Remember when artists were truly students of their craft? Remember when the focus of any skill-based profession was on constant education? Thankfully, this student mentality is still alive and well. However, with the surge of new up-and-coming artists, it seems a quick class on tattoo history is necessary.Whether you’re a tattoo artist who’s establishing, practicing, apprenticing, or just thinking about tattooing, there are a few artists you need to know. Just like every kid who picks up a guitar needs to know Jimi Hendrix, every tattoo artist needs to know Mike Parsons.
Here’s a brief history on Parsons and his career: Atlanta born, Mike Parsons spent much of his youth drawing and painting. By age 24, he’d accumulated a handful of tattoos from local shops. One shop in particular, Monkey Man’s Club Tattoo, noticed Mike’s artistic ability. Newly apprenticed Deano Cook was just parting ways with Club Tattoo and Monkey Man made the offer. Mike joined the team and studied under him for over a year before uniting with Deano, who had just opened Psycho Tattoo.
Over the next few years, Psycho Tattoo expanded into a second location that Mike managed. In 2003, Mike left his hometown to work for Gill Montie in Texas where he would see tattooing from a different perspective, learning history and befriending legends. One such legend was Gill’s mentor, Doc Dog. It was then that Mike made another move forward to Tampa, Fla. where he worked for five years at Doc Dog’s Las Vegas Tattoo Company. On April 1 of this year, Mike finally made the leap into ownership, opening Mike Parsons Ink in the South Bay area of Riverview, Fla.
I caught up with Mike to ask him about his new shop and his thoughts on the industry. Listen closely children, school is in session.
With over 16 years’ experience, what’s your opinion on the tattoo industry?
The progression of the trade has its pros and cons. On one hand, the popularity of tattooing (via television) has made for an influx of tattoo collectors, while at the same time desensitizing society as a whole.That paves the way for more acceptance, more publications, more TV, and just more tattooing in general. Unfortunately, it has bred more tattoo artists. (I use the word “artists” lightly.) Even though the world has always had plenty of shitty tattooers, there’s never been so many “less than average” artists. There are so many that collector and viewer standards are diminishing, and the higher-end talent is getting lost in the shuffle.
Having traveled and worked in different regions of the US, how do the cultures compare and contrast?
The culture of tattooing is different in several regards, the best one being that only the strong survive. In many other countries, there’s a smaller market for talented artists, leaving little room for the “hack.”
You;ve worked for some of the best artists in South. How did you go about finally opening a shop of your own?
I noticed that the South Tampa Bay area was lacking in quality tattoo shops and settled down in a rapidly developing area.
Who have been your biggest influences?
I admire any purist in the trade. People that rely on tattooing, that have committed themselves to tattooing, artists that actually HAVE tattoos, shop owners that do tattoos, artists that push the envelope and people that preserve the art.