Entrepreneur Spotlight: James Barnhill

Artist and owner of Black Lotus Tattoo Studio James Barnhill exudes his motto, “It’s maybe just ink to you, but it’s life to me!”

After a few short moments of speaking with James Barnhill I realized he’s not only a tattoo artist, he’s the epitome of perseverance. James reigns from Daytona Beach Florida, now he pledges his allegiance to Vero Beach, Florida. He has traveled a path paved by broken glass, barbed wire, and draped with nails. James was once a casualty of the streets, now he floods his artwork with them all over the East Coast. He used his misfortune into fuel to feed his relentless fire, on his way to becoming an owner of Black Lotus Tattoo Studio, as well as a revered tattooist.

facebook logo  James Barnhill & Black Lotus Tattoo Studio

instagram @blacklotustattoostudiovero

What are you currently working on?

“I am currently working on my clothing line. It’s a small line of designs that I do myself for my tattoo studio. Of course tattooing and in general, also getting  my artists work out there so that in the near future they can be as known as I am across the board.”

How would you describe your style?

“My style is something I would say is a mix of many styles put into one. It changes day to day, tattoo to tattoo. It’s constantly evolving, because that’s what the times call for. An artist that can stay up on what’s happening at the time. The art that people want is what I have to give them, so my style is pretty open ended to say the least.”

Why do you do what you do?

“I do what I do for many reasons. One of the biggest is what I do changes people in ways not known to most. Say a girl who’s not a very pretty girl, or guy for that matter who’s not the best looking goes about their daily life and doesn’t get asked out, complimented, or just told nice things in general like those who do.. Now say that person comes to me and I do a beautiful, or an amazing tattoo on them. Now, when they go out in public, they’re stopped constantly, while being complimented on how amazing or beautiful their tattoos look. This boosts their ego and makes them feel better about themselves. Changes their lives in a way that they once hadn’t known and it’s all from a simple tattoo, but it’s really so much more and that is something that I love the most about what I do.”

James Barnhill has been featured in several publications:

What was your “AH HA!” moment… when you knew this is what you wanted to do?

“Well, my “Ah HA!” moment was when I did my very first tattoo. It was a simple little tattoo. A tiny heart colored in red and it only took me about 5 mins to do it. It was super easy and nothing special I thought. That is until the girl that got that tattoo looked down and I could see her eyes widen, her face light up and the smile on her face said it all. That was my “Ah Ha!” moment right there. Her reaction to the small, simple heart tattoo that I did gave me something that I’ve never felt before and I knew at that moment that tattooing is what I would do for the rest of my life!!”

Professionally, what are your goals?

“Well, professionally my goals are to own 2 more tattoo studios just like the one that I currently own. I want to have a few artists in each one and let that allow me to focus on my clothing line more. I’d like to be able to tattoo and just enjoy life, but pick and choose the pieces that I’d like to work on. My artists can handle the rest and if all goes well, I can retire sometime before I get to 50 years old. That would be my simple goal.”

You can collab/tattoo with 1 to 3 people {dead or alive}. Who would that be?

Who and why? I’d love to collab with my stepfather Mac McFarland. He is the person who got me into tattooing at the age of 16 when I had no clue what to do with, or where my life was going. To him I owe everything. He passed some years ago.. Also, I’d love to colab with Spider Web and Gil Monty. Those 2 artists were 2 that my stepfather spoke of so many times when we would sit down and just go over tattooing. They would always somehow wind up in his many stories of tattooing in the late 70s and early 80s way back before it was so main stream and when he was still a tattooist”

Who are your inspirations in and outside of your profession?

James Barnhill
James Barnhill and his wife Theresa, the owners of Black Lotus Tattoo Studio.

“Well, first off, my stepfather was my main inspiration for ever becoming a tattoo artist at all. Second would be my big sister Tammy.. She’s always had the biggest heart and taught me many things over the years, but the biggest thing she taught me was no matter what life throws at me I can come out the other side shiny and new. Third and most importantly my wife Theresa. She was there for me in the beginning. Before all of the many things I’ve done. Before all of the glitzes and glamour she stood by me and always had my back. When things seemed so hard and out of reach, she made sure that I knew she was there and she believed in me. She has always inspired me to do better, be better, no matter what!! Strive for a better tomorrow on a daily basis..She inspires me to live the life that I’ve always dreamed of having..”

What/who inspires you to be great?

