Today is the release of Ed Hardy's memoir "Wear Your Dreams: My Life in Tattoos," written with best selling author Joel Selvin. It is not just a story about one tattooist's life. It is an ode to the art of tattooing, its philosophy, and its culture.
There have been many stories and interviews with the man who forever changed tattooing. [I've interviewed him myself for Inked mag, which you can read here.] How he would draw tattoos on neighborhood kids as a child with eyeliner. His time at the Art Institute in San Francisco, which established the fine art basis that translated into his tattoo work, and his time in Japan, which changed his whole mindset on what a tattoo can be. The first tattoo conventions. His books. His paintings. His brand. They are all in there, with so much more. However, they are pulled together in a way that makes you feel that you are immersed in a great conversation, and you walk away, not just knowing about the life of another person, but knowing a bit more about yourself.
Ed achieves this in the way he weaves tattoo philosophy within his own story. He doesn't hit you over the head with anything like, "This is what tattoos are about." In fact, he clearly states, "I don't know why people get tattoos"; but he then adds, "but I do think people get tattoos for themselves, first." And he goes on to explain his thoughts on why this is a very personal art and what it does for people. He even notes a time when a sailor came into his shop in San Diego, and Ed said to him, "Who did the fucked up eagle on you?" As he said this, Ed knew that he was wrong; that it was this sailor's favorite tattoo and he had no right to be critical. This passage was also a reminder to keep my own tattoo snobbery in check.
He also talks about "the magic" of tattooing:
Like Lyle Tuttle always says, "tattoo" is a magic word. It hits people in a way that no other visual medium does. And it is not simply visual, but visceral. Everybody has an opinion about it and everybody has a gut reaction. And because they are permanent, tattoo raise all these issues about life and death.Read more on Ed's life in "Wear Your Dreams: My Life in Tattoos."
Ed will be doing readings and book signings in New York, California and Hawaii. He kicks off the book tour today in Manhattan at 6pm at Barnes & Noble on 59 Warren Street in Tribeca. Check his full schedule here.
Last year, we wrote about the Pazyryk Mummy with 2,500 Year Old Tattoos, aka the "Altai Princess," who was being returned to her home in the Altai Republic to be on display for public view.
The "princess" was discovered in 1993 by Dr. Natalia Polosmak, and largely kept at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk, preserved by the same scientists who who preserve the body of Lenin. The mummified woman was buried among others, including two tattooed men who also had intricate tattoos. Dr. Polosmak was quoted in The Siberian Times stating, "Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated, and the most beautiful. More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps - but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks." [See the tattoos and drawings below.]
The artistry and beauty of these tattoos have naturally inspired today's tattooists.
Colin Dale, of Skin & Bone Tattoo in Copenhagen, Denmark, recently tattooed this Pazyryk-inspired work (with his own twist) -- and he did so by hand, not machine. The work won second place for Female Ornamental at the St. Petersburg Convention. The collector is a Russian anthropology student in St. Petersburg, which is also home to the Hermitage Museum, where other Pazyryk Mummies are on display. [You can also see photos and drawings of the tattoos on the Hermitage site.]
Colin told me that another Pazyryk/Scythian piece was beautifully done at last year's Copenhagen Ink Fest by Kai Uwe Faust at Kunsten pa Kroppen. Photos (some of which are not safe for work) can be found here.
I think these contemporary interpretations of ancient tattoos are a testament to the everlasting power of the art form. And they just look amazingly cool.
Happy Lizardman Day!
I am told that this is how we are to celebrate all that tattooed green goodness:
The day culminates with a world wide toast at 11:57pm CST (time of Lizardman's birth!).
Now go forth and scare some children!
Lizardman, Brian & I at Coney Island.
Normally, when I get a press release about "free tattoos," I'm wary, as per Sailor Jerry's famed maxim: "Good work ain't cheap. Cheap work ain't good." But when the tattoos are Sailor Jerry's own flash, timeless and powerful, then I have to share the news.
Tomorrow, June 12th, is the 40th anniversary of Sailor Jerry's passing, and to celebrate his life, top tattooers across the US will be offering free tattoos of iconic Sailor Jerry art in the "102 Tattoos for 102 Years of a Legend" campaign. The cities include NYC, LA, New Orleans, Ybor City, Chicago, Austin, Denver, Jersey City & Secaucus. See details on each city here.
Some venues will be making you "Aim for your ink"; that is, you'll have to throw a dart on a board of Sailor Jerry flash and wherever it lands, that's the tattoo you'll get. So ya better practice your throw. And as usual, there will be Sailor Jerry Rum on hand.
Sailor Jerry Day events are also taking place across the UK in London, Brighton, Edinburgh and Manchester, where 40 Sailor Jerry fans will be able to get tattooed for just 12BP. And again, there will be rum.
For more, check the Sailor Jerry US Facebook page and UK Facebook page.
