In Memory of Clint Cummings
Clint Cummings was known as an award-winning tattoo artist who’d been slinging ink for nearly a decade in the Fort Worth area. His skill with a tattoo gun landed him a spot on the second season of Ink Master, a tattoo competition judged by Miami Inkcast member Chris Núñez and local tattoo legend Oliver Peck from Elm Street Tattoo in Dallas.
Clint at only 35 years-old, beat 10,000 other tattoo artists from across the country for a spot on the TV show. His appearance eventually led to other spots on reality-based tattoo shows such as Tattoo Nightmares in Miami, Ink Master, and Ink Master’s special. He produced and starred in his own YouTube series called “Needleboys.” He also persuaded Mansfield City Council to lift a ban on tattoo shops, and then opened his own tattoo shop called Sparrows Tattoo Co. in 2012.
“I tell the boys that there’s a big difference in tattooists and tattoo artists,” Cummings told the Observer in his 2015 profile. “Tattooists just take something off the wall and put it on the skin. The tattoo artists are given the freedom, the chance to create art for somebody and that makes a world difference.”
Now Cummings has gone to sling ink in the afterlife.
According to his parents, Lenny and Renee, Clint found out about Fight Colorectal Cancer after doing his own research about colorectal cancer (CRC) and identifying a group that felt like a good fit for him to work with. The more he read about Fight CRC’s advocacy and talked to the team, the more he wanted to get involved.
Clint organized a fundraiser called “The Art of Heroes” to support Fight Colorectal Cancer through his tattoo shop, Sparrows, located in Mansfield, TX. He was joined by other tattoo artists and his family in all his awareness efforts. Becoming an advocate gave Clint the courage to continue his fight, shares Renee. Advocacy gave him something to do during the worst parts of his battle.
Don’t mess with Texas tattoo artist and Ink Master contestant, Clint Cummings. He tells it like it is and he has the artistic talent to back himself up. After graduating with an art degree, Clint decided to take the road less traveled and became a tattoo artist.
What comes across on the television screen that you’d like people to know about you?
The thing about the show is that it does show me, and I don’t ever fake anything I do.
Is that the part that’s most frustrating about the show?
Yeah, I’ve had a couple of death threats. I’m a really nice guy I just take what I do very seriously. I’ve very passionate. If I see something that’s wrong I’m going to say it.
What is your best advice for someone wanting a tattoo and for finding the right artist?
I always tell everybody do your research on your artist. Look at their tattoos make sure they look consistent and that the same guy is doing the same work. See what kind of artist they are outside of tattooing. Do they paint? Do they do graffiti?
Are they an illustrator? Do they do other kinds of artwork? Are they the kind of artist that can take your tattoo and make it the way you want it? There are a lot of different variables.
There are two ways to research your artist. First, make sure they can tattoo, and then see what kind of artist they are outside of it.
Then you should be good.
Was there any tattoo style you were wary of doing in the competition?
Yeah, there was actually two. One was Traditional and one was Japanese.
The reason for it is that both of these styles have lots of rules to them. There is a lot of trickiness to it. It’s not so wide open as saying black and grey portraits or New School. Japanese tattoos have so many rules such as Koi fish swimming up the stream, lotus flowers, and seasons that there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know. I think those things not only hindered me, but I think just about everybody on the show. I’m glad that it was on there because for what they’re trying to shoot for and labeling someone Ink Master and that he knows all genres, then that’s something that they’ll have to know.
In Texas, we don’t do a lot of that work. So that was something that when I went into this I knew I was going to struggle with those two categories especially.
What is your tattoo art style? You said you’re Realism and New School?
When I started tattooing back in 1997-1998, there wasn’t a whole lot of Realism going on. There wasn’t any Mike DeVries. New School was really big, and black and grey were really big, like Paul Booth and Tom Renshaw, they were really the heavy hitters back then.
I kind of paint with pencil more than anything else. And so in the last few years, I’ve been dappling in Realism and it’s worked out really well for me. In the late, I’ve been a Realism guy, but New School is my background. There’s a certain thing about my Realism in the way that my colors are overly saturated and bright.
Your dad bought you a tattoo machine at 15 to give you something productive to do. Did you tattoo your father?
