Arts & Entertainment

Artisans: Tattoo Artist Andy Howl

Howl’s background is firmly rooted in classical pen and ink principals.

BY February 27, 2015


Andy Howl

Tattoo artist and gallery owner

Age: 38

Years tattooing: 12

Years in Fort Myers: 10


Just like how you should never trust a skinny chef, Andy Howl doesn’t trust any tattoo artist without any tattoos. “You practice on yourself,” he says. “It’s a right of passage to tattoo yourself—usually on your legs.”

Since he’s well-inked—there’s little real estate left on his arms or legs—we trust him. Howl owns the Fort Myers Howl Gallery/Tattoo, which splits its space between rotating exhibitions and tattoo studios. As a Savannah College of Art and Design graduate, Howl’s background is firmly rooted in classical pen and ink principals. This has made him the go-to guy in Southwest Florida for highly detailed work—especially anything with intense stippling.


First Impressions

“Before college, the only real experience I had with tattoos was my grandpa’s tattoo from World War II. It was a heart with my grandmother’s name on it—it wasn’t particularly well done, but it’s probably what was available when he was in Hawaii.”



“I actually had my first piece of work in a gallery show when I was in preschool. My teacher was doing a show in Russia and she took one of my pieces with her. All through school, art was kind of the only thing I was interested in; as a senior I was voted most talented.”


The Benefits of Needlework

“Tattooing is social, and most other art is not. And it’s entrepreneurial—you’re in charge of your own destiny. And sometimes with fine art you feel like people are buying pieces because it’s a good investment, not because they like them. With tattooing they’re getting the piece because they like it.”


Oral Tradition

“There is no school with tattooing—well, there is, but you don’t want to go to it. Tattooing is a craft that’s passed down. That’s the real way to learn.”


Friends with Benefits

“If you don’t have friends to practice on, you practice on pigs’ feet or pig skin. You can also practice on oranges, but it’s not as good. The first tattoo I ever did was on a friend in Michigan. It was a cover-up tattoo, and it was a black tribal design—honestly, it still looks pretty good!”


Skin Deep

“Tattooing is much harder than painting; the skin is moving, it’s alive and it’s flexible. Plus, you can’t really make a mistake with a tattoo—you can’t just start over. It’s a lot like live performing; everything is being recorded on the skin.”


Permanent Record

“I’m not OCD, but maybe I’m borderline. I’m really focused when I work. Applying a good tattoo and doing it right is at the forefront of my mind. So far, I’ve never really messed up—once I left an ‘e’ off the end of a word, but that’s the kind of thing that’s easy to fix.”


The Tattoo Artist Knows Best

“I do try and avoid doing cliché tattoos—like barbed wire on a bicep. A lot of times people aren’t exposed to all of the possibilities that are out there, so we try and educate them. We won’t tell someone not to do something, but we will tell someone they shouldn’t do it.”


Tracing the Blood Line

“My mom is totally cool with my career path—in fact, I’ve tattooed her. Actually both my parents have embraced that tattooing is what I do. I even think my dad may be coming around to the idea of getting a tattoo.” 


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