Working out of Made You Look Custom Tattoos, located on East Washington Ave, is a humble, veteran artist named Jesus Reyes, otherwise known as “Cartoon.” He is the older brother of Albert Reyes, an artist previously featured on Weekly Ink who works out of Colt’s Timeless Tattoos. The brothers may share several traits, but don’t mistake them for being identical.
The inside of Made You Look features a well designed layout with friendly staff. Each artist has a private room detailed to fit their personality. These personal rooms help create a more exclusive tattooing experience and provide a sense of privacy. Cartoon’s room was coupled with celestial-style cabinets and pictures of happy memories all around. During our interview, Cartoon was doing a full-stomach piece for a client. Over the buzzing of his machine, we discussed everything from his first tattoo to his time at the “The University of Tattooing.”
Like his younger brother, Cartoon began tattooing at age 15 right after receiving his first tattoo in Mexico and falling in love with the craft. Living in Texas provided a constant clientele solely looking for black and grey styles of ink. Reyes explained that, unlike Wisconsin, Texas has a significant gang presence where people who look as if they have been dipped in ink are the norm.
Cartoon energetically explained that “Gangbangers want everything tatted, from guns, drugs to even street names.” He detailed how the culture is really different in Wisconsin versus Texas. “You don’t see it here like you do in Texas, but a lot of hispanics mainly are tatted up on their face and neck,” said Cartoon. “It's a little more classy up here.”
I asked Cartoon about his experiences as a teenager to get a timeline of his career. His two younger brothers were his first test canvases, serving as trial-and-error subjects.
He recounted a rookie mistake he made when first tattooing on one his brothers. “It was an 11-hour session that should have taken two hours,” said Cartoon. “I was using a single needle machine and I was still experimenting with different types of ink–luckily, I didn’t scar him one bit.”
We shared laughs after he went into detail about not labeling his spray bottles and accidentally spraying what he thought was water on his cousin during a session that turned out to be cleaning alcohol.
Cartoon chuckled with a hint of guilt when he explained, “My brothers and cousins had it the worst back in the day.”
Eventually, Cartoon followed his family to Madison where he would continue his craft. Unfortunately, he had gotten into legal trouble and, after avoiding the law, it eventually caught up to him. During a nine-year stint in jail, he learned about the culture of tattooing in prison. I asked about the counterculture of doing tattoos there. Interestingly, Cartoon called prison “The University of Tattooing.” Believe it or not, a lot of people go into prison knowing how to draw and come out knowing how to tattoo. In prison, Cartoon explained, “You can survive in prison doing tattoos. I already knew how to from the streets and people just came to me looking to get tatted.”
I asked Cartoon how he assembled his tattoo machine. He explained that, after taking the motor out of his beard trimmer, using guitar strings as a needle and harvesting the soot from homemade vaseline candles for ink, Cartoon was in business.
After serving his sentence he returned to Madison and, with the help of his brother, he first began working at Colt’s Timeless Tattoos, but eventually shifted to Made You Look.