Tattoo above by Gakkin.
I'm back to bring you the tattoo goodness after a quick break to get married and also take care of my growing tattooed belly. Reviewing the recent tattoo news felt good because there were a bunch of really positive stories focused on the art of tattooing, particularly with profiles of top tattooers around the world, so that's what I'm focusing on here. Let's get to it!
The BBC's "Japanese artist's beautiful macabre tattoos" looks at the work of Gakkin, an Instagram tattoo fave, especially for the his heavy blackwork that often combines traditional Japanese iconography. I'm also a particular fan of his work that evoke photo negatives, like this one. Gakkin told the BBC that his tattooing freehand offers "infinite possibilities" and, by drawing with ballpoint pen directly on skin, his pieces will "look beautiful on your body from any direction."
Also looking at blackwork, but with a lighter brush stroke style, Australia's Lee Stewart (whose work is shown directly above) is featured in Vice's Creators Project. Lee, who got her start tattooing in Estonia, told Vice that her work is influenced by the street art of Berlin and East Asian ink wash painting. She also shares her thoughts on abstract tattooing: "Abstract work is a great challenge of perfecting composition with balance of weight and depth, and making the flow of the piece match and compliment the general build and curvatures of the body at hand, so that the right parts of the body can be accentuated." See more of Lee's work on Instagram.
In Portland, Maine, Chris Dingwell creates tattoos (like the one above) with a painterly perspective, which is highlighted in this article and video on his work. There's also an interesting tidbit behind Chris' first tattoo:
On the traditional tattoo tip, Meg McNiel is profiled in the Phoenix New Times as one of the city's "go-to tattoo artists." It's an extensive, in-depth feature on her life, work, and also the Phoenix tattoo scene. In it, she talks about what a "traditional" tattoo really means:
Flash forward to today's popularized contemporary tattoo styles, Berlin's Mo Ganji and his single continuous line work are featured in Metro UK. As noted in the article, Mo will "take an idea for a tattoo, sketch out how it could be drawn without ever taking his pen off the paper, and then he tattoos his artwork all in one go." The article is mostly photos from Mo's Instagram but worth a look.
Spend some time looking through all their portfolios for great tattoo inspiration.
For more tattoo news, check these quickie tattoo news links:
* Chicago lowers tattoo age limit.
* Game of Thrones tattoos.
* "Preserve your wedding bouquet - by tattooing it on your body."
Exciting news on the ancient history of tattooing for ornament and beauty: the mummified body of an Egyptian woman who was discovered at a site on the west bank of the Nile River known as Deir el-Medina (a village dating to between 1550 B.C. and 1080 B.C.) was examined and found to have symbolic tattoos.
As reported in Live Science, Stanford University bioarchaeologist Anne Austin first thought the markings were painted on after death, but because the designs were shrunken and distorted, she examined further and found them to be tattoos. According to the article:
Together with archaeologist Cedric Gobeil, director of the French Archaeological Mission of Deir el-Medina, Austin cataloged dozens of tattoos, many of which have yet to be identified. But a number of them were recognizable and had religious significance.Read more and see other images here. Article via tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak.
For many people who just want a tattoo, source material for a design is a tiny printout of a screen capture from Instagram. "Look how many Likes that tattoo has. I want lots of Likes! I'm gonna get that tattoo." And there's always some shop out there willing to oblige.
There's nothing inherently wrong with looking to social media for tattoo ideas, but there is so much more artistic inspiration beyond our cell phones. It can be found in grave sites, tapestries, museums, and ancient texts.
Pat Fish, known as the Queen of Knots, created a lecture for the National Tattoo Association Garden Grove convention in 2014 about historical sources as inspiration for Celtic Tattoos, and has turned it into a comprehensive video lecture for YouTube (embedded below).
With ColinFraser Purcell, Pat discusses the historical art styles of the British Isles, drawing from illuminated manuscripts, standing stones, and metal artifacts. She also covers translating primary sources into quality tattoo art as well as customizing and combining designs for personalized tattoos.
