LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — An artist from Puerto Rico found an audience for his art when he moved to Lancaster, but what he really wanted to do, break into tattooing, proved more difficult. Still, he found his own way to make his mark on the industry.
Needles and ink are where Christian Anavitate feels at home.
“I just did it for the love of it,” he said of his tattooing career.
But it was not a smooth road.
“It’s definitely been a heck of a rollercoaster ride,” he said.
Anavitate moved to Lancaster from Puerto Rico as a teenager.
“[I] had a hard time in school with the language barriers, so I used to draw a lot while I was in school,” he said.
People started buying his artwork and getting his designs tattooed. Then, they wanted him to do the tattooing.
Recalling the first tattoo he did, Anavitate said, “I was so nervous, I was sweating and shaking, I felt like I wanted to pass out at one point.”
He grew to love it but found trying to break into tattooing in Lancaster a struggle.
“At the time I didn’t see that many Spanish tattoo artists,” he said. “Being minority and being Hispanic definitely plays a big role on getting accepted.”
Anavitate said he got one no after another — or worse.
“I would say pretty racist,” he said of his experience at one tattoo shop. “It was horrible working for that person.”
Still, he kept at it.
“Every time a door got closed on me or every time I got a no…I felt like that gave me just more drive,” he said.
Then for two years, Anavitate briefly moved back to Puerto Rico.
“That was probably the first shop I ever worked that I felt as welcome as I did,” he said, adding that was where he truly felt he became a tattoo artist.
But when he returned to the Midstate, “Everybody was like still denying me,” he said.
It was a disappointment, but then in 2016, Anavitate opened his own shop, Beautiful Sin Tattoos.
“We definitely try to be welcoming to our customers, give them a safe, fun environment to be at,” he said. “I think that was definitely something that I was not seeing from other places you know.”
It is a place where he works to lift people up.
“I definitely love to see upcoming artists,” he said. “I’ll stretch my hand out and we’ll give you a hand.”
And Anavitate embraces everyone who walks through the doors.
“There’s customers that are like family to me now,” he said.
Customers like Demi Diaz, who is still recovering from an accident that nearly killed her.
“I needed somebody with compassion, respect because of where some of my scars are,” she said.
Now, Diaz is covering those scars with tattoos that tell a new story.
“We’ve cried, and it’s just been a blessing,” she said of Anavitate. “His professionalism, you just, you don’t get that anywhere.”
Anavitate said that is exactly how he wants everyone to feel.
“It’s definitely awesome for me to know that she’s out there feeling better in her skin,” he said. “Something that’s going to last a lifetime.”