Matthew Brown is a tattoo artist working out of Salem, New Hampshire who’s been producing absolutely beautiful black and grey work for quite some time now. I got the chance to do an interview with him below, and am confident that you guys will enjoy the read.
I’ve been following for quite awhile but man I’m just stalking your IG right now and truly blown away by your work. You obviously have tons of fans but I still feel like you’re heavily underrated (not that the numbers really matter at all of course). When did you first step onto the tattoo scene and really start taking it serious?
Man!! Thank you so much! I’ve never really had a follower burst… it’s always just been a slowly growing thing for me. I do catch myself with some slight follower envy here and there though! I did my first tattoo in 2008 with some encouragement from friends and I quit my “real person job” (for the second time to pursue tattooing) in December of 2011… seems to be working so far!
When was the first time you created a piece and really surprised yourself with the quality level of the piece? (a photo would be awesome if convenient at all but if not no sweat). Describe the moment.
Oh man, I’ll never forget it…I was at the Live Free or Die Tattoo Expo up here in New Hampshire in 2014. I tattooed Todd, a local collector, with this skull/lady/rose piece. It was the first time I did a tattoo that I was actually jealous it wasn’t on me! I still love that piece all these years later. I snagged a screenshot of it from my instagram and attached it!
Were there any people in particular who you most respected/admired as you came into this industry or even now?
Chad Chase was my first tattoo hero! I got the opportunity to work with him at his shop for years. I learned a ton from that guy between working side by side with him and even from sending him tattoos to critique before I worked with him. Tyler Malek has always been a mentor to me as well. I used to facetime with him and everyone at his shop for hours on end just to hang out when I was working in Maine..probably like 2012. Those guys have helped me so much over the years and I am lucky enough to have worked with both of them and become very close friends. I have always been inspired heavily by Josh Duffy, Jason Butcher, Luke Palan, Victor Portugal, Jesse Rix, Big Meas, Ryan Evans, Carlos Torres and probably many others that I just can’t think of right now! So many legends!!
What’s your ideal client, and what’s the funniest/most bizarre/most difficult experience you’ve had with any client so far?
My ideal client has done their research and knows my work and trusts the process. Being flexible with ideas and my interpretations is super key for me. I love creating something tailored to someone’s ideas that will hopefully blow some minds!!
Most difficult experience… oh man hahaha I had this girl in the shop once, I was tattooing her mid back.. she sobbed/cried for probably 3 hours (the entire time I tattooed her) while her boyfriend looked over her shoulder down her back at me tattooing and breathing his dog shit breath in my face the whole time. Hahahaha makes me laugh to think about now but I remember questioning my life choices at the time.
Any artist you’d most like to swap tattoo for tattoo with?
Probably the hardest question to answer!!! I love so many artists and wish I could get tattooed by all of them!! If I had to choose just one, I would probably say Jason Butcher. I have wanted a tattoo from him for 8 years probably. His work had such a huge impact on my style development. I have always admired his ability to create something unique for everything he does despite similar subject matter in each piece . I would probably puke before it was my turn to tattoo him tho. I had the opportunity to tattoo both Chad Chase and Tyler Malek… and man oh man.. those nerves get you big time when you are about to tattoo people you’ve looked up to for so long. I’ll still get those jitters every time.
What three things have been most beneficial to your growth and development as a tattooer?
I would say conventions, clients, and instagram. Conventions bring the industry together and always fuel the fire and boost creativity. We are lucky that we can be around that many like-minded individuals and feed off of that energy. It can also be incredibly humbling and confidence boosting at the same time. Conventions have always done great things for me.
Clients are an obvious piece of the puzzle in my opinion. Without the trust and willingness of my clients (or without clients in general) it would be extremely difficult to grow and develop as an artist…let alone find your own style. Plus, they fund this lifestyle!! Instagram to me is a constant inspiration. I look at hundreds of tattoos EVERY FUCKING DAY. There are so many incredible artists in the world and the bar is being set higher every day. Instagram gives us a platform to show that and to find it at the same time. It can get you in the creative mind set before designing your own tattoo for the day just by checking out some of your favorite artists latest works. It can dig you out of artist block. Boost confidence from the support of artists and followers. Connect you with potential clients. We are pretty lucky to have such a platform in my opinion.
