Danny Bayron got his attention to detail from fish.
At age 8, Bayron would lay on his floor at home in the Bronx and watch his older brother copy pictures of fish from a book. Seeing his brother capture every scale and delicate shading stuck with Baryon 30 years later.
“Watching him do that made me part of who I am,” he said.
In New York, he started out drawing like his brother, then turned to graffiti. In 1997, he moved to Baltimore and started a career as a barber. Now, he’s a resident artist at Black Lotus Tattoo studio in Hanover.
Those fish-drawing memories of patience and precision first came in handy for Bayron as a barber.
“When I was doing a part or a design, I would get so close to people’s heads that I would remove one single hair to fix a crooked line.”
For 10 years, Bayron perfected haircuts. Whatever people asked for — designs and even portraits — say no more and he’d hook it up. Until one day, someone asked for something he’d never done before.
Chris, a client of Bayron’s at Supreme Cuts in Baltimore, was also a tattoo artist. When he told Bayron one of his haircut designs would be a good tattoo, Bayron shrugged the idea off.
“A couple of months down the road, I went to get tattooed by him, and he had set up the station for himself to get tattooed by me.”
Bayron said it took a lot of convincing, but he nervously tattooed the outline of two bold stars on Chris.
“That was a curveball. I went from going to get a tattoo, to giving my first tattoo,” Bayron said. “It took me way longer than it should have, but they came out pretty good.”
Bayron thought that was the end of it, until Chris came into Supreme Cuts and hung up photos at Bayron’s barber station of him tattooing the stars. Soon hair-cut clients started asking Bayron for tattoos, and he began splitting his time between trimmers and needles.
When Bayron decided to go for tattooing full time, he said it was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do.
“I had my haircut clientele for 10 years. There’s kids that I’ve seen grow up. I’ve seen guys come in as young men and end up in careers,” he said. “To drop that for something totally new was terrifying. That put the pressure on me to make sure I don’t flop at this.”
In his sixth year tattooing full time, Bayron is anything but a flop. At Black Lotus, he focuses on realism. In his portraits, you can see every wrinkle, hair, dimple and pore on the face he’s putting on someone else. The way he lights and shades tattoos is scarily exact.
Those details don’t seem to be a challenge. Instead, they’re something he craves.
“Baby portraits are the most difficult,” he said while working on a piece recently. He’s inking a massive Death Star on a client’s arm as part of a Star Wars sleeve.
“Grownups have features you can see … cheekbones, smile marks, but to make a baby look like a baby is the hardest thing in the world.”
If you’re sitting in Black Lotus and you close your eyes to just listen to the sounds of the studio, it does sound like it could be a barber shop.
The tattoo machine in Bayron’s hand buzzes away, plunging the needle about 150 jabs per second into his client’s skin, the same way clippers buzz taking hair off scalps. While the vibrations feel the same for Bayron, he said cutting and tattooing are different equations.
“When you’re cutting hair, you’re removing something from the body. Even if you mess up, you can fix it. The hair’s going to grow back,” he said.
“I’m doing the complete opposite when I’m tattooing. I’ve got a small machine in my hand with the same vibration as my clippers. Only thing is, I’m adding ink. I can’t make a mistake now though.”
“Creative Space: Local Artists at Work” is an occasional series spotlighting artists of every variety who, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “elevate the quality of the day.”
Send tips about Anne Arundel artists with unique talents and stories to Selene San Felice at email@example.com and Thalia Juarez at firstname.lastname@example.org.