So Mark, good to interview you. You seem to be one of the guys, like Jesse Levitt, who’s carved out a unique area where you are mainly only tattooing your own illustrations. Would you say that’s accurate?
Thanks man, happy to do it. Yeah I’ve been doing my current style of for a bit now, in fact probably since 2010. Before that I was doing more color with my work, but I wasn’t finding it to be as sharp as I wanted, so I stripped the images down to involving solely black contrast and line work. My subject matter has always remained the same, that being mainly pissed off, metal influenced illustrations.
How long did it take you to get to into that style? And is it what you do mostly now?
I’ve always been drawn to a dark art style long as I can remember, in fact, ever since I was a little a kid. After tattooing for five years or so I was comfortable enough to start applying what I knew to my original designs. After that, it was all trial and error. Me seeing what looked good healed, with the ultimate goal of making every piece sharper than the one before. I would say that’s pretty much all I do now. In the mornings I try to get in least an hour in of original drawing before I tattoo. Nine out of ten people just let me do my thing, as they know it will result in a piece that’s influenced by my style.
Nice. Sounds like a great place to be! How long would you say you’ve been tattooing overall?
About 15 years. My daughter is fourteen now and I remember I started a year before she was born. I put pressure on myself to jump head into the industry, as all I was thinking was “don’t be a shit artist!” My being a new dad was even more influence to make me strive to be the best I could be at tattooing.
So what did you do before tattooing then?
Did security working at clubs around Boston. I was in early 20s so I would tour as much as possible in bands. That’s all I did up to when I got into tattooing at a shop. Then my focus switched off drumming in bands. i still do music and tour. Now I’m more on my own schedule and I can plan out my time how I want. If I’m not at conventions
or at home tattooing I’m working on music or playing shows. Always something to do.
So music is still a big part of your life? I saw you just put something out recently.
Yeah I’m drumming for Northen Curse(black metal) and Stagnater (grind). Just finished up Stagnater demo and going back to the studio this week actually to do 8 or so songs. It’s grind, so the songs are short and always recording. I’ll tour in summer and end of fall with both bands when tattoo conventions slow down for me.
How do you break down your pursuits? Between tattooing, band practice, recording, touring, and all that?
Ha full of stress and beat down, killing me, I like it. I recently took on an apprentice Mark Richards last year and he plays in Stagnater as well. We go over the schedule everyday. We’re gotta shit load of traveling coming up so its constant managing it seems. I gotta few conventions I added last minute to the list this year after, good to not be home.
Hell City!Where you are tattooing me!
We got my shit mouth nun drawing I’m doing on your leg right? Religion stuff, some goat parts in there.
Oh, course! So, I’m guessing tattooing wasn’t your first idea for a career?
I wasn’t really exposed to much tattooing growing up. It wasn’t legal in mass until I became a teenager. What pushed me over the edge was my attending the Tattoo The Earth convention that Paul Booth put on. I remember watching Paul and Filip Leu collaborate on Jeremiah Barba‘s back. I’d never seen anything like it, and I was blown away by how brutal the piece looked.
How old were you when you saw that and what year was it?
Probably 16 or 17. It was the first tattoo convention in Massachusetts.
So that was the deciding factor that made you want to get into tattooing?
I was doing art for metal bands and as I started to get tattooed myself I wanted to translate my ideas, at least as best I could, into tattoos.
How did that go over initially? Did you start out working at street shops and doing a lot of flash?
I was in a street shop atmosphere, teaching my self poorly, and doing plenty of Cherry Creek flash. I’d try to accomplish as much as I could with my art, but it was all garbage at first. At the time the people I worked with were also starting so I had no idea what was even the right way to go about tattooing. Around that time I was getting tattooed by Joe Capobianco, and I learned a lot concerning application from him. I was hanging around his shop Hope Gallery as much as I
could, and that was a big impact on my early career.
So, in those early days, was it kind of what was commercially viable, mixed your artistic leanings, all while you sharpened your style?
