Local illustrative artist shares unique vision through tattoos

Osman De Los Santos has been in the tattoo business since high school


Chanelle Muerong

Osman De Los Santos, 27, in his private tattoo studio in Sacramento, Calif. on Dec. 7, 2020. In his free time, De Los Santos makes art commissions which he displays on the walls of his shop.

Chanelle Muerong

Nestled between small neighborhoods and shops on Alhambra Boulevard lies a small tattoo shop co-owned by Osman De Los Santos, a tattoo artist who has worked on his craft for nearly nine years. 

De Los Santos, 27, said he has been in the tattoo business since he completed a tattoo apprenticeship the summer of his sophomore year at Hiram Johnson High School.

“Tattooing was something I had already wanted to do,” said De Los Santos. “I didn’t want to do anything else.”

All throughout school, De Los Santos said he had held different jobs on the side, but tattooing was something that he was passionate about.

“I was planning on being a Marine, but by then I had already got a lot of my arm tattooed from just being an apprentice at a shop,” De Los Santos said.

De Los Santos said that the tattoo apprenticeship took about a year and he had received his license a year after that.

“I did my apprenticeship at a shop called Heaven’s Gate under Freddy Chavez in South Sacramento, which later became Broken Anchor. After that I had paused for a minute and attended classes at Sac City college,” said De Los Santos. 

De Los Santos found himself working at a place named Ben Franklin, another shop in South Sacramento. De Los Santos was there for about six months and became manager in the time that he worked. 

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A commission of a woman with leaves and roots as hair and mushrooms and earthly materials as her body done by tattoo artist Osman De Los Santos. De Los Santos owns a private tattoo studio in Sacramento, Calif. with his work partner Ralph Madrid. Photo courtesy of Osman De Los Santos.

De Los Santos met his current work partner Ralph Madrid on Instagram when De Los Santos was managing his shop after Ben Franklin, Black Jackal. The two of them worked together before deciding to open up a private studio together, Sacred Wave. 

“We’re a private studio,” De Los Santos said. “We’re not a walk-in shop, so we don’t have people in and out. We’ve been doing it for so long that people don’t necessarily have to come in and see our books. They can just see our stuff on Instagram and know what they want.”

Clients can request appointments via De Los Santos’s Instagram, or the email on his profile.

His vision and the way he translates it to skin is something I think many of us can appreciate.”

— Sierra Shepherd

Sierra Shepherd, a client of De Los Santos and a graphic design student at Sacramento State, had previously met someone who had work done by De Los Santos and said she was impressed, so she reached out to him directly. 

“He has done my shoulder pieces, some other line work and we are currently working on a sleeve,” Shepherd said. “I started with the zodiac wheel and then the rest will be tarot card inspired.”

“Black illustrative is what I would describe my style,” said De Los Santos. “It’s basically the use of thin line work next to heavy line work. I do a lot of lady faces, and I do a lot of work that is heavy or dark.” 

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In addition to tattooing, De Los Santos said he also makes money to support the shop by doing commission art in various mediums. Many of his works can be found lining the walls of his shop.

“If you’re not looking to get tattooed but you like his art, he also does elegant illustrations on slabs of wood that have this dream-like quality about them when they’re finished,” said Sutton Segur, another client of De Los Santos. “The wood portrait that he did of me is one of my prized possessions, I highly recommend commissioning him.”

De Los Santos said he finds inspiration for his tattoos from anime, podcasts, folklore and anything that is “abnormal”. 

“I like the weird stuff,” De Los Santos said. “Fantastical shit, you know?” 

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Segur described De Los Santos’s work as “unique,” so much so that she finds herself recognizing his work on complete strangers.

“I’ve been getting tattooed by Osman for about five years now,” Segur said. “I think that he has a beautiful mind and it’s been really cool watching his artwork grow and progress over the years. His vision and the way he translates it to skin is something I think many of us can appreciate.”