Mister Cartoon

Written by Kristie Bertucci | Photos by Estevan Oriol on 06 November 2012.

Mister Cartoon

Set up in a warehouse in the arts district in Downtown Los Angeles is Mister Cartoon’s headquarters, complete with his tattoo parlor, man cave and two garages filled with his rides (one for display and the other housing his latest works in progress). The man of many talents is working on a custom van for the Vans Warped Tour when we arrive for his interview—one that’s long overdue, but well worth the wait. Renowned in the world of tattoo culture for his legendary black and grey fine-line style, his skin art that graces the bodies of celebrity names like Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Eminem, Travis Barker, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Nas, Cypress Hill , Carlos Boozer and a slew of other very impressive celebrity clients.

As one of this generation’s most celebrated tattoo artists, Mister Cartoon has transcended industry boundaries to create a vast empire that includes a variety of interesting business ventures. He’s collaborated with shoe icons on several limited edition sneakers, been commissioned by some of the finest hotels for exclusive tattoo tours, traveled the world as an ambassador of tattoo culture, ventured into the clothing business, and even has his own Diesel signature “Only the Brave” fragrance. And to top it all off, he’s a true car enthusiast, owning several modified Lowriders, luxury and other custom vehicles, in addition to being a talented airbrusher and designer. With such an impressive resume, one would have thought he’d grace the cover of DUB a long time ago, right?

I wanted to really show the custom car community how much I love it and didn’t think I was good enough until now.After numerous requests, in which he gracefully turned down, Mister Cartoon was simply waiting for the right moment to make his DUB debut—that moment being the launch of his very own car care line, Sanctiond. “I knew not doing the features before would payoff later when I finally went through with my big automotive project, Sanctiond,” he confesses. “I wanted to really show the custom car community how much I love it and didn’t think I was good enough until now.”

Mister Cartoon

Tattooing may be his job (one that he loves), but all things automotive related is his passion. As a member of the legendary Lifestyle Car Club for the past 18 years, Mister Cartoon grew up going to car shows and used to airbrush cars for a living before picking up a tattoo machine. “If I won the lottery, I would just play with cars and design all day,” he reveals. “In figuring out how I wanted to be more involved in the car scene, I thought about how I’m obsessed with detailing my cars. I’m always going to the store and picking up various car care products and noticed there wasn’t anything really speaking to me personally.” He then started designing various designs for his would-be product bottles and knew this would be his big contribution to car culture when he officially put everything for Sanctiond into motion two years ago.

“That crazy spray bottle design started it all,” he explains. “I know people might be thinking, ‘Not another car care line,’ but, really, I’m not this 60-year-old hot rod guy that’s retired somewhere who are usually the ones all into these other lines. They’re not like me or my friends, who are young, have multiple cars in various styles and are all tatted up. We’re cool and there’s no brand that conveyed that. I’m a car builder, too, so I know the effort that goes into building and maintaining them, from European luxury cars to old school rides.”

Mister Cartoon

The signature brand of premium products is a complete line that ranges from waxes, polishes, spray detailers, interior/exterior cleaners and tire dressings that each feature a uniquely designed bottle that makes them stand out from others on store shevles. “My product is made by professionals who really know their stuff, and I’ll put this product up to anything out there for a side-by-side comparison. That’s how confident I am. It’s inspired by my love for cars, these Sanctiond products were designed to preserve them and amplify their beauty to the fullest.”

Sanctiond is more than just about car care products; it’s going to be a movement!Currently just a premium line of car care products, Mister Cartoon admits he plans on growing Sanctiond to include other accessories and items in the near future. “Sanctiond is more than just about car care products; it’s going to be a movement!” he asserts. “The website is already positioned to be more like a lifestyle site with exclusive video content on car builders and other cool guys. This is going to go beyond just products and really materialize into its own lifestyle.”

Expect to see Mister Cartoon and his Sanctiond products at practically every car show in the country, something that’s second nature to him as a car enthusiast. “This isn’t going to be a job for me since it’s a life I’m already involved in. As an active member of Lifestyle, I still go to the meetings and pay dues. I have numerous cars that fly the Lifestyle plaque, and they all fit into the club’s car standards: two-door American cars with hydraulics and wire wheels. Sometimes I’ll show off my cars in shows, but even if they’re not displayed, I still love going to car shows.” He also mentions that car shows at night really peak his interest, describing how cars are “sexy” and look great under the club-like lights—something that just might materialize in the future with Sanctiond, he hints.

