Though Jackson Valiente, AKA Kreepy Tiki Jaksin, has been tattooing for over a decade, he reveals, "My first job as an artist was as a tiki carver." Luckily for tattoo collectors, especially those fortunate enough to have a piece of this hellcat's work on their flesh, the new millennium had more human things in store for Valiente.
Following a formal apprenticeship, the Miami native opened Kreepy Tiki in Fort Lauderdale. The shop has grown considerably since the early days. Not only has Jackson and crew made "The Tiki" a staple of the hot-rod driving, pinup-loving crowd thanks to a nicely stocked clothing and accessories boutique, but he now employs seven full-time artists. Most recently, Valiente unveiled 5 Points Lounge in the space adjoining his tattoo shop, formerly the Monterey Club. The bar and music venue was named 2012's Best New Bar by New Times Broward Palm Beach. The Kreepy team transformed it into a laid-back speakeasy that shadows party people in shrines of saints lit by candlelight and refreshes them at a custom-made tiki bar. A fitting backdrop for Valiente's aesthetic and swag.
Valiente was gearing up to tattoo bluesy ragtime singer/songwriter Diablo Dimes when we met up with them on a quiet Wednesday evening. Frank Sinatra was serenading us from the record player, and the duo were decked out in (not Urban Outfitters) vintage fedoras, wingtips, and trousers.
"I'm an old soul," Valiente admits. "Music is my other passion, and I listen to a lot of music from the '40s and '50s. A lot of Sinatra and Big Joe Turner." But he isn't closed-minded, adding that his tattoo jams depend a lot on the vibe that day. "It can be cranked up a notch to Luis and the Wildflowers. Social Distortion or the Misfits can creep into the sound system."
Valiente and Dimes used their passion for the olden days, and undoubtedly their mutual charm, in creating the art for Dimes' 2011 album, Villains. The record itself was "a labor of love," Dimes says. "Soul musicians and jazz guys can't do it like everybody else," he notes in his unintentional Johnny Depp-esque way. "I've been getting that shit since Jump Street," he says about his doppelganger, while showing off the inside of the Villains album, where Jackson's one-of-a kind tattoo flash is intentionally hidden.
In honor of the album, Dimes plans to get each of the five custom drawings tattooed on himself, but tonight the two decide to start with a heavily lashed Dia de los Muertos senorita on Dimes' lower leg. This marks the beginning of, he says, "a whole Villians themed piece."
The tattoo takes an hour from start to finish. Valiente makes it look like a walk in the park. Dimes took the discomfort like a champ. Both gentlemen agree that Valiente has "a heavy hand," which signifies his throwback aesthetic to the "old days" of tattooing. His pieces are heavily lined and use only basic colors and shading techniques.
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Valiente jokes, "I'm not a purist!" shooting a grin and saying, "But I like my own ways." He's a man of few words who has paid his dues in the tattoo biz and who isn't averse to letting people know his preferences.
Kreepy Tiki is located at 2606 S. Federal Highway, just north of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Follow them on Facebook for more info and events.