Harry V. Lawson

For such an important tattoo master, not a lot is known about Harry V. Lawson. According to the 1937 Albert Parry book titled, “Tattoo”,  Mr. Lawson had walls of tattoos, some of which were on real skin. His swanky establishment consisted of a reception room, operating room, and a rest room. Lawson was about to launch a business establishing high end tattoo parlors from Hollywood to Miami. Whether this was a dream or indeed a solid plan we will never know as “the negotiations dragged on well into 1929, and 1929 proved fatal to this scheme as it did to many others.”  He ended up in a hole in the wall like the rest of the practitioners of the trade did in that era.

The great Owen Jensen worked for him in San Diego. Lawson then moved to Los Angeles on South Main and Fifth. Along with Gus Wagner he was regarded as one of the ”brightest in the ranks of American tattooists”, also from Mr. Parry’s book.

His work is well drawn, animated and at times fanciful. His pages beautifully designed and well balanced.

Recently, we looked at the sheet below that was unidentified. It’s early and nicely drawn. We wanted to try and identify the author, if possible. 

Harry Lawson
Originally thought to be unidentified

There’s a date; May 20th 1930 written in pencil and erased under the eagle wings of the crossed equator design. Which caused us to look further. Scotty in the Lift Trucks Lab found another erased set of letters at the bottom of the sheet.  Looked like “…rry V Law…n”.  He then looked at it a different way by flipping colors on the computer to a negative. Almost like a blueprint. You can see it clearly in person, not so much in the photo (apologies). But you get the idea. It all falls into place and says in all caps: HARRY V LAWSON. 

Not a bad way to check for signatures on a sheet. Flipping some colors will work better than others. Old computers sometimes have a color matrix rotation system button. On newer models, try Photoshop and swap out one color for another.

One tell was the unique style of feathered shadows under the feet of the women. A black line with fade cast. This is on other Lawson’s in a book. Shows up here on the ukulele girl and pirate lass giving stylistic evidence, along with the block letter signature, that sheet is most likely by Harry V. Lawson.  

Maybe another reason to dig back into into the slag heap of unidentified tattoo flash sheets.

Harry Lawson
Click image to see enlarged. block letters: HARRY V LAWSON