The video is a smart 25-minute educational piece, which includes side-by-side compares of ancient art as interpreted into tattoos, travel photos of potential sources, sketches highlighting common mistakes in weaving knotwork designs, and lots of other goodness.
This isn't a quick, slick "Top 10 Tattoo" Buzzfeed styled video. It's serious stuff, worth carving out time for, whether you're a tattooer or collector. The lessons also translate beyond Celtic design and offer ideas on inspiration for other artistic styles.
For more on Pat and her work, check my Inked Icon profile on her.
Tattoos by Becca Roach.
The recent tattoo headlines focused on the very good and the very bad of tattooing, tattoo history, tattoo symbols, and lots of Prince tattoo tributes.
First up, Vice UK's interview piece "Tattoo Artists Tell Us About the Worst Tattoos Everyone Wants." I thought it would be your average trend piece -- we know all about those infinity symbols and arrow tattoos that flood Pinterest accounts, in the US as well as the UK. And, like those in the article, tattooers across the globe have have lamented the impact of Pinterest and Instagram on client design requests. But they are admittedly fulfilling these requests, so it just seems a little tacky to me to be publicly mocking clients while taking their money. That said, I did like reading the stories of tattoos they were most proud of.
Vice US also had an interesting tattoo piece: "People with Face Tats Explain Their Ink." The portraits of the tattooed subjects were honest and didn't have that "look at the freaks" feel. But I would have preferred some diversity in their subject choices. Four out of five interviewed were tattooers. So, while, they can definitely speak to general societal reactions to their facial tattoos -- which is still a big thing -- their tattoos don't have the same impact on them making a living, and in fact, could have a positive effect. To me, it's easy to say "fuck you" to society when you can afford to. Very few professions encourage people to get an AK-47 tattooed on their faces. While people in more conservative fields with facial tattoos may be harder to find for an interview, their experiences in navigating between work and expression is likely more layered and interesting.
A more in-depth tattoo artist profile on Becca Roach was a good recent read. I first learned of Becca's work when she was an artist at Senaspace in Manhattan. She's since moved to Hawaii, where she works at Queen Street Tattoo. Here's a bit on how she got her start:
I wasn't sure the traditional route of becoming a commercial or editorial illustrator was for me, so I took a job as an artist's assistant in a huge loft in Chinatown. After [having loved the work of] making art every day for three weeks, I found out that I had been getting paid in fake checks.See more of Becca's work on Instagram.
The most talked about tattoo story was that of the paralympic swimmer disqualified over a tattoo. The 19-year-old paralympic swimming champion Josef Craig, who has cerebral palsy, was disqualified from a race at the IPC European Championships for failing to cover up his Olympic rings tattoo. An International Paralympic Committee spokesman said: "Body advertising is not allowed in any way whatsoever and that includes the Olympic rings. The athlete did not wear a cover and was therefore disqualified." Craig didn't protest. He just competed again with the tattoo covered up. Mathew in our Needles & Sins FB group rightfully called out the use of "body advertising," as it pertains to Olympic athletes -- as opposed to those who get casino names tattooed on their foreheads for cash. It does seem like a huge disconnect but Olympic trademarks are heavily protected, and that likely plays a role.
On the tattoo history tip, Buzzworthytattoo.com has a great article entitled, "The Case of an Obscure Tattooer: Prof. J.L. Hayes." In it, the life of tattoo artist James Leonard Hayes is explored. Haynes, who was tattooing as early as 1890 in Chicago, is not as well known as his contemporaries, such as Sam O'Reilly, Elmer Getchell, and Edwin Thomas, which makes this piece an especially good read. I enjoyed how writer Carmen Nyssen documents her research process, which is just as interesting.
Another fun story -- especially as I'm a fan of The Walking Dead (TWD) -- is this epic TWD backpiece. Tattoo artist Edgar Ivanov spent hundreds of hours recreating the US show's characters in this massive piece (on a client he does not name). Check more on his Facebook page.
