The Shop

This article was written in 2015

Over his 20 year career in the graphic arts, Marcus brings a diverse and deeply knowledgeable wealth of experience to Acala Tattoo.

Always a serious practitioner since childhood, Marcus worked diligently to teach himself how to draw properly by copying from life, cartoons, comic books, and studying drawing manuals. At the age of 13, he began a formal oil painting apprenticeship from esteemed artist Norman D. Roth, with whom he mentored under until the age of 18.  During his teen years, Marcus gained his skills in clay, glass, and twine sculpture from artist Paul Sherman, while also learning some tricks of the trade from his mother, Pamela, owner of a ceramic business for 17 years. After some time studying Fine Arts and Literature at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, Marcus moved on and opened his first business at 19 years old, where he picked up airbrushing full time. In between his seasonal schedules, Marcus had a brief work stint at Disney, followed by travels and studies abroad in France, before finally continuing his formal education at Sheridan College of Animation & Film in Toronto. After his departure from Canada, Marcus moved back to NYC where he was a T-shirt designer, modeling scout, and animator for television commercials. Upon returning to Central New York in his mid-twenties, Marcus dove back into custom painting hot rods and motorcycles with his friend Jason Baran of JT’s Customs; and running festivals, events, and parties with partner and friend, Al Miller for the next decade, until Al's passing. Advertising never escaped his grasp either, as Marcus eventually traded automotive painting for full-time graphic design, filming, and marketing work for a great number of businesses and charitable campaigns.

Over the course of his journey, Marcus has accumulated over 330 "Best Paint" and "1st Place" awards from around the country, including recognition from Harley-Davidson, over 30 magazine and book features, and has contributed articles and literary chapters on painting and art for various publications. His work is privately collected by former Tonight Show Host, Jay Leno and legendary comedian, Don Rickles.

Parallel to his Graphic Arts journey has been one in the Martial Arts. Marcus has been a student of Japanese Bujutsu and Jujutsu since 1991 and has travelled the world in pursuit of his training. He frequents Japan, as time allows, and of course has been influenced in his art studies by Japanese history, mythology, woodblock prints, and tattoos.

 When asked what got him into the tattoo trade, Marcus responded,

“Well, it was new, but not so new to me. I have drawn and designed tattoos for people my entire art career, so I was already somewhat familiar with layout and the limitations of skin as a canvas, especially from chatting with various tattoo artists. A good amount of the time, I’d accompany the person I designed for, and got to hang at shops and pick the brains of the artists while they were working. Also, custom painting motorcycles is VERY similar with designs, subject matter, and working on curved surfaces.”

He continues,

“But I have to say that there are two main reasons why I finally caved after all these years as a professional artist. First, being it was pretty much one of the last few disciplines of interest I had yet to tackle and store in my arsenal of mediums. I love to learn how to make art through as many channels as possible. The second, I’m sorry to say, is because a lot of my buddies and family were getting jacked tattoos and experiencing even worse customer service on top of it all. I’m one to “put up or shut up”, so I finally put my money where my mouth is. I felt it was time that I jumped in, thanks largely to a nudge from a former long-time colleague of mine, who had been tattooing for quite a few years and learned under the late Brooklyn Payne. He made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse, so I said "yes" to an apprenticeship. Needless to say, many people in my life were thrilled with the decision, after a near lifetime of arm twisting, hahaha.”

“The current evolution of the industry happened to sway me as well. So, three reasons, actually. I’ve been graciously offered a handful of tattoo apprenticeships over the past couple decades, and I almost jumped on them, but I either didn't vibe with those shops or had other plans in the works during those moments. Also, since then, the market and demographics have been changing on top of it all. Machine technology and ink chemistry has greatly improved, classically trained artists started making a career in the tattoo industry, and it has changed not only what is possible in tattooing, but also the demand. The same thing was happening to the Airbrushing / Custom Auto Paint scene some years back when I was working within that industry full-time. I've always thought tattoos and the art within the culture was intriguing, especially Japanese traditions, but modern tattoo artists have very much opened my eyes to what can be done. " 

