For the past 25 years, tattoos have been my life. I’ve known nothing else, I’ve practiced it with due diligence and patience, and after all this time there’s lots I have learned and one quote that I simply can’t forget. That quote? Well it comes from the infamous words of Jim Morrison,

“I’m interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that appears to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road toward freedom.”

Jim Morrison tattoo


Here’s a portrait of Jim Morrison I did a few years back.

Those words have resonated in the back of my head since way back when and it’s with good reason. In  my youth I was more than just the rebellious type. I was out of control, angry and I was obsessed with going against the grain and the powers that be. I also didn’t take in too much during school but I do remember learning about the Revolt of the Admirals…and I was hooked.

If you’re unfamiliar with that incident it was about the Navy admirals publicly disagreeing with the President and Secretary of Defense and that intrigued me. To see that they would stand up against higher powers was empowering, and at that time, the word “revolt” became my favorite word – and probably the biggest word I knew for quite some time. Thank God things changed. lol.

But I was more than rebel, and actually a rebel with a bad cause and it was because of that it landed me on a short term vacation where sand and palm trees were only dreamed of. But that’s a whole other story.


 Part of a rare collection of never seen before photos of Jim Morrison

My obsession with that quote actually came way before I was a tattoo artist and maybe that’s why I became one. Back in the day, being a tattoo artist was frowned upon, and maybe it was because of it’s rebellious nature and aura that I eventually became absorbed. Back then I saw tattoos as an artistic outlet of expression with a rebellious aura and again I wanted to go against the grain of what society deemed as “appropriate”. Needles to say, this lifestyle and that quote has taken me to where I am today and I’m thankful. Looking back, tattooing actually saved my life and granted me freedom and that’s something that I’ll touch upon at a later time.  Thanks for stopping by. ~ RP



Here’s some cool footage of former Las Vegas Mayor, Oscar Baylin Goodman checking out a tattoo that artist Robert Pho did of him. The video was taken years back and his reaction and commentary is priceless. He was the mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada from 1999 to 2011 and an Independent and a former member of the Democratic Party.

“You know what I think? I think I’m going to chop it off and take it home.”

In the semi-factual 1995 movie Casino, the character of Nicky Santoro was based on Spilotro and was portrayed by actor Joe Pesci. Goodman had a cameo appearance in the film as himself while defending “Ace Rothstein”, a character closely based on Lefty Rosenthal and played by Robert De Niro.

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Born and raised in Philadelphia, Goodman graduated from The Haverford School,[2] Haverford College and received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He and his wife Carolyn have four children.

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During his career as a defense attorney he represented defendants accused of being some of the leading organized crime figures in Las Vegas, such as Meyer Lansky, Nicky Scarfo, Herbert “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein, Phil Leonetti, former Stardust Casino boss Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal, and Jamiel “Jimmy” Chagra, a 1970s drug trafficker who was acquitted of ordering the murder of Federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr. One of his notorious clients was reputed Chicago mobster Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro, who was known to have a short and violent temper.




This past weekend I took a trip to L.A. for the launch of my good friends bar, The Little Easy. In what could best be described as a NOLA themed bar situated in the heart of Downtown L.A., the bar boasts an intimate venue with plenty of surprises.




Nestled between a few other businesses in DTLA, the entry is quaint and charming, but that just sets the tone for what’s to come. After walking through a winding corridor, we were surprised to find another room complete with a perfectly lit and centrally located fountain, and yet another bar which looked as it had been pulled from the architectural remains of an New Orleans estate. The romantic vibe made us feel right at home, and the ambiance is so welcoming that it makes you feel like breaking the bank, but then again that’s what a bar is supposed to do. Right?




So if you’re in or around the DTLA area, be sure to stop on by The Little Easy and see for yourself what the hype is all about. Again, I’d like to congratulate my good friend Jigger on the launch of his new spot and along with the Fernie, friends and our better halves, thank you for the hospitality and we wish you the best in your new venture!

With respect,




Robert Pho



Regardless if you have 10 years under your belt or just 10 weeks, you have to be resilient and have the drive to continually improve your skills. To become a great tattoo artist you have to be driven to succeed and above all you have to have passion. The only person you should be competing against is yourself and everyone else needs to become a source of inspiration and not hatred.

The bottom line, we’re here to make art, not tabloids, so spend more time sharpening your skills instead of your tongue. In this day and age, social media helps keep us connected, but in the process don’t get disconnected with your art. Practice, learn from others, stay in your lane, and always remember that we provide an art that’s so valuable, so personal and so permanent, that the industry needs all of us as artists to treat it as such.


Wishing you the best,






As I celebrate my 25th anniversary, there’s much to say about the journey which took me here, but the one thing I can assure you is that behind the glitz of the new shop is an epic journey that has been filled with plenty of ups an downs. In short, there’s much that I’ve learned early on in the game and I’ll tell you that learning from other peoples mistakes will spare you plenty of heartache and pain, so here’s a few things that I learned and hopefully it’ll help you out on your own journey.


