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 (Photograph: Courtesy Jim Sylvia)2/5
Photograph: Courtesy Jim SylviaTattoo by Jim Sylvia
 (Photograph: Courtesy Jim Sylvia)3/5
Photograph: Courtesy Jim SylviaTattoo by Jim Sylvia
 (Photograph: Courtesy Jim Sylvia)4/5
Photograph: Courtesy Jim SylviaTattoo by Jim Sylvia
 (Photograph: Courtesy Jim Sylvia)5/5
Photograph: Courtesy Jim SylviaTattoo by Jim Sylvia

Time Out with tattoo artist Jim Sylvia of Unbreakable Tattoo

We sit down with the East Coast-born tattoo artist behind some of LA's best neo-traditional ink

By Amanda Montell

RECOMMENDED: The 10 best tattoo artists in LA

Time Out: When did you start tattooing? Do you remember the first tattoo you ever did?

Jim Sylvia:
I started tattooing in Boston back in 2001, while I was attending art school. The first tattoo was a piece on my leg. It's a ship. I had to do something on myself, before I could trust myself to tattoo a friend. I still have the tattoo and will probably leave it untouched for the good memory.

Time Out: How would you describe your style?
JS: I guess my style would be described as Neo-traditional or traditional. I like balancing back and forth between traditional designs and a little bit of a more rendered aspect. Over the years, I gain skills and techniques to add to my artwork. So I think my style will continue to grow.

Time Out: Why did you want to have your career in LA? 
Well, I grew up in New England with the dream of California living. SoCal, and specifically Los Angeles, was something new and completely different from what I was used to and I was ready for change. I think it was a good career move for me. There are tons of tattoo shops and artists here, but the community feels small. I’ve made some great friends within our community, and we learn from each other.

Time Out: What's the strangest tattoo you've ever been asked to do? 
JS: Well, I think I can say I’ve tattooed almost everything. It keeps my job interesting. With traditional style tattooing there’s a lot of repeating ideas like ships, roses, anchors and so on. It's nice to do something a little out of the ordinary every now and then.

Time Out: Do you have a favorite tattoo of your own?
My favorite tattoo is usually my latest one. I am currently working on a full back piece that covers my entire backside, from neck to knees. But I have to say, my most favorite is a small little palm tree on my leg that my Mom and Dad tattooed on me last summer. They were visiting here from the East Coast, and we all decided we wanted to have souvenir tattoos. I thought it'd be great if I got them to do mine for me. So my family and I have matching ones.

Time Out: What's something unexpected that you've learned tattooing over the years?
JS: Oh man, I’ve learned so much. When I started tattooing, I was young and dumb, but I thought I knew everything. Tattooing has allowed me to travel all round the world. Traveling and experiencing other cultures firsthand has taught me so much, humbled me more than anything.

Time Out: What is your favorite music to tattoo to?
JS: Everyday I walk into the shop and put my iPod on shuffle. I let it play whatever it wants. Ranging from rock, classic rock, metal, punk, hardcore, a little hip-hop. I was always told that music was the most important tool on the job.

RECOMMENDED: The 10 best tattoo artists in LA

Follow Amanda Montell on Twitter: @AmandaMontell1

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