WARREN, Pa. - Hard Luck Tattoos owner Jon Comstock takes the tattoo business seriously.
Tattooing professionally since 1997, Comstock has an extensive resume of shops he worked at across New York, Pennsylvania and Texas before opening up in 2010 in Warren, Pa. He has also worked at several conventions with the most recent being the Steel City Tattoo Convention, organized by Shane O'Neill, first season winner of "Ink Master" - a tattoo competition reality show. He was invited back to participate again this September.
"I grew up interested in art. My mom ran around with bikers, so I saw tattoos all the time," he said. "I liked them. They just fascinated me."
Jon Comstock, owner of Hard Luck Tattoos, sits in the alcove where he works.
P-J photo by Mallory Diefenbach
Comstock credits Shane Anderson for getting his foot in the door. Unlike many other professions where a college degree or a vocational certificate is required, tattooing is an apprenticeship. He says he learned most of what he knows from a tattoo artist named Cactus Jack from Austin, Texas, but he also credits Tom Stockman and Tony Becker who helped him learn tricks of the trade as well.
"The best tattoo artists will tell you they're still learning," Comstock said. "There is always something new to learn."
Growing up in Sugar Grove, he went Jamestown High School, Southwestern and Eisenhower. Growing up poor, he said he always wanted to go out and see the world, to see if there was something better out there.
"However there is no place like home," Comstock said with a laugh.
After his mother died in 2009, he came back to help with funeral arrangements. He said he realized his mom's sisters and brothers - his loved ones - weren't going to be there forever.
"I really felt like I was neglecting my family," Comstock said. Making arrangements to come back to be with his family, he opened up shop in 2010.
Even though Comstock has been in the business for a while, he still has his challenges. He said the hardest thing about tattooing is overzealous expectations.
"There is only so much you can do, and people push that every day," he said. Comstock said when people want something special done, they need to come in ahead of time, talk to the artist and get a good idea of what they want done.
When choosing a tattoo artist, Comstock urges people to get tattooed only by a professional and to look at the portfolio of the artist in question to confirm they can do what they are looking for. Referrals are also good. Even though bad tattoos can be covered up with another tattoo, certain things are bound for the road of regret - names especially, he said.
"You should never get someone's name tattooed on you unless they are your child or they are deceased," he said. "All other relationships are open to negotiation. And you know what? Sometimes after people die, you find out messed up stuff about them."
Hard Luck Tattoos is a tattoo parlor which looks more like a doctor's office. Comstock takes great care to keep equipment clean and sterile, and to have a friendly and professional atmosphere. In addition to doing tattoos, Hard Luck Tattoos also offers body piercings and jewelry sales. Customers must be 18 with a valid photo identification.
Hard Luck Tattoos is located on 1209 Pennsylvania Ave. East in Warren, Pa. It is open Monday through Friday from 2-9 p.m. and Saturday from 2-8 p.m. For more information, call 814-313-1665 or visit www.facebook.com/hardluck.