I’ve tattooed both of my parents quite a bit. I’m doing my dad’s back piece at the moment.
If you want to sum it up, in a nutshell, I grew up in a sense of anarchy. That’s pretty much my family, that’s the kind of environment I grew up in, just a regular biker household. And when it comes to bikers, somebody out in the crew knows a legitimate tattoo artist, and my dad knew that guy and he introduced to him and said basically hey my kid is fucking up in so many ways, but he’s a really great artist.
He needs something to do with his life. That’s kind of how we got the whole thing rolling.
While going to school for my graphic design degree, I realized I was making more money tattooing than I ever could do graphic design, and that was it.
What was your first tattoo?
The first tattoo I ever got I did myself. I did a big, kind of cartoony devil on my leg. I was like 16 years old and my mother flipped. It’s not like a little tiny tattoo here, it’s from my ankle to my knee.
Have you covered it or is it original?
It’s in the process of being covered right now. I have a Polynesian sleeve on my leg that I’m doing and that’s covering it up.
You had the laws of Mansfield changed for the acceptance of a tattoo shop. How do you think the city will respond if you now go on to win Ink Master and you hail from their small town?
Yes, Mansfield did not allow tattooing until I came around. I went through like six months of student council meetings of just basically teaching them that I wasn’t going to be selling crack and that this is an art that’s a multi-billion dollar industry. I told them I would be more beneficial to their city than anything else and over the past six years, I’ve proven it.
The city has been behind me since day one they are ecstatic that I am there and are proud of my achievements. They love it all around. I’m not the most P.C. guy in the world, I’m not the nicest, but at the same time they’re happy to have somebody like me push this as far as I have and achieve what I have. There was a little over 10,000 people that tried out for this thing. For me to be selected is an accomplishment in itself.
Ink Master contacted you to try out for the show. Is that correct?
I think what happened is they were in California talking to tattoo artists and they asked who they should talk to and people kept bringing me up, you know, kinda crazy. So they contacted me and asked me to come to Austin. I never really took it seriously. I went down there, walked in, did my interview and I was myself.
And they loved it. I think what helped is the last year and a half I’ve been filming my YouTube show in the shop and I always have a camera in my face. It made it natural for me to go down and do this interview.
Why do you hope to be selected as Ink Master?
I think all of us on the show feels like whoever walks away with this should be well-rounded in tattooing but also be able to demonstrate to the world what it takes and what we sacrifice for what we are.
The guy that wins this should ultimately have a traditional apprenticeship. They should be taught how to respect each other, how to respect the art form and respect their elders. That’s how I was taught. Whoever does win it, I hope they have the same values and morals that I possess and I hope that shows through with everyone that watches the show.
I hope they say, wow that guy does deserve this, he’s dedicated his whole life and went about it the right way. He didn’t start tattooing with a fucking rotary in prison. This guy did it the old school way, and that’s still the best way to do it.
What is a tattoo to you?
What is most sacred about a tattoo is that it’s a visual memory. When you look at a tattoo you can remember the person you were when you got it, the situations you were in when you got it, you can remember where you got it, and you can remember that night and how it came about it. That’s the thing I love about it the most. I can look back at my tattoos, even the bad ones, and I can remember the kid I was when I got it, and I can remember the struggles.
Tattoos are little time capsules. When you meet someone and they show you their tattoos, they are taking you on this little trip of their life. That’s what I love the most. The tattoos that have the most memories are the ones where people work with their artists and they come up with something that is a lot better than any flash on the wall, it adds a lot more sentimental value.
What’s your favorite bird?
I really like red cardinals a lot. They stand out like crazy.
What’s behind the name of your shop Sparrows Tattoo Company?
It ties into just about everything. I wanted a really natural sounding tattoo studio and at the same time, I’m really into Jack Sparrow.
What is your favorite flower? I would have to say the plumeria. The reason for that is they are all over the place in Honolulu and they smell fantastic. They are just a cute little flower that reminds me of an awesome place I wish I was.
What is your personal motto?
Talk shit, get hit. That’s a big one out in Texas.
In memory of Clint Cummings. May you inspire us forever to become heroes for each other.