While metal is a musical art form, there’s undeniably a visual aspect to it – from the album artwork, to the visions the music conjures in our minds. This naturally gives the music and its aesthetic a bridge to the visual arts, including tattooing, and comic book illustration and design.
Joe Martin is a tattoo artist and illustrator based in Pennsylvania, and as you can see from his Instagram account, he has a unique ability to create striking visuals, both on the skin and the canvas. I had the opportunity to chat with him about his work and what inspires him to create such evocative and mind-bending visions.
What first drove you into tattooing?
I’m not sure there was one specific thing that made me want to tattoo but more so a culmination of things. Growing up reading comics and looking at fantasy art,then skateboarding and seeing all the Pushead and Jim Phillip’s stuff. My first board was the Mike Mcgill skull and snake and you can see how something like that would easily translate into tattooing. Getting into punk later on and seeing all of my friends getting tattooed really struck a chord but it wasn’t until I started getting tattooed at Built To Last in York, Pa by a guy named Sevil that I saw some of the things that were possible within the craft. He turned me onto the work of Filip Leu and the Leu family, Freddy Corbin, Cliff Raven, and Jack Rudy, to name a few. Seeing that stuff for the first time and getting tattooed by Sevil helped me realize that I really wanted to put everything I had into learning how to tattoo.Sixteen years later and I am still learning new things constantly.
What inspires you to create some of the darker, spooky illustrations?
Its funny, a lot of people describe my illustrations as dark and kind of spooky but I never intend for them to come across that way. That’s what’s cool about it, they are left open to interpretation. As far as my inspiration goes it is constantly changing. Artists like Philippe Druillet,CAZA,Moebius,J.H.Williams III and Manara, early 70s sci-fi and horror,1960s psychedelic concert posters, the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and David Lynch, and lately nature has a large part to play in where I find inspiration. The way Tolkien could write about a forest and make it sound familiar and completely foreign at the same time.
Where do you primarily work?
Is there a particular shop interested clients should stop by?
I work at and Co- Own Golden Ages Tattoo in Lancaster pa.
What other projects outside of tattooing are you working on?
Currently I am working on a comic book alongside my good friend, Luke Cloran ,who is writing and co-creating. Next to tattooing it is the hardest thing I have tried to do.
Tattooing has become a huge cultural phenomenon during the past 10 years. Are you ever worried that a bubble may burst when it comes to interest and demand to get some ink?
Honestly,I never think about it. I try and just work hard at my craft and give people a nice clean tattoo. Fads will come and go and eventually all of those tv shows will fade into obscurity but there will always be tattooers tattooing because they love it. Not for money or fame or any of that shit.