Many years ago, your good pal Alex walked into Four Star Tattoos and met artist Jeffrey Pitt. What began as a first tattoo ever (a simple skull) blossomed into a glorious years-long relationship of artwork and friendship and hugs. Just kidding. But there were many tattoos. Pitt now works for Dawn Purnell at Dawn's Custom Tattoo, and since this is, after all, a big fat tattoo issue (see cover story), it seemed wise to say hey to Pitt and ask him about 'toos and stuff.
How long have you been professionally tattooing?
I've been a professional tattooer for just shy of 16 years. I went to Maryland Institute College of Art. It was four years that I studied illustration and graphic design. I was the kid who if any of my friends needed something drawn—a T-shirt or a sticker or a flyer for a punk rock show—they were like, 'Jeff's gotta draw this up for us.' I was that guy. And then as we got older, it turned into 'Jeff's gotta draw this tattoo design.' There was a long period of time when I was drawing tattoo designs for friends, and it still hadn't dawned on me that it was something I'd be into because I didn't have any tattoos. Actually, that's not true, I got one tattoo when I was 18. It just kind of went from there. I was definitely that kid who was the art kid out of all of us. I was the kid who drew well.
When you were doing these T-shirts and stickers and things ... I'm picturing very graphic.
I was way into skateboard culture, I loved the skateboard graphics. You'll hear that a lot with tattooers, especially ones around my age. I was into anything to do with skating; anything to do with graphics.
So you were designing these tattoos for friends, were you thinking 'I should just do this?'
I was the last one to [get tattooed] out of my little circle of friends. Getting tattooed in the '80s and '90s was different than it is now. It was less visible. There's a part of me that remembers when people saw heavily tattooed people, they thought they were psychopaths. It's a different day. It wasn't till I moved here around '98 that I started getting tattooed regularly, by Dawn [Purnell], and that was kind of when I realized it was something I could do or would like to do.