Story: Michael Crenshaw
Photography: Estevan Oriol & Andrew Link
His skilled hands are the vehicles with which he creates art and breathes life into his canvases. Whether it’s with the everlasting ink of a tattoo, drawing or pin-striping—on his many automotive ventures—his skill is recognized as some of the underground art world’s best, and to even get a tattoo appointment with him may take months or years.
You may not know who Mark Machado is, but you certainly know Mister Cartoon.
Cartoon, as he’s recognized among those familiar with him, has an overwhelmingly animated presence in person. While not big in the standard sense—his stocky frame covered in tattoos is instantaneously recognizable, however—Cartoon’s visceral appearance is evident during conversation, while his deep eyes, which never seem to blink and miss a moment, stare back at you. He is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word, with Mister Cartoon Sanctiond Automotive car-care products being his coup de grâce within the automotive landscape. Stemming from his father’s love of the automobile, naming every car as they passed, Cartoon has made it his mission to involve himself in car culture, relishing in the fact that because of his status, he can now make almost anything a reality. We sat with Cartoon during a five-hour tattooing marathon and talked life, tattoos and his love affair with cars.
RIDES: When did your love of cars begin?
Mr. Cartoon: I always dreamed that maybe one day I could learn how you can tell the different cars from each other. [My father] started taking me to car shows, and I remember walking into one as a teenager, being able to see the cars. I started to notice the striping, the gold leaf–painted show signs. In California we get a cool breeze with the sun, and that feeling with the wet paint job and the gold leaf with murals—I fell in love right there.
So your artistic side came out after your passion with cars began?
Well, I saw a guy paint, but of course I’ve been drawing all my life with, like, with pencil or pens, stuff like that. And I started trying to do spray-paint graffiti. We would try to emulate New York graffiti writers. But on the other side of the tracks were all these lowriders and Bombs, and all these different kinds of cars. And I was like, “Man, that’s what I want to do. I like the way the cars lie on the floor, you know, when the bumpers are on the ground. And hey, the guys that own them—they look as cool as the cars!” They got tattoos, and they’re sleeved, you know?
The two went hand in hand?
I used to airbrush T-shirts at Freeway and Rick Ross’s Big Palace of Wheels. So he owned a wheel shop with those chandeliers and marble floors, with cars and wheels on the floor, in the ’80s, in South Central. I couldn’t believe that a place like that existed. They had a car wash on the side of it. I used to airbrush T-shirts there, and I would see the cars leave the car wash and hit the switch, and the baby chandeliers swinging in the back window, plaque in the back, flake roof. I was like, “That’s it. I’m gonna sell my soul to get a fuckin’ lowrider!”
Did you sell your soul?
I got a ’64 Impala, a Suzuki Samurai on Daytons. It was some real ’80s shit.
Explain why you have two Lifestyle tattoos.
We got our [Lifestyle Car Club] plaque. And this is the general spot where we get it, on the inside of the forearm. I got another plaque right here [points to his body]. I didn’t want people to notch; if you didn’t shoot this, and you’re shooting me from right here, I wanted to make sure there was another plaque right there, you know?
Wild stuff. So what trends are you seeing with custom cars?
It’s about luxury cars. Luxury cars got to have an equal amount of custom work on them as your [old-schools]. Well, not an equal amount, ’cause you don’t want to candy-paint your Euro. But you want to put a kit on, an exhaust, change the diffuser out, put a headliner in it, do your floor mats, the headrests—little things like that. What your average guy would never do, like paint your grilles the same color, take off the chrome, maybe paint it black.
So you have less of a canvas to work with?
Oh, for sure. You got to be very, very easy on that stuff, because it’s easy to cross the line.
What’s in your collection right now?
I never say, but I don’t really count them, because they’re always moving and changing. Or I sell them, or they are corporate company cars that I’m building. Like right now, we’re working on a custom project for Vans shoes.
So for Sanctiond Automotive, what do you foresee in the future of the brand?
I see Sanctiond going in everyone’s garage. Like your kids are gonna go, “Hey, my old man always had a bottle of Sanctiond in his garage.” I see it going all over the world. I see it penetrating deep Europe, South America, being in every auto show there is. I see it as being at car shows from Compton all the way to Grand Concourse, Pebble Beach. I think we’re the only company that can go between those two extremes.
And having the reputation of actually being there?
Yeah, being able to be at each one. It’s a movement. We want other people to come with us. We want all these car builders that are like sports heroes to us, you know what I mean? We’re about that with car builders. I didn’t redesign the wheel or anything, and I wasn’t the first person to think of wax, but I felt like FuBu with this one. That’s all I can really say. This is for us. I’m allowed to be obsessed with it because I’m pushing it. I’m a businessman. But without that, I was looking mad like I had low self-esteem or some shit. But I love building cars. I love to build. I love the build of it and the challenges.