All Eyes on Josh Payne

Tattoo Artist Josh Payne

Tattoo Artist Josh Payne. Photo by Tavares Shirley.

If you don’t know who Josh Payne is, you’re missing out. His colorful and outlandish tattoo work is taking the industry by storm and we were lucky enough to run into him at the Ink and Iron show in Long Beach, CA.

Josh a veteran tattoo artist and owner of Ascend Gallery in Cortland, NY. He purchased his first tattoo equipment when he was just 16 years old and began tattooing in his mother’s kitchen. “I started as wrong as you possibly could,” he says. “I fixed a lot of shit as I got older.” Now, 13 years later, Josh has made quite a name for himself as a tattoo artist and his work has been turning heads on Instagram so fast; he’s been causing an online whiplash.

When we saw Josh at the show, he was tattooing a fantastical mad-eyed eagle on an eager client in the bowels of the Queen Mary. Despite the stuffy atmosphere, incessant questions and passing eyes, Josh was completely down-to-earth and approachable with a boisterous, infectious laugh. His carefree, go-getter personality makes sense since he’s a rider too. Josh owns a 1979 Harley Sportster, which has been transformed into an original bobber. Just like his tattoos, his motorcycle is a work of art. He may have sacrificed form for aesthetics though, as he says the bike is “back breaking” if ridden too long. “I pretty much just ride it around town, here and there. It’s a bar hopper,” he jokes.

Josh doesn't do small, simple pieces. He does big, colorful work that makes a statement. Josh did this piece at the Ink and Iron show in Long Beach, CA.

Josh doesn’t do small, simple pieces. He does big, colorful work that makes a statement. Josh did this piece at the Ink and Iron show in Long Beach, CA. Photo by Tavares Shirley.

Of course, anyone who can rump around town on a kidney-killer is bound to be brave. It’s this bravado that makes tattoo conventions fun for Josh, rather than daunting. “I love tattooing at conventions,” he says. “There’s something about being out here in the spotlight that I enjoy. It’s stupid fun getting to meet all the people that look up to you and know your work. Four or five years ago, I was that guy, getting meet the other dudes they I looked up to. It’s crazy and surreal that people know who I am.”

But conventions are not all fun and games for Josh. He averages 15-16 hour days at conventions, especially at Ink and Iron, since he was booked solid, mostly because of his presence on Instagram. “Instagram has been amazing for this industry,” he admits. His client for Sunday at the show was a kid who actually had one of Josh’s earlier tattoos and this tattoo was one of Josh’s viral sensations.

Josh's 1979 bobber.

Josh’s 1979 bobber.

For Josh, it has been a backward, humbling spiral. The more experience he gets, the more the pressure mounts. “Everybody gives me these rave reviews, saying that they love my work, and I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing yet,” he says. “I feel like the more people that know who I am, the more scared I am that I need to work harder.”

Josh is one of those good-neighbor-type guys that is super easy to be around. That, paired with his artistic ability, makes him the ideal artist if you’re interested in getting some more complicated, bigger pieces of body art done. If you’re going to spend hours with an artist, you want to know they care and are as passionate about your tattoo as you are.

Josh is quite an inspiration because he doesn’t believe in coasting a short distance on natural ability, but rather throttling forward with a passion and desire to be better at his craft. “I feel like every day I just want to be better than I was yesterday,” he says. “I feel like I’m starting to figure out what I’m doing and just scratching my potential, so I’m excited to see what the next few years bring.”

Inspiration is Everywhere, says Sara Ray

Sara Ray (left) with a friend.

As soon as I met Sara Ray I knew she was a “no nonsense” type of woman. The kind you can’t get much bull shit past. And if you try, she’s likely to call you on it. I’ve always admired strong women like her and I knew I liked her immediately.

From the moment she said she believed women should ride, just not in their underwear, Sara made it obvious she has something to say. It seems the old school values of the rip roaring ride ‘or’ die ladies of past might be clashing with the selfie-obsessed, instantly gratifying Instagrammers of late. The ironic thing is, when it comes to tattoos and promoting art, you really can’t have one without the other.

Is she juggling? Or reaching?

