Only the ink he uses is indelible and comes out of a machine “gun.” And the canvas on which he works is the human skin.
A tattoo artist, Harvey, an Irish native, owns The King’s Head Tattoo at 1572 Garnet Ave. between Haines and Ingraham streets.
King’s Head is one of a series of parlors lining PB’s commercial strip, which include: Chronic Tattoo at 1253 Garnet Ave. #B, Black Rose Tattoo Lounge at 4603 Mission Blvd., Guru Tattoo at 1122 Garnet Ave., Above All Tattoo at 1026 Garnet Ave., Funhouse Tattoo at 1453 Garnet Ave., Avalon Tattoo Inc. at 1035 Garnet Ave. and Mums Custom Tattoo at 1837 Garnet Ave.
Harvey is a practitioner of an ancient art form performed for centuries in many cultures worldwide. The oldest discovered evidence of tattooing on preserved skin dates to 6000 B.C. on the remains of a South American mummy.
Harvey’s got a theory for the rationale behind the wide — and growing — popularity of tattooing.
“It’s the missing tribal link,” he said, noting he’s tattooed people of all ages and those from all walks of life.
“I’ve tattooed priests, lawyers, doctors and nuns,” he said.
Harvey said he worked on an 86-year-old woman not long ago who came in with her great-granddaughter.
“It wasn’t her first tattoo either, but her third; a little butterfly,” he said.
Harvey said a tattoo is “very unique art, something you’re going to have on your body.”
He said that regardless of whether it’s a piece of flash (stock) art displayed on a wall or custom work designed especially for — and with — the recipient, a tattoo is as memorable as it indelible.
A tattoo, said Harvey, can be a rite of passage that someone gets when they pass a life milestone or a symbol of their “coming of age,” or for any other reason you can imagine.
“It can be a guy in their 30s or 40s who’s getting a divorce or a student at a turning point, or their grandmother’s name or just to have something on their body that they can always have and see,” Harvey said.
Harvey recently took two first-place awards at the San Diego Tattoo Convention in Mission Valley. His artistry was attested to by one of his customers.
“I’ve had the pleasure of being tattooed by Ronan Harvey for the last seven years,” said Todd Brown. “The custom touch that he puts on every idea I have for him is brilliant. The King’s Head is very fitting for Ronan with its layout and old-school fashion.”
Noting King’s Head has “cool skylights,” Brown said clients can get “tanned and tattooed” at the same time while enjoying the company of a true professional in Harvey, whom Brown referred to as “a great guy I’m glad to call my friend.”
Typically, how one breaks into the tattoo trade is by apprenticing under a practitioner before mastering the craft and developing one’s own unique style before moving off onto one’s own, as Harvey did.
Tattooing can be a lucrative profession. The going rate is $150 an hour. Ask around.
It’s worked well for Harvey, who’s supported a wife and three children for several years while plying his craft.
Like other art forms, tattoos are subject to tastes, which can change over time.
For example, tailbone tats once popular with ladies at the beach and denigrated by some as “tramp stamps” have faded from view. They’ve been replaced in popularity more recently by other symbols like “silhouettes of birds flying.”
Harvey’s clients tend to be more serious, desiring weightier themes requiring more skill to carry off.
“My style is a little bit more bold and heavy,” he said, noting his imagery tends toward the darker side of dragons and such.
Harvey said he’s always available for appointments and accepts walk-ins, as well.
For information, call (858) 352-6133 or visit thekingsheadtattoo.com.