Mark Walters of Tempe's Living Canvas Tattoos on His One Tattoo Regret

Josh Chesler
Mark Walters is one of the most highly regarded Japanese-style tattoo artists in Metro Phoenix.

Mark Walters is just another victim of the evil subject known as math.

The owner and one of the artists at Living Canvas Tattoos in Tempe didn't intend to go into tattooing, he wanted to work with his dad as an architect, but he always found himself struggling with the numbers side of the architecture business. When he began his first apprenticeship in 1987, Walters, 44, says people's views on tattoos were quite a bit different than they are today.

"It wasn't the cool thing, having tattoos or being an artist. I think celebrities, athletes, public personas getting tattoos really changed how people look at them," Walters says. "I used to go places and people would be like 'Holy shit!' because of my sleeves, now if you go somewhere and you don't have sleeves, people are surprised."

See also: 10 Best/Worst Pizza Tattoos

Despite his career in architecture not working out as planned, Walters has made a name for himself and his shop as one of the top tattoo salons in the Valley. According to Walters, Living Canvas, which opened in 1993, is currently the oldest single-owner tattoo shop in Arizona. When he's not tattooing or running Living Canvas, Walters is proud to be one of the few shop owners in the state who works with the Department of Health Services to set higher standards for Arizona's tattoo artists and shops.

Josh Chesler
Walters' shop, Living Canvas Tattoos, uses only the top machines, ink, and other tattoo equipment available.

Walters grew up in Hong Kong and England before moving across the Atlantic. He credits the culture of his youth for the his preferred Japanese style of tattooing. Japanese tattoos tend to feature some of the significant creatures in Japanese mythology (such as a dragon, tiger, koi, snake or phoenix) and are generally known to flow together very smoothly, which makes them perfect for larger spaces like sleeves, back pieces or even full body suits.

"I love to tattoo Japanese tattooing. I grew up around that culture in Hong Kong and I never really knew what it was. Now I love to tattoo everything I used to see. I have a style I do and people know it. I can look at a tattoo I did years ago and know I did that tattoo."

Overall, Walters says he wouldn't change a whole lot about his journey through tattoo culture, because he couldn't imagine doing a normal desk job.

"I'm the biggest people person ever. I love people's stories, the personal interaction. I couldn't work in a cubicle. I love collaborating with people's ideas, when they tell me what they want and just let me use my ideas on it, I think that's awesome."

Location Info


Living Canvas Tattoos

946 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ

Category: General

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Michael Treatch
Michael Treatch

No regrets. Here's my latest from June of this year by LEX @ 5th Estate Tattoo.

Patrick Wasbotten
Patrick Wasbotten

I got a panther and a Yosemite Sam and a homemade one that says "fuck you hipster"

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