LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — In the wake of her husband and daughter’s deaths, Vanessa Bryant got a pair of tattoos to commemorate Gianna and Kobe. The artist who did those tattoos, Nikko Hurtado, says that the projects were an honor for him.
“I like to respect my client’s personal stuff so you know I was truly honored to do it and I really respect the Bryant family,” said Hurtado in an interview with CBS 2’s Kristin Smith. “I’m grateful to her to ask and hopefully that is something I can give them.”
Hurtado has become somewhat of a go-to artist for those seeking tattoos of the late Bryant. He says that he’s tattooed Bryant’s likeness at least 10 times and that he’s had a lot of the Laker legend’s fans reach out to him about getting tattooed. The fans ask for all different eras of Kobe portraits but for Hurtado, a Southern California native, his favorite version of Kobe was the man he became off the court after retiring.
“If I have a favorite Kobe, my personal favorite was after he retired because of the things he achieved after that were so mind-blowing like the awards he won and the things he was doing,” said Hurtado. “When I was in high school, Kobe was the man. He went straight to the NBA and he’s just been a part of, I think all Southern Californians lives the whole time. To watch his rise and see the things he achieved, I’m a huge Kobe fan.”
Because Kobe has been a huge part of the lives of so many in Southern California and around the world, Hurtado says that he does feel a certain pressure when it comes to making these portraits.
“I feel a lot of pressure when it comes to making these portraits because nobody is the same. No two people’s bodies are the same, the pigment doesn’t react in the skin the same so it’s difficult,” said Hurtado. “Someone will see a portrait I did and they’ll want that exact kind of theme but it’s a different place on the body or a different photo. They might move a little bit more than the last client. There’s so much pressure when making these portraits.”
Kobe’s isn’t the only face that Hurtado has inked on clients. He has done everyone from LeBron James to Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker to Darth Vader. But, when it comes to sports figures in particular, Hurtado says that he is touched by the many reasons he’s heard from fans as to why they’re getting the tattoo.
“I think that they have just been touched and it’s a part of their life. They’re so heavily into it that they’re influenced by these people and I think that they just, they’re connected,” said Hurtado. “They get these portraits because they absolutely love sports and absolutely love the characters, the team and the team members. It’s really cool. I feel honored to be able to do these portraits on people.”
Hurtado’s considered among the top tattoo portrait artists anywhere and he’s built a list of celebrity clientele to prove it noting that he’s done work on Diddy, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Drake and Wale among others. Hurtado says that he’s now found himself in the fortunate position to tattoo only those people that he makes a connection with. He says that he’ll often watch documentaries of the person he’s doing a portrait of with his client. In the case of Bryant, it helps Hurtado find that “Mamba Mentality” to present the best work he can.