There are those who talk about their dreams and then there are those who go after them; Christian Masot is definitely the latter. Known best for his award-winning tattoo skills, Christian also happens to be a top-notch painter, photographer, and entrepreneur. And as the current owner of Silk City Tattoo in Hawthorne, NJ as well as the newly opened Roses and Rebels in Jersey City, he certainly has his hands full. Add in a recent appearance on Spike TV’s Ink Master, working the convention scene, and hosting various events, it is clear Christian has the drive, determination, and work ethic required to turn his artistic passion into a successful career.
Christian is by far one of the most ambitious artists I know and his positivity is absolutely contagious. It was while attending Walker Stalker Con NJ in 2016 that I met Christian, he was painting a stunning portrait of Carl Grimes from The Walking Dead. I’d always been drawn to unique artistic styles and Christian’s bold fluidity brought life to images in a way that defined him. Little did I know that his talents extended well beyond the canvas.
Christian’s impeccable skills as a tattoo artist came to light after I began following his social media. His use of vibrant colors and attention to detail marked the very essence of Christian’s abilities. Having some ink of my own, I wanted to learn more and made it a priority to visit him again at New York Comic Con later that year. Christian welcomed me with enthusiasm (as he does with everyone) and chatted animatedly while showing his latest Game of Thrones painting in-process. His appetite for creativity is exemplified in all that he does, even in how he speaks. Christian’s mix of intellect and imagination makes for an enlightening, and often humorous, conversation. If you have couple hours just ask him how he feels about Star Wars… May the force be with you! 😉
Having only scratched the surface of Mr. Masot’s artistic path, I already knew I wanted to feature him an article… that was almost a year ago. While I was hoping to publish this much sooner, Christian’s vigorous schedule made it quite challenging to pin him down. And it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I learned of his recent venture on Season 10 of Ink Master.
Premiering on January 9th, Ink Master brought together top tattoo artists from previous seasons to serve as team coaches. The key? You had to get on a team. Christian playfully took to social media for some live interaction during the first episode. Numerous friends, family, and fans followed along to support Christian in hope of seeing him go far. We all watched intently as he produced two stellar pieces and were stunned by the criticism he received. Unwilling to bend to the drama that often surrounds reality show TV, Christian chose not to ‘plead’ his way onto a team as he accepted his fate of being sent home. I for one am proud of the way Christian handled himself on the show, and from the reactions on social media, I am not the only one.
Ink Master outcome aside, Christian’s work is remarkable and all that know him agree he is the true winner when it comes to delivering the best.
So yes, this article was a long time coming. The delay allowed me to know Christian better though, to visit him in different settings, to watch him grow and see the love he has for the people that surround him.
Finally, as we delved in 2018, Christian and I were able to sit down in his homey new studio, Roses and Rebels, and chat about his latest endeavors and the path that led him there.
Linda: Your recent appearance on Spike TV’s Ink Master is the hot topic surrounding you as of late. I also learned that you were a consultant on Spike TV’s Tattoo Rescue. Would you like to talk about that?
Christian: Tattoo Rescue was amazing and really more my speed. I got to do it with the guy who got me started in the tattoo industry. It was really cool, it was about helping the professionalism of the tattoo industry. We went out to different tattoo shops and helped the artists and consulted with them to make them more professional, to clean it [their shop] up and to be better at their craft. That’s really what I wish they would do with the tattoo industry shows, just because right now it cheapens it when it’s only drama. I loved that show, it was a really awesome show.
Linda: What happened to it [Tattoo Rescue]?
Christian: They only did one season. I really think that it had a lot to bring to the table. I taught them fine art painting too. A lot of tattoo artists don’t do fine art. A lot of them just kind of think that tattooing is enough and they don’t really do anything besides do tattoos or draw tattoos. I feel like it’s very one dimensional. If you’re an artist you should explore all kinds of art. I mean, if you’re a foodie, you don’t just eat one kind of food. You have to kind of indulge yourself in all of it.
Linda: I think there are a lot of tattoo artists out there but I don’t think there are a lot of great tattoo artists out there. Artistic ability makes a big difference.
Christian: I think you’re right. I think replicating something is a talent in itself but I think ‘creating’ something, being able to draw something or create something from nothing… that’s what really makes an artist. A lot of guys just replicate or takes someone else’s originality and they can duplicate it perfect but when you see someone who’s a true artist and kind of create it from scratch, that’s something different.
Linda: That’s why I am going to you [for my next piece], I want something original. I don’t want something that’s been stuck on a hundred other people.
