It’s been a long and interesting road for Tattoos By Lou Kendall tattoo artist Juan Suarez, known to friends and clients as KiKi. As a child in Cuba it became obvious Kiki’s artistic talent was something worth nurturing. As a young man he made the decision that his talent would become his career. It was then that Kiki decided to start teaching himself how to tattoo. Remember, this was the turn of the millennium and at the time in Cuba there was no such thing as an apprenticeship. Kiki had to make his own machine and it was difficult to find ink that worked. After a while of struggling Kiki finally met a tattoo artist that was willing to sell him black ink. He would pay $20 for one ounce of black Indian ink. Little by little Kiki’s work improved and he was able to get better machines and some color inks.
Within five years, Kiki made the fateful decision to sell everything he had to buy a ticket on a raft. He sold all his tattoo supplies, clothing, and his brother sold his gold chain. All the money went toward the purchase of a seat on a raft, not a guarantee of reaching America. Looking toward the future, Kiki climbed onto that raft in Cuba on December 30, 2006. The raft landed on the United States coast 23 hours later. Upon landing Kiki started building his life in America. Two months after arriving he got a job at a convenient store, working the night shift while looking for a job at a tattoo studio during the day.
Within two weeks of starting his job at the convenient store, Kiki got his first job as a tattoo artist in America. Working at a studio in South Beach, his commute was too far. Kiki began living in the studio, waiting for the shop to close before cleaning up and using the sink to bathe. Kiki slept on the floor of the studio for five months, finally saving enough money to move into an apartment.
With the security of a steady income and a place to live, Kiki was able to focus on his art, developing his tattoo skills and talent. In December 2008 Kiki joined our Tattoos By Family, working at the South Beach Studio. Quickly becoming a sought after artist, Kiki focused on perfecting his realistic and portrait tattoo work. Working mostly in black and grey at first, he soon developed his skills as a talented color artist. You can see the progression in KiKi’s work throughout the years. Kiki thrived in the environment of Tattoos By Lou South Beach, making lifelong friends and clients.
As Kiki looks forward to celebrating his eleventh year in Miami and close to two decades tattooing, he heads back home to Cuba for the second time. This time as an award winning tattoo artist, having taken first place a few weeks ago for Best Medium Color Tattoo at the 2017 Miami Tattoo Arts Convention. You can find Kiki at our Tattoos By Lou Kendall studio and see more of his work in his online portfolio. See more of this story including additional photos by following our Instagram account @TattoosByLouMiami and on Facebook @TattoosByLou and view Kiki's Takeover during November 2017.