Artists: James Mullin
What year did you start tattooing?
1993, to be exact.
How did you get into tattooing?
My best friend, Matt, went to get a tattoo at the local tattoo parlor once he turned 18. I was really intrigued because I have been fascinated with tattoos since I was a young boy. My father, a diehard biker, has many tattoos. So once my best friend got one, I was motivated to get my own! So I went to the same local tattoo parlor, it was called Dragon Ray’s Tattoo. He welcomed me in, then told me to sit down in his chair, and I got my first piece done on my calf. It was Wolverine from Marvel Comics. A buddy of mine came by the shop while I was getting it done and told Dragon Ray that I was an artist and that I had drawn flyers for his punk band. Dragon Ray said he was looking for an apprentice, since his current one had just left. So the next day, I brought all my drawings I had been doing to him, and he asked me if I wanted to learn to tattoo. I did. I fell headfirst into it and never looked back.
Do you have any special training?
I take a blood pathogen course every year to keep my license current and to keep up to date on all the facts surrounding blood-borne diseases.
What conventions have you done recently or are planning to do this year?
I was lucky enough to be invited to Beijing, China, and to tattoo at the Lang Fang Tattoo Convention. I attended Tommy’s Tattoo Convention in Connecticut and won best tattoo of the day, the Inxtravaganza convention here in Anaheim, and coming up next year I’m doing the Best of the Midwest in Iowa, the Body Art Expo in San Francisco, and Tommy’s Tattoo Convention, so far. I would love to be invited to do Hell City in Columbus and Arizona.
What drew you to your particular style?
I’m a pretty versatile artist; I can do everything from realism to traditional. But my favorite is neo-traditional. What drew me to it was my love for new school and traditional and bringing those two styles into one perfect art form: bold outlines, with fine lines showing the detail, and bright colors, with old-school designs and ideas.
What inspires you as an artist?
Seeing what other artists do daily on Instagram. Whether it be paintings, tattoos, drawings, etc., it motivates me to push myself harder and farther. Seeing the work ethic of David Tevenal, for example, changed the way I spent my free time. Now I draw or paint every day, then go to sleep, then start over the same thing the next day. It’s improved my tattooing tenfold.
What sets you apart from other artists?
Being versatile—doing everything and not just sticking to one style. I love doing portraits, Japanese, biomechanical, butterflies, especially flowers. Roses are my favorite flower to draw and tattoo. I think I’ve mastered my own unique style to the rose tattoo to where if you see a rose tattoo I’ve done, you can say, “That’s a James Mullin rose.”
What other mediums do you work in?
I do watercolor and I do marker drawings. I’ve been using Copic markers for about a year now and instantly fell in love with them.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
When I’m not tattooing I draw or paint tattoo designs. The only other creative outlet I have is music. I play drums. It’s not to hard to keep a beat and hit things. It gives me exercise, and it’s fun!
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
When I first started, it was Gill Montie’s skulls and Filip Leu’s dragons and style. Then Tony Ciavarro’s new school changed the game for me. And now its David Tevenal, Timmy B., Emily Rose Murray, and Green Bay Bully.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
Usually location advice, like where the tattoo placement would look best. Or design advice, like if I think it will be something they’ll regret in the future, I might try to talk them into something more timeless that will be beautiful forever.