Christian: (smiles) Yes, thank you so much. Push it [the design] to the next level.
Linda: Do clients usually give you free reign?
Christian: Most people are kinda like, this is what I had in mind, let’s see what you can do with it. Which is awesome because it makes my life a lot easier than trying to just do someone else’s art. When people ask you to copy someone else’s design, it puts a hold on pushing it forward. Until someone says I’m gonna try something new and breaks away from it… that’s how it pushes the art as a whole to the next level. It just shows you different things are possible.
Linda: Have you had somebody come to you with an idea, concept, style and you didn’t feel comfortable doing it? Have you said no to somebody? How do you handle that?
Christian: The only time I have really had a problem with people where I said that I don’t think I wanna do it is if they want to combine… like over complicating a design. If you over complicate a design, that will lead to a disaster. Like if you want a tattoo of your favorite comic book character but you also want it to be for your grandmother and then you wanna be able to incorporate your job into it and it is now some memorial piece with 5 other prerequisites… you’re asking the design to be too many things! (laughing) That’s when I’ll just be like, I don’t think I can help you. But for the most part, as long as the person’s open to it, I don’t turn them away. As long as the person’s open to input, some people think they can do your job better than you. You know what I mean.
Linda: You came to me for a reason.
Christian: Exactly! I never told my mechanic how he should fix my car. It’s funny. If there is something though that I really had to research, I would go back and look at people who do it best. I would try to structure my own design based on that but not duplicating it. If I can make that happen, then I’ll do it. If it was something where I really felt uncomfortable, I would not just do it and take somebody’s money. I would rather turn it down if I was not confident in making it perfect.
Linda: Good moral standards. Let’s talk a bit about what types of tattoos you enjoy most. I know you love fandom stuff. What is your favorite genre?
Christian: I love doing the fandom stuff, I love doing… ya know, I just love doing solid tattoos. When you’re tattooing, you get to a point where you’re like, I don’t wanna do tattoos like this anymore. [For example] simple stuff and then you only wanna do custom stuff and then when you do custom stuff for a few years you’re like, I miss doing the simple stuff ya know. I really like the fact that every day can be a bit different. I think that’s what keeps tattoo artists happy. We can’t work in an office, we can’t do something monotonous and just do the same thing every day. So the fact that we can have so many different styles come in really helps us. I’ve been doing single line, scrolling… what looks like really easy tattoos lately and they’ve been some of my favorite tattoos because they are [actually] so hard to do right. You’ve really gotta have good control of the needle.
Linda: You would notice a mistake more on something like that, there is no way to hide it.
Christian: Exactly. I can hide that mistake on a big tattoo. On a small tattoo? You have to be perfect. I think that’s why the ‘micro tattoo’ movement has been so big lately.
Linda: I’ve never heard that term [‘micro tattoo’].
Christian: Yeah, it has made a huge comeback. It was dismissed because people didn’t think the longevity would be something good for tattooing but in reality if you do a good tattoo that’s solid, it will grow with the person. Now you see these guys trying to do these really cool intricate linework tattoos that are just so cool. It’s a lot of fun to do.
Linda: I also want to talk about your painting for a bit because that is actually how I met you. You mentioned going to school for literature but, even before that, were you always artistically inclined? How did the painting come about?
Christian: How did all come together? I was always into drawing before painting. Painting came about after I started tattooing believe it or not. I starting tattooing and I wanted a way to practice. Painting is a great way to kind of put the ideas that you learn in tattooing to practical use. You can’t experiment on a person’s skin if you don’t know how it’s gonna turn out. Art has always been at the forefront of what I wanted. I always wanted to do something artistic and creative.
Linda: Were you drawing anything in particular or were you drawing everything?
Christian: Some of the first drawings I remember that I ever did were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (laughing)
Linda: Every artist I talk to has some kind of favorite cartoon that they drew as a kid. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been mentioned often. There is always some cartoon. Like I loved them, so I drew them. I just find that interesting.
Christian: It’s true! As an artist, you have a compulsion to love the thing that you love in a way that only you can love it. The way that we show we love this stuff is by creating art based on it. What is the only thing you can do to get close to a fictional thing that you love? You can own artwork of it, you can watch it religiously or you can create stuff based on it. So it’s just our way to show and pay homage and tribute to the stuff that we love. That’s why fandom artists are so into fandom. We love what we create.
Linda: We first met at Walker Stalker Con NJ and you were working on a portrait of Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) from The Walking Dead. I saw later on you had posted a photo of you with Chandler and that artwork. Was that the first time you interacted with the actor whose character was the subject of your artwork?
