If you asked me six years ago if I thought I would be sitting in a Melt Bar & Grilled with hundreds of people who share the same love and passion for carbs and cheese to the point they dedicated a part of their skin to showcase it, I probably would have believed you.
Back in 2009, Melt’s founder and creator, Matt Fish, announced a fun promotion of sorts: Get a Melt tattoo and receive 25% off of your Melt purchase for life.
My question to myself immediately was, “am I bold enough to get a permanent coupon?” The answer was a quick “yes.”
Being the type of guy who acts now and asks later, I set up an appointment as soon as I could with my favorite tattoo artist, Mr. Ronnie Castro, and got a hand-sized Melt-inspired tattoo right on my forearm for the world to see.
Initially, I wanted to take the NOFX Never Trust a Hippie album cover and alter Jesus to be holding a grilled cheese, but my tattoo artist was thinking of something a little bit more traditional. Sometimes I wish would have gone with what I initially wanted, but I do love what he came up with:
I waited for my tattoo to heal fully before making it up to the Lakewood location to sign up for the tattoo club causing my membership number to increase some. For anyone who has ever gotten a tattoo, I am sure you can understand why I waited. No one wanted to see a scabby mess, especially when it is going to be showcased on the restaurant’s Melt Tattoo Family website page.
I was presented with tattoo member #47. At least I made it into the top 50, right?
As of today, there are over 500 members. Talk about dedication folks. With locations in Cleveland, Columbus, and most recently in Akron, it only makes sense that this one time promotion has turned into a following of sorts.
Last night, Fish and crew wanted to show their appreciation and love to all of the Melt Tattoo Family members by hosting the first ever Melt Tattoo Family Reunion.
Open to the first 200 members (plus 1 guest) to RSVP, the private event had a free appetizer buffet, photo booth, opportunity to be filmed for an upcoming Melt documentary, and best of all, a one-of-a-kind Derek Hess print. They also offered a healthy discount on drinks and food too.
Arriving just after the event’s start, I waited in a decent sized line to get checked in and secure my Hess poster (photo to follow once I take one, it is a sweet print).
From there, I snagged some free eats and found a spot up at the bar to camp out at. The free eats I speak of were beyond generous-sized offerings and consisted of most of the appetizer menu items including fried pickles, mac and cheese bites, and even s’mores bread pudding.
As I waited for my Dude Abides sandwich, I sipped on a couple of Melt City Lights and just looked at all of the people in there. Everyone was happy, having a good time, and all had something in common with me. They all felt inspired enough to put something permanent on their skin not only to achieve a discount, but to show support to a man and the company he created.
I started up a conversation with a couple sitting by me just to hear their story. They were married for 25 years, loved Melt, and the husband got a tattoo and the wife plans on one soon. They found Melt when they were looking for a restaurant in Cleveland with a good beer list. They found the beer list that intrigued them and then they found the food. Hailing from Canton, the couple drives to the Independence location frequently to enjoy a meal before having a night out and prefer it over the new Melt in Akron.
Before heading out, I decided to get my ugly mug on camera for the documentary they were filming. It was kind of cool to be able to stand there and just explain why I got the tattoo and what it means to be in a family like this.
Fish and I chatted a few times throughout the night and he just looked so happy. Can you blame him? His comfort food idea has turned into a cheesy empire with thousands of adorning fans.
Tattooed or not, people love what Fish has built up over the last 10 years. Here’s to 10 more years of cheesy goodness.
Maybe some of you remember the interview I did with Evan Lovett earlier this year. He is an amazing artist and happens to do some amazing tattoos as well. It was a fun interview from a guy who gave me an amazing tattoo while I was in Austin for Fun Fun Fun Fest.
Evan Lovett is actually going to have a booth at Hell City in Columbus, OH from May 4th to the 6th. If you are going to be in the area that weekend, I highly suggest you stop at his booth and say hello. The guy is super friendly and will actually have some prints for sale.
Lovett actually still has a few appointments open at Hell City. If you are interested in getting an amazing tattoo from Lovett, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to see what he still has open.
