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Darklight Galleries and Tattoo Studio in Jeannette offers several art forms

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
DLG Features oil paintings on skateboard by artist Christan Allen.
DLG Features oil paintings on skateboard by artist Christan Allen.
Mike Kelly and Christan Allen are cofounders of DLG on Lowry Avenue.
Margie Stanislaw | The Jeannette Spirit
Mike Kelly and Christan Allen are cofounders of DLG on Lowry Avenue.

Art is important to Mike Kelly and Christan Allen, the co-founders of Darklight Galleries (DLG) and Tattoo Studio on Lowry Avenue.

In March 2012, the two artists started an online art gallery that included clothing. This summer they took the big leap and opened a physical storefront, which is both a gallery and tattoo studio.

While Kelly and Allen both work in various mediums, (Allen is accomplished in working in both oils and watercolors) the pair loves to tattoo.

Kelly has been tattooing for 13 years. He started his career in Ohio where there are many more state regulations and laws governing tattooing. In Ohio, a tattoo artist must serve an apprenticeship and it is a licensed profession. Kelly brings that professionalism with him to Jeannette.

“We maintain the OSHA cleaning and sterilization standards,” said Kelly. The studio also maintains a certificate from the North Bay Bio Science Sterilization Monitoring Program. This is not required in Pennsylvania, but Kelly feels that it is important.

“I was classically trained starting with small black tribal art and then moving to American traditional which includes solid black lines and bright colors like the cartooning of the '30s and '40s.”

Over the past 10 years, Kelly has worked in full color and blacks and grays also doing portraits and realism, which are photo realistic.

“Tattoos are crafted by hand, like an oil painting, so there are always subtle differences,” said Kelly.

Allen has been an apprentice with Kelly for approximately two years. She met Kelly when he was working in a tattoo shop in New Kensington. She was working with the owner of that studio learning watercolor and teaching the studio owner oil painting.

Her interest in tattooing came about as she came to understand that the shading and artwork of tattooing is very similar to techniques used in watercolors. Allen attended the Art Institute in Pittsburgh and works with RAW Natural Born Artists.

According the RAW website, it is a global accelerator for artists. With 80 locations worldwide, RAW strives to help artists in the first 10 years of their career. Allen was featured at a show at CAVO on Smallman Street in the Strip District this month. Some of Allen's work is on display at DLG.

As Kelly's apprentice, Allen has been held to the same strict guidelines that Kelly received in Ohio. Prior to tattooing a person, both artists have done work on pig skin, which has much the same consistency as human skin.

“Even though there is faux human skin,” Kelly said, “pig skin is much better.” Both work in watercolors. “Watercoloring is the basis of tattooing — it matches the shading.”

Kelly lives in Trafford and has an 8-year-old son, Corgan. Allen is from Apollo. Both like a small-town feel.

“We found out there is a more of a small-town feel here (in Jeannette). I value that more than anything else. That is what kind of drew us to Jeannette and we loved the building,” said Kelly.

Both Kelly and Allen are enthusiastic about being part of the Jeannette community and hope local photographers, both amateur and professional, will participate in a gallery show that they will host in the studio in October. Dates to be announced.

Kelly and Allen are the cofounders and chief executive officers of DLG, with Janelle Claar serving as the chief financial officer. The group also sells hand-painted T-shirts of their own designs.

Darklight Galleries and Tattoo Studio is located at 1218 Lowry Ave. Submissions are being accepted for the photography show.

Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday noon to 8 p.m. and Monday by appointment. Kelly and Allen can also be reached at 724-771-3875.

Margie Stanislaw is a contributing writer.

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