Leaving His Mark

CHS alum Jason Greeley has been showing off his tattoo skills for the last 30 years in Hollywood and . . . Colton


Annaleigha Garcia

Jason Greeley, Class of 1990, is owner of Lowbrow Ink in Grand Terrace. He has been leaving his mark on people for the last 30 years.

Lowbrow Ink, located in Grand Terrace, is a vibe. 

It sits in a nondescript strip mall between two gas stations like a hyphen connecting words or a phrase. Once you pass through its doors, though, it is a different world.

It’s the world of Jason Greeley, owner and chief tattoo artist. An 8-foot tall statue of the Incredible Hulk growls at you by the entrance. The walls are covered with illustrated toilet seats. There are collectibles everywhere, from the full-cast autographed “Dazed and Confused” poster to the complete collection of Iron Maiden Eddie Funko Pops. There’s even a drum kit hidden in a secret room right near Greeley’s ink station.

Photos of a young Jason with his older brother and mentor, Bill. (Courtesy Jason Greeley)

The world of Lowbrow Ink is a stew of comic books, heavy metal, and body art, and it perfectly reflects the imagination of its owner, who has been an artist since his brother introduced him to the world of comic books as a kid.

“Bill had the biggest comic book collection I’ve ever seen in my life,” Greeley said. “Every comic book there ever was. So he would sit there and draw because he wanted to be a comic book artist and I would come sit at the table with him. He would pass me the paper, pass it back and forth. That’s how I learned to work with just drawing. Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, Captain America.”

Those times with his brother formed the beginning of Greeley’s love for art, which he explored more deeply at Colton High School as part of the class of 1990. While he wasn’t always the best student, he claims that where he really learned to draw was in “Mrs. Smith’s English class.”

The cartoons he did caught the attention of friends of his who worked on the Pepper Bough, so occasionally Greeley found his work being published.

In between working on his art and trying to get through school, Greeley spent time with his friends in the Whitmer Auditorium, which he claims hosted a number of parties and unauthorized events. He recalled one night building a bike ramp down one of the walkways leading to the stage. Another time, he found the entrance to the basement of the building, and stayed there for a few days.

The high school shenanigans eventually gave way to the realities of adulthood, and that was when Greeley realized he needed to get serious about what he was going to do with his life. He moved to Las Vegas after graduating from Colton High, with the intent to play music as a drummer. That was what finally brought him in contact with the world of tattoo art.

Jason Greeley inks up the side of Dan “Punkass” Caldwell, founder of TapouT, (Courtesy Jason Greeley)

“I was in a rock and roll band,” he said. “You’re gonna play drums in the band, you gotta get a tattoo. It’s pretty much status quo.”

So, Greeley got his first tattoo and loved it. He loved the “action. I loved the reaction. I loved watching the process, and I just fell in love with the craft.” So, shortly after getting his first ink, he returned to the shop and declared his interest in becoming an artist.

“The guy said ‘get out,’” Greeley said. “It was a very different craft then. It wasn’t like it is today where you can order a tattoo machine and go start trying to hurt your friends.”

Rejected, but not one to quit, Greeley packed up his things and traveled to Cedar, Utah, where the closest shop was. He started at the bottom “learning how to master the plunger, the mop, and the broom.” Eventually he was trusted to learn the process. He built his own tattoo machine and made his own tattoo needles. He learned the process from the ground up as an apprentice, learning what it took to be a tattoo artist.

Then he came to Hollywood, and his career started. “I moved [to Hollywood], my band had been playing and there had been an audition for another band that was popular. So I jumped on a bus, got all my stuff to L.A.” His brother, Bill, lived there.

The audition didn’t pan out for Greeley, but he got a job on Hollywood Boulevard, and met a man who offered him a spot to start his own tattoo shop. Greeley was 24.

Since then, he has been working non-stop. He’s been offered, and turned down, opportunities to showcase his work on reality shows. “No one’s an ‘Ink Master,” he said.

Greeley applies his trade to the shoulder of a tattoo model at the annual MusInk festival in Orange County. (Courtesy Jason Greeley | Greg Truelove (2010))

Greeley has also done tattoos for several notable people, including UFC champ Chuck Liddell, members of the heavy metal band Slayer, and the owners of Tapout. He’s made friends with celebrities, and lived life to the fullest.

Despite his travels, Greeley calls Grand Terrace and Colton his home. He opened Lowbrow several years ago, and is now at his second location after a fire burned down his first store. He prefers this storefront, however, and is currently working to own the building. Several artists work with him, and they have created a unit that makes the work feel more like family than a job.

For those looking to one day get into tattoo artistry, Greeley has a little advice. “Draw everyday. All day. Make sure you draw things you don’t like to draw. Because that’s what’s coming through the door. And then do it the right way: get an apprenticeship and learn about the craft. Learn to build the machine even though you don’t think you will need to.

“Tattoo is very much a competitive industry. And I will tell you what, if you’re not next to the guy that’s way better than you, then you’re not in the right place. You need to be around artists that blow you away so that you can progress and be better at this sport.”

That’s why the world of Lowbrow Ink is packed with collectibles and art in every corner. Greeley knows that to pursue excellence, you need to be surrounded by excellence. It’s a vibe that yields remarkable results.