Artists: Jon Mesa
jonmesa.com | sacredtattoo.com
New York, NY 10013
FRESHLY INKED: When did you start tattooing?
JON MESA: I started tattooing in April of 2008.
How did you get into tattooing?
The way I got into tattooing is funny. I was going to school for graphic design, but I knew I didn’t want to have a regular job. That’s when I started getting tattooed. I knew I wanted to get a half sleeve, so I went to this tattoo shop that a friend of mine recommended, in Washington Heights of all places. I went there and the guys were super cool and nice, so I became friends with them and I started getting tattooed. The owner of the shop knew that I could draw and that I was going to school for graphic design so he was like, “Hey, I always wanted to have an apprentice, so why don’t you come in after school every day and I’ll start teaching you everything.” That kind of started as a non-commanding kind of job [and turned into] “Hey, I need you here every day from 12 o’clock to 11 o’clock at night. By that point I just loved tattooing and I didn’t just think that it was a thing to do. So I dropped out of school and chose to pursue tattooing full time.
Where did you apprentice?
It all started at that shop in Washington Heights—it’s called Higher Level. It was kind of a really ghetto shop and I was there for about one year exactly. I didn’t really learn much; the guy kind of threw me on there to tattoo people. He taught me minimal shit, it was more like I learned as I went along, and the guys that I worked with taught me things as well. I felt like what he wanted was to keep me there as long as possible because I was already tattooing people but I wasn’t get- ting paid at all.
You won best in show at the Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention; can you tell us about the winning piece?
I did a flash sheet for the convention and one of my friends saw it and she wanted this bleeding heart that I did really bad. So I said I wanted to do it first thing at the convention so we did it on Friday, worked on it for about five hours, and we entered it for best medium color and it won. Then we entered it for best in show and it won, so that was pretty sweet.
What was your impression of the convention?
This year’s convention was awesome. It was huge, it was very spacious, and Philly always brings so many people out.
New York aside, what are some of your favorite places to tattoo out of?
I’ve only really tattooed out of New York but I’m going to California this week. I’ve done conventions but I haven’t stayed longer than two days anywhere, but I’ve tattooed in Baltimore, Philly, New Jersey.
Which are your favorite conventions to attend?
Where will you be going this year? This year I’m going to Baltimore, and Ohio for Hell City. Of course I’m doing the New York convention, I’m going to Miami for Tattoolapalooza, and still more dates to come. I’m still kind of planning out the year as it goes along. I think my favorite is going to be Hell City because I’m going to hang out with all of my friends there. It should be pretty awesome.
How do you describe your style?
Traditionalish inspired and kind of neo-traditional. I hate coining that because it sounds so like it’s new but old at the same time. I feel my style is still developing, but it really stems from my desire to make cool tattoos that age well with its wearer.
What inspires you as an artist? Either beauty or really dark, evil things. My favorite things to do are things that would normally be a little bit scary or dark in tone but make them look really pretty. I think taking something that would really be thought of as kind of dark or evil [and making it] look pretty to the eye is a really cool thing.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
I would consider tattooing almost like my first medium. I’ve done drawing and everything like that, but tattooing inspired me to start painting, so I’ve been painting now on the regular.
What sets you apart from other artists?
That’s always a tough question to answer. With my tattoos I would definitely say super- clean bright colors and very solid tattoos.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
Seth Wood is my favorite tattoo artist; he’s been tattooing my whole torso. I also like Ryan Mason from Portland, Tim Biedron from Chicago, and Uncle Allan is also one of the people I look up to.
What tattoos do you look forward to doing the most? Anything that I haven’t been doing a million times already. As long as something is new and fresh I’m totally stoked on it.
Is there anyone you would like to tattoo?
The President! It’s kind of an impossible thing to ever happen, but if it did it would be pretty rad, especially if he got something no one would expect.
Before someone gets a tattoo, what advice do you give them?
I tell them to eat well, get a good night sleep, and to come dressed comfortable for the session. That would make everything a lot easier.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
I’m dying to do an evil priest, like a really evil pope or priest with a burning church behind them. That would be freaking awesome.