“My mother did a lot of painting when I was a kid,” said Paul Johnson of 46 & 2 Tattoo. “I used paint alongside her, which is how I began learning the trick. When I got older, I started to wonder what I could do with art. I was naturally drawn to tattoos — I was fascinated by art that could be put on the skin, so I took an apprenticeship at a parlor in the Twin Cities and then moved back to Fargo to open my own.
“When you paint on a canvas, you’re free to do anything, and there’s a lot of room for trial and error. When you work in tattoos, of course, you have a lot more to consider. A tattoo must work with the body — its flow, its musculature — how it moves. A tattoo should complement its owner’s natural form, so each piece must be as unique as the person who receives it. That creates infinite possibilities, something that makes an artist very happy.
“When someone comes into the shop with an idea for a tattoo, even if the best way they can convey it is through a verbal description or an amateurish stick figure drawing, our artists are able to take that information and convey it into a design that hits the mark, usually on the first try. A few miniscule details might need changing here and there, but they’re seldom a big deal. It’s amazing how we’re able to understand just what our clients want — it’s the kind of intuition you develop with years of experience.
“I wouldn’t say that any one sort of tattoo is especially popular in Fargo. I suppose that the internet has become more and more influential these days, as it does represent a collective conscious. The word ‘Pinterest’ comes up fairly often in the shop. Looking online for inspiration can help to lead you in the direction you’d like to go, but I always advise against simply copying a design you’ve seen on another person. When someone brings us a photo of a lion with a crown, that’s great, but we encourage them to find a lion that they really like, and a unique crown to match it. Any tattoo you get represents an opportunity to make something completely your own.
“Tattoos of quotes can be absolutely beautiful, if they’re well executed. We do a lot of them. I do try to push people toward imagery instead if they’re open to it, though. I believe that imagery conveys a thought much more effectively than text, at least in this medium. It’s funny, though, if I have to tattoo the words ‘Your Name’ on someone’s [hinder] again, I swear I’ll scream. When Steve-O, the celebrity who made the gag famous, came to Fargo, I did it three times that week so people around town could go up to him and say ‘I got your name tattooed on my [hinder].’
“The only kind of tattoos we won’t do here are hateful imagery. I’d hope that the only artists who’d give you something like Charles Manson had on his forehead are in prison themselves. That said, anything goes here. Our seven artists represent a really diverse range of styles and experience, so whether you’d like a wholly original piece or something featuring your favorite artist, team, or character, we can bring it to life perfectly for you.”
46 & 2 Tattoo is located at 308 N University Dr in Fargo. You may learn more about them at 46and2tattoo.com.
By David Scheller