“What inspires me to be great is having been so low once upon a time in my life. Knowing what it’s like to have nothing and no one except yourself. Looking in the mirror at a time when no one is there and just knowing that I can. That has always been what inspires me in life… Who inspires me is my grandmother. She was simply the hardest working, most honest, loving and loyal person that I’ve ever known.”

What is your take on music and art funding being cut in schools?

“My take on that is this.. “I believe taking the funding for music and art out of the schools is the same as taking the news off of the air. Music and art are 2 things that speak from the hearts and souls of the streets. They speak the absolute truth of the times and what’s going on around us during these times. They let generations connect and cross over boundaries that aren’t easily crossed, nor understood in any other way and it all starts in the schools, so to take that away is to take away the very language of the spirit…”

What’s the scariest part of being a tattoo artist?

“I think the scariest part of being an artist is not being able to portray what someone has and wants in their mind. Not so much making a mistake, but just not getting what a person has in their mind done exactly as they see it, or want it to be.”

How do you defy life? 

end“From the age of 9 years old I have spent every single year locked up in one place or another. I spent 10 years in prison and sitting there, looking around I decided that enough was enough. I didn’t want to be just another product of my environment and from there I started thinking. I actually wrote down a 5 year plan and when released from prison on June 5th 2005 I put my plan into action. Up until that point I had spent every year of my life locked away somewhere always going with the flow so to speak. Doing wrong and blaming others. Never taking action until that day, but when I was released I decided to stick to my plan no matter what. I had nothing. Not a pot to piss in. I was flat broke and had no family or friend support, but I got my hands on some tattoo equipment and from there I started tattooing any and everyone that I could. I was homeless, slept in abandoned houses, in the woods and did whatever I had to do to stay out and make my 5 year plan a success. I met my wife not long after and we stuck by each other’s side. I tattooed and saved every dime that I could. I traveled the country, started tattooing at conventions and in other peoples shops and finally, I had saved enough with my wife to open our first tattoo studio together. Black Lotus Tattoo Studio. I have stayed out of trouble, jails and prisons since that day in June defying the odds against me, statistics and many who had no faith in what I was doing. I have become a success and give back as much as possible, never forgetting where I come from and never taking anything for granted, not even for a second. With the hand I was dealt, tattooing saved my life. Poor, broken and just beat down at times with nothing but tattooing and a dream. With that I would say I have defied all odds and still do on a daily basis.”

I learned several fascinating things about James, However, the last thought he left me with was absolutely priceless. I shared with him that his story is truly remarkable, also I didn’t have any idea he had endured so much in life. I wanted him to know that he is an American success story. That he started from the bottom now he’s here..In the wake of my remarks to James he simply stated, “I’ll be honest with ya. I don’t know the true name of God, or even the best way to explain Him to others, but I will say this. God is very real my friend and when a person is ready, He will be there!!!”


James Barnhill, Owner/Artist
Black Lotus Tattoo Studio
Vero Beach, Florida 32960
 (772) 321-7683

10 thoughts on “Entrepreneur Spotlight: James Barnhill”

  1. I am so proud of you James Barnhill. Being your big sister has always brought me a lot of happiness. I love you with all of my heart ❤️ I am shaking and crying at this moment. James Barnhill you mean the world to me and always have. We share a deep love for each other as brother & sister 💯 Keep your head up high you deserve everything good that has & will come. So proud of you.


  2. Same here, I’m now even more impressed with James’ life after reading this and also proud to say That I’ll be sporting his art work from now til the day I part ways from this life! Truly inspiring indeed! Way to go James!
    Cheers from the Colorado high country my friend!


  3. James, I really enjoyed reading this! I remember talking about some of this with you in depth while you tattooed the New York Rangers hockey collage on me brother! I also know you truly listened and cared about me and my life too. I’m so very honored to be your friend and glad to see your doing well. There is one person that will tattoo me brother and that is you! Although, someday, I may let your bride mark me up too… Keep up the good work!


  4. James you do awesome work. I wear your work with pride. You’ve made your dreams come true showing that hard work pays off. You and Raven are both amazing


  5. Uncle James you are truly an inspirational Man whom I have always looked up to. You are a hero in my eyes. You have one of the greatest minds I have ever known. Your talents are immensely great and your heart and soul fierce. Your thought process and the way you see the world is amazing I personally feel that is one reason you are such a great artist your mind is phenomenally great. Uncle James you transcend metamorphosis.


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