You should always believe in yourself but make sure you listen to any self doubt. The first shop I opened came as easy as look, call, sign and lease. Soon thereafter, I had doubts about my partner and it turns out that it didn’t work out. The bottom line….When your gut tells you something do yourself a favor and listen before it become a costly mistake.



Before you go off in the deep in end, please read this through. They say art has no business being a business but in the end it is. From lease agreements, to credit card interest and taxes, you’re going to have to learn the business side of art if you plan to sell anything. The bottom line….get educated or hire someone that is. Cheating taxes may be fine and dandy but remember that the IRS is the biggest gang in the country and I’m sure you don’t want to chuck it up with ’em anytime soon.



OK so I’m not being literal even though I wish I could. The tattoo industry is a great business but as with any business there will always be it’s fair share of snakes. Though I’ve been burned time and time again, I’ve learned to accept that you can’t change the world and help everyone so I keep moving forward. The bottom line: Grow your business, put everything you have into it and eventually you will atttact and keep good people.



If your art is worth it, charge accordingly. Starting off in this business means lots of time put into others as you master the craft and at that point their trust is payment enough. But as you build your skills and create your following you will soon realize that there soon comes  a point in time that you’ll be able to charge. The bottom line… your skills, build your portfolio and then…..charge accordingly.

Hope this helps some of you out and best of luck!

 *(photo up above was of two of the shops I started off with)




On behalf of Skin Design, I would like to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

First off, we could have never made it this far without the friends, fans and loyal customers that have supported us throughout the years.  As artists, the foundation of our business, as well as the development of our growth, is found in those who are willing to trust us with their skin.  The bottom line, with no canvases, there is no art, and without art, there is no artist.  So thank you again.

Second, I want to personally thank my Skin Design Family for all of their hard work. The loyalty you have given me throughout the years is priceless and because of you I have not only learned, but also grown so much as an artist. Aside from that, you have helped make me a much better person, so thank you for all the inspiration and your continued drive. This combined excellence has made us what we are known for today.

This year also marks my 25th anniversary as a tattoo artist, and I could not be more proud of what tattooing has become today.  Skin Design started off as a passion project as well as a way of supporting my family. It has given me the ability to exercise my skills, and improve my talents, and back then no one could have ever convinced me that the industry would have developed into what it is today.


With that said, at last, I have to thank my beautiful wife and kids.  Without them I would have never made it this far.  They are my back bone, and they are the driving force behind the joy, the pain, and the challenges which have helped mold me as an artist.  They were there to support my dreams, and despite any setbacks, they continue to be the reason I wake up each day and push harder.

In closing, this industry was built on the essence of optimism, good-naturedness, and the capacity to do more.  We are very excited for 2015, and have so much more in store for the near future, so lets keep moving forward and I hope to see you all in 2015.  Cheers to a New Year!

With Respect,




The Skin Design Family.

This year has been pretty monumental for all of us at Skin Design Tattoo. The launch of our new shop, and the expansion of our brand, would have not been possible without this crew that I call family. It’s with great humbleness that I thank you all a million times for having my back and helping create what we have today. Along with all those that continue to support our mission, all I can say is that I’m blessed to have customers and a crew that have made this journey nothing short of amazing.

With that, I wish my family and this industry the best during the holiday season. We’ve all got a lot more to accomplish so cheers to many more years of success and may you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is best forgotten.

  With Respect & Gratitude,



That’s the question that always haunted me. I always wanted to get a gun tattooed on myself, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to realize that the answer was no. I saw the tattoo (pictured on the header), that Robert Pho did a while back and since then it’s always been a thought – yet it remained just that. It’s not that I wouldn’t mind having a gun tattoo, but for me, I fall in love with a new gun every few months, so to commit to tattooing just one wouldn’t work. I’d have to tattoo a whole bunch of them, and walking around looking like a gun catalog or a walking safe doesn’t sit well with me. Besides, if I were to tattoo all my favorite things I’d might as well add a rib-eye, donuts and Las Vegas landmarks – not a cool mix.


My obsession with guns ends with buying endless amounts of guns and ammo and practicing as if I were entering a competition – but I never will. I don’t like competitions because of the many egos that come with it. For me, all the competition I need is myself and unless I turn schizophrenic I doubt I’ll ever talk shit to myself. The bottom line, I practice because I enjoy it, and much like a tattoo machine becomes one with its artist, the same holds true with a weapon. In short, practice makes perfect and it’s the only way to get better and more precise.


Guns & Coffee: That pretty much summed up earlier today.

I always catch myself watching tattoo artists putting in work and their craft is no different. In tattooing, just like guns, there are levels of excellence that come as a result of practice. There are learning curves and techniques that have to be repeated time after time and we all know that repetition is the mother of learning. After watching so many tattoo artists put in work, the one thing that always gets me is the intensity you feel when they’re in the zone. You see it in their eyes, you see it in their concentration and as you watch them work you can’t help but get inspired because the focus is intense and their breaks are few.


