Pale Horse tattoo shop leaves an impression with its body art

BRANDON — The incessant hammering of two tattoo machines assaults the senses when you open the door of Pale Horse tattoo shop in downtown Brandon. Inside the studio, two bewhiskered men go about the business of putting permanent paintings on people.
Anthony “A-Train” Hylton is working at his tattoo shop today but he soon will be opening a second Pale Horse shop in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a step towards expanding his award-winning art to new locations. 
Hylton has been creating tattoo art at his shop in Brandon since he and his shop artist and friend Andrew Clingenpeel moved from Killington to open it five years ago. “A-Train,” as everyone calls him, was born and raised in West Virginia and his road to owning a tattoo shop in Brandon stretches from coast-to-coast. He’s been in the body art business for 15 years. 
ARTIST ANDREW CLINGENPEEL, left, and Anthony “A-Train” Hylton, owner/artist, run the Pale Horse tattoo shop in downtown Brandon. Hylton will soon open a second Pale Horse shop; this one in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Independent photo/Russell Jones
The road started when he apprenticed for a year in Beckley, W.Va., before opening his own shop there. He said he was having a great time being at the forefront of the artistic revolution that was going on in the tattoo industry, but with no other artists to share the burden in his shop, he quickly got burnt out.
“When I started, you would come in and pick your design off the posters on the wall,” he said. “You got the picture on the wall, in the same size as it was on the wall, or you didn’t get a tattoo.”
The business started to evolve that same year mainly because of television shows like “Inkmaster” and “L.A. Ink.”
“Six months into my apprenticeship, everything changed to custom drawn actual art,” said the burly 35-year-old.  “Those TV shows allowed people to see the true artistic quality that could be realized from tattoos.”
As “A-Train” became more skilled in how to properly apply tattoos, his biggest problem was figuring out how to turn his artwork on a page into art on the skin.
That is when an imaginative idea helped take his art to the next level.
“I thought, what if I just traveled. I can hook up with shops all over the country, go to competitions, and meet other artists,” he recalled.
So he sat down with a map and drew out a route from West Virginia that led him south to North Carolina and west to Tennessee then heading back north to Ohio and Pennsylvania before leading back to West Virginia for the holidays.
After two years in Roanoke, Va., “A-Train” again went on the road. He stopped for stints at award-winning studios and started taking home trophies from different competitions all over the country.
“It was a giant breath of fresh air for my career,” he said. “The exposure I got to other artists who were pushing the boundaries of what you could do with tattoos was great. I was meeting new artists and working on art projects. I finally had someone to bounce ideas off of and talk about different techniques.”
Hylton’s experiences during his travels across the country helped shape him into not only the artist he is today, he said, but also the man he is.
“I learned you have to appreciate every artist from any walk of life, no matter the caliber of the artist, because that person may just go on to be the next famous tattoo artist,” he said. “Those are your peers and giving them the confidence to put their art on other people is what changed this industry.”
Back in 2012, “A-Train” met his current business partner, Clingenpeel, while working at Island Tattoo on the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
Clingenpeel, who grew up near Ludlow, Vt., went to art school in Savannah, Ga., studying fine art. His interest in illustration led him to tattooing and he learned how to ink skin in a shop in Burlington. After four years there, he moved to North Carolina and ended up at Island Tattoo with “A-Train.”
After the Outer Banks shop closed for the summer, Clingenpeel convinced “A-Train” to move to Vermont for the winter, and the two went to work at a shop on the Mountain Road in Killington.
“A-Train” had decided he was going to buy the shop in the Outer Banks that winter, but as it sometimes does, life got in the way. Instead, he started tattooing in Middlebury the next year and eventually opened the Pale Horse in Brandon.
When it opened it was going to be a tattoo shop, massage studio, and retail shop. Eventually, he moved the Pale Horse across the street to 22 Center St., where it is located now and decided to focus solely on tattoos.
Independent photo/Russell Jones
Now, he is getting ready to return to North Carolina to open a second shop.
“We’ll be opening up a Pale Horse down there for the May through September months,” he said. “It’s a big step for us. We wanted to do this years ago.”
While “A-Train” is away in the Outer Banks, Clingenpeel will take over duties as primary artist for the Brandon shop, although “A-Train” will be in and out of the shop, as well.
Looking back on his 15 years of tattooing, “A-Train” said he has tattooed every part of the human body you can imagine. One of the tattoos he had the most fun with, he said, was putting a plate of bacon and eggs on top of a client’s head.
“It’s hard to draw a circle that covers the top of someone’s head,” he said chuckling. “So we cut circles in cardboard and laid it out on top of his head to get the design right. I had fun with that one.”
One of the more memorable tattoos was the one he did for his father.
“My parents were cool when I was growing up. They wouldn’t let me be a savage, but I could be an individual,” he recalled. “When I told them I wanted to be a tattoo artist, I know my mom cried.”
After several years in the business, he had still never tattooed a family member until his dad, who had never gotten a tattoo but had served in the Navy, called up one day and told him he wanted to get a big sailing ship tattoo, but was not ready for a big tattoo, so his son told him they’d start small.
“There is a very famous, old design, that was used by Sailor Jerry and Ed Hardy when they were tattooing back in the day, of an anchor with a banner that says ‘Mom’ or something,” explained “A-Train.” He convinced his dad to do a smaller version of that idea with a fun twist. “I told my dad, ‘Let’s do a wiener dog shaped like an anchor.’”
PALE HORSE ARTISTS inked a colorful bouquet of flowers onto the skin of another satisfied customer.
Courtesy photo
His dad had always owned dachshunds and so, the first tattoo that he put on a family member was an anchor-shaped dachshund.
“That was the first time my family accepted it fully,” he said. “It was so goofy, but it was perfect. It was perfect for him and who he was.”
“A-Train” said that the Brandon Pale Horse will be slowly stepping in to body jewelry, and once the summer is over they will see what new possibilities come up for the Pale Horse brand.
“Maybe one day we’ll expand statewide,” he said. “I love it here in Brandon. Our clients come to us because we’re extremely good at what we do… It’s the best career anyone could ask for and you couldn’t pay me to stop doing what I’m doing.”
“It’s in my blood,” he said. “I’ll never get it out of me.”

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