeup that is used to partially or fully camouflage missing eyebrow hairs with the appearance of simulated hairs using fine deposits of cosmetic tattoo pigments . The technique itself dates back thousands of years, but its current revival has recently surfaced in Asia.
In microblading, a specially trained tattoo artist uses tiny needles to deposit cosmetic-grade pigment at the top level of the skin. The technique is performed by hand and requires a manual tool with several consecutive needles to deposit the dye in the second dermal layer of the skin. It involves drawing sharp individual hair strokes which can look very natural. Needles are available in a variety of sizes so individual bristles are customized for each client for a more natural look. However, like all tattoo art, over time the lines can fade and may need to be refreshed, usually every couple of years or so.
While Hayley typically only uses numbing cream or topical anesthetic to limit discomfort, she always strictly follows aseptic technique requiring the use of disinfectant and sterile single-use needles. “It’s very realistic and I usually only need one consultation and one session to complete the process.” A tattoo session can last an hour or three, depending on the amount of work to be done.

3D medical tattoo art

Working in 3D Color Realism Monte often helps breast cancer survivors feel beautiful again. Through his skillful work, he repigments sensitive areas such as nipples and areolas. He has hundreds of ink colors on his skin tone wall to match any skin tone and as a master of 3D art, his work looks lifelike.
“Matching skin tones is very difficult because skin has so many different colors. Tattooing a small area like a nipple or areola is usually very successful because there are fewer skin tones to try to match. The process works best when there is a silicone implant shape under the skin with a bump where the nipple should be as it gives a more realistic shape for the repigmentation.
Monte and Hayley have noticed that many breast cancer survivors opt for beautiful designs to celebrate their recovery, rather than a realistic look.

“Every time I create lovely flowers or special designs for these women, I feel so lucky to be able to help them feel beautiful and positive about themselves again,” says Hayley.

Many customers come for memorials. If you think you might want a memorial tattoo, Monte advises considering it carefully.
“I think a memorial should be something positive so that every time the customer looks at it, usually every day, they have a positive reaction or memory attached to it. be a thing forever.

tattoo removal

Can you ever really remove tattoos completely?

Monte replies that it’s not very likely, so make sure you know what and where you want a part. Usually a nice camouflage tattoo is a better option. Scar tissue is difficult to work with because it is so fragile. It can be quite successful with the right needle massage technique to soften it.
Tattoo artists have a number of requirements they must adhere to, including the use of single-use needles. Stores are strictly regulated by the California Health and Safety Code, and each performer’s current bloodborne pathogen training certificates must be current. The store must be registered with the county health department and must submit to routine inspections. All tattooed customers must be 18 years or older.
The tattoo artists themselves usually go through a rigorous course before they are allowed to apply their shingles. Of course, they practice on friends and family members who are so inclined, but trainees are much more likely to have extensive experience practicing on grapefruits or synthetic skins before undertaking any human variety.
As for Monte’s painting of the flamingo with headphones – there really is one person the flamingo is modeled after. By day, Monte’s friend is a respected lawyer. By night, he’s a fun-loving DJ, known for his good tricks.
Not exactly “birds of a feather” but check out the flock of paintings at the gallery. You might find your own commemorative coin.

Contact: (949) 262-9669 or visit:


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