Jeremiah Beshears - Federal Law

Published: 25 June, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 213, June, 2012

I believe there are two things that define us in life – the events that happen to us and how we react to those events. We can either use these events to learn and ultimately shape us for the better, or we can let them consume and destroy us. Jeremiah Beshears is one of those people who took his crazy childhood and used it to shape the man he has become today… or rather the amazing tattoo artist he is today.

Born in San Jose, California in 1976, Jeremiah’s childhood didn’t run as smoothly as most. From what he remembers of those early days, his father was part of a notorious motorcycle club and his mother was just home a lot. His father would take him fishing every once in a while, or sometimes, to his buddy’s motorcycle shop… other than that he was rarely home.

But then something happened that is hard for any kid to take, but credit to Jeremiah, he turned it around and began what would become a lifelong love of all things art.

“Things didn’t go as planned for a normal family, and soon Mom and Dad split. From there we moved in with my Grandma and Grandpa Garcia; my Mother’s parents. They lived on an old road, in an old house, on an acre lot. I constantly found myself drawing and creating things to pass the time at my Grandparent's house. I’d rummage through their storage area finding anything I could use for my creations; from trinkets to old machinery, pieces of wood. Anything I could use to make my own spaceships, forts, play weapons, etc. Gluing them together and painting them up with old materials I would find lying around the lot. Boy, now that I’m writing this and reading it, I think I may have been a strange child!

“I would spend a lot of time with my cousins who also lived in the city. Most of them were older than me and would take me under their wing whenever I would get the chance to hang with them. Usually it would be overnight or for the weekend… which seemed like a lot of time. Mom always had college classes or dates, so I’d get dropped.”
Thankfully for Jeremiah, he had an extended family that picked up where his Mom and Dad left off, and from within this family, his first introduction to art came about.

“One of my biggest influences while growing up was the movies and comics that I would continually watch and read. Even to this very day! Most of them were introduced to me by my good cousin, Joe Castro. He was a collector of movie memorabilia, comics, and toys. In fact he had his room and the spare room in his parent’s house dedicated to housing his collectables.

“It was definitely a wonderland of sorts for me. Although the toys in the boxes were off limits, he usually had the same exact ones out of boxes that he would let me play with. He would also let me watch his collection of movies and listen to his punk rock music – Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys. Man I felt so cool!

“My eyes were filled with images of Mad Max, Alien, Conan, heavy metal and Iron Maiden. I know for a fact this is what began to trickle into my already artistic abilities. I would sit in front of the TV or a comic and try to render the best I could what I was seeing on paper. Or just create my own characters – monsters, aliens, robots and buffed superheroes were what I knew!

“In my mind, this is what my life consisted of at the time. I pretty much owe it to my cousins, especially Joe who now owns Time Tunnel Toys, in San Jose. They gave me the inspiration that I would use later in my career. Joe would look at my art, praise it and tell me how good it was. For a young guy, it feels good to do something that someone else enjoys. I’m sure he still has some of those drawings still.”

A few years went by and Jeremiah’s mother moved them out of the Bay Area and into the Valley, to the small city of Turlock. A place Jeremiah describes as, “filled with cows and drugs”.

“I went to high school in Turlock, where I had two classes I would refuse to skip, science and art. I liked those classes so I figured I would wait till after third period to cut and run the streets. Drawing and sketching were always a constant in my youth. Whether I was up or down, it was always there connecting me to the outside world.

“In those high school years, I picked up a few bad habits. Like I said there was nothing to do in Turlock and I didn’t want to stare at cows all day! This is when things started twisting and turning as they do with youths who experiment with things they shouldn’t, and it definitely portrayed itself in my art! Doomsday scenes, demons, dark, twisted images ran through my work. I still like to tattoo these kinds of images, but in no way am I in that frame of mind. Darker twisted stuff just seems to me like it has more emotion and mystery involved in it.”