And, of course, there were many stories on Prince tattoo tributes. My fave was the profile on one mega-fan's 20 Prince tattoos. That's a lot of purple love.
Tattoo by Edgar Ivanov.
The Kunsten pa Kroppen team hand tattooing.
The Frankfurt Tattoo Convention has always been a fun show for me. It is HUGE, but still, the convention crew works hard to take care of its artists and attendees. They also chose interesting themes and invite artists accordingly. This year -- the 24th year! -- it celebrated a Scandinavian theme, with top artists from that region in attendance. While I wish I was in attendance this year, our friend (and fave guest blogger) Serinde enjoyed the show and is sharing her photos and thoughts in this guest blog. See more of Serinde's photos on the Frankfurt Tattoo Flickr Album.
BY SERINDE of SERINDE CORSETS:
I went "on mission" for Needles & Sins to cover the Frankfurt convention. It was a pretty easy mission to get to, considering how central the venue is in Frankfurt. So many tattoo shows require a trek to get there, but not this well established event. Plus, locations that are easy to access draw a diverse crowd.
And the show drew a crowd. Artists and traders were all settled in the same hall, but the organizers paid attention to leave enough space between the rows so that you can always walk around without getting stuck in traffic. No bleeding people rubbing up against you!
It also was of special interest to me because of the convention's intriguing Nordic theme - as a Scandinavia lover and tattoo enthusiast, it was a natural draw. Plus, the beautiful convention poster designed by Jannicke Wiese-Hansen of Nidhogg definitely suggested something very Viking (and fun) would be going on.
There was no "Nordic event" per say, but many Scandinavian and Nordic artists had been invited. Almost all Scandinavian artists were within the same convention area, whether they worked in a Nordic/Viking style, like Meatshop from Denmark, or Nidhogg from Norway, or in a completely different style, such as Adrian Hing, Isso, and others.
Other Nordic artists were in the "traditional" area, which featured only artists using hand-tattooing techniques; among them, you could find the following studios specialized in Viking style and dotwork : Ihuda (with Tor Ola Svennevig), Kunsten pa Kroppen (with Kai Uwe Faust and Uffe Berenth), and Skin and Bone (with Colin Dale).
Durga hand tattooing.
Close up of Durga hand tattooing.
This traditional area also included Horikaze & Horimyo, Brent McCown, Durga tattoo, Ferank Manseed, Pauhi, and Bunga Terung. Hand-tattooing is always impressive, and "visual" for the visitors. It's a real show on its own, attracting attention from tattoo collectors and the press, who followed the "tap, tap, tap" sound of the tools.
It was also interesting to look at the artists using the hand-poking method, as they all have a very personal way to work - the way they hold their tools, their gestures and speed. [And while I was there, I took the opportunity for a quick session withTor Ola Svennevig.]
The Nordic theme of the convention inspired even non-Nordic artists and clients; I spotted a Viking dragon being tattooed by a French artist from Tattoo Lyon Lugh Spirit studio. But the main tattoo trend at this convention was the portrait/realistic style. The tattoo competition even had its own specific "realistic" category, which doesn't always exist in other conventions.
contests, hosted by Daniel Krause, were also a fun component to the convention, but because I'm not fluent in German and partly because of a slight lack of
information regarding the artists who made each tattoo, it was difficult to learn which artists were the winners.
All in all, after 3
days of haunting the place and watching artists tattooing non-stop like crazy,
this convention left me with a very positive impression of a pleasant and
More photos on Flickr.
Miguel Bohigues tattooing.
Josh Payne tattooing. [Love the Leia tattoo too!]
Frankfurt Tattoo Convention
Flash above: Indio Tatto Studio, San Juan, Puerto Rico ca. 1940s.Flash above: Ed Smith, Bowery, New York City ca. 1900-20s.
