Charlie Roberts is a 44-year-old famous tattoo artist from LA, who already tattooed all over the world.
His parents divorced when Charlie was three years old. He lived with his mother in Northern California for a while. At the age of thirteen, he moved in with his father in a cabin on the Hollywood Boulevard where he hung around with a lot of street punk kids. When they found out that Charlie was the son of Bob Roberts, already a legend in the tattoo world, they asked Charlie if they could get a tattoo from Charlie himself.
When Charlie turned 14, Bob gave his son his first tattoos. A skull and a snake on his ankle. When Charlie showed me the snake, I saw his whole leg was covered in ink, of course. At the age of 14, Charlie did not only get his first tattoo, but he also learned how to use a tattoo machine. He lost his ink virginity on a guy named Scooter, known from the Punk Rock scene in the Valley. He was an old FFF member, which stands for Fight For Freedom. “I was pretty young. I think the people had more faith in me than I did in myself, but it was cool, it worked out”, he smiles.
Charlie spent a lot of time in his dad’s studio from his 14th till his 16th. The year after then, he hung out with his friends and when he turned 18, he actually started working at Spotlight Tattoo and spent most of his time in the shop. Charlie tattooed a rose on his father’s leg and he redid an eagle on his forearm too. Henk Shiffmacher, also known as Hanky Panky, often came along with Charlie’s father and when Charlie was kicked out of high school, Henk offered him a job in his shop in Amsterdam. Charlie really wanted to work for Henk but he didn’t take the job. “I thought that if I learned how to tattoo, I should definitely learn it from my father. So I did not go and I stayed in LA. I could still learn a lot. You’re always learning when you work next to my father.”
In 1990 he went to the convention in Amsterdam and he kept coming back to the city. Later on Charlie started to work for Henk every summer and sometimes even in the winter. “At first, I didn’t really even go anywhere else in Europe, I just came straight to work for him.” Nowadays Charlie travels a lot. He went to loads of different countries like Japan (his favourite), England, Thailand and, of course, the Netherlands and Belgium. “I just like to visit different places. Don’t really know why, I just enjoy doing it. Maybe it’s also an escape from being a full-time dad.”
Charlie is happy to be in Antwerp. “Although I don’t really know a lot of people, they seem nice to me. Plus the scenery is great and the weather is a little cold. I like a little cold. But I also miss my baby girl.” His daughter is 4.5-year-old Esther Rose. When I asked Charlie what his biggest fear is, he didn’t immediately have an answer ready. “I have to think about than one. I try not to think about fear too much. But to be honest, I guess my biggest fear is that anything bad happens to my kid. The 24th I’ll finally see her again when I go back to Hollywood. Till then we chat and Skype almost every day.” Charlie would like a tattoo from his daughter, preferably one that she sketches herself. Because of her name a nice rose would be perfect.