Stories from local tattoo artists

Brighid Monahan, Staff Writer

Madison, Wisconsin is home to more than 20 tattoo studios that employ at least 100 artists. Just like every tattoo, every artist has a story; an inspiration and a thing that drives them to put their heart and soul into every piece they create.

John Brown Made You Look Custom Tattoo

John Brown or JB, the owner and artist of Made You Look Custom Tattoo has been in the business for only five years, but has been drawing since he was a kid.
“I always loved illustrations and art,” he said. “But the thing with most art professions is it becomes monotonous after a while. That’s why I love tattooing, it’s different every time, always a new challenge.”
Before becoming a tattoo artist, Brown did illustrations for books and worked in construction.

“I’m glad to have found my passion,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. “Every time I do a tattoo I think about what my grandmother said to me. If you’re going to do something, make it your best every time.”

When asked what inspires him, Brown smiles. “I love the stories, the who and why to people’s tattoos. I always like hearing the reasons for the artwork. I’m definitely a people person. I love learning about others.”

Albert Colt’s Timeless Tattoos

Albert took over his brother’s shop, Colt’s Timeless Tattoos, and learned to tattoo from his older brother. Albert has been tattooing since he was in middle school, age 13. Albert’s inspiration is apparent throughout his studio, which is covered in oil paintings done by him and his brother.

“I want to be the best of the best, make every piece of art stand out and make people amazed.” It’s not just about the artisanship. You have to be patient, understanding, and good with people.

“If it’s their first time and they’re nervous, ask them about what they love what they do for a job or school. It doesn’t matter if you care or not. It’s about the client. Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something you didn’t know before. It’s all a learning experience everyday, that’s what it’s all about.”

Tim Bradley Great Whale Tattoo

Tim Bradley, the owner of Great Whale Tattoo, located at 408 E. Washington Ave in Madison, started his tattooing career in La Crosse. After spending most of his teenage years doing band artwork, album covers and concert posters, Bradley decided to start tattooing.

“One of the best things about the shop is the atmosphere,” Bradley said. “It’s very acceptable to creativity. My shop is where I feel the most at home.” Bradley is very proud of his shop, which he has been running for just three years. “I think the most important thing when it comes to tattooing is taking your time. Leave your ego at the door and be prepared to learn.”

Jon Jenkins, another tattoo artist at the shop who apprenticed with Bradley, nods his head.

“You have to keep an open mind and understand you only have so much time,” Jenkins said. ”You have to do the best you possibly can with the time you have. That includes planning and everything.”

The name Great Whale comes from Bradley’s love for the ocean and its marine life. Once a year Great Whale creates a print, that can be applied to t-shirts, posters, etc. and give the money to Ocean Blue, a charity that creates a kind of national park and wild life refuge in the ocean.