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.

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 Vesrah Suzuki.

Mike taking a time-out at the track to tattoo Breeann Poland, Manager of Team 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

An artist both on and off the bike

261631_576974112334414_1965718827_nA Short Interview with Robert Ramos a.k.a. Rocky “Tattoosbyroc”

Rocky, featured on the back page of Inked Magazine, representing Freegun underwear.

Rocky, featured on the back page of Inked Magazine, representing Freegun underwear.

Originally from New York, Rocky is a stunt rider and a tattoo artist. Rocky does his work at All Aces Tattoo and Piercing in Orange Park, Florida. Most known for his stunt riding, you’d never guess there was an artist underneath the helmet visor. I had the chance to pin Rocky down for a second and find out more about him and his stunt riding.

MI: How long have you been riding motorcycles?
Rocky: I don’t remember not riding. My brother Groovy put me on my first dirt bike when I was just 12 years old.

MI: How long have you been stunt riding?
Rocky: The very first time I wheelied on a bike was about five years ago. I was riding a Suzuki RM-80 and I power shifted into second gear. The bike jumped up into a quick wheelie. It was the scariest thing in the world, but after that, I tried every chance I had to do wheelies on everything I touched.  

Rocky doing his work when he's not riding.

Rocky doing his work when he’s not riding.

MI: What kind of bike are you riding now?
Rocky: I have a 2008 Kawasaki ZX-6R. It’s not the best bike to ride, but it works for me. I say ride what you got.

MI: What modifications does your ZX-6R have?
Rocky: It has tons of cool stuff such as a 60-tooth sprocket in the rear, Sick Innovations crash cage, Sick Innovations sub-cage, Sick Innovations fully adjustable clip-ons, NDC handbrake bracket with dual Yamaha R6 front brake calipers, 19×20 Brembo master cylinder for the hand brake, a Yamaha R6 Brembo front master cylinder, steel braided brake lines all around, a dented tank with an HT Moto grip and a hole in the rear seat. 

MI: Do you compete in stunt riding?
Rocky: Competing is my favorite thing to do. I try and make it to Stunt Wars and XDL competitions. Its great to see styles and wild riding from all over the United States.

Rocky doing what he does best. Wheelies!!

Rocky doing what he does best. Wheelies!!

MI: How many hours a day do you practice?

Rocky: I try to practice at least three times a week for three hours or more at a time. Basically, whatever the bike can handle.

MI: What are your favorite bike events?
Rocky: I like the International Motorcycle Show in Jacob Javits, located in the heart of New York City. I went every year as a kid. I also always go to Stunt Wars in Orlando, FL as well.

MI: Who are your sponsors?
Rocky: 904 Performance in Jacksonville, FL helps me a lot. But for the readers and anyone watching, I’m definitely open to sponsorship!

Tattoos by Roc

Rocky in Action on his ZX-6R

Check out Rocky, his riding and his tattoo work on his Instagram