Mister Cartoon

Because Mister Cartoon appreciates fine rides, he obviously has a collection that demonstrates his diverse taste in vehicles (which all helped inspire his new car care line, including a Bentley and several Lowriders). The Mercedes-Benz CL550 is a “fun daily driver” in his stable of rides and is fully wrapped in matte grey and sits on custom multi-piece wheels that he helped design. His Chevy Camaro, on the other hand, is a car that “everyone can identify with” and sits on 24-inch Savini Forged Wheels and Pirelli tires. Although, fully customized he plans on blowing out the rear and doing a custom widebody.

To keep things OG, the 1948 Chevy Fleetmaster convertible is clean with original 15-inch wheels and Firestone white walls. Full interior, mild pinstripping, a stealth Rockford Fosgate sound system all combine to make its original appearance stand out. Lastly, the 1963 International Ice Cream truck, aka his “Sistine Chapel,” was rolled out for the cover.

This one-of-a-kind rolling piece of art has been featured at select art installations and is well known in both the automotive and art worlds, but has never been fully featured. It was originally built back in the ’90s for a client, but due to various circumstances the ice cream truck was “sold and lost” for more than a decade. As luck would have it, Cartoon was made aware of its whereabouts, and he immediately went to purchase the unfinished vintage ice cream truck. To his surprise, it was in excellent condition where it had been stored.

Its vast surface provided the multi-talented artist the opportunity to hand paint his own masterpiece with lettering, symbols, portraits and landscapes from the deepest parts of his subconscious—complete with a jack-in-the-box head that pops from its roof top.

“It’s like my own version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory meets the ’hood. Even though it was initially built a while back, I’ve updated a few things and added a Rockford Fosgate audio system, some suede headlining, hand-molded dash, and a set of 72 spoke wire wheels. It’s still not completely finished as I have a few more mods I want to do.” It was actually included in last year’s “Art in the Streets” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which was a show dedicated to the art of graffiti and its lifestyle.

The show provided the accomplished tattoo artist a chance to show off his love for cars in addition to taking him back to his graffiti roots, which is where his story all starts. “My first tool was a spray can. I used to be a little vandal and write on people’s homes and wasn’t thinking about the repercussions. It’s a selfish art in a way, but it allowed me to move on to bigger walls where I was eventually painting murals. By the time I was 16, I learned how to airbrush cars and started doing apparel, too. By 23, I was already working at different magazines as an illustrator and did a mural on Larry Flint’s limo.”

Being heavily immersed in the art world, tattooing was a natural progression after he noticed how some of his “homeboys” were getting crooked and shoddy tattoos. “The guys who had the good art had been to the joint and I didn’t want to go to that tattoo shop,” he says. “So I started to draw tattoo patterns and got into the whole vibe. I used to tattoo my homies in the kitchen with a handmade tattoo gun. When it came time for me to learn, it was difficult to gain knowledge with no university or institution to teach me. It was a huge handicap for me being a professional artist since everyone thought it was above the craft. But I paid my dues like everybody else, learned from my mistakes and was able to get to where I’m now, with my signature style.”

After years on the grind and building his name, Cartoon credits his burst into international fame after he tattooed Eminem. From then on, he’s had a non-stop waiting list and his figure from tattoo artist evolved into a brand, with everybody knocking at his door for special collaborations. But he doesn’t just put his name on anything these days, mentioning how picky he is with whom he collaborates with these days. “The company has to be on the same path I’m on, and I really have to like their product, too,” he explains. “Man, I turn down so many things that really bring in big money, but it’s not just about the checks. It’s about the essence of what both companies are putting out there, which is why a lot of the things I do are made in such limited quantities.”

All that matters is that I’m remembered for being original, having my own look and touching lives, regardless of what medium was used.Naming Nike and Vans as two of his most beloved collaborations to date since he grew up wearing both shoe brands, it’s this new business venture with his car care line that the jack of all trades businessman/artist is hoping will open the doors to more car-related projects. “I’ve done a lot in my life, but I’d love to one day design an official production car of some sort. That would be a huge achievement.” Besides working with an official automaker, he also adds venturing out to work with other huge companies like Apple and Louis Vuitton as brands on his “wish list.”

From one car lover to another, Mister Cartoon no doubt knows his stuff, which is what will make Sanctiond just as successful as all the other entries in his diversified business portfolio. He’s already mastered the ink world, perfected the formula on making the most coveted collaborations and will now make an impression in the car care industry. But in the end he doesn’t care about how he’s remembered in each segment. “All that matters is that I’m remembered for being original, having my own look and touching lives, regardless of what medium was used.”


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