Jonathan Shaw (tattooist)

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Jonathan Shaw
Born Jonathan Dowling Shaw
(1953-07-04) July 4, 1953 (age 62)
New York City, New York, United States
Residence Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Occupation Tattoo artist Author

Jonathan D. Shaw (born July 4, 1953) is a New York-born tattoo artist and writer, best known for his innovative tribal tattoos in the early nineties and his contributions as founder and managing editor of International Tattoo Art Magazine for several years. He is the son of big band leader, Artie Shaw.

Early life[edit]

Born in New York City, Shaw moved to Los Angeles, CA with his mother Doris Dowling at an early age. During this time Shaw was estranged from his biological father, the jazz musician Artie Shaw. In his early teen years, Shaw began to abuse drugs and alcohol. His mother Doris became remarried to Shaw's stepfather, producer Leonard B. Kaufman. In his late teen years, Shaw began writing for the Los Angeles Free Press. There he met Charles Bukowski, who became an influence on his writing. At the age of 21, Shaw left Los Angeles for Mexico. After traveling through port towns as a merchant seaman, Shaw eventually settled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where he began tattooing and lived until returning to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s.

After returning to Los Angeles, Shaw began tattooing on the Long Beach Pike (aka "The Pike"), apprenticing under American tattooist Bob Shaw.

Tattoo career[edit]

Jonathan spent a short time tattooing in Los Angeles, New Orleans and Miami before returning to his hometown of New York City where he was introduced to tattooist Spider Webb. He worked as a tattooist in Webb’s studio until he opened his own studio on 1st Street and 1st Avenue on New York's Lower East Side.

Fun City Tattoo[edit]

Shaw worked out of his own studio by appointment only on 1st Avenue and 1st Street until 1991, when he opened the first store-front, public tattoo parlor in New York City, Fun City Tattoo. Located at 94 St. Mark's Place in the East Village, Fun City served clients like Johnny Depp, Joe Coleman (painter), Dee Dee Ramone, Howie Pyro, Johnny Winter, Jim Jarmusch, Albert and David Maysles and Max Cavalera. In 2001, Shaw sold Fun City and moved back to Rio de Janeiro to focus solely on a writing career.

International Tattoo Art Magazine[edit]

[1] During the time Jonathan was the owner of Fun City, he became managing editor of International Tattoo Art Magazine. The magazine is self-described as "the last word on tattoo art from around the world," containing "in-depth historical research, fascinating interviews and exclusive profiles of today's cutting edge artists."[2]

Tattoo Flash[edit]

After leaving ITA and Fun City, Jonathan continued to devote himself to the edification of tattoo buffs and the art world by curating a number of tattoo flash exhibits, including the historical Psychedelic Solution show in New York and another well-documented event at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. He has a large collection of rare antique and modern tattoo flash art by many important artists, and his own paintings can be seen in collections and shows with artists like Robert Williams and Joe Coleman. He is currently compiling works from his extensive collection of turn-of-the-century tattoo designs for a coffee table art book, soon to be released by a major US publishing house.

Writing career[edit]

Jonathan began working on his first novel, Narcisa Our Lady of Ashes, in July 2007. The novel was released by Heartworm Press on July 1, 2008.[3] The story is a fictional account of a middle-aged "gypsy" named Cigano and his relationship with a prostitute and crack cocaine addict. The evolving work and characters are continued through short stories on Jonathan's blog, Scabvendor.[4]

Shaw's second published book, Love Songs to the Dead, was released by Heartworm Press in October, 2009.

Shaw's third book, a memoir entitled Scab Vendor: Confessions of A Tattoo Artist, was rumored for publication in 2012. In January 2011, Shaw's blog released cover art by R. Crumb, along with excerpts of the book.

It was announced that Shaw's first novel Narcisa Our Lady of Ashes is going to be republished by Johnny Depp's HarperCollins imprint Infinitum Nihil in March 2015.[5]


  1. ^ "International Tattoo Art Magazine- Editor’s Notes". ScabVendor. Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  3. ^ "Narcisa ARTBOOK | D.A.P. 2008 Catalog Books Exhibition Catalogues 9780979723834". Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  4. ^ "ScabVendor". ScabVendor. Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  5. ^

External links[edit]