“It’ll take you about 15 minutes to be a pro,” said Nick Stambaugh, a talented artist of Aces High Tattoo in Jupiter, FL. He was selling the art of paddle boarding, not tattooing when four Australian dudes walked in looking to get Homer Simpson tattooed on their feet. He loved the idea and two Aussies stepped up to the plate, one was already heavily tattooed and the other was a needle virgin. Lonny Morgan, also a hilariously gifted tattooist, and Stambaugh got to work sketching. The clients originally wanted to get the character in black-and-grey, but Morgan advised them it’s best to stick to the Simpson’s yellow roots, “It’s vector art,” he said. “To try to replicate that with black-and-grey, it’s going to have none of the same feeling whatsoever, man.”
Stambaugh has been tattooing for four years, Morgan for nearly six, which is surprising based on their portfolios. Morgan is almost entirely self-taught, “I tattooed out of my basement for like four months,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, but where I’m from [North Carolina] there was only maybe two shops in that area.”
Stambaugh (who also has a green thumb for mango, avocado and banana trees) learned the trade in his home state, Ohio, at the esteemed Truth & Triumph Tattoo; “I had an apprenticeship with Brian Brenner and this guy named Josh Wilson,” Stambaugh said. “I owe so much to that dude. He sat with me on tattoos; he was a gigantic influence on me. And Kyle Cotterman [owner of Distinction Tattoo], Justin Wilson, and Rob Bower. All those dudes were super huge in helping me progress faster.”
The two tattooists have a niche for bold, bright, cartoony and traditional style, but don’t let their colorful imaginations fool you—their black-and-grey work is sick, too. “I just did an AK47 on this dude that was fun,” Morgan said.
“I go both directions,” said Stambaugh. “But mostly bright, obnoxious colors and stuff. Goofy, funny stuff all day, like pineapples.”
The Aussies were about halfway through their Homer Simpson tattoo, which turned out to be a fun little experiment–watching two artists ink the same tattoo, turnout the same flawless product, but go about it in two different manners. Morgan chatted more with his client, moved a bit quicker but still was just as focused as Stambaugh, who quietly tattooed the front of his canvas’ foot.
The scene became relevant to Inked’s list of Who to Bring to your session, as now their mates and some other shop clients (and myself) gathered near to the station watching. I asked, who shouldn’t accompany somebody to a tattoo? Stambaugh was quick to say mom and dad, “You may love it but your parents might try to tell you to get the tattoo that they’d want instead of the one you want. Unless you’ve got the coolest parents on the planet that care about absolutely nothing, which is not usually the case. Even the cool ones are always like you should do it like this!”
Morgan said, “I get people that try to come behind the table, if I can hear you breathing, you’re too much.”
Jupiter isn’t the most touristy of areas in Florida, “other than drinkin’ and watching boats go by, there’s nothing much to do,” says Morgan. (What else could one want to do?)
“You can’t beat living in a vacation [town],” Stambaugh said. “I got people that are going to Orlando for vacation and that’s probably the closest they’re ever going to be to me so they drive two hours to get tattooed. They follow me on Instagram and email me. There was somebody from England coming and they already followed me, I guess that’s how it works. That’s always cool.”
With the Simpsons tattoos wrapped, both equally goofy and impressive, Stambaugh shared the story of his first ink; “I got tattooed when I was 17 by some hole in the wall terrible shop, super gross in Ohio. You’re walking into a tattoo shop and you’re like Oh this is normal–totally not normal at all. It was a somewhat big tattoo and it took like all of 40 minutes, he was just drilling away. I didn’t know any better until I got tattooed elsewhere.”
Aces High Tattoo has three shops by owner John Wylie in Jupiter, West Palm Beach, and Lake Worth. This weekend, you can find Nick Stambaugh and a ton of other respected tattooists at Tattoo Mania II, held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, just look for his “Good ‘Ol Boy” knuckle tat.