Archive for June, 2009

Interview with Jason D’Aquino

Posted in Tattoo shops in New York with tags , on June 26, 2009 by metalinkshop

Metal Ink welcomes Jason D’Aquino as one of the latest designers to submit tattoo-inspired artwork for our ongoing t-shirt design contest. As one of the first tattoo artists to join Metal Ink, we’d like to shine the spotlight on Jason and ask him about his craft. You can vote for Jason’s designs, “Faith” and “Beauty and Beast,” at

"Faith" by matchstickman - Vote on "Beauty and Beast" by matchstickman - Vote on

MI: First off, the standard question so we can get it out of the way: how long have you been tattooing, and how did you start?

Jason: I’ve been tattooing for about 11 years. I was offered an apprenticeship while still in high school, free of charge, but I lived with my grandparents who are traditional Italian. My grandparents said no way, you’re going to college—they were not happy about the idea. I took Visual Arts courses at SUNY and when I graduated, I went right into tattooing. I apprenticed in Kingston, New York. It just seems like tattooing to me is pretty much the only job available to someone who goes out into the world with artistic ability but doesn’t have any gallery credentials to fall back on. It’s the best way to have people come in and pay you on the spot for the trade. With the tattoo business, you’re opening your studio and people are buying daily. It’s a great opportunity for people who want to get started in the arts. Tattooing is not a fringe business. It’s an entry level job into the world of the visual arts.

MI: Who are some other artists who followed a path similar to yours?

Jason: Greg Simkins or “Craola”—he’s also a tattooist but he’s also showing in reputable spots. He’s got a huge following. The lines are becoming blurred between the tattoo artist community and the fine arts community. There’s also Vincent Castiglia. He’s also straddling the line and becoming accomplished in both.

MI: You were talking about the pop-surrealism scene. For those of us, including myself, who are unfamiliar, can tell us how it started, where it’s located?

Jason: It started on the west coast, Robert Williams and the whole California scene. It was bringing hot rod culture, tattoo culture, street art, that sort of thing all together, and it’s turned into a meld of those styles. When Robert Williams started Juxtapoz magazine it sort of solidified around that. The scene moved into New York which used to be a hard nut to crack in terms of the art scene. Now there’s a lot of pop surrealist artists who are being shown. Amanda Wachob is also another…

MI: Right, I interviewed Amanda in New York! She was working at Infinity Tattoo in Hell’s Kitchen. Interestingly, she has a similar trajectory as you do with the family not wanting her to tattoo and being an illustrator before finally going into tattooing.

Jason: I’ve done a lot of commercial illustration gigs. I worked in a few different illustration styles and at one point I was working for a little magazine called Winner. It’s sort of like those Scholastic publications you used to get when you were a kid, but it’s a Christian magazine, and they have messages like don’t do drugs, etc. I was doing what they asked for but finally after a couple years, the editor found my other work, my other art, my own fine arts style, that’s sort of dark and strange, and they released me.

MI: *Laughs* That must have been an awkward conversation! I read in an interview you did previously that you were influenced by your mother, who was also an artist?

Jason: When I was really young, I used to hassle her to draw this, draw that. It amazed me the way she could pull something out of thin air. It was the closest thing I’d ever seen to magic. Pencil instead of a wand but just a few flicks of the wrist and you have something out of nowhere, and it affected me. I wanted to be able to do what she was able to do. I didn’t want to be fireman, policeman like other kids.

MI: I also read that your images tend to have hidden, allegorical meanings. Where do these allegorical images come from? Something you read or saw? What are you alluding to—other works or is it a private language?

Jason: I’m taking thoughts or concepts in my head and I’m turning them into stories but a story without words where the characters and creatures represent parts of a sentence, and what they’re doing and what they’re doing to each other are the adjectives and the verbs. If you can read it, you can make sense of it, but if you can’t, it’s just a jumble of images. Some of them are more involved, some are more simple. You need to be able to translate the words into an image. You need to solidify the thoughts into images. And if someone has the key, they can understand it.

MI: I love your analogy of your work to a sentence with verbs, nouns and adjectives. What would you say is your most dense, intricate, complex piece?