In the 1980s NYC, I'd cut class and head to the then-gritty East Village following around tattooed skater boys, like a nerd-girl puppy. Tattooing was still illegal but you could get work done in the city, just in largely unmarked studios. Then, in the early 1990s -- still years before the tattoo ban was lifted in 1997 -- I remember a passing by a storefront with a brazen sign advertising the tattoo services inside. I thought it was badass and a little crazy for its open disregard of the law. I later learned that this essentially exemplified its owner, Jonathan Shaw.
In his Fun City Tattoo, Shaw tattooed punks and celebrities (most famously Johnny Depp and Iggy Pop). Fun City was also a guest home to top artists around the world, like Filip Leu. Shaw later sold the shop to Michelle Myles and Brad Fink (who later sold it Steve Pendone), and he moved to Rio de Janeiro to focus on his writing.
Through the years -- as tattooer, author, and artist -- Shaw amassed one of the largest collections of vintage tattoo flash in the world. Now, he has gathered these treasures into a hardcover art book, published by Powerhouse Books, to be released next month.
Vintage Tattoo Flash: 100 Years of Traditional Tattoos From the Collection of Jonathan Shaw is 256 pages of flash that "spans the first roughly 75 years of American tattooing from the 1900s Bowery to 50s Texas, and from the Pike in the 60s to the development of the first black and grey, single-needle tattooing in LA in the 70s," reproducing "unpublished sheets of original flash from the likes of Bob Shaw, Zeke Owen, Tex Rowe, Ted Inman, Ace Harlyn, Ed Smith, Paul Rogers, the Moskowitz brothers, and many, many others relatively known and unknown."
In his interview with Crave, Shaw says of his collection:
Tattooing is a popular art form that reflects the times and culture in which it is produced. The designs of the 1930s and '40s became irrelevant in the '60s and '70s as new styles emerged. But I always had this love for them; I didn't want to see them completely destroyed. People were literally throwing away sheets in some places. I began collecting them. I remember asking, 'Hey Bob? What are you doing with these old designs?' Bob said, 'You want 'em? Take 'em.' This scenario repeated itself as I became more well known.Mens Journal described Vintage Tattoo Flash as "not so much a design catalog as it is a record of a time and place in the history of this very vibrant, very important folk art." For more on what's inside, LA Weekly has a slideshow from the book.
You can pre-order the book for $60 at the Powerhouse online store.
If you're in LA next week, you can pick up a copy in person, May 3 & 4, 6 to 9 p.m., at the famed La Luz de Jesus Gallery, which is hosting a book-signing party, as well as a classic tattoo flash art exhibition.
Vintage Tattoo Flash is far from Shaw's first published work. In 2015, Harper Collins published the first trade edition of his novel Narcisa: Our Lady of Ashes about the relationship between a nomadic outlaw poet and crack-smoking philosopher prostitute. I read the book eagerly, although I recommend not doing so on the subway during rush hours when people can read over your shoulder the non-stop and highlighted sex scenes. Shaw's next publishing venture, which is scheduled for later this year, is a collection of his memoirs, entitled Scab Vendor. I'll be sure to pick that up as well.
If you didn't see it on our Needles & Sins Facebook group, Paul posted the "Invasion of the Flesh Eaters" video (embedded below), which has been on YouTube for a while, but it's the first time it crossed my radar and definitely worth a look.
Between Groucho Marx's "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" footage, the 8 1/2 minute video features scenes from the Third World Tattoo Convention in St. Louis in 1978 and interviews with collectors, such as Elizabeth Weinzirl and artists including Spider Webb. Spider, as usual, has some fantastic soundbites. At one point he says, "Anyone can tattoo somebody but, being an artist ... who's holding the crayon? [...] If you gave Picasso a tattoo machine, maybe people would think different."
A fun fact from the film: In anticipation of that convention, the Minnesota governor declared January 20th "Tattoo Art Appreciation Day."
Paul also posted the video link for the film "Zebra Man" on the Great Omi. Also an interesting watch. Thanks, Paul!
My portrait above by James Hole.