Christian: Chandler and actually Scott Wilson (Hershel) I painted at the same show, and that was the first time the actor had actually seen me painting their likeness and that gives you a huge rush. When people see that, it’s really cool ya know. So that was the first time I really got a chance for the actor to kinda see it getting made. It was really trippy. I want to do that more. (laughs)
Linda: Have any other actors seen your pieces of their likeness?
Christian: Oh, Melissa McBride [Carol Peletier]! Actually, you know what… Melissa McBride was the first, but it wasn’t in person. Melissa McBride had somehow stumbled upon my Twitter where I did a painting of her and she tweeted out. I was like, wow. I had no idea, I started hearing my phone ping a lot and I was like, what’s going on? But the first people in person were Scott and Chandler.
Linda: Have you done a Walking Dead tattoo?
Christian: I would love to do a Walking Dead tattoo. It’s definitely something that’s on my list of stuff I wanna do. I see a lot of people getting to do them and I’m like why isn’t anyone coming in for me to do one. I wanna do one so bad.
Linda: When you talk about painting and then tattooing, do you have a preference?
Christian: It goes by your mood. The thing is when you tattoo you tattoo what others want to get. When you paint, you paint what you want to make. The balance is interesting. I can paint whatever it is that comes into my mind but that’s not always what someone might want as a tattoo. So, even if they trust you with a certain design, it’s still that design. I could paint an owl one day and the next day paint something from The Walking Dead. Whatever comes into your mind. The freedom of painting is different than the freedom of tattooing but, I love them both.
Linda: Do you take commissions?
Christian: Yes. I take commissions but that makes it work. I will paint for free forever and if people like it and they want to buy it, that’s cool. But when you take a commission, it puts certain constraints on it. But usually, people are pretty open to it. I’ve never had someone say they weren’t happy with their painting.
Linda: There’s something to be said for people wanting to buy work that you created freely.
Christian: Yes! Some of the stuff that I’ve painted that has sold, I couldn’t believe it. And then something I think is amazing and then no one buys it. I’m like what the heck is going on. You can’t gauge what people are gonna like.
Linda: You’ve talked about wanting to do more conventions now. Given that, would you begin to gear your artwork toward what is ‘hot’ with regard to pop culture?
Christian: That’s a dangerous path. If you love the trend that’s great. If your fandom is The Walking Dead and you paint every new character that comes on, that’s cool. But if you’re painting just to keep up with sales, that’s very dangerous because it stops being art and starts being a product.
Linda: I like what you’re saying. That tends to be the trend as people struggle to make a living sometimes. I can tell the difference and see when the heart is going into it [the artwork]…
Christian: I’ve seen great artists do stuff where you’re like, they’re totally phoning this one in. It shows. I’d rather paint something that nobody buys that I love. Someone one day is gonna be like, that’s the coolest thing I ever saw. I just sold a painting that I painted 5 years ago. Out of nowhere. A guy came in and fell in love with it. It was an original piece that I loved doing versus what the hot show is right now. If it’s not my fandom, it’s very hard. That’s when I would rather take a commission on it and know that I’m painting it for a cause.
Linda: What is the best advice you can offer to someone trying to make a living in the artistic realm?
Christian: There has always been a funny saying, “Don’t quit your day job”. I think one of the biggest things people do wrong is they try to pursue a career in something that they love and they think they have to give up the thing that they’re doing. In other words, definite money is better than maybe money. You have to have your bills paid. You have to have your needs met. You pursue it in your time when you’re not doing that. It’s called ‘hustle’. It’s the definition of hustle. And you have to hustle until you get to a point where the thing that you love becomes greater and it’s got its own legs and can stand on its own. Then you quit your day job. I see a lot of people who are afraid to even start creating because they think they’re going to make this masterpiece [right out of the gate]. I ask them when they are gonna start and they’re like well, I just gotta make sure it’s right, I need this tool to do this next job and then I’m gonna start my new path. You’ve then put so many restraints on your success that, forget about quitting your day job, you haven’t started the thing that you love.
So that’s the advice I would give to someone. If you are in a position where you don’t have to worry about having a job, make as much art as you can… right now! Life is short. No one is going to step up and pay your bills while you make art. [But] if you’re a person who is holding down a 40 hour a week job and then wants to be an artist, you have to hustle. It’s gonna be a little bit harder for you but, you have to do it. You have weekends and when you get home from work you could do a couple hours, that’s what I do. I do it [paint] before I go to tattooing and when I come home I’ll paint. I’ll build furniture on the weekends, I’ll take photographs on Sunday afternoon. There’s 24 hours in a day.
