Artists

Daniel Wolf Ovalle

“I actually blew out my wrist, like a year and a half ago. I had to get two shots in my tendon, because it had gotten to the point where I couldn’t release my hand. It would just stay closed in a fist . . . so I was drawing with an ice pack taped to my wrist because I had an appointment the next day.”

There are two obvious points to take away from these words. First, Wolf is not one to cave under pain or pressure. Whatever the hardships or afflictions that may cross his path, they’re nothing he can’t handle. He’s been through worse. Second, Wolf is now a rotary guy.

He continues his story. “My buddy was like, ‘Dude, you need to go see someone.’ I was like, ‘Fuck that, dude. I’ll be fine. I’ve got Pabst and Jameson at the house. I’ll be good to go.’ And he told me, ‘Bro, you can’t drink this away.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, you can. I drank my ex away. Same thing.’”

The moment is a solid snapshot of the lovable quirks that make Wolf who he is. Not so much the boozing, but the raw honesty, and that penchant for finding humor in the darker moments of life. Though only 30, he’s seen his fair share of them, something which he’s more than willing to discuss. Yet, somehow, the laughs are never scarce.

Before the gun, there was the weapon. More than one, actually. He was only 19 when that chapter of his life began. By Uncle Sam’s standards, too young to drink a beer. But by the same measure, not too young to fight insurgents in the desert. Iraq. Afghanistan. For most of us, they’re blips on the nightly news. Campaign fodder for preening politicians. For Wolf, they were—and are—a cross to bear.

“It fucked me up, man,” he vents. “It really did . . . here I was in a third world country watching people I knew and loved die . . . 19 years old and I knew how to operate heavy machine guns. I knew how to make small hydrogen bombs, how to clear rooms, fight with knives, disable enemies, hand-to-hand combat, close quarters combat, all this crazy shit that you see in the movies . . . It was wild.”

But it was also a learning experience, a crash course in adulthood. “It made me a man . . . it taught me to depend on myself and nobody else, to value myself. It taught me to never have excuses, to never complain or bitch and say, ‘I can’t do this,’ or ‘I can’t do that.’ The fuck you can’t . . . You survived a war, dude. You can do anything.”

Surviving a tattoo apprenticeship obviously doesn’t compare, but it was a challenge nonetheless, one that he may not have endured were it not for the preceding experience. At the very least, it trumped boot camp, a realization that seems to come to him as the question is posed.

“I’d say being an apprentice was actually harder,” he replies after some hesitation. “You have to control yourself. . . pick your battles. You can’t punch the guy in the face that’s hazing you. It would tarnish your name . . . I was in the infantry. We just went outside and beat the shit out of each other and then we shook hands. In the tattoo world, you really can’t do that.”

He swallowed his pride and kept his cool, and in the end, it paid off. He learned patience and humility, and received irreplaceable training and insight in the art of tattooing. Thanks to his dedication and the mentorship he received, he’s carved out an impressive portfolio that demonstrates a proficiency in a variety of styles, including traditional, neo-traditional, Japanese and black & grey.

It’s now been six years since his tattoo journey began. In that short time, he’s already made quite the name for himself in the Dallas tattoo scene and beyond. This past summer, he managed to lock down a few awards at conventions around the U.S., and in the autumn of this past year, he became an owning partner of Stainless Studios, the shop out of which he’s been working for the last four years. His response to the growing success is a humble sense of gratitude, one that extends to everyone who has helped him along the way: his mother, Carlos, his colleague and mentor, his clients, his family, his sponsor, Helios Cartridge Needles, and of course, “all of my ex-girlfriends for breaking my heart. It inspired me to draw awesome things.”

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