Jason: I did a piece called “Fable” for Chi Cheng from Def Tones. He’s the bass player. He commissioned a piece from me and I made this large intricate drawing called “Fable,” indicating pretty straightforward that it’s a story.

MI: Which you’ve graciously offered to explain for us, detail by detail, in a guest blog entry next week! A preview:

"Fable" by Jason D'Aquino

MI: Let’s talk about how your artwork has affected your tattooing. Are your clients asking for replications of your drawings on their skin?

Jason: Yeah. I wanted to do anything that anyone wanted. I did not want to force my style on someone. I wanted to take each one as a learning experience. I didn’t want to put out a sign saying “capable of:” But now it’s gotten to a point where the clientele are recognizing my fine arts work and coming to me from that angle. Now I can say this is what I want to do and this is how I’ m going to do it. I want to realize their vision. If they come to me through my fine arts then I know that they want to see what I can do.

MI: What do you think of current explosion in tattooing?

Jason: I don’t think of it in those terms. I don’t think of it as a fad—I think the business is going to continue to evolve. It’s like Amanda Wachob: no artist that’s pushing the boundaries is going to be the most popular in their own time. That’s what it means to be an artist. Someone who pushes the boundaries, who tries new techniques in a medium, is an artist, is a pioneer. There’s a big difference between being an artist and being a tattooist. The two are not mutually exclusive but at the same time there are artists working in the tattoo field. But then there are tattooists who don’t do anything else, but as far as expanding the art form, are they contributing? Not necessarily.

What it [the explosion] has done is brought more people with an art background into the field, so the field has improved. As far as the mainstream acceptance thing, I look at shows like Miami Ink and think it’s such a huge misrepresentation of how it works: in 15 mins they have a custom drawing and then soon they have a sleeve. People don’t understand that if something is good, it takes time. Something that’s on television is not necessarily good just because it’s on television.

MI: I’m curious about the image of the smiling face superimposed on suns and clocks.

Jason: You mean the maniacally smiling face on flowers, clocks and suns? That basically is the world, laughing.

MI: *Laughs* What about “Idle hands”? Is that autobiographical?

Jason: Yes. That’s me sitting at the drafting table trying to figure out what to put down, what to do, what to make. Cause I have a struggle inside of myself, that I really want to do children’s books, something that would make people happy. I want to make something happy. But every time I sit down, something sadistic comes out. That’s the devil under the drawing table and the angel trying to stay my hand. What am I supposed to do about it?

"Idle Hands" by Jason D'Aquino

MI: What did you draw when you were a kid?

Jason: When I was little I would copy images from horror movies, sci fi movies. I won a few contests at school in art class. I was usually ruining school desks. Then I went from horror movie things to skulls to album covers. When I went to junior high, the schools were being combined with high schools, so you would wind up alphabetically next to kids who were 5-6 years older than you. They’re talking about drugs and sex and you’re sitting there with your Mickey Mouse back pack. They’d say “I want you to draw Mickey Mouse having sex with Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck smoking a joint.” I had to do it because I would get pounded if I didn’t. But it worked out pretty well, became friends with these guys and they watched out for me.

MI: *Laughs* That’s a great story! Thanks for sharing it. We’ll end on that note and look forward to your explanation of “Fable” next week.


Like artists such as Edward Gorey and writer Lemony Snickett, Jason D’Aquino’s work is clearly influenced by the darker side of childhood, focusing on the wickedly humorous, gleefully gross, and the magically macabre rather than the warm and carefree. D’Aquino’s exceptional drawings have appeared in numerous galleries and influential collections across the United States, and he also has a thriving career as a tattoo artist in New York.

You can visit his website at

Metal Ink in Times Square

Posted in Metal Ink in the news on June 24, 2009 by metalinkshop

Finally a high-resolution photo from the lovely folks at PRNewswire.

Enjoy! Metal Ink’s 1st Maiden of the Month, Radeo Suicide, in the heart of Times Square…

Radeo in Times Square

Radeo in Times Square

Wanna Make It Wit Bambu!

