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Take a wild ride on the Tropical Thunder Express from Pooch and Tiki Farm

Take a wild ride on the Tropical Thunder Express from Pooch and Tiki Farm

When you gaze into the signature artwork by lowbrow king Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli, you’re immediately transported to a surrealistic land of insane roller coasters traversing impossibly twisted tracks in a dark but fantastically fun theme park. Until recently, that imaginary place was limited to canvas, tattoos, and Pooch’s vivid imagination.
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* Toast the Tropical Thunder Express at The Hukilau unofficial preparty on May 25
Exclusive cocktail recipes: Pooch Punch | Tropical Thunder Express

The new Tropical Thunder Express mug set from Tiki Farm, designed by South Florida artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli
The new Tropical Thunder Express mug set from Tiki Farm, designed by South Florida artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli.

Now, thanks to Tiki Farm, Pooch’s wild world has taken on three-dimensional form with the release of an ambitious four-mug set: Tropical Thunder Express. Packaged in a colorful box adorned with Pooch’s distinctive artwork, it’s almost like four roller-coaster cars from one of his paintings jumped out of two-dimensional world and came to life.

You can find the mugs in their native habitat in the 2021 digital art piece “The Rum Ride”, but the idea for the real-world mugs actually came first. Pooch reached out to Tiki Farm with his first mug design, a moai, earlier that year.

Tiki Farm owner Holden Westland, who was aware of Pooch’s reputation in the lowbrow art world, loved the “Tiki mug as ride vehicle” concept. Pooch seized the opportunity. “I said, because it’s a (roller coaster) car, maybe we should have more,” Pooch said of his conversation with the mug mogul.

In short order, they joined forces to create a distinctive coaster train featuring four colorful mugs: Grey Moai, Blue Lono, Green Marquesan, and Orange Ku. Westland needed promotional artwork to promote Tiki Farm at Tiki Oasis in August 2021, so Pooch quickly brought “The Rum Ride” to life.

The Rum Ride, a digital print by Pooch that shows the Tropical Thunder Express mugs in their native habitat.
The Rum Ride, a digital print by Pooch that shows the Tropical Thunder Express mugs in their native habitat.

Like his other classic thrill ride paintings, this new piece takes the viewer into a vibrant nether world filled with skulls, Tiki imagery, A-frame huts, a giant moai, and Tiki mugs on wheels happily riding an impossibly angled roller-coaster track.

He said he intended to paint it, but creating it digitally was essential to meet the deadline. The piece is available online as a giclee-quality matte paper print for $50.

Working off of Pooch’s two-dimensional drawings, Tiki Farm’s sculptors have perfectly captured the whimsical world of his paintings, mashing up Tiki, tattoo, and Kustom Kulture into one cool package. In keeping with the theme, the mugs are not sold separately and must be purchased as a set for $125 directly from Tiki Farm online.
* Click here to buy Tropical Thunder Express box of four mugs

Pooch added digital art to his repertoire about eight years ago, but he said he approaches the format much the same as his other art. The main benefit, he said, is speed. “It’s not that different, other than it’s faster,” he said.

Pooch's original designs for the Grey Moai that inspired the Tropical Thunder Express set
Pooch’s original designs for the Grey Moai that inspired the Tropical Thunder Express set.

He created three different views of each mug in two dimensions rather than using 3-D software. Pooch said he could have done the same thing on paper, it was just more efficient to use digital tools.

No matter the medium, Pooch has carved out his own distinctive style over the past quarter century, simultaneously building a loyal following for his colorful ink work at Altered State Tattoo in South Florida (est. 1996). A longtime fan of Tiki culture, he often includes the imagery in his work, channeled through his own unique lowbrow-inspired lens.

Turning his Tiki coaster cars into actual mugs was the next logical step. Finally, Pooch’s work has made it into the vast catalog of Southern California’s Tiki Farm, the world’s premiere mug manufacturer since 2000.

Pooch parlayed his new relationship into an opportunity to create a new custom mug for The Mai-Kai when the historic South Florida restaurant reopens later this year. He’s also working on other potential designs for Tiki Farm.

The Tropical Thunder Express box from Tiki Farm, featuring mugs designed by Pooch, arrives at The Atomic Grog in March 2023. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Tropical Thunder Express box from Tiki Farm, featuring mugs designed by Pooch, arrives at The Atomic Grog in March 2023. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Tropical Thunder Express mugs are made in China like most of the Tiki Farm releases, but they feature a matte finish like many of today’s artist-driven custom mugs. The entire set is priced around the same as some single-mug releases, making it a definite deal.

Released in February, the mugs are 2 pounds each and range from 19 to 21 ounces. The tallest, the Orange Ku, stands 7.6 inches tall. According to Tiki Farm, “Tropical Thunder Express is the perfect gift for any Tiki aficionado and an even better gift for someone who needs to discover the world of Tiki!”

