Matt Pearl went to the high school at which I teach. We never seriously crossed paths. He was on his way out when I was on my way in, but his art has always been all over the school, and when it was time for me to delve into tattooing up my shrine, I knew he was going to be my guy.
Matt tattoos at Timeless Tattoos on Archer and Harlem in Chicago. It’s a cool shop with talented artists, and if you are ever in Chicago looking for a tattoo, check ’em out here. Make an appointment though…they get busy!
A laid back dude that has done hundreds of tattoos, Matt is a perfect pick for my next interview on storytelling. I have a small handful of tattoos now, and each tells its own story. So I figured that Matt would have an interesting take on the idea of story; I was not wrong. We sat for about two-hours, and as he worked, we chatted, and the following questions were sent to Matt as a result of our conversation.
Me: Most people are not artists, so when they come to you with their story, how do you work with them to achieve their vision? How does it feel to be part of their storytelling? Does it ever feel strange to present people with a sketch of something that is personal to them that you designed?
Matt: When it comes to achieving their vision, the best way I’ve found is for the customer to have a few ideas in their mind. Whether they’re coming in with pictures, drawings, or a favorite quote it’s much easier to start the project with just a few general ideas, and then we can finalize as we talk. As we talk further about the piece, usually I can envision how I’d like it laid out and will jot down notes for when I actually sit down and draw it. Sometimes everything works out, and they love the drawing, sometimes the drawing needs to be tweaked, and for others it simply doesn’t work out, and I’m not the artist for them. Giving the artist some artistic freedom will almost always result in a much better piece. I’d rather they leave with a tattoo that they were stoked on just as much as I was.
Being able to help tell the story they had envisioned is always a great feeling. It’s not always the easiest task, but always rewarding and certainly exhausting at times.
Me: Can you tell me one or two interesting stories that people had crafted into tattoos? What is your most memorable?
Matt: One story will always be burned into my memory. A younger kid walked into the shop and wanted to look through our books with our tattoos in them. I eventually asked him, “Looking for anything specific?” He says, “Just interested in some black and grey,” and without a hesitation he says, “I’d like to get a crucified baby wrapped in barb wire, upside-down on a cross while it wore a sheep’s head…” and without any hesitation I said, “lets do it!” By no means am I a satanic or a dark person, but when’s the next chance I’ll get to do something insane like that? He never did get it, but I’ve had plenty of strange tattoos that I’ve been lucky to do. Big foot playing golf, a unicorn hula hooping a donut while puking a rainbow, several Abe Lincolns, a puffer fish as a submarine, and plenty more.
Me: When we think about permanently scripting our stories onto our bodies, what are a couple of things we should consider before sitting in that chair and going under the needle?
Matt: Loosen up and do it. The tattoo doesn’t have to always be meaningful, but if it looks cool, and you like it…get it! Also before committing to anything too extreme make sure you have a secure job. No need for a face, hand, or neck tattoo when you’re 6 months out of college and working at a warehouse. Wait. Wait. Wait. Everyone should also do their research of what artist and shop they’d like to go too. Cheaper doesn’t mean better. Do your homework and get the piece done right.
Some great advice from Matt Pearl: do your research before jumping into a big decision. I’d say that goes for getting a tattoo, picking a college, selecting a publisher or print shop for your book/comic, etc. Look before you leap!
Matt is filled with all types cool stories that we do not have room for, but you know where to find him!
Thanks for time and tattoo, Matt! Now I know why you are “Grandma Approved.”
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