There aren’t many tattoo enthusiasts who don’t know the name Joshua Carlton. Joshua’s been tattooing for over 20 years and has been hailed as one of the most innovative artists, constantly pushing the envelope to raise tattoo quality to new heights. Evidence of Joshua’s advancements can be seen, not only in his own art but also in the art of many fellow artists whom he has worked with and shared his techniques.
But there’s a lot more to Joshua Carlton than just being an amazing tattoo artist. He’s also a devoted family man, musician, photographer, published author, accomplished painter (and he teaches painting classes as well), and successful entrepreneur, building some of the most popular tattoo machines and creating one of the most widely used tattoo pigments, Alla Prima. I don’t think anyone could accuse Joshua of not living his life to the fullest, and yet he retains a humble disposition that has earned him many friends and fans over the years.
Believe it or not, Joshua didn’t take tattooing seriously in the beginning. His first job as a tattoo artist was at one of Steve Haworth’s shops where they only did custom work. Joshua was fired from that shop after turning away too many large jobs. Obviously, his attitude toward tattooing changed drastically since then, and Joshua attributes much of that change to the artists who inspired him: Jack Rudy, Brian Everett, and Robert Hernandez to name only a few.
Joshua’s style is so unique, it’s difficult to put a name to it, even for him. He has described it as “realism combined with surrealism,” which seems to be pretty accurate. Although he does a good amount of replication and portrait work, he always adds his own spin on the original design that makes it a truly original piece.
In the past, some of the old school tattooers criticized Joshua, claiming that his realistic style (soft edges and blended coloring) wouldn’t stand the test of time. Now, many of those same critics are eating their words and have even bought Joshua’s book to learn the very techniques they once disparaged.