J.R Tubbs Interview
Interview by Shane Cashman (http://www.futureancestor.tumblr.com)
At the 2011 Roc City Tattoo Expo I had the pleasure of meeting JR Tubbs aka Kernal Tubbs. He tattoos out of FX Tattoo in Ashtabula, Ohio. I was lucky enough to get two sweet tattoos from him as well as this interview. JR is a great artist, so if you’re ever around Ashtabula, Ohio or near any of the places he travels to tattoo, definitely hit him up for some good old-fashioned clean tattoos.
Shane - How long have you been tattooing? Did you do a formal apprenticeship?
Tubbs- I have been tattooing for 6 years now. I learned how to tattoo by a fella named Anthony Adkins. One hell of a guy.
Shane - What drew you to the American traditional tattoo style?
Tubbs - There is just something about a nice clean old school (real old school) tattoo.
I have always been the kind of guy that would rather hang out with the old timers they always had the better stories and life lessons. A nice old time tattoo is pretty much the same thing it’s one of those things that can’t be called a fad because it’s never left and come back it just has always been.
Shane - What is Ashtabula like?
Tubbs - You mean Ashtabeautiful ... It’s a cool lil town right between Erie, PA and Cleveland, right on Lake Erie. It’s never been real big in the tattoo scene, actually it never even really had one but I’ll tell you what, the kids around here are into getting some really cool stuff tattooed on them.
Shane - What made you decide to use the name Kernal Tubbs?
Tubbs - The name Kernal Tubbs came from my good friend Krooked Ken. Never really knew why but I like it. I felt honored for him to provide me a nickname, kinda like earning a badge, ya know?
Shane - What artists (tattoo or not) inspire you?
Tubbs - Man, there are too many to name. Hell most of them have passed on. I try to draw a lot of inspiration from old post cards or war posters or damn near anything like that. I’m the guy that will take a beautiful Gil Elvgren pin up, slap a bold ass outline and some heavy black shading on it and call it a tattoo.
Shane - What are some of your favorite pieces of flash from your collection? Do you have any tattoo memorabilia?
Tubbs - I have some lil things, like old acetates and photos and stencil powders and stuff like that. I would say my favorite piece of flash would be a lil 81/2 x 11 sheet from my pal lowercase j.
Shane - What piece of flash would you like to tattoo that no one has asked for yet?
Tubbs - I have a print of some Percy Waters stuff and on one sheet are two naked gals playin leapfrog. I want to do that tattoo so damn bad.
Shane - How many times have you done the Roc City Expo?
Tubbs - This was my second year doing roc city
Shane - You shared a booth with your pal, Krooked Ken at Roc City, how did you guys meet?
Tubbs - I met Krooked at the Philly show in 2008 but before that I have looked up to him since I started tattooing and after meeting him I knew I had to work with this guy. Through my eyes he was the best of the best so I hit him up on Myspace (back when my pace was cool) and asked if I could go out to his shop and work. He sent me some dates and next thing I knew I was plannin a trip to Maryland. I didn’t even care if I did one tattoo I just wanted to watch him tattoo. I learned more in one weekend than I had in one year.
A lil side note… before I went out there I told the guys “what if I become friends with Krooked fuckin Ken” and they all kinda laughed at me haha. But now he’s not only a mentor to me but a very dear friend in fact every convention I work is right beside him… what a guy.
Shane - You said you travel about 4 times a year to tattoo, where do you usually visit?
Tubbs - I do Pittsburgh, Roc City and Allentown. The fourth is always kind of left in the air but I always do those main three.
Shane - What do you look to gain from working tattoo conventions?
Tubbs - The meeting of new friends and the gathering of old friends. I have met some of the best people at conventions. The money never hurts either.
Shane - Besides tattooing do you work in any other mediums?
Tubbs - I try to paint on anything that will hold still long enough. I don’t get real fancy but if I can paint a tattoo on a wooden door or table that makes me pretty damn happy.
Shane - What kinds of jobs were able to tattoo full time what were you doing?
Tubbs - I have had a ton of jobs from working in a medical factory to trimming Christmas trees
Shane - What types of music are you listening to while you tattoo?
Tubbs - I’m way into old county, bluegrass, and blues you can’t come into my shop without hearing some good ol Ralph Stanley.
Shane - Have you ever had anyone try to barter something really odd for a tattoo?
Tubbs - Oh man it happens all the time. I think some people would sell their soul for a tattoo. I once tattooed a ship on a guy’s back for a baby blue moped for my wife. That was a good trade.
Shane - What’s your opinion of the tattoo reality shows saturating television these days? Good/bad?
Tubbs - I always try to be a glass half full kinda guy but on this topic it ain’t lookin good. These shows could be so helpful and educating if they would just do the right thing and get a damn tattooer (a real hard working tattooer) to produce the damn shows. But the way it’s going, they are going to make everyone a half ass house-tattooer.
Shane - Who are some of the artists you been tattooed by? /Anyone you would like to be tattooed by?
Tubbs - I just enjoy getting cool lil souvenir tattoos from my pals.
Shane - Any hobbies?
Tubbs - GOLFING. Thanks to Nate Deal of Nebraska. It’s not a hobby but I love being a father to three of the most beautiful daughters a man could ask for and I’m blessed with an amazing wife who also happens to be smoking hot.
Shane - Do you have a website/online portfolio for people to check out more of your work?
Tubbs - Just my facebook: facebook.com/kernaltubbs
Shane - Is anything coming up in the near future at your shop or in your travels that you’d like to promote?
Tubbs - The shop will be changing our name soon and I’ll be heading to the Pittsburgh show at the end of October and Krooked Ken will be right after that.