Brooklyn Payne is an award winning tattoo artist with over 20 years of experience, and if you've seen his realistic, portrait style tattoos, you know that his work speaks for itself. One thing that really stands out about Brooklyn is his persistent drive to be perpetually honing his craft and perfecting his art. As a traveling artist, Brooklyn is constantly all over the map, so it was an honor for us that he was able to take some time out of his busy schedule and answer a few questions.
My name is Brooklyn Payne, I'm 37 and have been tattooing full time since '91. When not tattooing I enjoy oil painting, airbrushing…I've designed album covers and logos. I do commissioned portraits in pencil or colored pencil. I can even do set design and fx-makeup. Basically anything related to art, I'm into.
I grew up all over the east coast, from Florida to New York, I moved around a lot but eventually landed in Allentown when I was 16. I've lived other places but I always return to the Lehigh Valley as my home base…at least until I can get out to LA and live out the rest of my days in the sun.
I've really been into art since kindergarten. I was inspired by an older relative. I remember not being allowed in her room, but from her doorway I'd see her painting on black velvet - I never really paid much attention but one day I noticed the painting had 2 horse heads on it. It totally blew my mind, I was like 'how did she do that?!?' From that point on all I wanted was to draw. (Looking back, I realize now that it was paint by number!) In kindergarten I once drew this winter scene in chalk. My teacher saw it and felt my skill was at a 3rd grade level, so she called the local newspaper about it and they put me on the front page. It really gave me the boost to do bigger and better.
I knew I wanted to pursue tattooing, even as a kid. My dad had tattoos, I was always doing art…once I realized that this art was permanent, I was in.
Beside myself there are 4 other extremely talented artists. Everyone has their own style, and our styles overlap so that no matter who or what comes through the door, we can get the work done.
Vince Thomas specializes in traditional, new school, bright colors, solid line work with a graffiti twist, and he's also a master at lettering.
Devon Marks has a large variety of styles - pin ups, hotrod, traditional, neo-traditional - a very versatile artist that can tattoo whatever comes in.
Eric Wolf specializes in graffiti, anime, detailed cartooning, has a crazy cool use of color - he literally doodles masterpieces in his spare time.
Jonathan P Narmita has his base in traditional and does some great work for being so young in the industry. He's got a vast artistic background and actually left his job as an art teacher to focus on tattooing.
Our shop is 100% custom, we're all accomplished fine artists and we take much care in our art and our customers. We pride ourselves on cleanliness and high end artwork. We work well as a team.
It's not really a big deal, they're people just like the rest of us. They just want to get a good tattoo and have a good time getting it. All the celebrities that I do work for are very good people and I'm proud to call them my friends - not just customers. Rob 'Vanilla Ice' Vanwinkle, King Gordy from 8 Mile, Bizarre from D12, just to name a few. In general I hold a good reputation with my clients, I've had a lot of satisfied people over all the years I've been doing this. But every once in a while you'll get that crazy cat-lady that’s never happy with anything…just the way business works I guess.
There will always be a market for flash, because people will walk in wanting the dumbest thing or have no idea what they want prior to walking through the door. People will just walk in, wanting to get their first tattoo…I'm not trying to offend customers. And for an artist, if it get's you paid, sure, go for it. But I don't really deal with that side a lot. I deal more with personal custom pieces. Flash is nice, but a custom piece is beautiful. Like you're at grocery store and an old lady stops you and says 'hey that’s a nice tattoo' (referring to flash) or she stops and goes 'oh my god that's a beautiful piece of artwork' (referring to custom) or, if it's bad, she takes an extra few steps away from you [laughs].
As for new and old school…there's plenty of difference between the two, but if it's done well, I respect it. I could rant on this subject all day.
Artists have become more eccentric, more detailed…styles shift and someone is always coming up with something new. Better technology has made it possible for artists to do better work, for those that are willing to work for it. But at the same time, the advances in technology, I feel, can breed lazy artists. In some cases it's as though people are relying more on their equipment than on their ability…But I could talk shop all day - they're a different beast, wherever you go.
Yea, but is there ever a bad way to make money? More people have come to accept tattoos as a way of identifying yourself. It's becoming mainstream only because tons of people are using tattoos as a means of self-expression. So what if it's going mainstream? All that means is that more artists are getting more clients. I don't hate on anyone's hustle.
Regulations. Regulations are a necessity. Most conventions are very strict and I feel it's a good thing for everyone involved in the industry, both for the customer and the artist. It's not always about the art - safety is #1. What's the point of a good tattoo if you get sick from it? Some places need more regulations, like here in Pennsylvania, where it's up to each city or township; and if there's no law in the books, there's nothing!
Do your research and do it right the first time. Don't let anyone just slap something on you, you only get one set of skin!
I hope that people in general know to go to reputable artists who use good, sterile equipment. Tattooing has become more accepted over the years, so more people are doing it. Thanks to the popularity of tattoos on television, shops are popping up all over the place - but that doesn't necessarily mean it's of a professional caliber. Again, do your research, check for good line work, good gradient shading - smooth not choppy - the quality of the color saturation…If the skill isn't there, move on. It's not a popularity contest - just cause you like someone doesn't mean they're doing good work.