Two tattoo studios stand across the street from each other — one with a magnificent eagle painted on its front door and the other with an old sandwich board that reads “half-price tattoos.” Which one would you visit?
All too often a shop’s exterior is taken for granted. An eyesore of a storefront can discourage even the most eager first-timer from getting a tattoo, while a well-done window can inspire someone who never considered collecting body art to step inside a parlor. For these reasons, sign painters, like Tina Fino, are unsung heroes.
For all of the work that she has done Fino is worth her weight in gold, but prefers it leaved. She’s created signs for numerous tattoo shops around NYC, including Bound for Glory, Do or Die, and New York Hardcore Tattoo. Although she’s largely self-taught, her work is impeccably clean and irresistibly eye-catching. “I'm influenced by so many artists in all areas,” Fino explains. “Anything from graffiti to American traditional tattoos and, of course, the old school masters of the art form.”
Long before she was a prolific artist working around the city, the first window Fino ever put a brush to belonged to the business she used to operate. “I opened a coffee shop in Brooklyn, and when you've got Gil Elvgren pin-ups hanging on the wall over flocked wallpaper, it’s only natural to want to have gold leaf on the storefront,” Fino recalls. “I thought, ‘I can figure this out,’ but I really had no clue what I was doing. Though it came out great, I did everything wrong, and for the next three years, I stared at that window and fell in love with sign painting.”
The connections that she made at her coffee shop led to future projects in the NYC tattoo community, including storefronts and even banners for tattooists like Becca Genné-Bacon, making Fino one of the go-to sign painters in the area.
“Mark Harada, my longtime tattooer and friend, knew I was getting into sign painting, and by giving me a chance at New York Hardcore Tattoo, he opened the door to so many other opportunities,” says Fino. “He and Nick Caruso gave me full reign on the design and really let me run wild, so it was super fun but nerve-racking. This was my first time working for other artists.” The sign she created is as outspoken as the music on which the shop was founded, featuring three bold typefaces and the iconic NYHC cross.
Fino has also done storefronts working with original designs by tattooists. “Nick asked me to paint the window in his Staten Island shop, Bound For Glory. It is still physically the largest window I’ve done to date, and a very different experience than New York Hardcore,” says Fino. “Nick and Mike Bee provided me with artwork, and I did the layout and lettering, making it feel more like a collaboration. I was definitely challenged, working with so many colors and the scale. It seemed like I was always waiting for paint to dry, but it is one of my favorites.”
Similarly to how tattoos are signs that tell about their collectors to viewers, Fino’s creations show how storefronts speak worlds about tattoo shops and the artists who work in them.
To see more of Fino’s work, make sure to follow her on Instagram. If you’re thinking about getting a new tattoo, consider have it done at one of the shops that she painted, so you can see her handiwork in the flesh. Lastly, should you be in need of a new sign for your business, commission her to do it. She can be contacted via her website.