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Fair Lawn Tattoo Artist: 'I Finally Found My Purpose'

Fair Lawn's Jay Hernandez is determined to make an impact through tattooing. Photo Credit: Jay Hernandez
Hernandez works at Our Lady of Ink in Secaucus, which was featured on a 2012 episode of "Tattoo Rescue" on SpikeTV. Photo Credit: Jay Hernandez
Hernandez donated this piece to an Autism Speaks event. Photo Credit: Jay Hernandez
Recent work by Jay Hernandez Photo Credit: Jay Hernandez
Recent work by Jay Hernandez Photo Credit: Jay Hernandez
Recent work by Jay Hernandez Photo Credit: Jay Hernandez

If it makes a mark, then Jay Hernandez is using it.

He doesn't have a college degree and he barely scraped through high school. But he says he's living his dream as a tattoo artist at Our Lady of Ink in Secaucus.

And for the first time in his life, Hernandez feels at peace.

"I've always been larger than life," said the artist, 31 of Fair Lawn. "But when I'm drawing, whether it's on an envelope or a wall, I'm quiet.

"Tattooing is the only thing in my life that's given me purpose."

Hernandez has long been the "eccentric one" in his family, he said -- complete with piercings, over-the-top hairdos and, of course, tattoos.

Finding his place in life took some time. And in the moments when he felt lost, art was there for him.

Hernandez recalls a period in 2007, when he worked as a kitchen designer for Ikea. It wasn't where he envisioned himself and he wasn't happy.

But at nights, Hernandez would go to his apprenticeship as a tattoo artist. Those hours after dark were his motivation to get up every day.

"I knew what I wanted so badly," Hernandez said. "Anything that wasn't tattooing or art-related just didn't make sense. It was just killing me."

When Hernandez was fired from his job at Ikea -- several months after being hired -- he felt it was the perfect opportunity to give tattooing his best shot.

"I would draw all night," he said. "I would do the same piece in three different variations, just so excited to show my boss at work."

In 2008, Hernandez was hired at Our Lady of Ink (featured on an episode of SpikeTV's "Tattoo Rescue" in 2012).

Thrilled to be doing what he's always dreamed of, he knew he still had work to put in if he wanted to improve as an artist.

His first tattoo was a simple cross. It took him two hours. These days, the same piece would take him only 10 minutes.

Hernandez knows, though, he's not done learning. He says that's part of the reason why he loves his job so much.

The other? Making an impact.

"You  leave a piece of yourself with someone when you give them a tattoo," he said. "That's satisfying. And as an artist, you're always chasing the dragon to do the perfect tattoo — something that will last a lifetime.

"I help people. I give something to someone for them to see every day, to remember why they're alive. And that's great."

Hernandez was featured on Spike TV's "Tattoo Rescue" in 2012. People still stop him on the street.

Follow Jay Hernandez on Instagram: @jayhernandeztattoos

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