From stunts to tattoo machines: What you might not know about Mike Metzger…

Mike with the former Vanilla Ice! Ice! Baby! Yeah!

Mike with the former Vanilla Ice! Ice! Baby! Yeah!

Mike working at an event.

Mike working at an event.

Mike Metzger is one of the Godfathers of freestyle motocross. He’s taken home X games gold, and set a world record performing a backflip mid-air over the fountains of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, becoming only one of two riders to successfully land “the impossible jump.” But there is more to Mike than crazy stunts, big air jumps and the crazy moto lifestyle. Mike is also an artist and a tattooist. He’s sold his paintings to buyers all over the globe and owns a tattoo shop called Mob Syndicate Tattoo Art Co. in Lake Elsinore, CA. He recently suffered a bad crash, but when has an injury ever held Mike back? We contacted Mike and he shared a little about himself and his art with us. Check it out.

MI: When did you first start painting?

MM: I have been drawing and painting since I was a kid. I took art classes in school and started airbrushing around the age of 13.

MI: What inspires your artwork?

Mike's daughter Michaela is learning to tattoo early. Future prodigy maybe?

Mike’s daughter Michaela is learning to tattoo early. Future prodigy maybe?

MM: I have always been inspired by cartoons, bright colors and bold lines. There are many artists whose art and style I enjoy. My most favorite is Robert Williams and Greg “CRAOLA” Simkins.

MI: What types of paint do you use?

MM: I use everything: Acrylic, oil, spray cans, watercolor and whatever is around to use that day.

MI: How many paintings have you sold and where have they gone?

Mike taking a time-out at the track to tattoo Breeann Poland, Manager of Team RidersDiscount.com Vesrah Suzuki.

Mike taking a time-out at the track to tattoo Breeann Poland, Manager of Team RidersDiscount.com Vesrah Suzuki.

MM: I have sold over a dozen paintings and have sent them around the world; mostly Australia because my moto fan base there is massive.

MI: What is it you love about art and riding?

MM: I love that they are two things I can do by myself. My art is bright, bold and loud usually.

MI: How did you learn tattooing?

MM: I have been tattooing for 18 years. I never apprenticed. I was self-taught. I learned by doing it and making mistakes. I just picked up a machine and tattooed myself. A week later, I was at a shop making money learning what not to do. But I don’t suggest learning this way. For someone who is interested in learning to tattoo, I suggest finding a real tattoo artist and apprenticing under them before you go messing someone’s skin up.

MI: How often do you tattoo?

Tattoo by Mike Metzger.

Tattoo by Mike Metzger.

MM: I tattoo quite a bit, sometimes at my shop in Lake Elsinore, CA. I also do conventions and travel with my tattoo equipment where ever I go.

MI: How many tattoos do you have?

MM: I have no idea. I will probably be covered one day. I have several tattoo pieces, some done by James Strickland, Rich Pineda, Mike Spazbo, Daniel Reese and Randy Janson, among others.

MI: Are you still riding, jumping or racing?

MM: I am healing up from a massive crash I had four months ago. I crushed my right femur, dislocated my right hip, suffered two broken ribs, a punctured lung and I tore my shoulder.

Photos from Mike’s personal Facebook page

Examples of Mike’s artwork

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You’d be right to visit Lefty’s Tattoo

IMG_1462Tattoo Shop: Lefty’s Tattoo

Owned by: Jason Martin

Address: 467 N. Tustin St., Orange, CA 92867

Phone: 714/997-4882

Hours: Monday through Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Artists on staff: Jason Martin, Myke Rivera, JayDawg, Josh, Jeremy, Ryan, Nhan and Chris

Shop hourly rate: $150 per hour

All artwork on the walls has been done by artists who work at Lefty's Tattoo

All artwork on the walls has been done by artists who work at Lefty’s Tattoo

Since I had heard about Lefty’s from so many different friends in Orange County, I just had to check it out. Lefty’s Tattoo is a small, modest tattoo shop located close to the beach on the south end of Orange County. Owned by tattoo artist Jason Martin, the shop opened in 1998 at a location just across from where they are now, but with heavy overhead threatening to take Jason out of the game, he moved the shop to the 467 Tustin St. address.

Lefty’s tattoo got it’s name literally from Jason’s and Myke’s left hands, as most of their clients would say, “Oh look at that, you’re both leftys.” Although left handed tattoo artists are far and few between, Jason insists being left handed has had no affect on his learning curve and his work proves this fact.

Josh busy on a leg piece.

Josh busy on a leg piece.

All the artists who work at Lefty’s are not necessarily left handed, but they have pretty much started their careers there and even Lefty’s most fledging artist is a four-year tattooing veteran. Jason isn’t the type to be showy and unlike others who’d turn themselves into a brand to get as big as possible, he just wants the shop to remain small so he can spend time with his family and so his clients can continue to enjoy a cozy, familiar environment.

A plethora of books show the amount of work each artist has done during their tenure with Lefty's

A plethora of books show the amount of work each artist has done during their tenure with Lefty’s

Not too many celebrities frequent Lefty’s tattoo, but make no mistake, the people who return are more than willing to spend the dimes it takes to get quality work done by all artists in the shop. The artists at Lefty’s all are capable of doing different types of tattoos, but Jason specializes in realistic artwork such as portraits of people and animals. Although Jason has been determined to remain as humble as possible, his work and artist JayDawg’s work have been featured in magazines such as Tattoo and Skin Art.

Jason and his artists are currently booked solid for pretty much the rest of the year, but they do hold promotions in the mean time and you never know, there could be a cancelation. Don’t be afraid to stop by and check out this amazingly clean and inviting shop. Based on what I saw and Lefty’s five-star Yelp rating, I’d say the work is well worth the wait.

Visit Lefty’s Facebook page to see examples of their work.

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Jason Martin, owner of Lefty's Tattoo

Jason Martin, owner of Lefty’s Tattoo

About Jason:

Jason’s body is roughly 75 percent covered in tattoos and he gleaned his first tattoo at the tender yet unlimited age of 13 years old. An army brat living in Germany, Jason would hike up his T-shirt sleeves so everyone could see the tattoo of the Iron Cross, which is still visible on his arm. Jason says at least ten friends and artists have touched needles to his skin since then, making him pretty much a living, walking collage of history. His favorite tattoo is one of his pit bull on his neck and his second favorite is that of a 1941 Ford classic car on his inner, right arm, that he got when he was 20. “It was my dream car,” he laughs. “I ended up getting it, and then I had to build it because I had the tattoo.”

Both Jason and JayDawg are motorcycle lovers, with Jason owning a Harley Deluxe and JayDawg being a fan of street bikes. Since Jason’s hit-and-run accident last year though, his family is pressing him to sell the bike and he might have to acquiesce for the sake of his obligations to the shop. Still, he happily regales his trips to Laughlin as if it were yesterday and I’m not quite sure the two wheeling gene will completely dissipate from his system any time soon.

Text and Photos by Rachael Maltbie