Making His Mark
On the new season of Ink Master, the Philly artist known as Fon leaves a lasting impression.
by Bill Donahue

For as long as he can remember, Taquan Carr has loved the arts. He came of age in North Philadelphia, where he watched his siblings doodle, sketch, and otherwise put pen to paper. He learned to draw by watching them, but it would take him a few years to identify his preferred medium: ink on human flesh.
At 24, Carr admits he’s still growing into his talents as a tattoo artist. Even so, his work has already drawn a fair amount of attention. He has a starring role on Season 12 of Ink Master, for example, the Paramount Network show in which teams of tattoo artists go head to head, with the ultimate winner taking home a purse of $100,000. 
“The experience was crazy,” says Carr, who goes by Fon, a childhood nickname that stuck. We spoke with him about his time on the show, as well as his artistic background, his greatest source of inspiration, and the toughest part about being away from home for two months to film the show in New York.  

For people who aren’t familiar with you or your work, tell me about your background.
I always was into the arts, always drawing. I always picked up after my brothers, because I always saw them drawing. I started tattooing because of my one brother. He was tattooing, and I realized I might have a talent for it, so I bought a [tattoo] machine off Amazon for $60. … I went to Penn State Main Campus, where I was studying accounting, and I realized I was coming home a lot just to tattoo. I dropped out of college because I knew I had a passion for [tattooing] more than anything else, so I came home from Penn State, rented a studio by myself at the basement of a barbershop, and took on my dreams. I really took it seriously, studying my craft, and I saw the potential in the industry. 

How would you describe your art, or your style?
I do black-and-gray photo realism—portraits. It’s very hard for many tattoo artists, but I take my time and really try to perfect everything I put into my portraits. A lot of clients respect my work and my ability, and they trust me to do whatever I come up with. I might get an idea off them, but I’m always bringing my own creativity so I can produce the best tattoo I possibly can. 
I’ve been tattooing at Money & Ink [near Olney], and just being around other hungry artists has made me hungrier. I’m one of the younger guys doing this, but my work started getting recognized, and I started winning awards. Then I got hit up by Ink Master.  

I know you can’t discuss the outcome of the show, because it is a competition, but did you enjoy your experience?
It was pretty great, and I loved every moment of it: being in competition, being in that atmosphere, showcasing my work. Guys like me don’t get to showcase their talent at this level too often. I had to go to New York for the show, and leaving [Philadelphia] was a lot for me. I had to mentally prepare myself. I have a 2-year-old daughter, and I’m the dominant parent, so it took a lot for me to leave her, to not see her every day. I didn’t see her for a good two months. 

What did you take away from the experience? 
What I took from it is the need to continually improve my tattooing skills. I also learned a lot about the pressure of being in front of the camera, of being proficient at what you’re doing, and what that kind of pressure does to you. I learned a lot by myself, and how I react under pressure. … I’m a humble guy, so it took a lot out of me; it definitely humbled me even more. I was one of the youngest and less experienced artists [on the show], so I felt I had to prove myself. It let me be that underdog.

You’ve finished filming Ink Master and you’re back home in Philly now. What’s next on your agenda?
I have dreams that by next summer, I’ll have my own [tattoo studio]. I’m technically still an apprentice; Philly law dictates that you have to spend three years as an apprentice, so I’m still waiting for that to go through. I’m still at Money & Ink, which is two minutes away from La Salle [University]. When I have my own place, I’ll still be in Philly, but I think it will likely be in Center City.  
I’m a single father, and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am right now. I learned a lot about being a man from my father, and a lot of guys like me don’t have both parents in their life. I realize now that, when I was growing up, my parents took a lot of sacrifices for me, and I want to do the same thing for my daughter.

Photograph courtesy of Paramount Network

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, July 2019.  
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