On an overcast Monday, I had the pleasure of having a coffee, a croissant and a nice conversation with May’s featured tattoo artist, Shawn Dubin, of Moo Tattoo on South Street. Shawn was “introduced” to me (I put it in quotes because it was via internet. I thought of all kinds of corny words like “inter-met” that betrayed my geekiness but figured quotation marks would do) by a wonderful artist and mutual friend of ours, aaronwexler.com. Shawn and Aaron grew up together, doing artwork and having fun with a group of friends in the Overbrook Park area of the city. Aaron would say later that Shawn was the most naturally skilled, artistically. Shawn attended the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Philadelphia. He was accepted to a bunch of art schools, including SVA, which was his first choice. Alas, his parents vetoed that and Shawn headed to University of the Arts. Bored with the Fundamentals work of the first year, as he had been doing the same coursework for the previous two years in high school, Shawn ended his studies at UArts after a few months. He worked at Tower Records on South Street, and a friend began to teach him to tattoo. When the friend needed to replace a tattoo artist at his shop who’d been fired, Shawn was his first call and the rest, as they say, is history.
Shawn started out doing letters and Chinese characters. As he already understood the fundamentals of art, it did not take long before he was working on what he enjoys most today: illustrative tattoos. Shawn says that he doesn’t prefer working in either color or black and gray better, but that he does prefer to do the illustrative work. He enjoys doing the line work, figuring out where shading and lines can go to make the eye sees what it needs to see without muddying up the tattoo with too many teeny lines or superfluous stuff. When you look at his tattoos, you can pick them out as his. They have a whimsical quality, even though they might be dark (in subject matter, not tone). There’s something very unique about the designs, the linework and the subjects. I love the skeleton mom and dad dancing on their suburban street in front of the nuclear explosion, but not more than the heart hive and the pink haired girl. I’ve spent more than a few hours admiring his tattoos.
For the tattoos that Shawn wears himself, when I asked him if there was any overriding theme to them, he said that they all corresponded to important events in his life. He has a tattoo that he got when he finished a book he was illustrating, for example, and a tattoo for his mother that he got when she passed away.
Shawn isn’t just a tattoo artist, though. He was on a site called artconspiracy.com, before the days of DeviantArt.com and from there, hooked up with a few authors, for whom he’s illustrated books. All he had to hear was the author’s idea – “It’s a devil girl and a skeleton boy, and they’re both in high school” and he knew that was a project he would do. He’s also written and illustrated books of his own. Shawn’s an avid comic guy, too. When I confessed my recent foray into the world of teenager books, instead of laughing at me, he admitted to reading comic books. He’s currently got one in the works, too. He’s done the illustrations, and the writing has been a collaboration. I’d keep my eye out for it if I were you – this guy is really a masterful artist, and I’m sure that the comic will not disappoint. Check out some of his other comic style work at notgreencheese.com
Shawn has a soft voice and a kind way about him. I bet that the minute you sit down to meet him and talk about the artwork you want, he puts you immediately at ease. He has a quick laugh, a wry smile and a witty sense of humor but not at anyone else’s expense. He is easy to talk to, and you get the sense that you are in the presence of someone who is happy in his own skin.
If you are looking for a unique, illustrative tattoo, Shawn Dubin of Moo Tattoo is your guy. Moo is at 513 South Street in Philadelphia and their phone number is (215) 521-1490. Some examples of Shawn’s work are shown below. Don’t forget to check out his website too at www.shawndubin.com.