Tags: Illustration

An Unconventional Canvas

Mario Delgado, BFA 2012, grew up in Sonoma County, Calif., drawing and knowing he wanted a career in the arts. He kept busy, landing freelance gigs sculpting, working for a sign company, at a photo booth and at street fairs. To diversify his skills, he says, “I made sure I learned several different art styles.” Delgado began exploring the art of tattooing while in high school, and after developing professional drawing skills at the Academy’s accredited School of Illustration, he opened Moth & Dagger, his own custom-shop tattoo studio near San Francisco’s Union Square. There, Delgado applies the lessons he learned at the Academy to the unconventional canvas that is the human body, always striving to realize the vision of his customers while offering expert advice…while also giving back to the community. “The human body is a beautiful thing to study and work on. Drawing on skin is my livelihood, but it also allows me to give back. For instance, I do nipple reconstructions free of charge for breast cancer patients.”


The Foundations
“I thought I was really good at drawing in high school, but then I got to the Academy and realized otherwise,” says Delgado. “The Academy gave me all the foundations I needed to draw, and to see the mistakes in my own and other people’s drawings. I learned about proportion, anatomy, structure, lighting, analysis of form, color and design, figure drawing...all the essentials.”


The Faculty
“My instructors were amazing because they all teach part time and have their own illustration ventures outside of school, so they know what it takes to make it on both levels. They show us their real-world projects in class and get us thinking outside the box...and they welcome our feedback. That is inspirational. It’s a cool way to learn.”


The Feedback
Faculty notes are essential to the learning process at Academy of Art University, and Delgado continues to apply the feedback he received as a student to his studio. “[Former faculty member] Terryl Whitlatch—a concept artist on Star Wars: Episode I—taught me so much about professional practices…tips of the trade. Her class was demanding, but highly instructive.”

Mario Delgado: Tattoo & Illustration Gallery

Balancing Business & Trade

Tattooing was of interest to Delgado because he was more attracted to the commercial aspects of art. “Tattooing is more of a trade than an art…closer to illustration than fine art in that regard,” he says. “When you illustrate, you’re drawing for someone else, but fine art you do for yourself. With tattooing, you have to deal with a customer. Sometimes I get to negotiate what the customer wants and what I’d like to do, but for the most part I’m taking an idea and making it better. This is how I make money, but I like taking on clients that need illustrations—people or organizations that need them but can’t afford them, like San Francisco Women Against Rape. I did collateral materials for them. It’s incredible that it’s worked out for me, being an illustrator and a tattoo artist.”

The successful San Francisco tattoo studio Moth & Dagger, run by School of Illustration graduate Mario Delgado

Find Success with Your Own Unconventional Canvas

Are you an aspiring tattoo artist? The School of Illustration now offers two classes that focus on tattoo art and the tattoo industry. Learn the basics of tattoo design, history, and business practices in IL 177: Drawing for Tattoo and Skin Art, then discover body art styles and techniques from around the world and how to create your portfolio in IL 277: Tattoo Design and Skin Art. You can learn from Mario Delgado himself if you enroll in IL 177 durring Summer 2016. To see more of Mario's work, visit him on Instagram at @MarioD1979.

Professional Mentor

“Mario knew what he wanted from day one and pursued it vigorously. He knew that to distinguish himself in the tattoo world he had to have excellent drawing, inking, and design abilities. He grew all those skills at the Academy and took the necessary steps to set up his own tattoo shop near his alma mater. He is a very generous, savvy entrepreneur, and implemented what he learned in the School of Illustration and built upon it to make his business a great success.”

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School of Illustration

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