At 14 years old, Jeremiah found himself hanging with an older, not-so-law-abiding crowd. He got himself caught up in that stage of life when we think we are immortal and anything goes.

“I was smoking stuff and drinking stuff and just doing bad stuff. That’s when I got my first tattoo… in my buddy’s kitchen. That shit hurt like a hot iron being dragged across my chest. So brutal and crudely done, I felt like a badass! Or so I thought…

“From that point on I had the passion and desire to get tattooed and eventually, one day, become the artist giving them. I got a second tattoo at 15 and then again at 16 – all of which have now either been covered up or lasered, but it’s most certainly what stoked the fire! By the age of 19 I was constantly drawing things that I thought would make awesome tattoos, before eventually I fashioned my own crude machine made of guitar strings and a motor. Though I can reassure you that this is the totally wrong way to start in the tattoo industry! It’s just where my journey started and the road that God laid in front of me. I would also like to state to any young artist, this is not the route to take! Get an apprenticeship and learn under someone good. You won’t be sorry!

I guess the only favor I did myself, or anyone else for that matter, is that I just tattooed myself. Oh my poor leg! It was literally at this point that it became a passion, or near addiction, to put images into skin.”

After a long, hard stretch of life, amounting to about ten year's worth, Jeremiah found that his first son was on his way into the world. Deciding that it was “time to get his shit together”, wanting a better life and to set a better example for his son, Jeremiah decided to join the United States Air Force.

“I was stationed in New Mexico for six years. It was here where a few more exciting things happened in my life; namely oil paints, charcoal and my new baby daughter, Eden; all which were inspirations to continue the artistic path I had already started years ago. This is when my art became more readable, clear-headed and sane. When it was time for my enlistment to end, I had to decide what to do with myself. Another ‘oh shit’ moment! Should I get out and continue to turn wrenches in the civilian world, make a decent living and retirement with a normal nine-to-five, or take a huge leap of faith and do something that I had dreamed about some years ago?

“Well with a nice little nudge from my wife, Tera, I guess you can tell what I chose to do. I chose to chase a dream! I started at Main Street Tattoo in Turlock, California, in the summer of 2006 with next to no knowledge of what real tattooing was about. But I quickly picked up the techniques and basic rules from the owner, now my very good friend, Jose Bedolla. I stayed there for a year pumping out street shop worthy flash when I realized I needed to move to the East Coast to be closer to my children who lived with their mother in Virginia.”

Once again, Jeremiah found himself on the road. Along with his wife, Tera, he packed up and moved on across the country to a small city called Salisbury in North Carolina. Working with the crew at Inksane and Anything's Possible tattoo studios, finally gave Jeremiah a chance to explore more of the custom side of tattooing.

“Working there in North Carolina, for three years, was probably the best thing that could have ever happened for my tattoo career. Drawing up my own sketches instead of pulling stuff off the wall, that was the life. The owner, and now my big brother, Mike Jones, did not hesitate to critique my work when I asked for it… and even when I didn’t ask for it! He was constantly pushing me to do better, cleaner tattoos. I also began to pick up the taste of realism and added it to my tattooing palette by admiring my co-worker, Mark T. Evans, and his amazing work. Eventually I asked him to tattoo me and I would use every opportunity to bug the shit out of him and ask him a million questions, while watching him closely as he tattooed! Hell I still call him up if I have a question about something.

“But, home keeps calling me… back to the Bay Area, back to San Jose. It’s where I currently am and I love it! I work with a great group of guys at Federal Tattoo. I am constantly pulling from and inspired by these guys!”

And now settled, Jeremiah’s work seems to be going from strength to strength. He has also had another son, Daniel, and is focused on his family and tattooing more than ever.

“I really am living the dream. Creating art for people to wear on their skin. I realize that I am truly a lucky man to get to do what I love for a living, and am very grateful for it and grateful to all my clients and friends who provide me with a living.”

Jeremiah Beshears

Federal Tattoo
299 E. Washington Avenue



Text: Trent Aitken-Smith; Photography: Jeremiah