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WEB-EXCLUSIVE: San Clemente's Living Art Gallery is not your typical tattoo parlor.

Courtesy of Living Art Gallery

Tattoo Art
A group art show called The Panelist, a comic strip
concept featuring the works of KRK Ryden, Mark
Mothersbaugh, Anthony Ausgang, The Pizz, and
more, opens at Living Art Gallery Jan. 21 from
6-11 p.m. and runs through Feb. 14.
3107 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente
949.294.6424 :: sclivingartgallery.com

With plush chairs, a warm inviting fireplace and shelves of wine bottles and books, it’s hard to believe I’m in a tattoo parlor and not somebody’s living room. Instead of a dark, dingy, heavy metal-blaring shop, the Living Art Gallery and tattoo lounge in San Clemente is bright and clean with relaxing music floating throughout.

Founder and tattoo artist Monte Livingston himself defies stereotypes as a soft-spoken, clean-cut, sweater-wearing artist with no visible tats.

“I get a lot of people asking, ‘Where’s all your tattoos?’” he admits. “Sometimes people think I’m a client and not the owner.”

Livingston, who has been tattooing for 11 years and painting for most of his life, isn’t your typical tattoo artist and the Living Art Gallery isn’t your typical tattoo shop. Part parlor, part gallery, the Living Art Gallery is revolutionizing the tattoo industry by setting a new standard for the experience of getting a tattoo.

“I want to keep it, obviously, as clean as possible,” says the San Clemente native who is a big fan of the California health department’s recent crackdown on tattooing regulations. He also encourages those looking to get inked to do their research. “A lot of people will walk into a shop and not know anything about the environment and who they’re working with and just get something done, which can be a scary situation.”

Living Art Gallery isn’t a "pick it and stick it" shop. All work begins with a consultation with Livingston himself or one of his artists to create something unique and beautiful. (Base fees start at $120 an hour.)

“We try to keep it as original as possible. We don’t want you walking down the street and somebody has the same image as you,” he says. “I’m particular about what I’ll tattoo.” He won’t do anything gang related, racial or any face tattoos.

“It’s not for me," he says. "I’m in it for the art of it and to me there is nothing artistic about a star on your face.”

There are plans for a full espresso bar in the shop as well as food to offer to those getting extensive work done. The shop also showcases the work of local artists with some of Livingston’s realistic oil paint seascapes on the walls alongside pieces by Shepard Fairey of Obey and Livingston’s apprentice, Zoey Stevens.

“We are pulling in a lot of new traditions that I’m kind of making up as we go along,” he says.

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