This article is the second in a series that features former students from the Cranston High Schools’ art programs to show where they are now and how they have used their art education in their lives and careers.
Anthony (AJ) Williams graduated from Cranston High School East in 2007 and recently visited his former art teacher, Valerie Bruzzi where she now teaches art at Cranston West, to talk about his work as a professional tattoo artist.
Williams is currently working at Ronnie’s Tattoo Studio on Eddy Street in Providence. As a student, and in the years following, Williams did not have an easy life, yet art has been one constant in his life, and he is proud of the work he does.
“I always liked doodling, graffiti, and silhouettes,” he said. “By graffiti, I don’t mean vandalism, I mean taking a door someone has thrown out, and using that. I started doing portraits for people, starting out with pencil work in black and gray and then I found my knack with watercoloring. I always fidget, sometimes I’d make origami, sometimes someone would give me a pen, and I’d fidget with that. I drew, and I drew, and I drew. Now, I draw every day.”
Williams began looking for apprenticeships in the art industry and was taken on by a tattoo artist who was later featured on the television show, “Ink Master.”
Now, he partners with an owner at Ronnie’s Tattoo Studio in Providence.
“As a kid, tattoo shows came on and interested me. My best pieces of art are on skin,” he said. “I personally don’t have any tattoos, but I put all of my effort into my work, I put my all into it.”
Williams does not find the thought of working in the world of tattoos daunting. “Tattoo work is just another medium used,” he said. “Nowadays, there is so much work being done on computers, but there are so many things you can do that you just can’t do with a computer.”
Williams also believes that in addition to art, many of the soft skills he learned in high school benefit him now.
“I work with deadlines, contracts and deposits,” he said. “I run a business.”
Although he knows that his story and his career may not be a traditional one, it is one that Williams is intensely proud of, and he is thankful for those who have supported him through difficult times when he needed them most, such as Bruzzi, who had him from elementary school, through middle school and into high school.
“I’m really proud of what you’ve done with your life,” she said. “You’re so talented. Your story is unique. You have your own place, your own career and you can inspire kids.”
She cited several art awards Williams received when he was a high school student, including a Gold Key award for his pen and ink work and two Silver Key awards in printmaking.
Looking back, and looking ahead, Williams is thankful for the role that art has played throughout his life.
“Art saved me,” Williams said. “No one can ever take that away from you, no matter what. You’ll always have that.”
To follow Williams on social media, visit his Instagram page, ajwilliamsart.