Portrait of tattoo artist Bugs.Portrait of Alice Snape, editor of Things & Ink magazine.
One of my favorite tattoo gatherings that I attended last year was the Brighton Tattoo Convention, right on the beautiful English seaside. It had this real communal vibe, set up for top tattooing but also for hanging with old friends and new. It really stood in sharp contrast to the ever-increasing sterility of corporate-sponsored tattoo conventions.
While I was there, I had the absolute pleasure of being photographed by James Hole (as shown by the top photo above). I felt like I was being shot for Vanity Fair, with a real editorial sophistication but also laid back approach. James got me to relax and giggle through it, but I also understood that this was serious work and not once did I throw devil horns or try to make funny faces, like usual. He also beautifully captured my friends like Bugs & Alice, above.
The wonderful Brighton Tattoo Convention Blog has more of Jame's portraits from last year's show. A must see.
This year's convention is coming up, April 30th to May 1st at the Brighton Centre, and it promises to be even better, with stellar artists from the world, and some wonderful events such as the Tattoo Identity exhibit on women in the history of tattooing, a film screening of "The Point of No Return" - A Journey into the Ancient Past of Tribal Tattooing in Borneo, the custom car and barber expo, the infamous after-parties, and more.
Check more on the convention here and also see more of James Hole's work here.
Portrait of Kelly Violet.
Last week, right-wingnut Fox News host Bill O'Reilly interviewed Donald Trump, who discussed unemployment among African-Americans. O'Reilly then astonishingly asks Trump:
How are you going to get jobs for them?" O'Reilly asked. "Many of them are ill-educated and have tattoos on their foreheads, and I hate to be generalized about it but it's true.Yup. He believes that the innumerable forehead tattoos on black people are stopping American from being great again. Thankfully, Larry Wilmore called out this vitriol on his Nightly Show segment: "#ForeheadSolidarity - Bill O'Reilly's Racist Tattoo Fantasy."
Wilmore then asked his viewers (of all races) to create their own (fake) forehead tattoos and send a message to O'Reilly using the hashtag #ForeheadSolidarity. Rawstory featured some fun ones from Instagram and Twitter.
So many of us have experienced bias because of our tattoos, but this demonizing racist rhetoric goes far beyond that.
In response to the hatefulness of this year's election campaigning, one Florida man got a portrait of Trump (and "his micropenis") as a protest tattoo. According to Vice's Motherboard, Spooks Joya, owner of Pride N Envy Tattoos, was inspired by artist Illma Gore's "Make America Great Again," which portrays a naked open mouthed Trump with tiny genitals. [The Trump team has allegedly threatened her with a law suit.]
And so Joya offered to tattoo Gore's artwork for free on anyone willing to get it. Hector Santos was willing and quickly responded. Santos said:
"One of the main reasons why I got the tattoo is it reminds me to be a better person everyday. To never be as closed-minded and arrogant as Donald Trump."[...]See the full tattoo, including progress shots, here.
Photo by Edgar Hoill.
The most interesting recent tattoo headlines centered around the law, and you know how much I love this stuff -- from victories over dumb legislation, wrongful death suits, and protecting artists' rights in their work. Here are the headlines:
The best news was that the fight over NY's ridiculous tattoo rules led to a victory for tattoo artists who worked so hard to change it. Last year, NY Governor Cuomo signed Bill S1421-2015, which required tattoo studios and body piercing studios "to use single-use needles and inks, to obtain consent forms from customers and to maintain customer consent forms for a period of not less than seven years." As I wrote in the earlier post, the definition of single-use ink in the bill is "a sealed and pre-filled package of ink that is only intended for a single use," and based on this definition, tattoo artists would be limited to expensive pre-packaged "ink shot" products with limited color palettes, and arguably lesser quality, rather than maintaining the industry standard of using disposable ink caps, in which bottled inks of any brand are poured into small containers and thrown away after the tattoo is done.
