As a child, Ty Pallotta was infatuated with his father's military tattoo. He got his first tattoo -- Spiderman -- when he was 17. And, in 1998 he left his home in Toms River for a tattoo artist apprenticeship in Austin, Texas.
Pallotta, the owner of Premium Blend Tattoo, 777 East Bay Avenue, Manahawkin, said after his apprenticeship he worked in Staten Island and then came back to New Jersey, finally opening his own shop in 2004.
"What people seek me out for are the realism tattoos," said Pallotta. "There are not a lot of people doing that type of work around here. You see it more in the cities."
Pallotta said he is well-rounded, but has a knack for photo realism -- reproducing a photo on the body. He has done Norman Rockwell and Salvador Dali; he has tattooed the opening scene from the Quentin Tarantino movie, "Reservoir Dogs" and "The A Team's" Mr. T.
People are willing to wait to get these stylized tattoos: Pallotta said there is about a two-month wait for an appointment, and lately it has gotten as long as three and a half months.
"The people who are informed and want quality work seek us out," he said. "We tattoo people in their eighties, every walk of life, every age group. It's a lot more accepted than it used to be."
Pallotta said tattoos are beautiful art, as long as the content is acceptable. He said people can't be turned down for jobs because of their tattoos and even police departments allow their officers to have them.
It can take three to four hours to get a tattoo, said Pallotta, who charges $125 an hour. He cautioned people to think long and hard before getting a tattoo because it is permanent.
"Stay away from something that's trendy," he said. "Get something that's timeless, tasteful and a good quality piece of artwork, not a word or phrase you will regret."
Pallotta said right now, the trend is feathers turning into birds. Past trends include Chinese characters, dolphins and the phrase, "Live, Love, Laugh." He still gets a fair share of dragons and hearts with daggers. Some of his most unusual tattoos include a portrait of Jimmy "J.J." Walker and a mermaid with a green fly head.
"If someone has a bad idea that they wouldn't want on their body for the rest of their lives, I talk them out of it," he said. "People also will price shop. Tattoos are a very specialized service and if you're going to price shop, you shouldn't get a tattoo."
Fellow Premium Blend tattoo artist, Robyn Pallotta, said there is pain associated with getting a tattoo, although it is more of an annoyance. And, she said, people should use sunscreen on their tattoos to help the colors stay fresh and moisturizer to keep the tattoo bright.
While Premium Blend has clients from all over, they have a very responsible client base of locals from 18 to 80 years old.
"It's popular everywhere, but people in this area really like tattoos," said Pallotta. "Maybe it's because we're close to the beach area."
Pallotta said, in the future he would like to stay focused on large-scale work. He also is working on a street-wear clothing line with his original artwork.