Posted in Maiden of the Month with tags , on June 23, 2009 by metalinkshop

Ello sexy peeps of Metal Ink! Hope you like my goofball random pics I took for you, lol. Rockn out Gem style with my pink bass – I named her Pretty Clitty, haha. Still haven’t quite mastered the bass yet. I’m a rockstar in training. Just a hobby. Something to entertain myself when I’m not hoola hoopn, working or spitting blood and setting myself on fire! ahahha Gotta love it.

Bambu for Metal Ink 1

Bambu for Metal Ink 1

Bambu for Metal Ink 2

Bambu for Metal Ink 2

Bambu for Metal Ink 3

Bambu for Metal Ink 3

Anyhoo, enough with the gore and goofy… I really want to thank everyone for all the support in the Maiden of the Month competition. I truly appreciate every single vote. There are some amazingly beautiful women in the running that are yummy yummy… wish we could all win 🙂 mad love for all of you and for Metal Ink.


I leave you with the lyrics from one of my favorite Queens of the Stone Age songs. Enjoy! ❤

You wanna know if I know why?
I can't say that I do
Don't understand the evil eye
Or how one becomes two
I just can't recall what started it all
Or how to begin in the end
I ain't here to break it
Just see how far it will bend
Again and again, again and again

I wanna make out-
I wanna make out wit chu
(Anytime, anywhere)

I wanna make it
I wanna make it wit chu
(again and again and again)

Sometimes the same is different
But mostly it's the same
These mysteries of life
That just ain't my thing
If I told you that I knew about the sun and the moon
I'd be untrue
The only thing I know for sure
Is what I won't do
Anytime, anywhere and I say

I wanna make it
I wanna make it wit chu
(Anytime, Anywhere)

Hey Guys and Gals…It’s Kraven here……

Posted in Maiden of the Month with tags , on June 21, 2009 by metalinkshop

Just wanted to thank you all who have voted for the Maiden Of The Month Contest…and to let you know there is still time if you haven’t yet. You have till the end of June to get your votes in and it is quick and easy. I was a bit sad because I submitted my pictures before I started my on-going back piece. So I thought I would take the time to show you all the progress of that art…as I know this site is all about amazing tattoo work and styles. So here is a quick picture of that for you:

new tat 1

new tat 1

new tat 2

new tat 2

This site is so amazing and to see people supporting these very talented artists is pretty kick ass to me! There are so many great works of art on Metal Ink, I see this site doing very well in the future to come!

Stop by…Say hello and If you get a chance vote for the Maidens of the Month. Here are some of my outtake pics that didn’t get submitted. Hope you enjoy!

<333333 Keep Rocking and Have a Fantastic Day!

kraven for metal ink 1

kraven for metal ink 1

kraven for metal ink 2

kraven for metal ink 2

kraven for metal ink 3

kraven for metal ink 3

kraven for metal ink 4

kraven for metal ink 4

kraven for metal ink 5

kraven for metal ink 5

Guest blogger NahpSuicide, in the running for June Maiden of the Month…

Posted in Maiden of the Month with tags , , on June 16, 2009 by metalinkshop

We’re halfway through June–get your votes in for Maiden of the Month! We have 12 hot models showing off their beautiful ink at


A note from our first guest blogger, NahpSuicide:

hi everybody!!! i just hope you like my pics for Maiden of the Month.

if you haven’t seen it, you can vote here

NahpSuicide for Metal Ink

and i want to show more pics with Metal Ink clothes, i hope you like it!



Nahp for Metal Ink_1

Nahp for Metal Ink_1

Nahp for Metal Ink_2

Nahp for Metal Ink_2

Nahp for Metal Ink_3

Nahp for Metal Ink_3

Nahp for Metal Ink_4

Nahp for Metal Ink_4

Nahp for Metal Ink_5

Nahp for Metal Ink_5

Metal Ink in the News

Posted in Metal Ink in the news with tags , , on June 12, 2009 by metalinkshop

Metal Ink’s first press release featured Radeo Suicide and the Maiden of the Month contest. View Metal Ink’s first Press Release here.