Tattoo artists mobilized to change the law -- those like Michael O'Herien, who held meetings with artists and legislators at his Revolution Tattoo Co. to seek a better drafting of the law, and Bridget Punsalang,whose petition entitled "Change NYS Bill S1421-2015 to allow the use of disposable ink caps in tattooing," circulated across the globe and received the media attention to get lawmakers' attention. Last month, a legal compromise was reached and the law was revised and signed into law. Under the amended law, the single-use ink packets were scrapped and tattooists can continue to pour ink into disposable ink caps. The other mandates, such as single-use sterile needles, essentially put into law what professional studios already practice. Congrats to all those who fought the law and won.
More good news: Virginia Beach loosens its grip on tattoo parlors. According to the The Virginian-Pilot, "In January, the City Council got rid of the rule that tattoo parlors have to be at least 600 feet from a residential district, apartment district or school. But they still must be 600 feet apart from each other and apply for a conditional use permit in the B-2 community business district." The article continues, "Staff initially recommended getting rid of both restrictions - on where they are allowed to be and how close they can be to each other. But planning commissioners had concerns about 'the potential for a proliferation of tattoo parlors/body piercing establishments in any single location.'" Of course, this makes it tougher for those already operating because of increased competition, but generally, getting rid of arbitrary provisions that restrict businesses is a good thing.
Looking at a wrongful death law suit, the sister of an inmate at Georgia State Prison sued Georgia Correctional Health, a contractor that provides health care at the prison, for failing to treat the inmate who died from a severely infected tattoo. Randall Davidson died in February 2015 after he went into severe septic shock and multi-system organ failure due to a tattoo he received from a fellow inmate. The lawsuit states that Davidson sought medical help but was given only anti-inflammatory drugs, not antibiotics needed to treat the infection. The suit also states that, while that Georgia state prisons prohibit inmates from tattooing each other, they commonly tattoo each other in unsterile conditions with improvised needles and ink, leading to high risks of infection. Sadly, it's this type of tragedy and the financial penalties that often follow, that lead to reform. Prison tattooing is common practice around the world. Rather than ignore it, steps could be taken to ensure safer tattooing. Perhaps we can look to models, like this one in Canada, that have tattoo facilities in the prison itself.
On the copyright front, famed tattooer Norm (Eric Rosenbaum) filed a federal lawsuit against McDonald's, stating in the suit that McDonald's "sought to capitalize, and did capitalize, on Norm's artwork and celebrity without his consent or permission, and consciously decided to paper the walls of its restaurants around the world with Norm's name, artwork, signature, trade name, trademark and persona." As a result, the suit claims that "the unlicensed use of that work has cost him several lucrative contracts with other companies and estimates the value of McDonald's unlicensed use and the lost contracts at more than $10 million." My guess is that this case will settle, although I would love to see how the court would handle the appropriation of graffiti and tattoo art. In any case, it's a reminder to companies that its best to work with artists and legally license works than think those artists won't won't assert their rights when companies don't.
Speaking about appropriation among tattoo artists. Colin Dale of Skin & Bone has an interesting essay entitled, "Copycats, Fanboys and Identity Theft: part 1" in which he brings to light his experience of having his work copied -- but by an artist who is more adept at social media than creating original works -- so much so that "it starts to look like he has the original while [Colin is] a fanboy with a copy." I found myself nodding in agreement when reading further on his reaction to the theft:
It is sort of cool when people start thinking that my work is traditional...but it is also personal. When people start posting it as their own or promoting themselves with it that things get messy. The problem is that many people just use google and search "Viking or Polynesian Tattoos" instead of searching "Viking or Polynesian Art" to find the original sources. So their inspiration is already from another contemporary artists work rather than historical sources.The most annoying phrase I hear about this laziness is "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." That statement itself is lazy. All art is derivative, but the full appropriation and the social media grab for "Likes" of work that is not your own is sad and also actionable. While it doesn't seem that Colin will be filing a lawsuit, I think it's great that he used his platform to bring these issues to light.