Netflix have just released the long awaited documentary LA Originals. For anybody that has a love of tattooing, art and culture and nostalgia for 90’s history this is a must watch. So what is LA Originals about? LA Originals is a documentary about the birth and history of Chicano art & culture from the Mexican american community in LA and how it has progressed to the mainstream appearing in everything from sneakers to video games and even developing a following in remote places such as Japan or Germany.
The documentary chronicles the stories and experience of two men who were heavily involved in the rise of Chicano culture in the 90’s and are considered pioneers today for the respective influences; they are Mark Machado, a Mexican graffiti and tattoo artist better known as Mr. Cartoon or just Cartoon today and Estevan Oriol a noted photographer and ex tour manager for acts such as Cypress Hill and House of Pain.
For Cartoon and Estevan its a walk down memory lane with input from various superstars to comment on the influence they had on them or the culture at the time. The documentary features cameos and archive footage from Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, 50 Cent, Method Man, Xzibit, Travis Barker, Kobe Bryant and Danny Trejo.
Mark Machado (Mr. Cartoon)
Cartoon has had an eclectic life which has led to the introduction of many different artistic mediums. In his younger teenage years he was introduced to automotive art through an instructor in his karate club. The instructor owned a body shop that specialised in Kandy Painting, airbrushing, pinstriping and hood murals. This passion for cars and detailing has continued throughout his life in the customisations of all the cars he has owned.
In the early 80’s he was heavily into the hip hop scene and even though he had no talent in rapping or break dancing, his drawing skills were on fire and so he became a graffiti writer under the name “Flame” . Although his early graffiti work was of a superior quality, the style of graffiti wasn’t reflective of the style that Cartoon is most known for now. Cartoons unique style would develop later through the merging of two styles.
When in school, some of his classmates would receive letters from family members in prison. Some of the letters and envelopes would be heavily decorated with Pinta/Prison style intricate hand drawn murals or collages. Cartoons style was born by merging the fine line style of drawing in single needle tattoos from prison with his flair for graffiti lettering.
Through his art, Cartoon began getting custom commissions for artwork from musicians. It was in the music industry that he met Estevan. Estevan was working for Soul Assassins and Cyprus Hill. Soul Assassins was a collective of music artists and graphic artists associated with Hip Hop. Cartoon began doing album artwork for Cyprus Hill and eventually went on tour with them.
It was at this point he started transitioning to tattooing. From here he started collecting celebrity tattoo clients through artists associated with Soul Assassins from Xzibit, 50 Cent, Eminem through to Snoop Dog and Travis Barker.
It was through the increased demand for his services from celebrity clients that he also became in demand for his commercial services.
Both Nike and Vans have commissioned Cartoon to design limited multiple releases of sneakers over the years.
Cartoon is also responsible for the design of the logo for Shady Records, Eminem’s record label. He has also provided work for Toyota, T-Mobile, the Los Angeles Clippers and Grand Theft Auto.
Some of Cartoons Tattoos
Just as talented as Cartoon, Estevan is equally important to the chicano legacy and the LA hip hop renaissance in the nineties. Estevan began his career as a bouncer on clubs in LA. It was during this job that he got introduced to members of Cyrpus Hill. When Cyprus Hill were beginning to go on tour they needed a tour manager and they approached Estevan for the job.
Whilst on tour Estevan began to realise the significance of the events he was playing a part in and started documenting the bands travels and daily interactions through photos and videos. His skillset would go on to be a valuable asset for Soul Assassins. While he would do the photography for album covers his partner in crime Mr. Cartoon would do the logos.
Eventually magazines started using the photos of bands and celebrity interactions that he shot. His talent to capture the essence of a person didn’t go unnoticed and some of his photography would be used on magazine covers.
His work is often associated with the gritty fish-eye lens look from hip hop photography and videos in the early nineties.
Not just content with shooting celebrities and musicians, Estevan also shot photography of the culture associated with LA at the time no matter what the source. He regularly shoots photos of homeless, chicano and even gang culture. In the 90’s he shot the infamous LA fingers photo which has since become an icon of LA. Initially most brands were afraid to associate with it due to gang connotation but it has since appeared on garments for all the major fashion labels.
Estevan is also noted for his videography and directorial capabilities. He has directed videos for Cyprus Hill, Blink 182, Xzibit, The Transplants, Tech N9ne amongst others.
Some of Estevans Work:
We recommend you check out LA Originals on Netflix Today!