Most people consider Mister Cartoon a tattoo guy. Yet, after sitting down with the world-renown ink artist directly after unveiling his new custom Camaro SS last week in Metro Detroit, there was no doubt this LA native is clearly a car guy who just happens to be an amazing artist.
As part of Motor City’s annual Woodward Dream Cruise gathering, the latest creation from Cartoon’s SANCTIOND automotive lifestyle brand was recently debuted in Birmingham (MI), bringing some souped-up style to the swanky Townsend Hotel. Amidst numerous products bearing his famed clown logo and the custom-designed 2011 Chevy model in its full glistening glory, the sleeved-up renaissance man sat down with TSS Crew’s BEWARE and spoke on how taking an unforeseen path as a tattoo artist more than 20 years ago allowed him to fulfill his longtime infatuation with automobiles decades later.
TSS: You are known across the globe as one of the tattoo industry’s most prominent artists. Yet, here you are unveiling your own custom Chevy Camaro SS. How did you manage to parlay tattooing into customizing cars?
Cartoon: Tattooing and car customizing are generally two different worlds, but they do collide. Most guys that build cars are heavily tattooed. It’s just known, you know what I mean? The top builders, they always have tattoos. So, for me, I would trade my tattoos and get car stuff. Before I even knew how to tattoo, I would airbrush their cars to get my car done.
So, when I was 17, I didn’t have any money. I couldn’t to afford the cars I wanted. So, I had to find a way to get that sh*t. My dad says, ‘It’s easy. Just get a trade in that business. You want to be into cars? Just find a trade, work that every day and they’ll just give it to you.’ So…that’s what I did.
TSS: A little outside the beaten path.
Cartoon: I never planned on being a tattoo artist, man. I was a professional illustrator before I was a professional tattooer. I would work for Hustler magazine.
TSS: You did Larry Flynt’s limousine, right?
Cartoon: Right. I’d be airbrushing cars and they’d be like ‘Can you do this album cover?’ And, I’d be like…’Hell yeah’ and then I’d do the album cover. Then, they’d be like, ‘Hey, can you mural this wall?’ ‘Yeah, I can do that.’ Then, they’d ask, ‘Can you gold leaf this Harley?’…I would just bounce from all these different areas. I’d do graffiti on one end and then gold leaf on the other. It all intersected and seemed the same. It was just learning different tools to (go back and forth).
I was always doing all the same sh*t. I’d draw clowns, girls, swirls and those type of street images, but I love everything. I love American muscle cars, lowriders and luxury cars. I always have a little bit of each. As I’ve gotten older…I’m 44…I’m in a different place. I got four kids, I’m traveled. The whole time I’ve been doing cars. I haven’t stopped since I was 18 years old. I’ve always been working on cars. It takes a good 20 years to get it in.
TSS: Full circle.
Cartoon: Full circle. The idea of success is different for everybody. For me, it’s seeing my kids are happy, my wife is happy, and I get to do what I love to do. I love drawing, but I feel like I constantly…constantly….have to go to the next shit. I’m looking on how I can be bettering myself. How I can be faster? How can I be smoother? I’m trying to think bigger and build the right team around me.
So, I got artists I’m working with and people I’m kicking it with, I want to make sure they have a similar vision, with similar goals in mind. And that’s to f*ck with these cars, rock vintage J’s and make our sh*t right… feed our family, travel, go to Europe, go to Asia…go see that sh*t. Take your childhood and take it on tour, you know what I’m saying?
TSS: Well, you got the J’s. You got the cars. This ain’t quite Asia, it’s Detroit…but good enough.
Cartoon: Detroit is the sh*t, man. Detroit is the Motor City. Detroit is Motown. If there’s two things we’re into more than anything, it’s classic soul and cars. American cars. I f*ck with Mercedes and all that sh*t too, but if I could have one type of car, it’d be a Chevy. We have bow ties tattooed on us (lifts sleeve and points to his tattoo of the Chevy emblem), you know what I’m saying? That’s standard for us. All my friends got ‘em. We have our car club plots too, you know? Even with that stuff, car clubs…we’re kind of over that standard, that style. Now, we’re on some whole other sh*t.
TSS: I would say so. You’re working with the manufacturers.
Cartoon: Yeah. That’s beautiful. Recaro. Psssh. That’s retarded. We love what they do. Us putting our spin on it, that’s what we’re about.