Do you remember your first time? Think about it for a moment. Did it hurt? I know mine did for a moment. It was not excruciating or anything, but it was a new pain that I slowly found comfort in. I have returned to that feeling many a time since. I really do believe everyone should experience it at least once.
I am talking about tattoos of course. Many of us have them and many more appreciate them.
Whether you have 1 or 100, tattoos these days are becoming a more common trend and seen on people of all ages. I am not going to get into the ethics of tattoos or anything of that nature, I am just merely pointing out what tattoos have become. Forget the eyebrow ring piercing…tattoos are one of the more popular forms of socially acceptable self-expression on the human body.
I’ve interviewed all sort of people over the years for this site and others including musicians, artists, authors and once even a roller derby team. Having my own site has opened doors to so many interesting stories and events. I feel honored to have talked to so many people from all over the states.
I, until now, had never for whatever reason interviewed a tattoo artist and I honestly do not know what took me so long. I’ve chatted with Cleveland’s Derek Hess in the past and his art is on the flesh of thousands of fans, but not once did I ever sit down with a tattoo artist and just shoot the breeze and find out a little more about them than many may know.
If any of you have ever met me, you are probably aware that I have a huge appreciation for tattoos and have quite a few all over my body. I certainly plan on getting many more with visions of a full torso piece getting started this year. With such a love of permanent art, I realized that a few months ago that I should really try to incorporate something into this site about tattooing.
As luck would have it, one of my favorite people in Austin heard wind of my idea and shared with me a name of someone I should check out: Evan Lovett.
It was not hard to track Lovett down, thanks to the ever popular social networking, and after I saw his online portfolio, I realized that not only did I want to interview him, but I wanted him to tattoo me. His drawings and tattoos were more detailed than I was expecting and I was immediately intrigued to learn more about this guy, let alone get something done by him on me.
With him in Austin and myself in Akron though, I was not sure if that was going to happen anytime soon…until I realized I was going to Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin. I was sure he was going to be busy that weekend but I was mistaken and on day two of Fun Fun Fun Fest, Lovett texted me and told me to stop by the studio.
After hanging out for a little bit and checking out Lovett’s portfolio, he told me that he had some fun pieces he wanted to tattoo. I took this as an invitation for him to use my skin as his canvas and was quick to pick out something that he had previously drawn up. So, not only did I get to interview Lovett, but I also got tattooed by him. The experience was amazing. I enjoyed not only chatting with him, but also watching him work. His shading technique was unlike anyone else’s I had seen before and he basically was painting on me. Mixing inks and blending sections together.
The result was a great afternoon full of good conversation as well as an amazing tattoo.
How did you get into the tattoo business? Was it something you wanted to do all along or were you kind of just introduced to it by chance?
Growing up the son of a biker, I was always around tattoos and tattoo art, but the way i got into it was kind of strange. I was an artist from a young age always drawing and my dad basically handed me over to a tattoo artist that he knew to keep me out of trouble and I spent about everyday of my life in that shop from 15 to 18 years old.
Did you ever think you would ever be tattooing?
Before i stepped foot into that shop, no. But after my second day there ,the boss made me pick up a machine and outline a skull on his leg just to see if i had the balls. Well I did and after that I couldn’t think of doing anything else.
You are not as much of a tattoo artist as you are an artist that tattoos correct?
Yes, I agree with that. Not disrespecting any tattoo artist out there, but I feel to call myself a tattoo artist would be disrespecting the tradition and culture of the tattoo arts. I wasn’t introduced to tattooing in the traditional sense. The first shop I worked at, and in fact every shop I’ve worked at, have all been custom shops. Since I started so young, I was fortunate to attend art school while and after I started tattooing. I try to look at everything from a fine art perspective. regardless if its skin or canvas, although I have to admit I wish sometimes i could just tattoo!
