Local profile: Josh Howard of Pioneer Tattoo | Bleader

Friday, September 21, 2012

Local profile: Josh Howard of Pioneer Tattoo

Posted By on 09.21.12 at 06:41 AM

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

I allowed Josh Howard to put this on my body.
  • I allowed Josh Howard to put this on my body.
It's impossible to escape tattoos nowadays. Tattoo shops are opening constantly everywhere, and it seems more people have them than not. Once considered taboo and dangerous, now they're a totally normal thing for pretty much anyone. I remember when I first started getting tattooed, my mother would warn me to make sure that I only get tattoos that I could cover with a dress shirt, to ensure that I was employable. Ten years later, and with more tattoos than I can count, it now takes a little more than a dress shirt to cover up all of my work, and I turned out just fine. I graduated college, got a job, and even have a nice girlfriend.

With the higher demand for tattoos comes higher demand for people who do them. In an overcrowded market, it's gotten harder and harder to find a quality tattoo artist, but I'd like to introduce you to a guy who I think is one of Chicago's best, Josh Howard.

Howard, a native of Milwaukee, moved to Chicago in 1998 to attend SAIC. Considering how many tattoo enthusiasts willingly get their very first the second they hit legal age or far before that (by means of sketchy jobs in basements and kitchens), Howard came to the game late: he didn't start getting tattooed until he was 22, after an LSD-induced meeting with well-known local tattooer Mario Desa at an S-M bondage party in the Loop eight years ago. Howard says that the scene at the party, which included a submissive girl using her "butthole as a cigarette holder," proved to be "not as fascinating as the oscillating patterns and bubbling images oozing on Mario's arms, or the demon head on his neck that kept looking at me." It was at that moment that Howard asked Desa, "through the rising cigarette smoke," if he'd show him the ropes, and Desa agreed.

Howard, who mainly works out of Pioneer Tattoo at 3513 N. Lincoln, works in an insanely wide array of styles, having mastered new school, traditional, and even portraits. I was surprised to discover that he's been doing this for less than ten years. I always assumed that he was the bad kid, tattooing his friends in a Milwaukee basement at the age of 15.

Howard shared with me a few favorite pieces he's done lately, although he mentions that "photos never do them justice, you have to see them in the flesh, so to speak, to really get a sense of them."




And out of the many tattoos I have collected over the years, my absolute favorite is this portrait of Kitty Pride (my favorite comic book character ever) done by Howard:


One of the best things about getting work done by Howard is his ability to turn what should be a generally unpleasant situation into a comfortable one. It's pretty difficult to enjoy yourself while getting stabbed constantly with an inked-up needle, but his cool and calm demeanor and excellent iPod selections (I've been inked to Yes, Killer Moon, and Lard while sitting in Josh's chair) make the environment relaxed and fun.

As far as the aformentioned boom in tattoos and tattoo shops goes, Howard sees it as generally a positive thing, saying,"it means people are becoming more accepting of each other, which is good. It also means that there is more business to go around for professional tattooers, which is great." However, he encourages you to make sure you're getting work done by a skilled and experienced artist: "Please do your research and see a real tattooist. Don't have it done in someone's kitchen. I promise you it's going to look like shit. If you want your skin to look like the walls in the men's bathroom, then by all means get tattooed by someone who doesn't know what fuck they are doing. It literally takes years and years of constant working to become proficient at tattooing. I promise you it is much harder than it looks." Unless of course, you're into crappy tattoos. I'd be lying if I said I don't have a few of those myself.

Josh Howard works via appointment. He can be reached by calling 773-391-4507 or by visiting his online portfolio at Facebook.

Tags: , , , , , ,


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
May 07
Galleries & Museums
Bisa Butler: Portraits Art Institute of Chicago
November 16

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories