Eric Anderson has been tattooing for 28 years and is putting those years of experience to good use in Taos' newest ink shop, the eponymously named Anderson's Tattoo Parlor, located in the center of Taos across from The Lounge by Rolling Still Distillery.

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, the 54-year-old made his way to Taos in the mid-90s. After tattooing in the area at the now-closed Excellence Ink and opening up his own shop, Cool Hand, in the late 90s, he ended up moving to Austin with his partner and son for a brief stint before coming back to settle in Taos in 2016.

Classically trained as an oil painter (something he still loves to do), Anderson’s love of art began at an early age. He took classes in elementary school and high school, where he attended a gifted arts vocational program. “It kept me in school,” Anderson said of his love of art. “I was a soccer player, so I had that keeping me on. And going to vocational school half a day every day was enough to keep me going. I really hated high school.”

After graduation, Anderson attended Columbus College of Art and Design for a year, then transferred to Cleveland Institute of Art, but quickly decided school wasn’t for him. “Getting out of formal education as far as art goes is the best thing I could have done,” he said.

A crafted style

An artist trained in many different styles, Anderson said tattooing appeals to him because of its adaptation to other modalities. “Tattooing is an art form that often emulates other mediums. Somebody might want a tattoo that looks like a woodcut, somebody might want a tattoo that looks like a watercolor, somebody might want a tattoo that looks like a photograph … oftentimes, you are kind of making it look like another art form.”

He said this approach to tattooing has helped him develop his own unique style; one in which he doesn't pigeonhole himself and keeps an open mind to his clients’ wishes. As an early tattoo artist in Taos and during his formative years in Austin from 2001 until 2018, he gained experience in all aspects of his evolving craft.

Thanks to a variety of walk-in tattoos, appointments and “bangers” – or small five- to 10-minute tattoos – Anderson has built up a huge store of tattoo knowledge over the years. “I really did my best to kind of get as many tools in my box as possible just as far as being diverse and doing, you know, different styles,” he said. “I can do my version of just about anything.”

The original blend of styles has helped him adapt to clients’ unique needs when it comes to putting a permanent piece of ink on their body. Because Anderson considers himself a fine art painter, he said he doesn’t have a unique name for his style. That lack of a stereotype, he said, is something he enjoys about tattooing. “You can hand the same design to 10 different artists. And you're going to get variations on the theme," he said.

One thing Anderson does pride himself on is his ability to cover up or rework old tattoos, something he sees a fair amount of. He said covering up an old tattoo carries a special kind of meaning. “As a tattooer, you always work in these kinds of baby steps; remembering whatever kind of uncharted territory you're into in a given tattoo,” he said.

In the end, he said he gets satisfaction out of “making something better than it was and leaving it better than you found it.”

Still, he said cover-ups have their limitations. “I’m doing what works, I’m not really free-forming and doing my own design,” he said.

When it comes to his own work and original designs, he said he prefers to work on larger, more intricate pieces these days.

Unique to Taos

As with other artists who have settled in Taos, the place itself serves as inspiration. Anderson said Taos has become a home to him like Columbus never was. “Taos has always represented a home to me that I didn't really feel in Ohio,” he said, noting Taos’ tight-knit community and sense of connectedness.

He noted the disproportionate amount of tattoo talent that exists here compared to other small towns. “For the size of Taos, there's a lot of talent. There's quite a few good artists here.” Anderson credits this to the fact that Taos has long been known as an arts town. “It just makes sense that with all the art here, there's a kind of disproportionately large number of tattoo talent here as well, which I love.”

He mentioned the amount of new talent that has entered the scene as well. “There's a lot of young tattooers in Taos, and everybody's at a different point in their evolution …” He said the rise in young tattoo artists has to do with the expanding new technology and the wider social acceptance of the art form. “It’s just at a higher point than it's ever been in history.”

Anderson lamented the loss of Daniel “Dano” Sanchez, who died in late September. He called his death “a huge loss … He was a very central figure in the tattoo scene here.” He called Magical Tattoo, where Dano used to work, “a strong shop." He said he hopes to see more artists there begin to make a name for themselves. Specifically, Anderson mentioned Savannah Leigh (working out of Magical Tattoo) and Sarah Purnell (who operates out of various shops) as people to keep an eye on.

“Those are two young women that are doing really, really nice work. And it's just good. It just adds to that diversity,” he said. In fact, Anderson plans to get his first tattoo by a woman in the next week with Purnell.

A pandemic opening

After Anderson chose to relocate permanently to Taos, he decided it was about time to open his own shop. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to take advantage of the situation. “When it all came down in 2020, I saw this opportunity,” he said.

In October 2020 he signed the lease on his current building, and in late February of 2021 he officially began seeing clients. 

He said he took the pandemic as a time to make the best of a not-so-great situation, and said it was his mental fortitude that helped him through. “If you apply positive energy towards it, and you apply hard work, and you just stay focused, you know, you can't be knocked over easily; you just keep moving ahead. You take the bad things as they come and just keep pushing through and try to stay positive.”

Taos, he said, is as good a place as anywhere to ride out the pandemic. “Coming back from Austin, I feel like I made the right decision," he said.

After reassessing his goals, he said it became “glaringly apparent” that he should start up his own shop. “I've been doing this long enough that I just need to do it my own way.”

While he admitted opening up a shop in Taos during the pandemic wasn’t an easy feat, he said he was backed with positive support from the community he has grown to know and love. “I didn't have to beg, borrow or steal anything from anybody, I just found people supportive of what I do,” he said.

As the pandemic continues on, Anderson said he is “trying to just kind of trudge through this period of time, and keep my clients safe and do it right.”

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(2) comments

Maria Sanchez

If i had known this article was coming out I would have offered my tattoos to be published. Eric gave me my first tattoo in 1997 and then I was one of his first clients in his new shop now in 2020. Both tattoos are done well but this last one he did is amazing. I am in love with it. I am so grateful for both pieces. I have gotten many compliments and it shows that Eric really takes pride in his work. Thank you again Eric.

Melissa Sweet

This made my day ! I can't believe it's just been a little over 20 years that I got my 1st tattoo from Eric. It was amazing and unique to me then and still is. It looks just as good today as when I got it. I get comments of admiration often on both I got from him. This gives me yet another reason to come home for another one !

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