Episode 3 Hector “Hek” Valdez & The Tattoo Gallery in Huntington Beach

In Episode 3, we meet Hector 'Hek' Valdez, a tattoo artist in Huntington Beach at The Tattoo Gallery. Hek describes his pivot from looking forward to starting art school to a formal tattoo apprenticeship on his journey to become one of the best tattoo artists in Los Angeles. Modest and hard-working, Hek's passions are his art expressed through t...
Apr 18, 2024 — 3 min read



Hector 'Hek' Valdez is a tattoo artist at The Tattoo Gallery in Huntington Beach, CA.

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My City: Los Angeles ft. Roy Choi

My City: Los Angeles ft. Roy Choi

Follow along as Roy Choi introduces us to three of his favorite Los Angeles business owners who are as dedicated as he is to building community and their businesses.

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Hector 'Hek' Valdez: People can argue one way or the other back and forth, but I've always said tattooing is a form of art. Just because I'm walking around with it doesn't make it less of art. Somebody drew that. Somebody had to apply that somebody had to figure out what's going to work best.

Roy Choi: My name is Roy Choi. I'm a chef, entrepreneur, family man, papi. This is the LA that I love, and I really want to show you small business owners that I believe are connected to the community and continuing to grow the community that they're in. Huntington Beaches, it's always been a place where a lot of creative people have come. It's an area where surfing started. There's a lot of folks from the area really into preserving culture, whether that's car culture, cruising culture, tattoo culture. There's a big community there that goes on for generations. Peck and Sin and Tattoo Gallery and everyone involved in that whole thing, they, they're Huntington Beach to the core.

Hector 'Hek' Valdez: My name is Hector. Friends and family know me as Hek. I got accepted to an art school, which fell through because my mom and dad thought I was going to pay for it, and I took 'em out there and they're like, we're not paying for it. Congratulations. But no. So that kind of led me to hanging out to tattoo shop. One thing led to another and I asked for a formal apprenticeship. It became really stressful, especially towards the end of my apprenticeship. I worked for a rent-a-car company. I was working 40 hours a week during the day. I would work from six to three. Then from three o'clock to midnight I would go to the tattoo shop, but didn't stop there because after work everybody went out and partied. It was crazy, but I wouldn't have changed it for the world.

If I can get through that in two years of my life, 80 hours a week, I feel like it could pretty much overcome any sort of obstacle that's thrown my way. You're broken down to the lowest level, and then you have to rebuild yourself and getting your confidence.

Roy Choi: What comes from being battle tested or having humility is that you build that ability to find that flow. That's that rare moment where you can maybe achieve something better, something higher. Hek did pretty much like here. Here he did my blackout, this whole front piece here, and then he did this little doggy right there.

Hector 'Hek' Valdez: So hanging out with Roy, just, I dunno how you explain it, but when you hang around people like that, it's definitely rubbed off on a lot of us. He's a super caring dude and he's constantly giving back.

Roy Choi: I think the great thing about Hek that you'll see is that don't judge a book by its cover. He believes in community. He's from HB. He reps it and he sees a certain part of it decaying and turning into something that he's not okay with. So instead of just sitting back, he'd try to fix it.

Hector 'Hek' Valdez: As a joke. I made a fake poster that said I was running for city council, said, don't fall for the bologna, vote for the homie. Every kind got a kick out of it, but the owner down was like, why don't you just run for city council? You could really do this. So I was like, you know what? Why not? Let's just kind of go for it.

Going to these council candidate forums and people kind of seeing your face because of the way I look, I'm almost able to reach out to another kind of demographic. Good. I was appointed in 2014 to the Huntington Beach Homeless task force where I was the chairman. We were tasked to make recommendations to city council and how to help the homeless situation in Huntington Beach. People look at us the way we look and don't necessarily put the two and two together, that we're just members of the community that want what's best for our neighborhood. Some of the challenges of being a tattooer is staying busy, getting people into the door, and it's always a constant hustle. It's like one of those things, if you don't work, you don't eat. Whether you're out chatting with people, hanging out business cards, you're always doing something to promote yourself.

You build these bonds with people through a tattoo. It's pretty personal. You're in each other's space and sometimes you talk about everything. Sometimes you talk about nothing, but I feel people feel a real connection to their tattooer. I still want to continue to help people. Everybody that I associate with just deep down in their heart wants to do good by their city, wants to do good by their community, their business members. I just think we keep doing what we're doing. It just comes naturally. I hope that we inspire other people by what we do. You can do it. You just got to decide to do it. It's really all you have to do is do it. Yeah.

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