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“My favorite one is gonna be the next one.”

John Himmelstein grew up in Daytona Beach, back in its heyday when MTV and Spring Breakers flocked to its sunny shores. At the time, according to John, the only people who sported tattoos were gas station attendants, bikers, and Cher.

I think Cher had a little bat on her a** or something she got when she was dancing on Navy ships. But that was it. Guns N’ Roses weren't even on MTV at that time, so I never saw anything that impressed me. During Bike Week in Daytona, I would see skulls on people, but it was the same skull, just on different people. So I never thought of tattoos as drawings on people.

John wasn’t too impressed by anything he saw. And, he certainly didn’t put art and tattoos in the same category. But, what he did realize at an early age, is that his art garnered attention.

I would draw and doodle at home. I’d try to draw things like Batman, which was popular in the 70s. My dad would always bring me comic books, and I tried to copy the drawings. When I was in kindergarten I realized drawing was a talent. All the other kids were in awe of my drawings because they drew basic stick figures, but my stick figures had elbows and fingers. That's when I thought, ‘Ohh, drawing isn’t something everybody can do; but I can. So that was interesting.’

A self-described loner, John spent a lot of his time sketching, trying to improve his art. This led to him taking a stab at tattoo art, as a young punk rocker.

A few of my friends asked me to do drawings that they could get as tattoos. I didn't know how to do that. So I just made some drawings.

When my friends came back with tattoos that looked just like my drawings, I became intrigued. ‘You mean you can just draw on people? Why haven't I seen anything like this before?’

Then something happened. A tattoo artist that did work on John’s friend asked him to come to the shop. He wanted to take a look at some of John’s drawings.

My art reminded him of another artist at the time. So I went in with my portfolio. I never considered tattooing to be a job, a career, or anything you could make a living at because I never knew anybody that did. I went in there and talked to the guy and  started my apprenticeship.

After a couple of months, John asked the owner if he could actually make a living tattooing.

He whipped out a big wad of cash. I thought, ‘Wow. OK. I guess you can.’ He told me how much he made and I started taking tattooing a lot more seriously.

John worked at one of the only games in town during the 80s.

The three tattoo shops around were right next to each other, so everyone knew each other. It was a really small tattoo community. You couldn’t just buy a machine and start tattooing without somebody grilling you on where you learned to tattoo. It was highly competitive.

That’s when John started realizing how lucky he was to have gotten the apprenticeship.

Right out of the gate, when I finished my apprenticeship, I started off as a custom artist. So even though we did a lot of Flash, I had a lot more opportunity to draw what I wanted—which was unheard of at that time.

But after two years of grappling with biker politics that went along with the tattoo industry, John decided to step away from tattooing. His break involved a move to London, coming back to Central Florida, working at a newspaper, and designing t-shirts for a surf shop. But fate would soon draw John back to his true calling.

A friend of mine, who I knew as a teen from the skate park, became a pretty well-known tattooist. He came up to the newspaper one day and told me his tattoo shop was looking for an artist. The shop was run by two women who weren't affiliated with bikers, so I went in. That’s when I realized tattooing became much more mainstream. There were more people tattooing. So I kind of slipped back into it.

John settled back into the tattoo industry and his own style reminiscent of his early years sketching comics.

Comic books were my first introduction into art and illustration, They helped develop my current style.

I find a few details that I like from artists—whether it's shading or contrast—and I absorb them into my style. So it’s always evolving.

John’s style is best described as illustrative. But, that doesn’t define him. What defines John as a tattoo artist is his quest for perfection.

When I’m working with people and everyone impresses me, it raises the bar. I love to learn. I could live 200 more years and still not learn everything.

The artists John works with at Hart & Huntington Orlando set the bar high.

The artists at Hart & Huntington Orlando are fantastic. It’s super exciting to go there every single day.

But, John already knew that Hart & Huntington attracted top tattoo artists well before he began working there.

I had spoken to a few people who had worked there or had been there, and they all had great experiences. So I went to their website and thought ‘Wow, if I ever leave Daytona, I'd sure like to work there.’

When the time came for John to take the leap, he reached out to the manager at H&H, but didn’t expect to land his dream job so quickly.

I reached out to H&H and luckily they contacted me straight away. That's where I've been ever since. I was so happy. I wasn’t expecting them to get back to me. They were my first choice.

But, I never had a second choice.

The moment John started working at H&H, he felt like he was home.

It reminded me of one of the shops I worked at in the 90s. I loved that. Add in the excitement of Universal (where Hart & Huntington Orlando is located) and the energy is just contagious. Everyone is here for the theme park and to have a good time; it’s easy to pick up on that. No matter what mood I'm in, being here always lifts my spirits, from the moment I pull into the parking garage to the moment I step into the shop.

From the shop, to the artists, to the clients, when it comes to tattoo shops, there’s nothing quite like Hart & Huntington.

John Himmelstein tattooing at Hart & Huntington Tattoo Co. Orlando
I’ve never had a bad day here.

That’s quite a statement, given that John works with needles all day. But, surrounded by the excitement of one of the world's most thrilling theme parks, he's onto something. At Hart & Huntington, getting a tattoo is more than ink; it's a memorable part of the experience.

Schedule a consultation with John right here and let your adventure begin.