I feel I take my tattooing too seriously and envy those tattoo artists with a sense of humor. In fact, I think the tattoo I did on you was the most light hearted tattooing I’ve done in a long time. (laughs)
I will admit, it was a lot of fun. So, which do you prefer more then, tattooing or drawing?
Drawing for sure. There is a lot less pressure in drawing. When it comes to tattooing, I try very hard to not think about the result and focus on the process. That is why I do my best to work out the drawing as much as possible before hand. The fact that I draw most of my tattoos directly on the skin before i tattoo is a bit strange for people, until I’m done. I have to make the drawing as detailed as possible so I end up drawing on people for hours sometimes. Luckily for me no one complains because when I’m done, I feel they have a better understanding of what the tattoo will look like and are a lot more comfortable with wearing it. Plus it’s fun!
When did you start doing this process of drawing on the skin over doing a stencil?
A few years ago, but only after I had the process worked out on paper first. A good friend and somewhat of a mentor of mine, Sean Zee, made me do a red pencil sketch for every tattoo i did. After that, [he] started making me do full color sketches with pencils. I did this for about a year with every tattoo I did. After a while, the tonal study was all I needed and I could replace colors in my head. That’s when the Sharpies came into play. They allowed me to create a fully rendered monochromatic drawing with a strong enough contrast quickly.
If I feel I still need to better understand something, I will still do a color study. You can never be too prepared. The better the understanding, the better the final piece will be whether it be a tattoo or painting of whatever.
Why a Sharpie though?
I like the shape of the fine point and the fact that they’re alcohol based.
So is there a process when drawing with Sharpies? Are there certain techniques you use when drawing with Sharpies over other drawing instruments? How many colors do you generally use?
The technique is harder to explain, but I basically blend out lighter colors with darker ones. I do this in layers until i get the result I want. i can use any colors, but I prefer to use primary ones: red, yellow and blue.
How long have you been drawing with Sharpies?
I’ve been drawing with them for a few years now, and it kind of just snowballed into kind of a style. It really is my favorite thing to draw with. The techniques I use originally were just experiments in order to open up some creative doors in my head, but after a while, I had so much fun and found them so versatile that i just stuck with it. With every shop, convention or guest spot I do, I find others fascinated by how far I can take it which is cool because hopefully by the time I leave, they have took it upon themselves to experiment and open some doors themselves.
That is kind of awesome and makes me want to go out and buy a pack of Sharpies… So have you reached out to Sharpie yet for a possible sponsorship? I think it is safe to say they are going to be impressed.
Working on it…
Tell me about growing up outside of Philadelphia in New Jersey.
I love that I grew up in that area, surrounded by everything from tree-filled suburbs to vast farm lands and the beach also being 15 minutes away from the city. I feel it’s made me very adaptable and well-rounded. Artistically, the east coast can be a little segregated at least in our industry. No one really talks to other people in shops, it’s very territorial. Regardless, I always tried to break that stereotype and befriended everyone. I hope it worked. (laughs) I was also introduced to some great graffiti artists. Some of New Jerseys finest in fact! But that’s something I’m not about to get in to.
No doubt, talking graffiti with you would be awesome but let’s stick to the tattoos – at least for now. What made you move from the east coast to Austin?
I’ve been visiting Texas to see family for as long as I can remember and it always seemed like the place i wanted to be. I remember my first solo trip out here, I think i was about 13 and I definitely stood out (laughs), but everyone was so nice and friendly. I was in a store with my aunt and people started asking me questions. Being from the big dirty, I was suspicious, but when i looked at her she assured me that they were just nice. [It] took me a while to learn to let my guard down a bit. (laughs) When it came time for me to finally make that move, I was lucky enough to have a few friends who already lived or moved out here, so it made my decision a little easier.
I have to say, living in Austin is a bit of a comfort. This is the only city I’ve ever been in where people don’t just assume I tattoo. I’m mean everyone is covered out here, and sometimes it’s nice to not stand out.
You still travel to Philly though monthly right? Do you find a lot of appointments for work waiting for you when you visit?