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Minimalist Tiki

Recipes: Exotic cocktails at Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party

Exotic cocktails at Altered State Tattoo's 20th anniversary party

The Atomic Grog had the distinct pleasure of serving up cocktails on Aug. 27 for special guests of artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli at the 20th anniversary party for Altered State Tattoo, the South Florida shop that has gained him a worldwide following for his highly creative ink.
See recipes below: Altered State Zombie | Mai Ta-IPA

Mike "Pooch" Pucciarelli gets festive at the party marking the 20th anniversary of his Altered State Tattoo shopMike “Pooch” Pucciarelli gets festive at the party marking the 20th anniversary of his Altered State Tattoo shop.

Respectable Street in downtown West Palm Beach hosted the private bash, which also included a rare performance by Pooch’s hard-rocking band, Ferocious Stones; a lowbrow art marketplace featuring Altered State artists; and a DJ keeping the eclectic tunes flowing during the three-hour party. The Atomic Grog pop-up bar was featured on the back patio along with food by chef Corey Hall.

Pooch opened his modest shop in August 1996 in Lake Worth, funneling his creative energy into a new career as a small business owner. His talent as an artist (and musician) was always evident, with much of his early work centered around his acclaimed hardcore metal band Raped Ape. Pooch quickly became an in-demand tattooist, showcasing his highly original work in national magazines and building a loyal following. A lowbrow art career soon followed, with Pooch’s paintings shown at gallery shows from Los Angeles to Seattle to New York City.

Altered State Tattoo 20th anniversary party at Respectable Street: Kenny 5 (left), Pooch and JC Dwyer kick out the jams with Ferocious Stones. Many guests enjoyed cake, while Dwyer was a two-fisted drinker of Atomic Grog cocktails. (Atomic Grog photos)
Altered State Tattoo 20th anniversary party at Respectable Street: Kenny 5 (left), Pooch and JC Dwyer kick out the jams with Ferocious Stones. Many guests enjoyed cake, while Dwyer was a two-fisted drinker of Atomic Grog cocktails. (Atomic Grog photos)

The artist’s eye-popping surrealist work includes many exotic images, including Polynesian Tikis, Day of the Dead, and his own unique take on roller coasters. Full disclosure: The Atomic Grog home bar and surrounding walls feature a half-dozen Pooch prints, including Franken Tiki Island. Pooch painted a boomerang table that hangs behind the bar and also gave me this rare Tiki piece he painted. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of his work. I even traveled to his 2005 gallery shows in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Not only is Pooch a major talent in the lowbrow and tattoo art worlds, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. A seemingly imposing figure, Pooch is actually a gentle giant, literally and figuratively. Nowadays, we typically meet up for cocktails at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, sharing our affinity for Tiki culture and exotic libations. Mrs. Hayward and I also often join Mike and Stacy (Mrs. Pooch) at the creative gastropub Sweetwater in Boynton Beach.

Hurricane Hayward mixes up the Altered State Zombie and Mai-Ta-IPA during Altered State Tattoo's 20th anniversary party
Hurricane Hayward mixes up the Altered State Zombie and Mai Ta-IPA during Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party. (Atomic Grog photos)

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Take 5: Artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli

Related: Pooch brings his surreal world to Howley’s with solo art show

Hurricane Hayward interviews Pooch at The Mai-Kai, July 2011. (Photo by Susan Hayward)
Hurricane Hayward interviews Pooch at The Mai-Kai, July 2011. (Photo by Susan Hayward)

Welcome to the first in a series of short interviews with noted personalities involved in events, music, art, cocktails and Tiki/retro culture. These aren’t intended to be all-encompassing, life-history-spanning interrogations. Rather, we’re aiming for a fun, quick take on the typical interview. Just five questions in roughly 5 minutes, hence the name Take 5.

Our first subject is a longtime friend and associate. He’s truly a renaissance man in the world of lowbrow culture. Just don’t try to pigeonhole him. He’s a fine artist, but he’s also a tattoo artist. He’s intelligent and soft spoken, but he’s also the quintessential heavy metal guitarist. His creativity seemingly has no limits. If you’re not familiar with Pooch’s work, we’ll let his official bio explain it best:

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Pooch brings his surreal world to Howley’s with solo art show

One of our favorite lowbrow artists, Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli, will be hosting a showing of his recent prints next Tuesday (July 26) at one of our favorite retro restaurants – Howley’s diner in West Palm Beach.

View the Pooch

The show, titled “View the Pooch,” will run from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. and will also feature live music from South Florida blues guitarist J.P. Soars. Howley’s has a full bar featuring beer, wine and cocktails plus an extensive menu of diner classics.

Pooch is well-established as one of the most talented artists in South Florida and continues to branch out and establish himself throughout the greater art world. As owner/operator and chief artist at Altered State Tattoo in Lake Worth since 1996, he’s long been the go-to guy in South Florida if you’re looking for one-of-a-kind, eye-popping ink. Pooch’s award-winning tattoo work is known for its rich color and incredible detail. His work has been featured in many tattoo publications, such as Tattoo Society and International Tattoo Art.

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