"Overall, I simply feel like my life has flowed in this direction, so it’s a very natural progression for me. I’ve met some exceptional tattoo artists along the way and have noticed that those at the top of their game are some of the nicest and most talented people. But even with my extensive background, I still respect the history of the art form and know that tattooing, along with other forms of art, require the time and dedication to be amazing at it. In all Arts, the learning NEVER ends, no matter how good you get (or how good you THINK you get). I honor the learning curve of all mediums and look forward to the possibilities. I'd like to make my mark someday, but one step at a time. There are so many brilliant people in this industry, and a few dynamite shops in my area that I love observing and learning from. But more than anything, I want to see big, smiling faces on my clients at the end of the day. That’s what has always made my entire career truly fulfilling.”


ACALA is a dharmapala (wrathful deity) primarily revered in Vajrayana Buddhism, particularly in Tangmi in Japan, China and elsewhere. The Sanskrit symbol that represents Acala is hāṃ हां, in Japanese he is known as Fudō-Myō-O 不動明王. Both names translate to "immovable" in their respective languages. He is classed among the Wisdom Kings and preeminent among the Five Wisdom Kings (the five "Myō-O Brothers") of the Womb Realm. Accordingly, his figure occupies an important hierarchical position in the pictorial diagramatic Mandala of the Two Realms. In Japan, Acala/Fudō is revered in Shingon Buddhism, Tendai, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism and in Shugendō.

Learn more about Acala HERE, HERE, HEREand HERE.


Why Acala? He is a very popular traditional subject in both Eastern and Western tattooing, with the Kurikara-ken 倶利伽羅剣, a vajra sword (三鈷剣 Sanko-ken, or 金剛剣 Kongō-ken) with the dragon coiled around it (Acala's sword), also being a popular representative of Acala/Fudō. His predominance in Japanese tattooing is as a centerpiece within an irezumi 入墨 (full body mural tattoo popularized by the Yakuza), typically on one's back or chest. Images of Acala/Fudō found their way to the West via artists that studied in Japan and brought that influence with them when they returned home; most notably, Ed Hardy. Since then, Acala's/Fudō's image, along with the Kurikara-ken has been often copied by Western tattoo artists without much understanding of the figure and subject, and has been misrepresented as "The God of Fire". Acala/Fudō is making a strong visual comeback in modern tattooing amongst educated artists.

Marcus, owner of Acala Tattoo, has strong roots in classical Japanese martial arts; training and teaching since 1991, where Fudō-Myō-O is a very well known figure in the tradition and a symbolic example of un-shakeable spirit, steadfastness, and wisdom.

Acala Tattoo is built inside of Oil City Customs, a motorcycle accessory and repair shop, behind McDonald's on Route 31, just off of Interstate 81 (Exit 30) in Cicero, NY.

It is a full service art studio that not only offers skin art, but also body painting, original art works, custom airbrushing and pinstriping, litho prints, unique  merchandise, and the occasional workshop or event.

The mission of Acala Tattoo is to bring together the knowledge and techniques of traditional art disciplines into the world of tattooing. Make no mistake, that while the shop is named after a wrathful Buddhist deity, there are no limited style specialties here. Marcus is able to work in any artistic style requested, although he quite enjoys Japanese, Comic & Cartoon, Hot Rod Kustom Kulture, Neo Traditional, New School, and highly illustrative pieces.

The shop's secondary mission includes educating clients about tattooing and art in general, in order to open better communications, and help ensure that people get what they want. We also take pride in providing a safe, comfortable environment for everyone to enjoy.

Acala is depicted with an angry face, holding a vajra sword in his right hand and a lariat in his left. One fang is pointed up, one down. One eye open, one squinting, and a side braid in his hair. He typically sits (sometimes stands) upon a rock base and is engulfed in flames. He has the physique of a round-bellied child and blue-black skin.

About the Artist