L.A.'s 15 Coolest Tattoos — & The Man Behind Them All

In Los Angeles, the only thing harder than scoring a table at just-opened Jon & Vinny's Pizza on Fairfax is getting on the books with tattoo artist Brian "Dr. Woo" Woo. To wit: The wait list is six months long for appointments with the 33-year-old L.A. native.

First-timers and ink-addicts alike have caught the fever for Dr. Woo's intricate, fine-line, single-needle-style pieces. So much so that when you finally slide into his chair at Shamrock Social Club on the Sunset Strip, chances are you'll be sandwiched between superfans who discovered Woo's work on Instagram and his celeb devotees. Yep, we're talking about stars like Drake (now sporting a rad mini portrait of his dad courtesy of Woo) and Cara Delevingne (whose side ribs recently received a proper, tiny coat of arms from the artist).

So, what's all the hype about? We caught up with L.A.'s most in-demand artist to find out just that. Click through our slideshow for some of his favorite works, a tattoo-shop etiquette lesson, and the reason he doesn't recommend a career in ink.


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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
A handful of L.A. motifs pop up in Woo's work on the regular. "Everyone loves palm trees," he says. "I'm guessing that it makes everyone feel like they're at the beach or somewhere tropical, or in Cali — and that's a good feeling."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
It all started with a four-leaf clover tattoo he inked on St. Patty's Day at Shamrock Social Club. Today, look for geometric shapes with razor-sharp, intricate line work to spot a true Woo, a style which has become synonymous with his tattoos. "This wolf made of constellations was the the first time I used my signature circles and lines to create an image," Woo says.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
Woo's three rules of tattoo-shop etiquette: "Never bargain, the customer isn’t always right, and always have respect for the artist."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
"We all need a 'lil direction, done fancy style," Woo says about his arrow work. To get inspired, he looks to fine artists like Noah Davis, Daniel Desure, and Brian Roettinger, design, modern art, music, food, and even chefs, including Michael Voltaggio and Kris Yenbamroong.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
Life lessons from Woo: You also don't always need to explain yourself. "Some things don't have a set story or direct message. The story can be interpreted by the viewer," he says in reference to his eclectic work here.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
Woo's advice for anyone looking to break into the industry? "Don't," he tells us. "There are already too many of us."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
What makes a great client and a good experience? Woo sums it up in two words: "total trust."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
Tattoos, like diamonds, are forever — so making them meaningful is one of the best ways to ensure you'll always appreciate yours. "Each symbol here is a representation of her family," Woo says. "The horse being the maternal figure that tied the family together. The arrow lines also express that connection."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
"The tribal band and tramp stamp are making a comeback," Woo says with a wink. Though the '90s are back, those particular placements are not. Lately, it's all about side ribs. Woo is a big fan of working on what he calls "subtle areas that accent the curves of the body."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
Warning: If you walk in requesting tattoos on just your face, hands, or neck, Woo may be obliged to respectfully decline. He once passed on doing a face tattoo because he thought it was a "bad look" for a 19-year-old fan. But, a decorated bull skull with arrows? "I mean, you can't lose with that," he says.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
"Mandalas are super technical and require a lot of patience to do, but when finished, look awesome," Woo explains.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
"These symbols have evolved so much since the beginning, when they consisted of a couple simple lines," Woo says about his signature style of fine-line shapes. "I feel that they keep evolving with each person."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
Sometimes, though, his best advice is not to overthink it. "Just go for it," Woo says. "Friendship tattoos should always be spontaneous and ridiculous." This tattoo is one of his ultimate favorites.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
"When I first started, I was doing more of the traditional, bold Americana style, which I still love to do. But, I found that I had more fun trying to bring out the most discrete details in very small designs," Woo explains.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Woo.
"I do a great amount of dog portraits, but this one stands out — so much expression in her face," Woo tells us. "The owner said this is the face she makes when you say 'tacos.'"
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