Is she juggling? Or reaching?

Sara Ray has managed to find a balance between the two through her art. Her work reminds me of what would happen if zombies, vampires and Elvira clashed with the 70’s tide of easy rider culture. Throw in some guitars and paint brushes and that about sums up Sara’s style. Mind you, she will probably disagree with me, but that’s the beauty of art. The onlooker can draw the conclusion after the artist has drawn the picture. In fact, Sara’s work has made such a statement, it was featured in 2014 at the exclusive Art of the Motorcycle exhibition at the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale, where the history of motorcycle and the cultures it inspired was on display.

Sara showcased many of her paintings at the Ink and Iron show in Long Beach this year. One in particular got my attention. The painting depicted a woman in an old-school bomber-type helmet with arms fluttering around her, as if she were reaching for or possibly tossing aside motorcycle parts while balancing on a fender in black, spiked boots. Ironically, this painting almost seems a perfect portrayal how a woman who rides struggles between beauty and badassery, a battle that is challenging but fun.

Motorcycle gas tank painted by Sara Ray, also featured in the Art of the Motorcycle display in Glendale.

Motorcycle gas tank painted by Sara Ray, also featured in the Art of the Motorcycle display in Glendale.

After meeting Sara and catching a glimpse of her art, I began perusing the inter webs for her work. I found she does much more than just paint. She’s been tattooing for at least 18 years and doing art for even longer. She also paints motorcycles, the likes of which, have seen the glossy pages of magazines.

She told me she finds “inspiration everywhere,” as she has been coast to coast promoting tattooed motorcycling culture. Originally from Hermosa Beach, CA, she’s now set up roots in Chicago, IL where she tattoos at Maximum Tattoo studio.

What I love most about Sara, however, is she is not just an artist, but a rider. She owns a Honda CB350 that she doesn’t get to ride much anymore but by the tone of her voice, this is regrettable.

If you’re ever in Chicago, stop by and see Sara Ray. She might beat you to the punch (possibly literally if you’re not polite) by participating in a tattoo convention near you, but if you’re in the windy city, her wit and talent are well worth the visit.

You can also find Sara on Instagram and Facebook. Buy her art on Etsy or visit her website here.

SCOTT POMMIER x STACIE B. LONDON x TSY = INK | MATYLDA’S TATTOO TALES

The huge advantage of social media is now you can inspiration anywhere, worldwide, with the tap of a fingertip.

The Selvedge Yard

TSY instagram

You gotta love social media– not always, but this particular time, HELLS YES.  So, I see on Stacie’s triplenickel555 Instagram account that there’s a pic re-gram’d of some sort of bike tattoo. I look a little closer, and– hey, I recognize that image! So here’s the deal– this cool gal Matylda in Sweden saw the pic on TSY and was inspired enough to get it inked on her inner arm..OUCH for any of you who know about tattoos. God bless the internets. I reached out to Matylda, and she was kind enough to send pics of the finished work– read on and check it out.

scott-pommier-stacie-b-london-tsy

Scott Pommier shooting Stacie B. London for –SHUTTER SPEED– image courtesy of Camerabag.tv

Hello from the land of the ice and snow! Hope these pics are usable — it’s winter now and we don’t have any decent light to…

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Creepy or Not?: The Skin Book

Some might argue this is a downright creepy. A book of synthetic flesh for fledgling tattoo artists to practice on? Who even thought of this idea? And is it even really a new concept?

Still, I would much rather have a tattoo artist take a piece off Buffalo Bill’s scrap pile than ink their damage on someone’s skin forever. Davinci didn’t paint his first pieces of art work on the Sistine Chapel walls. He had some practice along the way. I wouldn’t knock tattoo artists for trying out the controversial Skin Book. Still, they may not even get the chance.

The Skin Book, created by Tattoo Art magazine, hasn’t yet become available to the mass market. And there’s still the question of where all this artificial skin is coming from? Regardless, the proverbial semi-living sketch pad could mean the difference between a career in a tattoo shop and a box of abandoned tattoo machines in the trash. I’d say keep your mind open to anterior means of betterment and save yourself the humiliation of losing all your friends due to shabby ink work.