by William Thidemann
Photos courtesy of Dan Martin and Scorpion Studios
From the July 2007 issue of PRICK Magazine.

So who is Dan Martin? He has a name that rings a familiar tune to people who know tattoos. He has been a longstanding presence at Scorpion Studios in Houston, Tex. as both artist and owner. He also travels to conventions while maintaining his position at home as a father. Taking all of this into consideration, it is amazing that he has any time at all for interviews or anything else for that matter. I've known Dan for many years now, and it is evident what kind of a dedicated artist he is. So, without further ado, here he is:

Thidemann: So, how long have you been tattooing?

Martin: It'll be thirteen years coming up in July.

Have you been in Houston the whole time or did you move around? Where did you get your start?

I got my start here in Houston, and Scorpion Studios is the third shop that I've been employed by. I've been here nine years, and before I bought the shop I had only been tattooing for four years.

Did you travel around? Did you get an apprenticeship? How did you get into it?

Matt, the owner of Scorpion at the time, wasn't the original owner. Richard Stell started Scorpion Studios and his apprentice was Matt Wojciechowski. Matt was going to take me on as an apprentice. At the same time, he also took on another apprentice, and I guess he was just waiting to see who would pan out.The other kid was pretty much a trust fund baby and didn't really have a job or anything. He would spend every waking moment up there and I had to make ends meet by working at Whole Foods. After a while he let me go, because I had a little conflict with one of his artists. I basically went down the street and started another apprenticeship. This guy showed me the basic basics, you know, how to put the needle in the tube kind of thing. It was very, very self-taught.

All the basics, the rudimentary stuff?

Yeah, he was using plastic tubes and stuff like that. All I had for making needles was a piece of pipe with holes drilled into it. When you ran out of threes you would start using fives even if you needed a tight line, you know, stuff like that. Ultimately, that's how I got fired. I sent somebody somewhere else because I didn't have anything to work with.They wanted this little, five-line eagle and all I had was an eight round.There was no way I could do it.

How did you end up back at Scorpion Studios?

Following my second apprenticeship, I worked at Fine Line Tattoo for a year and then Matt looked me up again and said, "Hey, are you still tattooing? I've seen your stuff around and it looks good. Come back and work for me." By that point I had gotten my foot in the door.

And then Matt sold the shop to you after a couple years?

Yeah, it was really unexpected. He just called me out of the blue one day and said, "Wanna buy the shop?" He wasn't coming around; he was missing appointments and had some personal business to tend to.

Did you have any formal art training?

Yeah, I came to Houston to go to the Art Institute. I wanted to be an illustrator and they said, "You don't draw well enough. You should go into computers. So I did graphic design for six years, took a couple community college art classes, and still graduated from the Art Institute with a degree in graphic design.

Who are some of your influences?

In the past, I was really influenced by Marcus Pacheco. I liked the way he worked with figures; he's such an innovator. I've got a half sleeve by him and I'm very proud to look at it. I'm still blown away by his stuff. Because of him I went more towards the new school type stuff. Now, I'm kind of into Japanese a little bit. Im getting away from multiple light sources and learning how to flatten stuff out. I've always been a big fan of Timothy Hoyer as well.

You're a family man now. How does that relate to being a tattoo artist?

I turned 30, bought a shop, and had a baby all in the same year. Everything was basically okay. My family fuels my desire to be good at what I do. The more I can push myself, the more it is going to affect them positively in the long run. Without them, I don't think I would have been nearly as motivated. I would have been out partying and doing a bunch of that stuff.When you have a family, you tell yourself, "Oh, the kids are in bed. What am I going to do now?" I'm going to draw and try to get better.

What are your plans for the future? Staying in Houston for a while?

Yeah. I've got family here, extended as well as immediate. Right now I'm working with the most talented people I've ever worked with and I've got a really good crew; they all inspire me so much. It's like they light a fire under my ass. I see stuff they're doing daily and I think, "Oh man, I better get back to the drawing table." As long as that's going on, I have no desire to go anywhere else. Maybe someday I'd like to have another shop, but that might be too much homework and it would be more like big business and that's not really what I want. I like everything being somewhat small; it affords me the ability to focus on the art, which is what it's really all about for me.

Do you want to throw down some final comments?

I just try to keep my nose to the grindstone. It's my main thing.

Dan Martin
Scorpion Studios
1401 Westheimer
Houston,Texas 77006
(713) 528-7904

For more information go to www.scorpionstudiostattoo.com.

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