For over 15 years, Guillermo Cruz has been pushing artistic boundaries with his quest to become the best tattoo artist he can be. Now, Guillermo is pushing his boundaries with a bold move from his native Puerto Rico to Nashville. Landing his dream gig at Hart & Huntington Nashville has Guillermo embracing the challenges—mastering a new language, a new culture, and a new tattoo scene. Everything Guillermo has done thus far has led him here. And couldn’t be more grateful.
Since I was a boy, I was always painting and drawing. When I was a teenager, my mom signed me up for a private art class to develop my skills. That was my first real introduction to art, and I developed a deep appreciation for it. I started drawing with a lot of charcoal and pencils and continued refining my skills over the years.
His passion for art took the back seat while he worked for a technology company. But when he turned 28, Guillermo turned back to his roots and entered the Fine Art University in Puerto Rico to pursue a degree in graphic design. A chance visit to a local bar that was hosting a tattoo event changed the course of his artistic career.
My cousin was a student with me at the university. We went out one night for drinks and came across a tattoo party. We went in and I loved the vibe. On the way out, I picked up a small magazine about the tattoo industry.
I read it and said, 'I want to do that!' I went out and picked up every tattoo magazine I could find.
After absorbing himself in tattoo literature, Guillermo was ready to take the next step.
A friend connected me with a guy who had a tattoo shop. I went in and asked him how I could start in the industry. I paid him $1500 for a three-day apprenticeship. In those three days, he taught me about tattooing, the history of tattooing, the health codes, and how to get a license. On the last day, he let me do a tattoo. I took all that I learned and started tattooing in my house—first on me, then on my brothers and sisters.
It didn’t take long for word about Guillermo’s skills to get out. Shortly after, he landed his first professional gig.
My mentor called and asked if I wanted to work as a professional tattoo artist in a shop. I said, "Hell yeah."
I worked there from about 2008 through 2015. This is where I really learned everything I know. But, I wanted to keep learning, so I continued taking classes and seminars online.
As Guillermo refined his skills, his tattoo style evolved. Influenced by renowned artists like Nick Baxter and Guy Aitchison, he gravitated towards their organic style, appreciating the texture and nature-inspired elements. However, not one to limit himself, Guillermo branched out to other styles like Japanese.
I like organic tattoos—everything about them. I like the texture and the way they flow. I respect styles like Traditional but I always choose the path of Black and Gray and develop Realism in those shades.
Que all those years Guillermo spent drawing.
I love to draw, so I like Realism. But portraits are the most challenging because if the tattoo doesn't look like the portrait, it's wrong. It took me about eight years before I would try a portrait.
A perfectionist, Guillermo will tell you the devil is in the details. And, learning the skills to craft a stunning tattoo takes time.
I tell aspiring tattoo artists that you have to be patient. You have to take your art seriously.
Draw. Push your limits. It's not like you can say, 'I'm gonna be a tattoo artist in three days.' That isn't going to happen.
Guillermo continues to push himself—both in his trade and in his life.
You have to be better than yesterday, not just in art but also in your profession and as a person—constantly evolving. I wake up, and I want to do my best. And push myself to be better. I want to keep learning—a new day, a new opportunity. So, we have to choose to be wise and better.
This mindset has become Guillermo's mantra. His patience and perfection resonate in each tattoo he creates. One tattoo in particular has become the pinnacle of his artistic journey.
One of my favorite tattoos is an Albert Einstein portrait. It was my second portrait in Black and Grey, and it took me two sessions to complete. But it's one of my best pieces because you can see the details of his eyes and skin.
Guillermo's portfolio is filled with impressive pieces of art like his Albert Einstein tattoo. That portfolio—and his dedication—came in handy during his second visit to Nashville in 2023.
My fiancé and I visited her sister in Nashville for the first time in 2020. We came out again in March 2023. As we were walking along Second Avenue, my fiancé saw the shop (Hart & Huntington) and wanted to go in and buy some t-shirts.
Hart & Huntington's reputation precedes itself.
I knew all about Hart & Huntington from a friend of mine in Puerto Rico who visited the Orlando shop. I was anxious to check it out. So we went in to buy some stuff, and I was amazed at the shop's style.
It totally stood out from other tattoo shops—the employees, how they treat the customers, the look and feel of H&H.
Guillermo was so impressed that he told his fiancé he wanted to inquire about a guest spot at H&H.
One of the girls put me in touch with Yasir, the manager. I told him I was from Puerto Rico and had over 15 years of tattooing experience. He looked at my Instagram account and portfolio, and we scheduled a two-week guest spot.
On Guillermo's first day on the job, he did nine tattoos. Transitioning to the fast-paced environment of a renowned tattoo shop took him by surprise, but the processes in place at Hart & Huntington made the day seamless.
I love the process at H&H. When a customer comes in to get a tattoo, they talk to the people at the front desk about what they want and about the different artists. They do all the quotes, so I don't need to worry about any of that, which is awesome. I never saw a process like that.
It leaves the artists to do what they do best—tattooing.
Guillermo loved his guest spot at H&H, and the feeling was mutual. Yasir invited him back for a second guest spot and eventually a full-time position, something Guillermo is very grateful for.
I get to work in another state with another language, doing what I love. I am so grateful for that every day. A new day. A new opportunity.