Inkerviews features the work of tattoo artists and collectors, as well as fine artists, in a series of interviews. With an exciting lineup already in place and endless more to come, I hope you will check back often to read about these incredible people and enjoy their visually stunning talents.
“You've got to get up every morning with determination if you're going to go to bed with satisfaction.” - George Lorimer
Such true words and so reflective of the one-and-only Mr. Johnny Jackson. Dedication, determination, hard work and a great attitude are truly characteristics which embody this talented Texan artist. A tattooist for close to two decades now, Johnny has been committed to his artwork and the industry for most of his adult years and the diligence shows, as both his tattoo work and studio are highly regarded and respected among artists and collectors alike.
He first got his hands on tattooing tools at the young age of 15 and never looked back. Though it wasn’t until he met Larry Shaw and learned the ropes of slinging ink in “old school” fashion that he realized it would remain a constant in his life.
Johnny’s bold tattoo pieces are sure to grab your attention. Whether it’s in the vibrant neo-traditional style that he is so astute at rocking; or his lifelike realism work that combines accuracy with bursts of color and contrast - his skills are definitely first-rate.
Not only does he tattoo full-time, but he and his gorgeous wife Mizuz Inkaholik (be sure to check out her Inkerview too) own Texas Body Art studio in Houston, Texas, where they employ an incredible cast of artists and have won numerous awards and honors for being one of the top studios in the world.
Jackson is a talent in so many areas of the art world. If he’s not painting or tattooing, you can often find him with a camera in hand, snapping photos of his lovely spouse or a slew of other interesting settings that he encounters. And to top it all of, he is a wholeheartedly kind person to boot. It was such a pleasure interviewing him for this article, and I hope you enjoy getting to know Johnny and sampling his excellent tattoo work as well.
Have you always been an artist? When you were a child, did you envision yourself in the arts, or as a tattoo artist?
No, I wanted to play guitar as a teen. Then high school hit and when I was bored I would draw a lot. All the time. But never did I imagine I would be doing the kind of work I am doing now.
How did you get started tattooing?
When I was 15 or so, I started with not-so-professional equipment and did my first tattoo on my leg. Mom and Pops were pissed.
Did you have a formal apprenticeship? If so, with who?
In 1992, I started a would-be formal apprenticeship at Larry Shaw’s in Houston. I learned all the techniques and tricks of the trade. Larry was old school and we were doing tattoos the old way with acetate stencils. Before each tattoo I had to carve the design into acetate and spread carbon dust on it for a transfer.
Back then, the studio was the King of the Block and so we were pretty packed. I tattooed until the sun came up more times than I can remember. People would be sitting in the car crashed out until we banged on their window and said "You're next."
You are an incredible realism and portrait artist, as well as rocking the traditional style. What is your favorite type of piece to work on?
First off , thank you for the compliment, coming from a great collector as you are. Would this interview end if I said "kanji tribal cover ups?" (lmao) Just kidding. I LOVE doing my own original designs that I draw up the most. The neo-traditional stuff, where I can rock a million colors, it comes in just above the realism of portraits. I love working on them with my big mag. That’s my shit there.
The explosive use of color in your pieces really sets you apart. How did you develop this style?
First off, I started ONLY doing the tattoos I feel are my style and decided not waste my creativity on the tribal armbands and names that crowd the studio daily. Not that I think I am above that, Jinxi, I just spent too many years doing that stuff for a buck, and now I am not money fueled to do anything that walks in the door.
Regarding my style, back in the day I had cut my teeth on the traditional style of tattoos and flash designs. Then as I set it in my heart to get better at this trade, I started doing the eye candy stuff, with big eyes, bright colors, line work sculpted; you know, the new school style.
Well, I never seem to stick to one style, so they sort of fused together to make the neo-traditional. Painting and drawing helped me the most.
Who are your inspirations in the art world and in the tattoo industry?
All the great portrait artists and the other artists I have received work from myself. I would not like to ask questions, I just wanted to get tattooed by the artists I like and absorb as much as possible while they tattooed on me. The list is very long, but some of them are: Nick Baxter, Jeff Ensminger, Nikko, Roman, and Adrian Dominic.
How do you feel they have had an impact on your work?
They impacted me a lot in the way they approached their work and executed it.
The main thing I had to learn was to just slow down.
Your wife, Mizuz Inkaholik, is tattooed from head-to-toe and your partner at the shop and in life. How do you think it benefits you to have her so involved in the business?
It goes hand-in-hand with what I do. The courtship we had was under the machine and many hours went into that. I have tattooed over 250 or so hours on her.
We were just talking about how I was trying to do my best work to impress her and she was sitting like a champ for me to impress me (ha ha). It worked out well. We got married after 4 years of this courting.
On the business side of things, I would like to say she has made me what I am and I owe a lot of my growth as an artist, friend, and just an overall human, to her.
