A typical TJ Halvorsen tattoo pops. It’s bright, colorful and has that certain comic book feel to it. As a former Marvel Comics employee, he said it’s what he is known for.
Halvorsen said that trait, along with his tattoo skills and military background, helped land him on Spike TV’s season two of “Ink Master”.
The reality show, which begins on Oct. 9 at 10 p.m., challenges tattoo artists on the creativity, technical skills and originality.
For tattoo fans around St. Petersburg, Halvorsen might be familiar as co-owner at Foolish Pride Tattoos.
To Halvorsen tattoos are an art form, the most difficult art form.
“It’s the only art form where your canvass bleeds, moves, screams, cries,” he said. “It’s different everyday. It’s the most challenging art form out there.”
On the show, Halvorsen said it was one of the most challenging things he had ever done.
“I realized I’m not as good as I thought I was,” he said. “(However,) I was surprised at how good I handled the stress.”
Halvorsen does not look like your average tattoo artist. With no visible tattoos, he said sometimes it is hard for people to take him seriously as a tattoo artist.
“People walk in (to Foolish Pride) and look at me and they don’t talk to me because they think I’m just a counter guy because I don’t look the part,” he said. “I kind of like that too. I’m the anti-artist. It separates me from all the other tattoo dudes in the industry.”
Even some of his fellow artist, he said, give him that stigma of not being a legitimate artist because he does not fit the stereotype.
Tattoos, he said, have long been synonymous with rebels, bikers and sailors. Now, Halvorsen said, it has become so popular that the industry is defying stereotypes. And for him, he said that’s a good thing.
“It’s not that dirty, nasty social stigma any more … I’ve tattooed every walk of life. I’ve tattooed doctors, lawyers,” he said. “I’ve tattooed a full back piece on a priest once.
“Tattoos are for everybody now. We are the modern day painters,” Halvorsen said.
From Marvel to Spike TV
On Sept. 11, 2001, Halvorsen was working at Marvel Comics in New Jersey when the World Trade Center came crashing down.
It was such a jarring event for Halvorsen that he decided to join the military to serve his country. While stationed in Colorado, Halvorsen ran into a former Marvel co-worker who also was a tattoo artist.
For Halvorsen, the intrigue of tattoos was there and now he had a friend to teach him the art form. Early on he was told to think of the body as a comic book panel.
He was hooked. After leaving work on base all day, he would then head to his friend’s tattoo shop to apprentice for the night.
“(I) worked in the Army from 5 in the morning until 5 at night and then I’d go apprentice at the tattoo shop form 6 to midnight,” he said. “I absolutely fell in love with it.
“It was worth it,” Halvorsen added. “You wouldn’t work 19-20 hours a day if it wasn’t something you loved. The challenge of it was the best part. There’s no eraser.”
Continuing to perfect the trade, one day Halvorsen realized he was making more money tattooing than he was in the Army. Soon after, he and a friend opened Foolish Pride Tattoos in downtown St. Petersburg in 2007.
A self-proclaimed reality show junkie, Halvorsen was a huge fan of the first season of “Ink Master”. While watching an episode during the first season, he saw an advertisement for an open casting call in Miami.
He went to Miami to interview. “I got picked up for the next process. Went back for another interview and it went from there,” Halvorsen said.
“It was totally random, didn’t think I as going to get it in a million years,” he added. “They liked my military background and my comic book background.”
If you want to watch Halvorsen compete in “Ink Master”, the first episode airs at 10 p.m., Oct. 9 on Spike TV. Halvorsen will also be hosting a watch party for the first episode that night at Octave in downtown St. Pete.