Yeah, I work at Art Machine Production in Philly one week every month. It started out as just a guest spot, a chance for me to finish up some work on my clients that I left behind. I guess with almost 8 years of clients there though, I was still in demand. So I talked to my buddy Tim Pangburn and we made it a regular permanent thing. I’m usually booked solid there which is a good change of pace to my more casual Austin work habits.
Let’s talk about your art. You had an exhibit going on in Austin that lasted 2 weekends last Fall. Care to talk about that for a moment?
Yes. Me and my studio-mate Nick Baxter participated in what they call E.A.S.T. or east Austin studio tour. It’s a two-week-long open house free to the public that allows anyone to come into our private studio and see our work, checkout what we have to offer, see some cool art and meet us. There are over 300 individual artists and studios involved, so it was good to feel a part of a creative community. But I think the coolest part of it was just seeing our work cover the walls of our studio. They were pretty bare until E.A.S.T. gave us a reason to change that. (laughs)
How was the overall response?
Really good. [We] had a lot of positive feedback. had a lot of tattoo folk come threw artists from shops and studios around the city come check us out, it was cool. [It’s] good for people to know; just because we’re a private studio, we’re not some big secret. We just like to work in a smaller more comfortable atmosphere and make cool art work.
This is the first time you sold prints of your work correct? How did that work out for you?
Not bad, it was a bit weird for me, but had a good response and [I] was encouraged to make more. My drawings seem to reproduce beautifully.
I’ll say. Do you think you will make some of these prints available to others maybe via the net?
Never thought about it before, but I don’t see why not. If someone likes my art enough to want it, the least I could do is get it to them.
[I] still don’t feel like I have a style that’s mine yet, but standing back and looking at everything I’ve done at the same time, I guess you can see something there. But either way, I don’t think I’ll ever perfect anything. [I] can only hope I die trying.
Your shading and detail is beyond amazing. How tough is it to take a piece you drew on paper and put it permanent on skin?
[It’s] way easier than taking something not perfected and putting it on skin. (laughs) But on a more serious note, there are limitations to both skin and paper and sometimes certain things can be pushed farther on one over the other. I always try to push further when someone is going to be wearing it. It’s only fair to them.
You’ve opted out the idea of owning a tattoo parlor and instead operate in a studio. When did you decided that you wanted to be more exclusive?
It’s something I’ve always wanted, once i started working on more of a serious clientele, but never pursued it till about a year ago. When asking the advice of my friend Nick on whether or not he thought I could do it, he told me he did and would be interested in collaborating on it with me. So, that sold me and here we are a year later.
The studio I work at in Philly is more open to the public, but has a private studio feel. We all work there by appointment only and do as we please working each in our own style on the things that interest us the most, so i have a good balance. Even if i did miss the atmosphere of a more street shop, I can and do often visit my friends at work all around the city, and it’s a honor to be welcomed in.
I am sure your work travels by word of mouth right? (In fact, when I was on South Congress the day before I flew home, a girl stopped me and asked me who did my piece.)
Well, since I’m am absolute shit at self-promotion, due to my shyness and anti-social behavior and anxieties, yea word of mouth has been the venue of chance for my carrier to spread. So, thank you to all of you out there who proudly wear my work and show it off.
Really, thank you! I am trying to have a working website this year! About time, I know…
Wrapping things up, what’s one important thing you learned in the past that you use daily when drawing or tattooing?
To slow my role! Make sure i know where I’m going with a piece before I start and that in a business that relies completely on the will of another person, that it never hurts to be nice.
What is your favorite thing to draw? How about favorite thing to draw on?
Well I don’t know why, but I really like drawing birds and nature in general with sharpies on skin. I like to paint with oil on board, and bic pen on diner place mats. (laughs)
You need to show me this place mat art one day. So, what’s next for Evan Lovett?
I think I’m gonna up my convention game in 2012 and try and hit as many as i can. Other than that, keep on making art as often as I can. I’d like also to simplify my life, although that’s what i say everyday, [it] never seems to happen.
Check out the following links for more information on Evan Lovett: