Get to Know Me
Psychedelic blacklight posters and mixed smells of Listerine and incense fill the room. Just outside is our backyard with a pool that holds most of my interest but when I’m not swimming, I loved to go to my dad’s home tattoo shop just off the back of the house.
I would watch my dad layout a stencil with acetate and charcoal powder and tattoo well into the night, much later than I was allowed to stay up.
I was probably 5 or 6 years old but I remember it like it was yesterday. I can’t remember a time when tattooing wasn’t a part of my life in one way or another. Tattooing is all I’ve ever known my father, Gary Johnson, to do.
Back in the late 60’s into the 70’s he worked out of our house and at the Michigan 4H fair. I loved everything about tattoos. Even at a very young age because it is what my dad did. He would give me small projects to do, like scribe stencils or color designs, lots of things you do to learn the trade. It was fun for me to be like Dad. Who knew 40 some odd years later I would still love doing this? At 14 years old I put my first mark on skin-the Zig Zag man on my cousin’s arm. I was scared silly but also excited beyond anything I could describe. I was off and running never to look back again. I used to trade tattoos for things like car stereos, B.B. guns, etc. on all my friends, 18 years old or older, as you can guess I had a lot of older friends. When I was 17 years old I joined the Navy. During the next 4 years as a sailor, I would take my shipmates home off base or on weekends and tattoo them, it was a great way to supplement my Navy pay. After I got out, my dad and I started a shop together in Taylor, MI., -Johnson’s Tattoo. We worked together for 10 years until I moved on to my own shop, where I am presently at, Cherokee Creek Tattoo. In a day when most tattoo artists don’t stay in any one place too long, I’m proud to have stayed in business in the same area for the most part of 40 plus years. I did go out on the convention circuit for several years and won many awards, mostly for realistic black and gray work, but all the traveling on weekends got old after a while, I also got what I think is a better focus for my weekends. Though I have to say my favorite tats to do are black and gray portraits, I really like and appreciate doing whatever the client wants because even a small rose with a butterfly is important to the one getting it.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for letting me be a part of your tattoo experience. As of 2021 I’ve retired from tattooing but remain active in running Cherokee Creek Tattoo.