Boasting a whopping 10 years at Kings Avenue Tattoo, one of the most respected shops in the industry, and co-founding Pagoda City Tattoo Fest, you’d half expect Justin Weatherholtz to be well into his 50s with how much he’s accomplished. But he’s just a wildly talented, incredibly ambitious 37 year old who’s managed to accomplish more in 18 years than most artists will in their entire lifetime.
Beginning his artistic journey in his hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania, Weatherholtz always had a slight inclination that his life would take him in more of an artistic direction. “In high school, I would just draw all the time,” he recalls. “I would draw my own comics, and then that would turn into drawing tattoo stuff when I was 15 or 16, and that would turn into buying tattoo magazines and just trying to emulate the looks of stuff I was seeing in there. I was always kind of open minded to all sorts of styles and looks though.”
Tattooing in an array of styles varying from Irezumi inspired work to traditional pieces, Weatherholtz takes inspiration from nearly everything around him. “My greatest influence is the people I’ve worked around. My work changed drastically 10 years ago when I started working here,” explains Weatherholtz. “I was looking at getting into Japanese tattooing, and I was so influenced and enamored by Mike Rubendall. I think the thing about his work that I was drawn to, was that it had the mix of the classic style of Japanese tattooing, but it also had the flair of other things, like his influence or personal touch on all of it.”
Adding his own personal touch, Weatherholtz’s work takes on a comic book feel, as most of the characters he creates deal with the age old concept of good vs. evil. In one of his most recent back pieces, a Red Sonja inspired woman can be seen riding atop a medieval dragon, fighting a grim reaper in an eternal quest for justice.
A self-described risk taker, Weatherholtz created Pagoda City Tattoo Fest in the summer of 2014, in partnership with his former mentor — Joe Johns. Located in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, the convention has amassed a loyal following. “I’ve always kind of had in the back of my mind that there’s never really been a big east coast show, like a collector’s style show, it just doesn’t exist for some strange reason, and there’s so many incredible cities and artists in this area. So I was like, ‘let’s try and make this show that.’”
Spanning three days and attracting some of the top names in the industry like Oliver Peck, the Spider Murphy’s crew, and Tim Hendricks, Pagoda City has established itself as one of the top conventions in the industry, attracting around 3,000 people and around 150 artists last year alone. More concerned with portraying itself as a convention for the artists and collectors rather than an eclectic and sometimes overwhelming mix of vendors and entertainers, Pagoda City was created with the artwork as its utmost priority. “At the end of the day, if the artists are into it, we’re gonna keep doing it. And if they’re not, then we’ll stop.”
Never one to take a breather, Weatherholtz is even planning his first art show this March, entitled Goodbye, featuring some of his fellow artists from Kings Avenue. “The process leading up to it has been interesting, because it’s kind of taken me in some different directions as far as what I’m putting out artistically,” he explains. “I’m trying to do some things that have a little bit more of a narrative to it.” But regardless of whether he’s painting, tattooing, or heading one of the most impressive conventions in the world, there’s not a thing that Weatherholtz touches that doesn’t turn to gold. Don’t let his age fool you, Weatherholtz is just getting started, and if the past 18 years are any indication of what’s to come, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for this young artist.