Johnson owns Champion Tattoo Company in D.C.'s Barracks Row. He owned tattoo shops in both the United Kingdom and Spain before moving to the United State to open his current shop.
How did you get involved with tattooing?
I have my art degree from the University of Maryland, and years ago I was getting tattoos, and then I had a friend who had Smurfs tattooed on his belly. When I saw that, it clicked in my brain. "Man, there's really something to this." There's a whole other kind of art world that you don't get in a university setting that I wanted to explore.
What was it like tattooing in Europe?
I started in Germany in the Alps. Tattooing around the world isn't that different. There's a little bit less of the prejudice against people with big tattoos than there is here in the U.S. So, because of that, you get a lot of clients who are interested in larger work.
How would you say the tattoo scene is different in the U.S.?
America is on the same par as Northern European countries, where America has a tattooing tradition that goes back to before the Civil War. So we had the Americana style that goes back to sailor and circus tattooing and things like that. One of the things that is a shame is how the military here is putting so much prejudice against tattoos so the Navy guys are losing that tradition.
Do you notice any trends in tattoo choices or in the tattoo businesses here in D.C.?
The only thing that might be a bit of a difference to other cities is that D.C. is full of people from all over the world, so you get a huge mix of concepts and ideas. As far as D.C. tattoos goes, the Nationals and the D.C. flag are probably the most popular. And the Redskins probably after that.