32 year old Renante Herbias was just one of the many ordinary tattoo artists in Cebu until his desire to be known as one of Cebu’s premiere tattoo artist was achieved when he bagged the top slot in the portrait division of the recently concluded Pinatikay Tattoo Expo 2010 held at the Norkis Grounds in Panagdait, Mabolo last January 15, 2010.

Nante, as he is fondly called by friends, was already sketching and making use of his imagination at the early age of 16.

In his neighborhood in Minglanilla, he would earn a little here and there from his drawings (mostly charcoal sketches) and t-shirt printing.

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However, he started to take up tattooing with the use of the rotary or dynamo mechanism (used during the 90’s, before the magnetic mechanism was introduced in 2000). He gained a good reputation in his neighborhood wherein he got the attention of one Cebu’s known tattoo artists, Russel Racho.

Herbias was then adopted in 2009 by Russel Studio, located along Osmena Blvd., as one of the mainstay artists, as he learned more about the craft in colored and black art tattoo. But his love for portraiture is still his strongest point in tattooing.

Mentored by Russel, Nante then evolved in his work and became more popular in the tattooing business, with a lot of tourists and foreigners coming in.

The Pinatikay Tattoo Expo 2010 was the first competition he joined, where he modified a portrait of his model, Paul Orellano, into a Frankenstein-like image which he then tattooed on Orellano’s back. This earned Nante hiw first win in a tattooing competition.

“ I’m very happy of the win and was not really expecting it, since that was my first competition,” Herbias said.” With the win, Herbias tattooed his name in the ranks as one of Cebu’s Premiere Tattoo Artists.

Meanwhile, mentor and close friend Racho also bagged the third place in the competition. Russel, as he is known by his customers and ninety percent of the tattoo aficionados in Cebu, started at the age of 14. He used the mano-mano style of tattooing, bare handed with bamboo and needle.

His older brother Roel influenced and helped him develop his skill in drawing. He also attributed some of his training to local artist Ronnie, where he was an assistant for four years.

After having won his title in the 2003 tattoo competition, Russell was then put in the limelight as one of Cebu’s top artist.

With growing dreams and goals, Russell then opened up his own shop located at the Silver Dollar in Osmena Boulevard beside MetroBank Plaza. He worked with Nante and the two paved the way for hundreds of customers craving their expertise.

Russell, who is also a veteran in competitions, is known for his talent in the oriental and Japanese art, for which expertise he is constantly visited by foreigner and local alike. His popularity as a tattoo artist spread by word of mouth, gaining him a lot of customers.

Michael vanc-Kaule, an Australian who was at the shop during the interview, said that a friend got his tattoo from Russell several years ago, and recommended Russell to him. Mary Jane Almocera, a balikbayan from the United Kingdom, was also referred to Russell by a cousin. (Christian Rodriguez)