Watch our exclusive behind-the-scenes interview with Radeo, our 1st Maiden of the Month:

Are Tattoo Artists the New Celebrity Chefs?

Posted in Tattoo shops in New York with tags , on June 9, 2009 by metalinkshop

Metal Ink supports the tattoo community. Check out new designs our talented members are posting at This is our final interview in New York, and it couldn’t have ended on a better note. Read on for our first group interview.

Red Rocket Tattoo
46 W 36th St
New York, NY 10018
(212) 736-3001

Mike at Red Rocket Tattoo

Mike at Red Rocket Tattoo

Mike Bellamy
Tattoo Artist/Owner of Red Rocket

Vinny Romanelli
Tattoo Artist

Adam Hays
Tattoo Artist

James Kelly

MI:  Why are we listening to Tchaikovsky?

Mike:  Because it’s amazing, and why shouldn’t you? It’s inspiring, it’s thrilling, it’s romantic.

MI:  I couldn’t agree more!

Vinny:  And it’s better than Slayer.

MI:  Your ipod’s on shuffle?  It’s very eclectic. I’ve visited a bunch of shops in the East Village and Lower East Side and this is the first time I’m listening to classical music.

Mike:  You spent the day where? Go to the doctor afterwards.

MI:  *Laughs.* It’s my old neighborhood. I used to live there for 3 years; I think I’m immune. So why did you set up shop here?

Mike:  We set up 11 years ago because it was away from everybody else. It was away from St Marks and West 4th and all of that stuff. 6th Avenue. Just wanted to get away from all the flash shops and do more custom work. There was nothing here, nothing in the area, so it just seemed perfect. And it just worked out. Everyone comes after work. We get all the secretaries, all the day workers, on their way home after work. It’s been a destination place since it’s close to the subways, there’s Macy’s, there’s hotels, everywhere there’s tourists. It’s a good location. We’re the only ones up here.

MI:  Yeah, that’s different. You don’t have the tattoo iconography on the walls.

Mike:  We have it, but it’s in books. You look around and there are pictures everywhere. We prefer to have artwork. You get inspired by that. We do mostly custom work.

MI:  And everyone has their own style, their own specialty?

Mike:  Everybody has their own style, for sure. Everybody has their own thing they like to do the most.

MI:  It seems that artists have tattoos on themselves of whatever their specialty is.

Vinny:  I don’t have any portraits. I like to do portraits and I don’t have any of them on me. But that’s because I haven’t found a really good local artist to do it.

MI:  Well couldn’t you just do it on yourself, like on your leg?

Vinny:  No. Because it’s not easy to do it and it hurts.

MI:  Seems like a lot of people do it. Or is that a generalization?

Vinny:  It’s not a good idea because you’re dividing your attention between two things. One is being tattooed and handling the experience of it, the pain of it, and the other is being the tattooer and trying to do a good job of it.

MI:  You’ve been here for 11 years. Would you say that tattooing is growing in popularity or have there been fads that come and go, wax and wane?

Mike:  There’s always fads that come and go. Overall it’s grown in popularity. There were a couple TV shows that added to it.

MI:  Why isn’t there a “NY Ink”?

Mike:  It’s a good question, actually. Maybe the formula won’t work here, maybe people turned it down. Maybe artists don’t find it so worthwhile.

Vinny:  I just read something about Kim saying she feels lucky to get out. She and Hannah got out or their contract got terminated because there wasn’t that much in it. There wasn’t enough drama in their lives. They’re actually normal people and good artists.

Mike:  Actually, we got approached to do a show before Miami Ink got out. I’m pretty happy though that we didn’t do it because the idea was to follow us around and what are we going to do? We come here and work, go home, have a beer and walk the dog. Half the time we’re just sitting here doing nothing or watching TV. It’s not super glamorous or dramatic or whatever.

MI:  Did you watch any of those shows?

Vinny:  Those shows are a complete unrealistic portrayal of how everyday tattoo shops work. Most of the people who really work there aren’t on the show.

Mike: I went into the Miami Ink shop once. Not one person looked up at me.

MI:  Kat von D—what do you think about her?