Linda: If you want something bad enough, you’re gonna make the time and go after it.
Christian: Yeah! Absolutely.
Linda: You hustle more than anybody I know. You are the perfect example for people that say they wanna do something but also say they can’t.
Christian: Thank you. Thank you so much. There is always gonna be something [but] you can do it. Other people have done it. Anyone can do it, it’s just that you’re almost taught to give yourself a way out, to give yourself an excuse. Someone is always like well you can’t do that because you have ‘X’. You’re always gonna have ‘X’. There’s always an ‘X’ factor. If you think you’re gonna get a clean slate so that you can do the thing you say you wanna do, it’s just never gonna happen. You have to just do it and then you adapt to doing it, you see what it’s like and then you make the adjustments. You have to do it now.
Linda: Is there anything you want people to know about you that you don’t get asked?
Christian: Great question. I feel like that so much of my life is out there on the table, I’m an open book. One thing that people can ask about or talk about that maybe they’re afraid to talk about is the thing that just happened… with the show [Ink Master]. People always see the side of things working out. They don’t see the failures. They don’t see the hard things that you go through. So it’s easy for me to say hustle, I’m telling people to hustle that they can do it and they’re like yeah, of course, everything works out for you. Really, does it? I just got my ass handed to me on national TV. I’m like, you know what, 50% of the things you do don’t work out. That doesn’t mean that you stop trying.
That’s the greatest thing that people could have seen, it’s not all roses. I work my butt off and look what happened. If you fall on your face, you still have a face. You get back up, you dust yourself off. Everything sounds like a cliche… because it’s true. I was so nervous to do that (Ink Master), then when it’s done you come out on the other side and you’re like… eh, ok… if I can do that then I can do anything. Doing a painting that sucks is nothing compared to going on national TV and [not get picked]. It’s just the way life is. We’ve outlawed dodgeball because people are afraid their kid’s not gonna get picked. I didn’t get picked for a freakin’ thing in my career! Don’t let your fear of failing make you wanna level the playing field. Dude, just get out there and do it.
Linda: Without failure, how can you feel success.
Christian: Exactly. When I was 15/16 years old I asked every girl in the world out. (laughing)
Linda: Statistically speaking someone was gonna say yes.
Christian: Yes! I bet I tricked my wife into marrying me.
Linda: I’m totally putting that in the article. (laughing)
Christian: Yeah. Seriously though, people need to ask about the failures. Those are the things that you like to talk about more. When you only talk about success, people wonder what’s gonna happen the day when something doesn’t work out. How will I handle it? Learn from people. I would say that’s the one thing I would want people to know, not everything works out.
Linda: If you weren’t doing this (painting and tattooing), what would you be doing?
Christian: When I was growing up, my dad was a musician who was a huge Bowie fan and his brothers were really into movies. So I came on the grid seeing David Bowie, John Bender from The Breakfast Club… I think maybe I thought I was gonna be this like drifter. (laughing) Some kind of rebel that like shook it up a little bit. Realistically I always thought that I would be doing something artistic. I just never wanted anything besides art in my life. I can’t even think of another thing that I would do. Like I would be a writer, photographer, or a builder but that’s all art. I guess I would love to sing but I can’t sing for anything. (laughing)
Linda: One last thing, since you brought up the term ‘rebel’. How did you come up with the name for this studio, Roses and Rebels?
Christian: It’s a juxtaposition of something beautiful and something dangerous. The push and pull of like everything that you’re passionate about. The struggle. The rose and the thorn. It’s supposed to appeal to both sides of everybody, that we have a beautiful side and a side that’s like our own. A side that’s out there for people to see, the rose side and we have the rebel side which is the real us. Basically, this was trying to get that in one name. Plus, I like Star Wars….
Linda: Anything else you’d like to add?
Christian: I’d like to do a YouTube channel or a podcast. If anyone knows how to help, I’m looking for that.
TV appearances, magazine features and awards aside, what impresses me most is that Christian remains humble. He is an open, approachable guy that knows how to laugh at himself and understands there is always more to learn and room to improve… in every aspect of life. I want to thank Christian for taking the time to chat with me and always making me feel welcome in his environment. Whether in his studio, painting on the pier or at a convention, I see him not only as a talented artist but as my friend.
Meet Christian next weekend at the Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention! Follow him on social media to check out his latest artwork and to keep updated regarding events and appearances. Facebook: Christian Masot Instagram: christianmasot Twitter: christianmasot Website: Christian Masot