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About Charlie Cartwright:

Pioneer of single needle tattooing (Professional Black & Gray Fine Line) specializing in custom freehand, all styles in East L.A. in the mid 70's. Star of film "Tattoo Nation".
Tattooed from the age of 15 until retiring at the age of 60, from tattooing, not retiring from art, still produces art and just completed "my Indian project, most of 11 years work. Now 76 years old, (I'd do it all over again).

Born in Pasadena, Texas in 1940, son of a Pentecostal preacher, Charlie Cartwright began tattooing at the age of 15 in Wichita, Kansas.

From 15 to 20, Charlie tattooed out of the back seat of his 1946 Chevy sedan, practicing and mastering the hand poke method. Knowing nothing of professional tattooing, nor tattoo machines, and unfamiliar with the use of stencils, he drew designs directly on the skin, customizing truly one of a kind artwork from the very start.

While society saw this art form as taboo, tattoos were commonplace in Charlie's childhood. His interest in the art form sparked when he saw his first full body piece. This body suit featured a jungle scene where Charlie recalls, "lions were leaping, rhino's charging, elephants trumpeting, monkeys swinging, birds flying, it was crazy, and I thought wow, I gotta figure out how you do that. It was just the perfect environment too."

Enlisting in the Navy brought Charlie to San Diego, where he would often visit tattoo parlors, and his first professional tattoo done by Tahiti Felix Lynch. He also was tattooed by Painless Nell and her sister Jo, where the assembly line process was applied, one sister outlining, the other would shade.

Shortly after, Charlie headed north to Long Beach, where he discovered The Pike. Civilians, merchant marines and Navy, tourists, and families alike all frequented The Pike, an amusement park/vacation center located on the pier in Long Beach, CA. Charlie recalls, "The Pike was heaven for the observer, side shows with the human oddities, games, roller coaster and fun rides, it had something for everyone. The greatest parade of humanity that one could ever hope for." The Pike was also known for housing some of the world's best tattoo artists, at a time when tattoo artists were few and far between.

Charlie soon gave up the backseat in favor of brick and mortar, and started to investigate the business aspects, preparing to one day open a shop of his own. Tattooing at the Pike was competitive, and most shops kept to themselves. Business was thriving in this military port in the late 60's, early 70's and Charlie spent time getting to know the artists. "I was tattooed by the best of them, Lou Lewis, Burt Grimm, Owen Jensen. Bob Hayman, The profession of tattooing was a mystery, I was pumping them for information, but received the cold shoulder."

In 1973, he met Jimbo Laporte co-owner of West Coast Tattoo. Jimbo could sense Charlie had talent and ambition, and set up an audition, suggesting, "Why don't you take some skin down to 5th and Main and we'll see what you got."

Charlie, who lived in Whittier, CA at the time, took his neighbor Tony to West Coast Tattoo in Los Angeles, CA. When they arrived, Zeke Owen greeted him, and loaning Charlie his tattoo set up, Zeke took off, leaving Charlie and Tony to themselves. This was not only Charlie's first encounter with a professional tattoo machine, it was also the first time he used color in a design. Zeke was impressed with Charlie's work, stating "guys who have been tattooing 10-15 years, don't tattoo like that." After spending a few months in the Los Angeles location, Charlie was transferred to West Coast's shop at The Pike, where he spent the next few years enjoying steady work. He also picked up his pen name here, "Good Time Charlie."

When The Pike began to slow down, Good Time Charlie looked towards a new location and the dream of owning his own shop. Living in Whittier, he explored the idea of East Los Angeles, where, at the time, there were no shops. Knowing the community, he felt there was a demand for tattoos and the freedom to explore a deeper artistic, personal expression.

1975, Charlie opened his first venture in East Los Angeles, "Good Time Charlie's" and with the help of Jack Rudy, the two began to fill a void in the Chicano art community. Charlie created a team of artists forming the first professional tattoo shop to develop a technique which was called penitentiary-style, now known as the birth of the fine line movement, parent to today's Photorealism. This technique took tattooing from 3-6 needles down to just one, using black as the foundation of artwork, mimicking and refining a style that was developing amongst the Hispanic community within the Los Angeles prison system.

Their new style was innovative and apparent to all their peers. Considered to be a revolutionary method, many other artists would visit the shop regularly to study, taking what they learned back to their own shops, creating new forms of using this fine line technique. Charlie's doors were always open to other artists and he shared his knowledge freely.

East Los Angeles was a whirlwind, the shop was busy, often not closing until past dawn. As long as their were customers, the doors stayed open and the artists continued working. East LA at this time was undergoing major cultural shifts and with the rebellion of gang life and the uprising of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. ELA was in the midst of major changes. Tattoos were a popular art form for the Mexican American population, an intimate, symbolic representation of this turbulent time.

In 1977 Charlie began a renewal of his spiritual journey. He sold Good Time Charlie's Tattoo Parlor to San Francisco tattoo artist Ed Hardy, and headed back to Wichita, Kansas to revisit his priorities. He opened up a multi-discipline art studio named "Creations for Christ," a Christian creative cooperative work space dedicated to reinforcing his priorities, Family, Love, Honor, Ethics, and God. The studio incorporated many different art forms, with the idea of providing a place where the town's creative souls could be given the space and materials to work. Charlie himself began experimenting with wood, leather, paints, etc., expanding his artistic boundaries beyond tattooing.

Charlie was determined to create something new and successful, that reflected the life he wanted to lead. Unfortunately, to it's detriment, the space opened in the dead of winter. Timing is every thing as they say, in life and business, and Charlie just coming off of the demanding environment and fast pace of The Pike and East Los Angeles, could not imagine that it wouldn't work. But this new community at this particular time, did not see things the same way. Charlie struggled to keep the doors open, and after much praying he decided to close up shop.

Charlie re-entered the tattoo world in 1980, another instance where he was the only shop around. He named the shop "Good Time Charlie's End of the Trail," and operated alone. All three of his children eventually took to entering the field, and turned "End of the Trail" into a family run shop.

In 1987, Charlie and his wife relocated to Modesto CA. He re- opened "Good Time Charlie's End of the Trail" where three generations of artists
continue to work until it's closure, Feb 2020. At the time of opening the shop, "End of the Trail" in Modesto, again, he was the only tattoo shop in town.

Today, Modesto is now home to upwards of 80 shops and countless tattoo artists.