JAVIER EASTMAN – A BODY OF WORK
A Norwalk Renaissance Man
Javier Eastman isn’t originally from Norwalk, but he has certainly earned quite a bit of fandom and notoriety in this city and beyond. He’s our jack of all trades, master of most of them.
Eastman, who hails from Venezuela, is, simply put, an artist. He’s a painter and a muralist. You’ve likely seen his tropical artwork with the toucan and tree frog that covers the side of Valencia Luncheria and the few pieces he has displayed just off Wall Street in the outdoor gallery in the parking lot on Isaacs Street. He’s also a restaurateur. La Calle Arepas Bar is Eastman’s ode to the Venezuelan fast food he grew up eating and is now sharing these tasty guilty pleasures with the Norwalk community and neighboring towns who hop the border to get their arepas fix. All this, and he somehow still has time to host a podcast. The Javier Eastman Podcast features a variety of local and national personalities in long-form conversations.
But there’s a better chance you know Eastman from his primary job as a tattoo artist. It’s a miracle he has time for any of the other stuff, considering he’s a prevalent tattoo artist with a serious social media following. If he hasn’t tattooed you, you know AT LEAST one person who has been inked by Eastman’s hand. Heck, even I’m one of those people. Tattooing wasn’t always Eastman’s profession. He spent about seven years doing construction when he came to the states and picked up tattoo artistry when he went back to his home country.
“I came to Miami first. Then after September 11, 2001, I returned to Venezuela because my visa was gonna expire,” he says. “I already had a talent for drawing and painting. My brother suggested I start tattooing because only like one guy was doing it there. I then bought my first tattoo machine. This was before you could watch videos on the internet. Ideally, you learn from someone who knows how, like an apprenticeship, or you practice on fake skin, but at some point, you have to start doing it on humans. I learned in the streets.”
After his visa renewal, Eastman made his way to Connecticut, still working construction, when a friend connected him with Josh Glasser, the owner of Ink-Side-Out.
“He brought me in, saw my work, and gave me an opportunity to tattoo,” Eastman says. “After some time, we, unfortunately, had a little disagreement, so I moved on and began tattooing at Get Ink, where I became part owner for four years.”
Knowing he wanted a place all his own, Eastman kicked off 2016 with his solo venture, Causality Tattoo. In addition to owning the shop, Eastman has traveled to tattoo conventions in the states, Europe, and South America, showcasing his work, earning “best in show” awards and numerous industry accolades.
“I used to do 10 – 12 conventions a year,” he says. “At my first tattoo job, I wanted to learn about the industry. When I got better and became more confident, I began traveling more. It was easy to do that when I was single. Back then, I was looking to make a name for myself and be famous. It’s not about that anymore. I’ve settled down now. I have a family, and family time is important. I don’t see it as a sacrifice. It just makes sense.” Eastman states that he still does hit a tattoo convention if he feels the need and that his wife and son are incredibly supportive.
At Causality, Eastman employs full and part-time artists, a shop manager, an apprentice, and other artists who visit his space to ink their clients. His needles (EMALLA), ink (StarBrite), and tattoo cream (Hustle Butter) are all premium products and are brands that sponsor Eastman due to his artistry and increasing popularity within the industry. But what’s most important to Eastman in conjunction with the creativity of tattooing? His clients.
“I try to take a person’s idea and make it personal to them,” Eastman says. “I do a lot of realism (people/portraits, nature) and get inspired by random art or photographs to try something new or more creative. Clients will come in with an idea, and I suggest trying it this way or that way, and they’re like, ‘you can do that?’ That’s how I like to propose ideas.”
The process of being tattooed is exciting and creative. Eastman will propose ideas. For instance, I wanted a short notice piece but had an idea for a Day of the Dead tattoo with a few black and gray shaded roses. He finished an appointment early with a few hours to spare, so I just got one rose done to build upon at a later date. I certainly plan on a continuation, and luckily for me, despite his jam-packed calendar, he likes to finish what he starts.
The Javier Eastman tattoo is an experience. Don’t let the jammin’ sounds of Pink Floyd and Tool over the speakers fool you. Eastman has a deft hand and a gentle touch with the needle. With that said, it’s a tattoo. Some “hurt” is normal. The tattoo gun’s needle will tickle (or you’ll barely feel it) on meatier parts of your body, but it’ll be a sharper, more tender but tolerable pain on thinner skin, closer to the bones. He might zone out as he gets lost in his creativity, but he’ll always check in with “are you ok?” between inkwell dips. If you need a break, no problem. When the needling is over, Eastman disinfects the inked area and applies healing balm over it before it gets Saran Wrapped and taped. He’ll instruct you to remove the wrap when you get home and to gently wash it with soap and warm water. Post care continues with more balm, three times or so daily. Expect a few texts afterward, as he checks in to see how your tattoo is doing, how it’s healing, and how you’re doing overall.
So, how does one get in his appointment book, one that’s often “closed?” “If I say my books are open, I get bombarded with messages,” Eastman explains. “DM me (on Instagram) or email me, even if you have questions. I have a shop manager, but I like to speak with clients. I usually try to find a way. With existing clients, I like to finish their tattoos. If an appointment ends early or someone cancels, if you’re flexible, that’s good! If you want a tattoo, I’ll make it happen.”