Mike:  It’s like, every reality show is the same. They film for hours and they cut out the moments that are boring.

Adam:  And I don’t want to know what the meaning of the tattoo is, just as long as it’s meaningful to you.

MI:  Okay, reality TV sucks. I love all the masks on your wall. Did you travel around the world and collect them?

Mike:  Yes. Some are gifts, some are collections from travels same with everything in here. I wanted this place to feel like our living room, our collective house. All from our experience living in the world. And it’ carries over; it’s not like a doctor’s office. People come in here and feel comfortable. It feels lived in, it’s cozy, it’s livable and comfortable. It’s not like people waiting outside are tapping their foot because they can relax and watch the fish in the fish tank and listen to the music.

MI:  What about all the crosses on the wall? Same as the masks?

Mike:  With the crosses it’s all about the image. There’s a lot of Catholic imagery in American tattooing so that kind of plays off of it.

MI:  What’s your specialty?

Mike:  I do a lot of Japanese inspired work. A lot of color, a lot of realism. Coy fish, dragons, cherry blossoms, masks…

Adam:  Water, waves, wind.

Mike:  A lot of those turn into bigger pieces, backs, arms, legs, whole bodies.

Vinny:  Do you have a tattoo?

MI:  Another first! None of the artists I interviewed asked me that! Does the henna tattoo I got a couple months ago count?

Mike:  No. No skin got punctured, so that’s not a tattoo.

MI:  So what do you call that?

Mike:  It’s a henna drawing.

MI:  Changing topics. It seems tattoo artists are the new celebrities. More recently it was all about celebrity chefs, now it’s celebrity tattoo artists.

Mike:  We don’t want to be celebrities. All chefs want to be on shows. They want to be celebrities.

Adam:  Those guys are douche bags.

Mike:  The idea that the world is looking at us as the new rock stars or the new chefs or whatever is just not interesting. It’s not interesting to us because we’re just trying to be the best artists we can. We’re not looking to be celebrities.

The crew at Red Rocket Tattoo

The crew at Red Rocket Tattoo

MI:  Where do you see tattooing going?

Mike:  Personally I see it not so far in the future taking a huge popularity crash. Because everybody and their mother has one little one they got somewhere because they thought it was cute and they thought it was trendy. And all of those people are going to regret it. The people who are still seriously interested are still going to be doing it. The people who are doing the research, the people who are still serious about it will still be doing it. I see a lot of places of closing, a lot of places crashing. Everybody who can pick up a crayon thinks they can be a tattoo artist and their shops and clients are regretting it. I started before it was actually legal. So you kind of have to really want to do it. I think it’s going to go back to that. The people who are really interested in it and not for the fame or the glamour, the solid ones—the other ones get the fuck out.

MI:  It’s interesting that there isn’t a school for learning how to tattoo. Most people seem to have started by picking it up and practicing on themselves and their friends.

Mike:  I think somewhere there is a school and it’s probably a joke. When I started out they were selling tattoo kits on the backs of magazines and for 400 bucks you could get all your equipment and a certificate, like getting your diploma through the internet.

All:  *Laugh.*

Mike:  You know the real tried and true way is the old fashioned apprentice way. You find a shop and you try and get in. You have to prove your interest and you have to do all the crap work before you can even start tattooing. This is a craft that will last you a lifetime. This should be your income for the rest of your life. It should be a lifelong commitment. If you think you can pick it up and tattoo someone in 6 months, you will be doing a bad job. You will be doing a disservice. If you think of it as a lifelong goal, you’ll be learning something. When you learn something, you have to protect it, you have to use it well.

MI:  What advice can you offer to young kids out there who want to become a tattoo artist?

Mike:  I was standing next to Jack Rudy, a long time old school tattooer. A young kid comes up to him and asks him, “How do I go about tattooing?” He said, “You don’t. You just quit.” He told him to just quit. That’s the old school way. He was testing him. He was testing his tenacity. If the kid goes yeah okay and quits, then he wasn’t cut out for it anyway. But if he’s like, “Oh, but I will!” then maybe he’s got a shot.