The tattooing community lost one of its most beloved members on Thursday as Bob Roberts passed away. For more than 40 years Roberts was a fixture in the tattooing scene in Los Angeles.
Roberts started tattooing in 1973 under the tutelage of Bob Shaw and Colonel Todd in Santa Ana, California. From there he would work with Cliff Raven before going on up to San Francisco and working with Ed Hardy.
While Roberts is strongly associated with Los Angeles, the first iteration of his Spotlight Tattoo was in New York City during the days when tattooing was still illegal. He rented a loft and worked in one half while living in the other. Eventually the scourge that is New York real estate led to him getting kicked out of his lease, so Roberts returned to the west coast and opened a new iteration of Spotlight Tattoo in a garage on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Eventually the spot would move into a proper shop next door, where it still is today.
Over the years Roberts would try his hand at many different styles of work, but he always came back to the American traditional that was the backbone of his days tattooing a dozen people per day on The Pike. Like many tattooers from that generation, Roberts understood that he wasn't just an artist, he was in the service industry.
"If you’re a photographer, the important thing is what you’re taking a picture of, not you—if I want to be an artist, I can go buy brushes and I can go buy paper and make art," Roberts told BME in 2009. "But, if I want to be a tattoo artist and nobody’s coming to get a tattoo from me, I’m not a tattoo artist. So, the future and where things are going and the approach, it’s not up to us, man. We’re secondary. The important thing is the person getting the tattoo, not me."
Over the course of his 40+ year career Roberts must have tattooed thousands of people, if not tens of thousands of people. His legacy will be carried on by his son Charlie, who is naturally a tattoo artist as well. Roberts will be sorely missed by not just those who knew him, but by everybody who appreciates tattoos around the world. Below we've gathered some of the many tributes that have been pouring out over the last day.
RIP Bob Roberts
Originally Written by INKED MAG STAFFER 2022