Herald Photo / Provided
HANDIWORK  — Jerry Frost began his career as a tattoo artist two decades ago. Pictued above, he works on a back tattoo for a client.
Herald Photo / Provided HANDIWORK — Jerry Frost began his career as a tattoo artist two decades ago. Pictued above, he works on a back tattoo for a client.
Jerry Frost didn’t set out to be a tattoo artist when he was younger, but some well-laid plans in art school paved the way to a successful career in the industry.

For the past two decades, Frost has been responsible for the body art on countless customers at New Breed Tattoo and Piercing, where he works as the owner.

The beginning of his career dated back to his time in art school when he and a buddy of his liked getting tattoos and aspired of inking others someday. The pair believed they could step into the industry if they did it right.

“We thought we could do it and took baby steps because it was the early ‘90s. It wasn’t like today. There wasn’t a lot of help,” Frost said. “For the most part, it was more of an issue of most people that were into tattoos weren’t that artistic. There were people at the national level that were popular and respected, but at a local level, that’s what me and buddy thought, that they weren’t that good at art to begin with. It was something we could do. Time went by, and I slowly got into it and got a job somewhere.”

Frost was creating art on the human canvas, a slight difference from his old ways of pencil and paper, although he said that switching from pencil to a tattoo needle was similar in some ways. 

“You are drawing on a flat surface with pencil and paper. You have to get used to the three-dimension shape. It’s something you acquire after so long,” he said. “You have one shot.”

He acquired a job tattooing and quit his job as a pizza delivery guy. He didn’t look back. His work is that of realism, a technique he picked up working with a guy who was solid in creating life-like images on the skin.

“If I hadn’t worked with him, I may not have gotten some of the tricks that lead to the realism,” said Frost. “People were gravitating more toward artsy realism, so I was trying to keep up with what people were asking for. I guess I just got lucky that I was around somebody that got me that way.”

He said, as a tattoo artist, he will tackle any type of tattoo, from simple work to very detailed work. Some tattoos can be completed in a short time frame, while other larger pieces can rack up many hours in the chair.

“There have been some back pieces that were maybe 80 to 100 hours in total. I guess I never keep track of hours. The very most I’ve ever worked on someone was six to eight hours by the time you take a break or grab something to eat,” he said. “Most people are done after three to four hours. Some days you might work a little longer, some less.”

Frost credits the online world to opening many doors to tattoo artists across the globe to learning new techniques and seeing some cool work.

“The same thing that beat up the music industry helped tattooing. It’s the access to all the images and people being able to get with you and see your work on a phone. Back in the ‘90s when I started out, it was still very much where people would walk in, pick something off the wall and go,” he said. “Now, most everything is custom. It used to be where you would go into a Barnes and Noble and pick up a book of what you think people would like. Those books are at home now. Back in the ‘90s, you might have been friends with a couple people in town, but now I can look at guys’ work in Russia or Poland.”

Getting tattooed is more mainstream than ever, and Frost said that most of the work that comes into New Breed is custom work. Most people that come into his shop know what they want, and he rarely has to give advice against getting a certain tattoo done. The only time he interjects is if the detail is too tight or a customer is asking for the tattoo to be placed somewhere it will not hold up.

“That’s the only time I talk to them about really thinking it out,” he said.

In addition to new work, cover up work is a prevalent aspect to the business.

“Tattoos deteriorate and don’t look as good in the long run,” said Frost. “You can’t just power a new one over the top. You have to be clever with what you do, and not all cover-ups are possible. For some, we might recommend people to get lasered at the shop once or twice to open up that process of more clever ideas.”

Frost said the market is competitive, and those wishing to enter the field will have to work hard at it.

“Just like if you want to be a good football player, you practice all the time. I know people who want to tattoo, and I tell them they need to hone their own art,” he said. “They need to draw and draw and draw. There was a renaissance in the ‘90s into the early 2000s. The tools that a younger person would use are all over the place. Today, I wouldn’t say it’s easy. It’s more competitive because there are so many. Long ago, there weren’t that many. There are a lot of people now, so you really have to work hard to outshine the others. I got in while it was growing in popularity.”