I was brought in up during the days when women inside the industry were frowned upon. I’m glad I had a part in shattering the idea that females can be accepted in the industry. Also, it shows that a loyal relationship is attainable in this business. She is great with my PR; in fact, I view her now as my publicist.
You are also a talented photographer. Do you feel like your photography benefits your tattoo work (and vice-versa)?
Why, thank you. It benefits my tattooing greatly, as my wife has graced the covers of twelve international magazines and they all promote my ink. I would say that it inspires me a lot; plus, I was tired of having crappy pictures of my tattoo work back in the day. It benefited me for the fact that now when I do my work, the photos are dead-on what they look like.
Again, I owe it to the Mizuz for making me study the art of photography. After hundreds of thousands of photos, we learned to click well together. My tattoo work affects my photography because I now know I am going to get sick photos of my work when it is done, so I would add that extra touch to it. Doing photography has helped with shadows, lighting, and tones because when I am shooting I look at my work as I go and I adjust my settings if the picture is off or too dark. So it helps train my eye for things while I am tattooing. I see them and adjust the elements as I go.
While shooting the pictures of my wife, I would see the shadows and the reflections and I would be, like, "Man this would be a sick-ass tattoo." So it really opened my eyes to see things and inspired me to do portrait work, as I had not seen it in that aspect before.
As owner of Texas Body Art, you must have an incredibly busy schedule. How to you manage your time and get everything done?
I’m very behind now. When I’m done here, I have to design cards, get two websites updated, and then answer emails.
Seriously, with a staff of 12 it weighs on me heavily, as I am a perfectionist and have to have everything in order at the shop, and keep my eye on every little detail.
Most times, I feel if I didn’t have so many responsibilities with the shop and all that, I could dedicate more time to just my art and tattooing. So it is a double-edged sword for me.
I found out early on that one solid studio was all I needed, after I opened two other locations in the past. I felt myself spread way too thin and I couldn’t give my heart to one location, so one would suffer while the other gained. This was not good for my nerves. It helps to have my wife as my assistant in every area of my life. It helps balance the weight.
Speaking of Texas Body Art, can you tell us more about the shop and the artists who work there?
The studio is in Houston, Texas, at 12537 Jones Road. 281-894-2282.
We have been open for 11 years. It is 3000 square feet, as I have just expanded next door and tattoo out of the museum section.
The crew we have is full of so much talent and they keep me on my toes. I can’t help but mention them all, as they are definitely the heartbeat of the establishment: Natedog, Jason Coquel, John Dame, AJ, Mike Choate, Russ Bagwell, Sean Ozz Oliver, Ben Reel, Jay.
And our counter help can't go unmentioned, since they handle all the shit: Ellie, Heather and Kevin; and Sharon is our “Secretary of Ink.“ Then of course, myself, and Mizuz Inkaholik.
We finally have a crew that is family and don’t have any loose ends involved. No haters, no drama, no thieves, no slackers, no egotistical attitudes. Just a laid back environment to create art and be ourselves. Texas Body Art has received the USBA award two years in a row for Best Tattoo Studio and Piercing Studio in Houston.
We have guest artists travel in all year-round. We tattoo everyone from firemen, military, local law enforcement, NFL football players, NBA basketball players, soccer moms and plumbers.
Since I had to close down the Rock-n-Roll Tattoo Museum downtown because the club was going under, we subsequently set up a top-notch studio under the VIP room at the Meridian. I moved all the rock-n-roll memorabilia and tattoo artifacts into Texas Body Art, so that adds a touch of royalty to the place.
Do you have plans to do a lot of traveling and conventions in 2010? If so, can you give us a rundown of where people will be able to see you and make an appointment with you?
Thank you for the opportunity. We do have a few shows lined up, but they are mainly in the South, as it is hard for us to travel too far away from the studio for long stretches of time.
- We will be at Musink in Dallas, April 9-11. I still have a few spots open for work there.
- Then we go to Corpus Christi for the 2nd Annual Tattoos By the Bay convention on May 21-23rd. A few spots available for that one.
- Next we are off to Alamo City in San Antonio on June 25-27th. Open Schedule.
- The last show on our schedule would be the Texas Tattoo Showdown in El Paso, Texas, on July 2-4th. I have a few spots open for that show as well.
After that, we will probably be getting caught up on our lives and the studio. People can schedule an appointment with me by going to my website at www.inkaholik.com and read my standards on what I will and will not do. Also hit the contact link to email me.
What do you find is the most rewarding part of being a tattoo artist?
The power to create and evolve at my own pace with my work. To be in the position to do that now is the biggest reward. Also, moments like this when someone appreciates the hard work and gives me the opportunity to share it with the world. Thank you very much.
What one word best describes you?
What one word best describes your work?
What is your favorite sweet treat?
Mizuz Inkaholik (and her red velvet cupcakes rock). :)
Last updated on March 31, 2010 by Jinxi Boo