Death Cloak Traditional Style: Classic American and Japanese tattoos

Interview by Marco Annunziata

Marco Annunziata pesents Frankie Caraccioli, aka Death Clock, a tattooist at Port City Tattoo in Los Angeles. Let’s get to know him a little better…

Who is Death Cloak?
Death Cloak is the name I use for all my internet outlets and social media. I go by Frankie Caraccioli. I live in Los Angeles, California and work at Port City Tattoo.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

Do you think drawing and painting skills are essential to be a good tattoo artist? When did you start tattooing?
I believe you could teach anybody how to apply a tattoo but what separates and makes us more unique than others is our artistic talents. I started tattooing in 2003. I’m self taught, not by choice but only after being turned down when asking multiple shops and tattooers for an apprenticeship. I started getting tattooed at the age of 18 and had a few before picking up a tattoo machine.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

Is tattooing craft or art making?
Tattooing is both a craft and art. It’s all up to the tattooers what path they decide is best for them. For myself, I chose to be right down the middle on this one. Yes I’m an artist but it’s my job to make the client happy and proud to wear their tattoo and if I can accomplish that without doing a bad design, I will give them what they want instead of what I think they should have.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

Do you make art everyday?
I would say I work more as an illustrator but I have made some art in my life and have always been creative. I tattoo 2-3 tattoos a day minimum 5 days a week. In my free time, I design graphics more than I paint right now. Hoping to make some time for painting soon.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

Who are your favourite tattoo artists? Do you have any mentor?
I have plenty of favourite tattoo artists and have been fortunate enough to get tattooed and work alongside a lot of them. Here’s a list to name a few that are still currently tattooing:
Mike Roper, Regino Gonzales, Chris O’Donnell, Mike Rubendall, Chris Garver, Horizakura. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to learn a lot from these tattooers and to call some my friend.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

How would you describe your style?
I can work in many styles of tattooing and have made it a point to learn them all before picking one to excel in. I work mainly in a traditional style in both classic American and Japanese tattoos. As for the Death In Paradise design, this is traditional graphic work. I painted this design when I was moving back to California after tattooing 3 years at Kings Avenue Tattoo in NYC.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

I wanted to let clients know on Social media through a visual post and decided to design something that reminded me of home with my logo and just like that, the Death In Paradise was born. My good friend and fellow tattooer Brian Paul liked it a lot and asked me to tattoo it on him first. A few more friends got it tattooed soon after. I have tattooed over 150 Death In Paradise designs and now I’m no longer doing them. It was time to change it up and not get stagnant doing the same design over and over. That’s what’s great about tattooing, the options are endless.

You can control the direction you would like your work to progress in at anytime.

Are skulls your favourite subjects to paint and tattoo?
I would say skulls are in my top 5 things to use as subject matter while tattooing and painting. I also love using snakes, birds of prey, dragons and big cats.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

What’s your Harley Davidson? What’s your dream motorcycle?
I have two Harley Davidson motorcycles. My first one is a 1976 Shovelhead that I got in 2013 in NYC. I rode it all over Brooklyn and Manhattan. When we were moving back to California, I made a plan to ride it cross country with my friend/tattooer Nate Fierro and that’s what we did. We only had a few minor mechanical problems but nothing that held us back more than a day. This trip is one of the best things that I have ever done in my life and I have so many stories that could be a whole other interview on its own. I picked up my 2000 FXDX a couple years ago and I love it! No more tinkering and kicking over and over to get this bike to start. It’s a turn the key and go!  I still love riding my Shovel but it’s a weekend warrior now.

There’s a lot of dream bikes that I would like to have and maybe will in the future but I’ll just enjoy the ones I have for now.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

What is your favourite route to do with your Harley Davidson?
I have the best time riding on mountain highways. There’s just something that makes you feel like you’re one with nature while doing it.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

You making some cool apparel, do you think tattooing is related to fashion nowadays?
Tattooing has been used in fashion in the past but it’s usually in a corny way where a tattooer wouldn’t want to wear it. I use more of an illustrated style when designing apparel and I think that’s why it’s does so well with tattooers and tattoo fans. In my opinion, the tattoo style belongs on the skin where it looks best unless it’s a tattoo shop shirt. I’ll continue to move forward with working on the Death Cloak as a brand with more designs and clothing to choose from. I like having this as another artist outlet and way to promote my tattooing because tattooing is my number 1 priority. It’s my life!

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

What do you think about selling temporary tattoos?
I know that Ed Hardy brand sells temporary tattoos and they’re actually cool for the kids! I don’t plan on making any but I’m not opposed to it.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

Do you do a lot of coverups? What do you think of laser as a way to remove tattoos?
I have done plenty of cover-ups and have learned that some tattoos just won’t look good no matter what you put over it. That’s when I recommend seeking laser treatment. It’s a great way to get rid of poorly done work and bad ideas. Myself personally, I just live with my bad tattoos or have graphic black tattoos put over them.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

What are your feelings when you see a bad copy of your work?
I’ve seen plenty of copies of my work. People have always copied other tattooers’ work but it seems nowadays tattooers are not even trying to hide it and actually are promoting it as there own tattoo/idea without giving credit to the original artist. I’m fine with tattooers making their money and learning how they need to but when you use others’ art to self promote, it’s just wrong.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

Is there a movie you’d like to work on the poster for?
I’ve never thought of that before but I have watched the documentary on Drew Struzan and would have loved to do any of the posters he’s done. I definitely recommend checking him out if you haven’t. He’s one of the best!

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

Did they ever ask you to join TV reality shows?
I’ve been asked to be a contestant on a tattoo show before. It’s just not for me. I have a lot of friends and peers that have done it and support their decision 100%. I’d rather have somebody that is great at tattooing representing the craft than some hack.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

Who’s your ideal customer? What is the best way to contact you and book an appointment?
I would say my ideal customer is someone that comes to me with their idea and has an open mind with their full trust in me. This will set me up to do my best work and leave us both happy in the end. All appointments are booked by emailing frankiecaraccioli@gmail.com.

Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA Death Cloak, Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa, CA, USA

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