What mainly helped was getting tattooed by good artists while I constantly self-critiqued what I was doing. All mixed with the influence of coworkers at the various shops I’ve worked at. There were a lot of things I both liked and then didn’t feel as much from that mix of shops and people. Now I’m more secluded with my work days. I don’t like getting involved anyone’s business but my own. When I’m home I stay in my room. Drawing pissed off pictures as I keep to myself.
Haha! Where are you at now?
I’m working at Pino Bros ink in Cambridge MA. Spreading hope and feeling to people with all my happy pictures! I’ve known the crew here for very long time, and they are all good people. They deal with my grumpy bullshit!
Nice! How long have you been there?
Does your clientele follow you wherever you go?
I’d say one half of them are locals that have bigger, ongoing work, while the other half are people that travel from out of the state in order to get one of my custom pieces. I wanted to stay in one spot for a few years in order to accommodate all my clients, and in an effort to do that I’d guest spot in Connecticut at Forest To Shore Gallery. Later, after I left Last Rites, I’d go back there in order to guest-spot regularly. These days, it’s easier to not jump around as much, now that I’m permanently in New England.
When were you in Last Rites, and how was that experience?
I was there form 2011-2015. Everyday was a challenge to push as
much as I could. To do the best tattoos humanely possible. The crew there varied greatly in styles, and not all were doing dark art. We were pushing each other and the Art Fusion paintings were one of my favorites! We would come up with a general concept, all in front of a packed house. I just remember saying to myself “make this fucking gross!” I can’t say enough good things about working at Last Rites.
So what prompted you to leave?
My daughter was getting older. Things were changing. I moved back
to Boston and opened Eridanos Gallery. That was around for four years. It was my first shop and it had a very active art gallery! I have to admit, there was a lot of trial and error involved with it being my first place.
You closed that studio and went to the shop you currently work out
Yeah, well, I found it’s hard to work on my own art without distraction, and that with some family drama made me close it.
Are you happy then with your current arrangement, or thinking
about opening a shop in the future?
Nothing I’d be doing in the near future. Between my tattooing schedule and music schedule I couldn’t give it the attention it needs. The Eridanos events at times felt like having 3 jobs.
Did you give up on that shop because the workload ended up being too much, and do you have any plans to open a shop in the future?
I absolutely wasn’t doing as much of my own art when I was doing
the shows at Eridanos. On the positive side I got to see the concepts for the gallery come together but I didn’t do much of my own work. Since closing it I feel like I have a better grasp on what I can do moving forward. More painting, illustration, taking more time to get the details across. I would open another shop again, provided the conditions were right.
Do you have an idea for a shop in the future then, or it’s not
really a focus now?
I wouldn’t open in Boston, the city has changed too much. I do have an idea of what I’d like to see in a shop, but right now the focus is working on art and traveling. I’ll be feeling out cities this year. Maybe I’ll see somewhere I like.
So everything’s working out fine and you’re cool for now?
Yeah I draw ugly stuff and I’m feeling good with it everyday! Not bad.
How can people see your work and get a hold of you for
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for appointments. My Instagram is markus_blanchard. All of my work and travel plans are posted there.
How can people see your latest musical endeavors?
Check out Stagnater.bandcamp.com and northerncurse.bandcamp.com!
Do you have any other hobbies you want to shed light on?
I’m slowly getting into mold making for horror prosthesis. I’m on YouTube watching tutorials too much.
Anything to that yet or do you want to develop it further?
I started with sculpting frames and making molds. They are getting better as I keep at it. I’m working on a oil painting collection and I want the frames to match with the paintings. Aside from that. Making I’m crafting busts of creatures from molds. That’s it really.
Alright, Mark, good to see people specializing and taking their own unique approach. Thanks for doing this interview, and see you at Hell City.
Thanks again Dan, appreciate it. See you then.
Dan Henk has been working in and as a part of the tattoo community for 20 years. He writes novels, illustrates magazines and books, and owns The Abyss Fine Art & Tattoo Gallery in Long Beach, NY, and competes in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jujitsu. Check out all his adventures on danhenk.com!