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Marco Velazquez has been tattooing people “from all walks of life and from many parts of the world” for 26 years, so he’s an old hand at his art. What’s new is that his studio, Skin Abrasions Tattoo, has been located at 7206 Madison in Forest Park for just four weeks.

“Ever since I was a child, I have had a passion for art,” said the 50-year-old artist/entrepreneur. He would compete with his classmates to see who could draw the best and even studied art and advertising at Columbia College for two years.

But life got in the way. He dropped out of Columbia and stopped making art for a couple years, until he spotted a tattoo magazine lying on the kitchen table at a friend’s house.

“I flipped through the pages,” he recalled, “and was blown away by the images I was seeing. I had no idea that tattoos could be done with such high quality and detail on skin, just like on canvas.”

As he practiced copying the images he found in the tattoo magazines he bought, he got hooked and asked his friend if he could get him an apprenticeship at the studio where he was working. He got the call, told his boss he was quitting, and started his apprenticeship the very next morning at Prairie Tattoo in Chicago Heights.

After working at Tatu Tattoo in Chicago for six years and No Hope No Fear in the city for three years, he felt the need to move forward and open up his own studio. He partnered with his friend Kyle Mingari, and together they opened Skin Abrasions in Oak Park where he has been for the last 16 years.

Velazquez explained his latest move by saying, “I would always take Madison Street on my home from work and would think to myself, ‘Man, this would be a great area to open up a new location.’ Forest Park always had that vibe, that energy to me.”

So when he received a call from a friend asking if he was still looking for a new place, Velazquez immediately met him at 7206 Madison St.

“One quick look at,” he said, “and I knew I wanted it. It was on the strip in Forest Park that I was always driving by.”

He explained how he has been coping with the pandemic by saying, “I have now been tattooing for 26 years. I have tattooed people from all walks of life and from many parts of the world. I have truly been fortunate and feel I have the best clients.”

Knowing that his loyal clients and his “amazing crew” of artists would be there upon reopening was what got him through the lockdown. That and the time to think of ways to open up Skin Abrasions in its new location with a “fresh, new look.”

“The hardest thing for me,” he added, “was not to be able to create for a couple months. I was being forced to give up something that I love to do.”

Velazquez said that 99 percent of his clients want a tattoo in the sci-fi/biomechanical style.

The website Tattoo-Models explained, “Biomechanical art started in the late 70s when H.R Giger, a Swiss artist designed the aliens from the Ridley Scott film, Alien. It is a very interesting tattoo art because machine elements and organics are combined to produce an awesome geeky and surreal tattoo.”

The website Scene 360 states, “Fusing machines with living organisms, biomechanical tattoos have developed over the decades, with artists incorporating their own influences from engineering to geometric patterns. There is much creative freedom within this art style, as many tattooers freehand directly onto the skin, using the body’s natural shapes to dictate which patterns will create the illusion of an extra dimension.”

IBISWorld reports that the tattoo industry in the U.S. grew by 6.1 percent between 2014 and 2019.  “Over the past decade, and especially over the five years to 2019, tattoos have become unprecedentedly popular. Long obtained mostly by members of limited subcultures, the stigma surrounding tattoos has largely faded. About three in 10 Americans have a tattoo and that proportion climbs to nearly five out of 10 among millennials.”