Trying my best to keep it positive lately, but any lighthearted pet peeves in the industry right now?
I honestly can’t think of one!! I try not to let much bother me . I’ve got too much going on to let someone else’s shit take up space. Ya know??
Biggest changes you’ve seen in the tattoo world/community from the time you first entered it up until right now?
Oh man the changes are crazy!! When I first started tattooing, Myspace was the shit! Facebook was a thing but it hadn’t really been heavily utilized yet. And I don’t even think instagram existed. Social media has changed the industry single handedly in my time thus far. So much access compared to when the only way to hear of an artist or see their work was word of mouth, conventions, or straight up walking in to their shop to flip through the book.
Also, the creativity of clients, what they are willing to spend, and how far they are willing to travel has skyrocketed. Not sure if its from us tattooers being able to create such an incredible range of artwork from traditional to realism and everything in between?? People still get tribal tho. I think there will always be a bro somewhere dreaming of his new tribal sleeve.
Favorite subject matter to tattoo lately? Anything you’re a lil burnt out on?
I just can never get enough roses and lady faces, man. I have had a ton of variety in my schedule lately tho so it makes those days extra fun!
I really try my best to find new ways to do similar subject matter so I don’t get burnt out on stuff. It’s always a challenge tho because clients see us doing certain things that we do well and they want a similar piece for themselves. I can’t blame them for that at all! However, I got real burnt out on the whole ship being attacked by a kraken thing a couple years ago. Even now, when that gets requested I redirect them to another artist. I just feel like I used up all my creativity in that department for now at least.
Sometimes there comes a point when you can no longer out-design yourself. That to me is the time that you need to stop doing a certain piece for a while until your vision changes. That could take months or even years… or maybe you just never do that shit again. Who knows! Either way, I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to make those decisions for myself… I know there are lots of artists that don’t have that choice.
Changes you predict/hope to see in the industry over the next one to three to five years?
All I hope to see is that we all continue to progress and the artwork being produced just gets crazier and crazier! ! And I also selfishly hope that I can keep the fuck up!! Seems like every day there is someone new coming out of the woodwork with incredible talent.
The challenge for all of us over the next hand full of years is to stay relevant and continue to learn so we don’t get left in the dust of the new artists, their styles, and capabilities.
Hardest lesson you’ve learned thus far on your journey as a tattooer?
I would say the hardest lesson that I’ve learned is that I can’t satisfy everyone 100% of the time. No matter what, there’s always someone that doesn’t like the pricing, doesn’t like the wait time, doesn’t like that I directed them to another artist for their particular idea, doesn’t like that they didn’t get into the schedule for the month they wanted, doesn’t like that I won’t send them a design 3 weeks before their appointment, doesn’t like that they can’t just come talk to me at the shop whenever they want, or whatever their problem happens to be.
Naturally, we don’t want anyone to dislike any part of our process… but the reality is that it’s just not possible to be busy and operate in a way that everyone is satisfied. So it has always been a challenge to tailor my business to how I work best and stay sane… rather than doing things the way that all of my clients and potential clients think I should do them.
Most rewarding part of being a tattooist?
This life is crazy man!! I get to create art, listen to music, hang out with my friends, meet incredible people, hear incredible stories, travel… and I get paid to do it. It really is a dream come true. I’m one fuckin’ lucky dude. Not to mention, some people dream to get these tattoos for years… and when they spend their hard earned money, sit for all those hours, and show that shit off to all their friends and family (or just keep it to themselves)… that’s pretty special if you ask me. Hard work has paid off for me… and I will continue to put in the work and push myself to be better than yesterday.
Thanks for the time Matthew! Follow him and check out more of this talented artists work @matthewbrownartwork