When Angelina Jolie needed to cover the tattoo of her ex-husband’s name with some new ink, she went to Hollywood’s elite: Paul Timman.
He’s not a household name, unless your household happens to be Tommy Lee’s or Mark Wahlberg’s. But Timman, the Toledo native and tattoo artist dubbed the “Rembrandt of Sunset Strip,” is who the Los Angeles elite trust with their skin. When he’s not wielding the needle at the famous Sunset Strip Tattoo parlor, he’s making house calls.
And as for Jolie—well, “she was a real sweetheart,” according to Timman.
Timman is returning to his hometown to discuss the relationships between art, tattooing and life during a free Masters Series lecture at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5 at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.
In anticipation of his talk, the Museum has partnered with Timman on TMA Top Ink, a search for the region’s best Japanese-inspired body art judged by the tattoo artist himself. The contest winner will be awarded a signed and framed tattoo sketch by Timman, a signed set from his award-winning porcelain dishware, and dinner with the tattoo great himself.
His appearance and the TMA Top Ink competition are inspired by the Museum’s fall exhibition Fresh Impressions: Early Modern Japanese Prints, a collection of 343 woodblock prints from the early 20th century. Japanese woodblock prints, especially those from the Edo period, have had a “profound effect” on tattooing, Timman said.
“We have books galore of Japanese woodblock prints in our studio,” he said. “It’s something about the style. They’re timeless. The images lend themselves to the body well, so making the correlation between the print and the tattoo is easy.”
Timman, who graduated with a degree in sculptured glass from the Cleveland Institute of Art, had intended to find a more traditional, gallery-centered creative outlet. As a child, he was a frequent visitor and student at TMA and didn’t know anyone who had a tattoo.
“I wasn’t born or raised around tattoos—I was the first in all of my family to get one,” Timman said. “I was 17 or 18 and on the hardcore music scene in Toledo. I started seeing this new wave of tattoos that were artful, well-drawn. I couldn’t help but notice them.”
So he took a day off from his summer job and acquired his first ink, a figure on his right arm. As he continued to decorate his body, his college classmates took notice, and elected him “the tattoo guy.” They started to ask him for tattoos, and a career was born. He headed to Los Angeles, building a reputation for his tribal, Americana and Japanese designs.
With all of this talk of body art, one has to ask—does Timman spend his free time getting his own ink?
“You know, I don’t have a lot of tattoos for a tattoo artist,” he said. “I got so busy at tattooing that I didn’t want to spend my only day off at the shop.”