By Victoria Hart Glavin
Special to The New Citizens Press from XPOZ Magazine
Born and raised in the city of angels, Mark Machado AKA Mr. Cartoon has become the most sought after tattoo artist by those in the music industry. Everyone in Mr. Cartoon’s neighborhood had a nickname so he was dubbed Cartoon as it both matched his personality and the fact that he lived and breathed art. Mr. Cartoon had been drawing his whole life. As a kid he was paid for his art and at the age of 16 he was known in all of Southern California for his work on low-rider murals.
Tattooing came out of his talent for artwork. It was just something that he grew into. Mr. Cartoon began tattooing the homemade way. He gave his friends tattoos, but he knew the importance of using professional equipment.
Mr. Cartoon started giving tattoos in his kitchen and eventually made his way into a professional tattoo shop called “Spotlight” on Melrose in 1993. He now owns and operates his own studio that is at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles. Since Mr. Cartoon is in such high demand his shop is not a “drop in” type of place. One has to make an appointment in advance, which often times takes months to get. Cartoon’s tattoo style is known as “Fine Line Tattooing.” Fine line tattooing was invented in Southern California and perfected in the prison system. Black and gray fine line was popularized on the streets of East LA at places like “Goodtime Charlie’s” and “The Long Beach Pike.” Artists like Jack Rudy, Bob Roberts, Baby Ray, Freddie Negrete and Mark Mahoney perfected the fine line art.
Mr. Cartoon hung out at the tattoo shop, got tattooed, drew patterns and studied the technical aspects of tattooing. It takes years for an artist to truly understand the skin and the machines of the trade, but Cartoon was dedicated and in love with the art form. As Mr. Cartoon puts it, “You gotta have focus and action behind your words.” There are no truer words and it is a beautiful thing indeed that Cartoon dedicated his life to immersing himself into the tattooing craft. He learned so much from getting tattooed. The tattoo artist, Gil Monte, put the first professional tattoo machine in his hand one night. The image burned in his mind was what truly started Mr. Cartoon’s career. He had practiced with a homemade tattoo machine on his friend, but the thought of using a professional machine brought it to a whole new level. That is when Cartoon bought his first professional machine at “Pike” in Long Beach.
“Skin is the only canvas that bleeds, moves, and talks shit. Art directs the art director,” proclaims Mr. Cartoon.
The details of Cartoon’s tattoos are so intricate they nearly resemble photos. He likes to combine “good and evil,” “vicious and vulnerable” in his tattoos. A smiling clown who holds a smoking gun is one example of his “good and evil” style. Much of the lettering that he uses is an Old English Gothic style, which in Chicano street culture symbolizes both credibility and authority. Cartoon’s style is taking the classic low-rider icons and putting his twist on it. He likes symbols that don’t go out of style. Tattoos like clowns, girls, street life and religious icons are staples in his portfolio.
Mr. Cartoon is sought after among high profile rap artists and celebrities. He doesn’t limit himself to just working on the stars – he tattoos street homies, local rappers and even his UPS delivery guy. Cartoon is immensely proud of his work, and he gives equal care and time to all his clients.
The first famous people Mr. Cartoon tattooed were Cypress Hill. Cypress Hill would go out on tour, do shows and show off their tats. At that point Eminem walked into Cartoon’s studio and wanted his daughter Haley’s picture tattooed on his arm. Eminem felt that it was a sort of dedication to what he felt was the greatest part of his life. With Eminem flashing Mr. Cartoon tats all over magazine covers it launched Cartoon’s own fame and demand in a major way.
The list of artists that sport Mr. Cartoon tattoos includes Eminem, 50 Cent, Beyonce, Dr. Dre, Lloyd Banks, Mobb Deep, Cypress Hill, Method Man, Fat Joe, Kanye West, Nas, Gip (Goodie Mob), Proof (D12), C-Lo (Goodie Mob), Xzibit, Redman, DJ Premiere, Guru, Travis Barker (Blink 182), Fat Joe, Psycho Les (Beatnuts), Pharrell Williams (The Neptunes), Justin Timberlake, Big Boi (Outcast), Benny Boom (video director), Joy Bryant (actress), Bow Wow, Mark Hoppus (Blink 182), Rob Aston (The Transplants), Slash, DJ Whoo Kid (G-Unit), Bizarre (D12), B-Real (Cypress Hill), Loon, Obie Trice, Limp Bizkit, Infamous Mobb, Meeno, Treach and Sir Jinx.
Cartoon is a big fan of the artists he tattoos. He listens to their music and he looks at it as an honor that people wear his tats for their entire lives. These clients want black and white tattoos instead of color. About half of them know exactly what they want and the other half just knows they want a tattoo. Cartoon needs a few guidelines and needs to know what reflects a client’s life so he can help them choose an image. So far the most tattoo work Mr. Cartoon has done on a client is on Travis from Blink 182. But the most interesting client he has worked on is David Banner. Banner prayed before and after getting his tattoo.
Although Cartoon’s true love is tattooing, he has been involved in numerous projects. Magazine illustrations, album covers, backdrops for music videos, TV shows, logos and the trunks of low riders are among some of what Mr. Cartoon has done. He has also developed a line of temporary tattoos and stickers. His illustrations can be seen on CD covers like Tony Touch’s “The Rican-Struction EP,” MC Ren’s “Kizz My Black Azz,” Above the Law’s “Black Mafia Life,” Hi C’s “Sittin in the Park,” Kid Frost’s “Eastside Story,” Old School Jam’s “Vol 1,” Cypress Hill’s “Los Grandes Exitos en Espanol,” “Skull and Bones” and “Stoned Raider,” Big Red’s “Big Redemtion,” DJ Muggs “1200 Squal,” Penthouse Player’s self titled CD. Mr. Cartoon also developed the logo design for The Psycho Realm.
Cartoon was commissioned to apply his design work to Joe Ray’s 1979 Lincoln Continental “ Las Vegas ” (Two time Low-rider of the Year), Larry Flynt’s Limousine and Oscar De La Hoya’s Chevy truck. He did the artwork on the low-rider Scion truck that is currently touring at auto shows. Mr. Cartoon is also a member of the select family of artists known as Soul Assassins. His artwork has been exhibited at the Rocket Gallery in Japan, George’s Gallery in Los Angeles and The Rico Gallery in Santa Monica.
If this isn’t enough, Mr. Cartoon, with long time friend and photographer, Estevan “Scandalous” Oriol, has expanded his empire to include a clothing label called Joker Brand. Joker Brand is a company that reflects his lifestyle. Cartoon and Scandalous feed off of each other’s artistic ideas and business ideas. Joker Brand is about focusing on fashion trends and lifestyle. Keeping it real and breaking barriers is what Mr. Cartoon is about.
Through perseverance, vision, hard work and dedication it is hard tellin’ what Cartoon will come up with next! In the words of Mr. Cartoon, “Good lookin’, be cool and stay up …ToON$.”