Tim Pangburn would have every reason to be cocky: a solid reputation not only for his jaw dropping new school tattoos but also as one of the best coverup guys in Philadelphia, a new, beautiful 2700-square foot studio for Art Machine Productions in Fishtown, and owning a tattoo shop with some of the most talented guys (and soon, girl, too!) in the area, but he’s not. In fact, when I asked him a question about the ‘tattoo empire’ he seems to be building, he said that he’s been humbled by it, an answer that I truly wasn’t expecting. But then, I didn’t know Tim Pangburn when I was thinking up the questions.
Tim tells a story that he’s heard from his mom many times that when he was three years old, he came to her, with a worried look on his face and said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do to make money when I grow up”. When he was a little older than this, he wanted to draw comic books; he had sketchbooks filled with his drawings. Art school wasn’t really in the cards for him, though. He figured it out when he was 19, apprenticing at a shop that told him that if he had the money to buy his own equipment, they’d have him. His mentor was fired, but they kept Tim on. During this apprenticeship, his father went back to school himself, making a huge career change and also becoming a Buddhist minister. Tim’s father is a huge influence in his life and is the first person he goes to when he needs advice.
According to Tim, he’s needed his dad’s advice a fair bit over the last few years, as he’s undergone some drastic personal changes: going through a divorce, building his business. He took on a lot, because he is someone who is incredibly goal oriented, setting the next goal and planning the next endeavor before he’s even finished the previous one. Although he felt as though his life was turned upside down, he came out of it positive; the eye-opening awakening and the feeling of a fog being lifted caused him to grow a lot. And, he’s someone who’s always put pressure on himself to grow, even at age three. So, the success now is sweet, because the journey broke his ideas of who and what he was, he had to swallow his pride in some ways to get where he was going, and it caused him to be a more accepting person. He’s zen about a lot of things now.
To hear him tell it, though, at least in his artwork, it’s natural for him to be zen. When I asked him about his process for his famous coverups, he explained that it isn’t really like the process that a tattooer normally goes through, the normal stages that take him from drawing, choosing color palette, and finally to the finished product. No, with a coverup, he says that he doesn’t always know what the outcome is going to be. Early on, the process was a bit of trial and error to see how he could get rid of the elements of the old tattoo, and that even today, he is still figuring it out and progressing. But since a coverup isn’t as linear as the tattoo process normally is, he just goes with it and sees where it will take him. Not surprisingly, he enjoys this.
When he isn’t working on coverups, the tattoos that he enjoys making are of an illustrated nature. The depth of field is determined by line weight, revealing those comic book roots a bit, and possibly giving a nod to who he cites as his two biggest drawing influences: Ren + Stimpy and Bill Plimpton. He’s very serious about his work, but he likes his work a little silly. He’s able to work in many styles, but there’s a definite style to his tattooing, in the color palette, the textures, the humor in the pieces. He’s been told that it’s easy to pick his work out as his by more than a few people who appreciate his style. He’s flattered to hear it even if it’s hard for him to accept such a heavy compliment.
it’s definitely no surpise that he likes to inject some humor into his artwork; this is a guy who loves to talk aliens, who thinks that the best tv character from the 80s is Liono from Thundercats with Mr. Belvedere being a close second, and who wrote a letter to the network when they cancelled I Married Dora. He’s also a fairly pensive individual. So much so that I just got an email from him today, answering a question I asked him 2 days ago that he needed to ponder. The question was, “What is something that everyone should know about you?”, and while I’d already finished writing this piece when I got his answer, I appreciated him mulling the question over, so, I wanted to add his response. He didn’t say that he had the answer, mind you. He said, he thought he had the answer, which follows here: “The one thing people need to know about me is that I am exactly like everyone else. I spend my life pursuing happiness, just like everyone. Sometimes we can’t always see people’s motives and we can’t understand their actions, but the human experience is a rich tapestry and no one has the ability to see through other’s eyes. People should remember that before they make assumptions or pass judgements.” So, when you go to get your next piece of artwork from Tim Pangburn, I’m sure you’ll have a lot to talk about. I think he’d like that.
Tim can be reached at his studio, Art Machine Productions, 1345 Frankford Avenue, at 267.239.2724.You can check out more of his work at www.artmachinephilly.com.