Artist Rene Cordero Talks Music, Doodles and the Left Shark Tattoo

Local tattoo artist Rene Cordero got a big boost from the Internet recently, thanks to his rendition of the Super Bowl's biggest star, Left Shark" He drew this tattoo on his friend Matty Clark, part-owner of the Hi-Dive;  Clark's nickname is Matty Shark, and the piece now graces his ankle. The drawing was an easy fit for Cordero, who likes to doodle fun cartoons. He has been tattooing for five years, and currently works at Kitchens' Ink Tattoo. We recently caught up with Cordero to talk music, doodling and becoming a media sensation. 

Westword: Where are you from?

Rene Cordero: I’m originally from Los Angeles. I've lived here for eight years now.

What made you come to Colorado?

I came here for school. My parents bought a house here. The whole family moved, pretty much.

Do you miss Los Angeles?

Not at all. I mean, I can’t compare the two cities. I like living in Colorado way more.

How did you get into tattooing? 

I was into art as a kid. My first job, when I was eighteen, was at a tattoo shop. Just cleaning up and stuff like that.

Where did you start out your tattoo career?

I started out tattooing here in Colorado at Celebrity Tattoo. They gave me my first chance.

What was your experience like when you were starting out?  

I was nervous. I was really scared to hurt people. I had to get over it fast.

What do you think is necessary to succeed as a tattoo artist?

Drive. Not giving up.

Do you work in other media?

Mostly, I just tattoo. I do doodles. That’s my thing. I doodle in my little book.

Do you have a style you prefer to work in?

I like neo-traditional stuff.

What attracts you to that style?

It’s how I draw — cartoon-style, coloring-book style. Big, fat lines and you just color it in.

At what age did you start getting tattooed?


Have you ever given yourself a tattoo?

When I was learning, I did.

How did that go?

It was awful.

How long have you been at this shop?

Two years. It’s really fun, really laidback.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

I didn't know. I think when I was around thirteen I wanted to be a piercer.

How did the now famous Left Shark tattoo come about?

Matty [Clark] and I are really good friends. We've known each other for years. I always hang out at his establishment. I saw the half-time show and I thought of him right away. So I found a meme and put it on his Facebook wall, and he was like ,“I want to get that tattooed.” The next day I drew it and I put it on his wall with the hashtag #toosoon. He was like, “Let’s do it right now.” I wasn't doing anything, so we did it.

Obviously, the photo has been making the rounds on the internet. How did that start?

I posted it on Instagram, and immediately I saw it being stolen. People were stealing it and pretending like they got it. I saw a lot of “I blacked out after the Super Bowl and woke up with this” kind of jokes. In the morning, my cousin said that it was all over her Tumblr. Someone else told me it was all over Reddit. Then someone saw an article on the Huffington Post. It just escalated. It was on ESPN. By the end of that night, I think it was on Time. The next morning it was on People. It was ridiculous.

How do you feel about that kind of attention?

I thought it was stupid that it got that big.

Do you feel it overshadows your other work a little bit?

It does overshadow my other work. But it’s fine. I did it. I stand behind it. I still love it.

What do you think about how the media portrays tattoo art?

I don’t know, a lot of those articles are kind of making fun of it, like “He’s going to regret that next week.” A lot of the comments were not nice.

Do those types of comments get to you?

It did, a little bit. If anything, it just made me more conscious of my work. But it’s only been a week, so who knows.

What do you like to do outside of tattooing?

I go to shows a lot. Hang out with my friends. I like places with music. I like pop music, industrial music, I like it all.

Do you like to listen to music while you’re tattooing?

No, I’m very in the zone. I don’t even pay attention to outside stuff. 

Do you enjoy interacting with clients while you work? 

Yeah, we talk about stupid stuff. The other day we were singing jingles from daytime television while I was tattooing. It was fun.

For more information on Rene Cordero, visit Kitchens' Ink online or follow Cordero on Instagram @instalame_rene.
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Nathalia Vélez
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