A few more toys from our training session. 

Great artists also tend to associate with like minded peoples and talent. They share ideas, inspire each other and that inspiration can actually come from anywhere. Take this post for example. I saw the gun tattoo that Rob did earlier in the day and it made me think about my time spent at the range. There’s a certain relevancy that runs in parallel with the topic and it definitely relates because it boils down to practice.

So was this post random? Sure, but it’s as relevant as it is random, and it runs in perfect alignment with the theory of practice. Life gives you back what you put into it so work hard, hone your craft, put in the hours, but as you sit there laughing at this post, remember this, a drinkers tolerance doesn’t get built overnight, and theres no such thing as great artists that took a creative Viagra, and woke up harder than the rest. Artists have mastered their craft by putting in the necessary work, and the growth – and ultimately the success – they experience is one that is slow and steady so start your journey now.

So tonight when you’re about to fall asleep, think about what you’ve accomplished during the day. Think about what events and practices have consumed your day.

– Are you pushing yourself to become better at your craft?

– Are you trying to expand your portfolio and your clients?

– Are you making the calls to get more clients in?

– Or are you sitting around texting and waiting for it to all magically happen?

Answer those questions and you’ll be able to see for yourself what the future holds for you. But I do promise you one thing, if you spent most of your day randomly texting people or flipping through IG and FB, then rest assured you’l become better at texting – but texting doesn’t pay the bills while browsing through social media doesn’t make you a social worker.

Or does it?


– by contributing writer JV 


Be sure to check out Robert’s updated portfolio by clicking here.


So I ran across a black and grey portrait that was done by Robert Pho, and in turn I ended up throwing on a track by Miles Davis – a track which subsequently influenced this post. With the volume up and the coffee brewing, the tracks smooth and rhythmic melody brought me to a peaceful place – while the songs name, “Freddie  Freeloader”, made me bust a smirk because of all the f*cked up memories and people it can relate to. (read on and you’ll find out why)

As artists, we all have our opinions and criticisms. Whether it be about technique, subject matter, tools of the trade, or simply art, the opinions we form can be relevant, ignorant, arrogant and sometimes downright argumentative. But for the most part, our opinions help ignite creativity and bring us closer together. On the other hand, the one thing I’m sure we can all agree on is the fact we all started in this industry in the same place: The very bottom.

Regardless if you tattoo, paint, draw or even write, we spend countless amounts of hours honing our craft, mastering our techniques and building our books/ portfolios. In the beginning, the encouragement we receive from friends comes deep and plenty, but ask someone to let you take a pass at their skin and the confidence and hoorah soon diminishes. But as time progresses -as does your skill – you soon create a following, and a book of business. It’s a natural progression that happens as a result of experience, confidence and improved techniques and in short,  it’s a part of surviving.  But along with that exponential growth comes an increase in what you can charge for the work  you do.


Freddie Freeloader by Miles Davis.

Soon after you raise your rates, comes a somewhat awkward moment where you have to announce the price hike. It’s at that moment that you realize that most old clients along with new clients don’t mind at all. Sure you hook up some of the regulars at discounted rates (as a way of thanking them for their loyalty), but what about the ones that still want your rates from when you were first practicing 15 years ago? Or how about the ones that want it for free? You know what I’m talking about! C’mon now….and if you don’t have a clue about what I’m talking about then soon enough you will. These are those folks that are classified as “Freddie Freeloaders” or “Captain Mooch.”


If you still don’t know what I’m talking about then listen carefully for anyone that uses typical key phrases such as….


“C’mon homie. Hook it up. I’ve been down since day one!”

“You got a cancellation? Yo..hit up my arm really quick with a small piece!”

and once they find out about your new rates, you’ll get the proverbial….

Oh! It’s like that now?! Glad I’m still getting  the homie hookup right?”

“I know I’m not paying that. We boys. Right?”


At first you may entertain a few of the offers but soon enough they’ll pester you to a point where you can’t help but laugh – or kick them out of the shop. So are we here to tell you how to solve this problem? Absolutely not, it’s a problem that we will all encounter soon enough and a dilemma that’s handled differently by each of us. In the meantime, get your hours in, your skill set up and know your worth.

If you’ve figured out the perfect way to handle a Freddie Freeloader be sure to leave a comment.


Side notes:

So how did this track get its name? There are two sources which cite that the song was named after a friend of Davis. The friends name was Freddie, and he was known for trying to see the music Davis and others played without paying. The sources came from a documentary, Kind of Blue: Made in Heaven, and an anecdote from the jazz pianist Monty Alexander. The name may have also been inspired by Red Skelton’s most famous character, “Freddie the Freeloader” the hobo clown.