The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

87° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Fleshed Out

    Jason Pedersen, a tattoo artist at 4Forty4 Tattoo, explains his goal to use his illustration skills in his tattooing, during an interview Thursday. Pedersen also works as a freelance illustrator and is mostly known for his tattoos of comic book characters. For an example of his work, see page 6, photo number 2.

    Human skin is another canvas on which Jason Pedersen can create art.

    But unlike other tattoo artists, the soft-spoken 31 year old has been bringing iconic comic book characters to life on his customers at 4Forty4 Tattoo on Fourth Avenue.

    Pedersen’s work started catching the eyes of Tucsonans and UA students after he donated a tattoo to the comic book store Heroes and Villains three years ago for its annual charity auction.

    “”I always like helping people out. So when it came around again, I was trying to think about different things I could donate. I’ve got all kinds of junk laying about like most people who like comic books and toys and whatnot,”” Pedersen said, laughing. “”But I wanted to do something that was a little different and, honestly, self-promote myself as well. So I offered up a tattoo.””

    Heroes and Villains owner Mike Camp accepted the offer. After some discussion, Pedersen and Camp set down some guidelines for the tattoo. It had to be related to comic books or pop culture and, given the family-friendly nature of the store, the tattoo couldn’t be deemed inappropriate by either Pedersen or Camp.

    Since 2007, Pedersen has been donating a tattoo that normally costs $800 to the annual auction. According to Camp, winning bids have ranged from $150 to $450.

    Portrait of a tattoo artist as a young man

    Pedersen didn’t initially set out to be a tattoo artist. He wanted to be an artist like Frank Frazetta, who was known for his fantasy and science fiction paintings. When he was 13, Pedersen used his first earnings from mowing lawns to buy a card with Frazetta’s artwork.

    He continues to draw inspiration from Frazetta’s work to this day. One of Pedersen’s own tattoos is based on Frazetta’s painting “”Birdman.””

    “”This one I actually did on myself,”” Pedersen said. “”This is the piece that inspired me to get into doing art and actually take it seriously, aside from doing doodles in social studies.””

    Pedersen’s lifelong fascination with history, dinosaurs, myth and science shows through in his art. Another of Pedersen’s personal tattoos is the Fibonacci spiral, a drawing that illustrates the relationship between the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio.

    Pedersen attended New York City’s School of Visual Arts beginning in 1997 and graduated in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in illustration. For the next five years, he worked as a freelance illustrator, taking on whatever assignments and clients he could find, which included New York Paleontological Society, CrossGen Comics, Interworld Pictures and AuthorHouse books.

    Pedersen eventually decided that he needed to find a job that would allow him to continue making art while providing a steady income. He chose to be a tattoo artist four years ago. Tattoo artists traditionally complete an apprenticeship at a shop before they can begin working on their own. Would-be tattoo artists sometimes pay for their apprenticeships.

    “”I asked my mom for the money. She said, ‘Absolutely not. I am not going to let you do that because all it’s filled with are bikers and druggies,'”” Pedersen said, laughing. “”She’s like, ‘I’m not going to let you degrade your art that way.'””

    “”I did it anyway and now she’s one of my biggest supporters. She carries my business cards everywhere she goes. I’ve tattooed one of my brothers,”” he said. “”So yeah, my family is really supportive.””

    Clovers and shields

    I interviewed Pedersen on Thursday night, a few days before Valentine’s Day. I asked him if he had any couples scheduled for the holiday.

    “”Valentine’s Day is one of those days that you don’t get a whole lot of tattoos. I tend to discourage people from getting names, unless it’s ‘mom’ or ‘dad.’ Tattoos are permanent, relationships are not,”” Pedersen said, laughing. “”Oddly enough, probably the most popular holiday for doing tattoos is either St. Patrick’s Day or Mother’s Day. I do a lot of clovers in March.””

    Pedersen said one of his customers wants to get a tattoo of Captain America’s shield on his back.

    “”I’m trying to talk him into doing it full-sized and doing a reflection of the Avengers in it, or maybe a reflection of the Red Skull,”” Pedersen said.

    “”If I wasn’t so hardcore DC (Comics), I would probably get that,”” said Matt Soto, 23. Soto was wearing a bright-red, short-sleeved Toys “”R”” Us shirt. Opposite the company name is a logo patch for the DC Comics character Robin, which is placed over his heart. A patch for Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters from Marvel’s X-Men covers his right sleeve.

    Soto is one of Pedersen’s clients who later became a friend. While Pedersen loves Marvel’s comic books, Soto is a DC fan.

    “”I actually have the DC logo tattooed on me. It’s how much I love DC,”” Soto said, laughing.

    The two met about three years ago while Soto was waiting to get a piercing.

    “”A lot of times you would have to wait for other people to get finished and I’d be meandering around the shop. His office looked pretty much like all his artwork is around,”” Soto said.

    “”It was covered in action figures,”” Pedersen said, laughing.

    Soto started chatting with Pedersen and, after checking out Pedersen’s portfolio, Soto commissioned an Iron Giant tattoo on his right calf. Since then, Soto has had Pedersen tattoo DC Comics characters Superman, Captain Marvel and Magog on his forearms. The good guys are on his right forearm while the bad guys cover his left forearm. Soto plans to get Aquaman next.

    “”My philosophy is that tattoo artists are the same as doctors or mechanics. Once you find a good one, you stick with them,”” Soto said.

    Even though he is currently focused on becoming a better tattoo artist, Pedersen said he eventually wants to split his time between illustration and tattooing in order to be comfortable doing both.

    “”That’s the route I want to take with my tattooing, basically, bring illustration to tattooing and not do typical tattoos,”” Pedersen said.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search