We've been seeing a lot of "pop-up" tattoo studios from renowned artists around the world, in which art spaces are constructed to present the tattooers' work, often before the eyes of the art and design community. Almost like a guest spot, but with a spotlight.
LA-based tattooist Jun Cha recently worked a 14-day pop-up tattoo studio in Paris, and filmmaker Santiago Arbelaez captured that trip. That footage is beautifully put together in the video below. The video shows Jun working on a sleeve (shown above in the first image) that best demonstrates his style, which melds black & grey fine line with classical and Renaissance art. Jun talks about his influences in the video, and he also offers some background about how he came to tattooing at the young age of 16 and progressed from there into a sought-after tattooist. There are also wonderful Paris street and museum scenes as well. A great 4-minute break to add some beauty to your day.
Check more of Jun's work online:
When I read "tattoo secrets revealed" on CNN, I kinda groaned. These quick and cutesy news clips on tattoos tend to all be the same...BUT when I watched it, I found that our friends over at the beautiful 13 Roses Tattoo Parlor in Atlanta, Georgia were the artists sharing the shop talk, so I knew it would be good. The video is super fun, especially learning about the type of tattoos pious preachers are getting these days! At just a minute and a half, it's worth the click.
Check the tattoo work of the 13 Roses Tattoo artists on their site and on Facebook.
Particularly for those, like myself, with a passion for ornamental tattoos, the carved skulls of Portland-based artist Jason Borders are incredibly engaging, with their hypnotic patterns and beautiful lines. They're the ultimate in postmortem adornment.
Using a dremel, akin to using a tattoo machine, Jason approaches his work on bone through "personal subliminal exploration," adding in his artist statement, "my work reveals the blurred line between imagination and reality, animal and human, life and death."
A number of these works are available for sale at Paxton Gate in San Francisco and their online store, such as the Dremel Drill Bull Scapula for $275 or the Dremel Dril Horse Skull for $1,500, among others.
Also, check Jason's work in other mediums, which also offer a nod to tribal tattoo culture.
The latest issue of Inked magazine has one of the most favorite interviews I have ever done: a Q & A with the inimitable tattoo legend Spider Webb. I have interviewed Spider before, and every time, there's another fantastic story I have never heard before -- and I want our talks to go on for as long as he doesn't get bored with me, but then there's that limited magazine word count in which only the highlights get put into the article. With Spider, every word is a highlight.Spider Webb, born Joseph O'Sullivan, is considered one of the most important people in contemporary tattoo history. With more than 50 years in the industry, he has legitimized tattooing as an art form, helping to bring it into galleries, museums, and even Christie's auction house, where a tattoo by Spider Webb was deemed "priceless." He fought to legalize tattooing in New York City after it was banned in the '60s by tattooing on the steps of museums. He expanded what some viewed as the limitations of tattooing through his conceptual art pieces and tattoo performances. And he's done all this with humor, flair, and mischief. Spider Webb, who holds a master's degree in fine arts, continues to create art, tattoos, tattoo machines,and trouble at his tattoo museum in Charlotte, NC. You'll also find him at tattoo shows and galleries around the world.
So what I've done is taken an excerpt from the article and put it below. Following that, you can read more and get another crazy tale -- about grave robbing, porn star Annie Sprinkle and more -- which wasn't published.
Learn more about Spider at Spiderwebbtattoo.com.
From Inked magazine:
You've been bringing tattoo art into fine art galleries since the '70s. You're particularly known for your conceptual art pieces. How did that get started?
How it all happened was a girl was interviewing me for a magazine, and she said, "Spider, what are the limitations of tattooing?" Being a big fucking know-it-all, I said that it's the size of the human body; that's the limitation. Then after I saw the interview in print, I thought, What kind of bullshit is this? What limitations? We have to get rid of limitations. So I thought to use a whole bunch of people in X 1000. I tattooed one X on 1,000 people, with a big X on the last person made up of 999 Xs to complete a conceptual piece. ... Then I started to do the Tattoo Vampire. It's a conceptual piece with just two simple dots on your neck. I've been doing that act for 30 years all over the world, from Studio 54 to the sewers of Paris, in Gracie Mansion, and in museums and galleries. It's a great show because there's sex, blood, kiss- ing, and you get to live forever. It's a very beautiful performance. Then I thought to myself that what would be real cool is if I become cupid and just tattoo one dot. So it's the same as the vampire act except I use an arrow and I make one dot for love, usually on a girl, but on men too-- and there'll be the fake blood and a breast exposed. That's what every- one wants, and I give it to them.
What other conceptual pieces have you done?
Do you remember Pulsating Paula? She was one of the photographers when they first started tattoo magazines. She's a biker girl. She's great. I tattooed her clitoris one time with a monkey tooth I pulled out of an alligator's skull. She was one of the first people I did the cupid tattoo on. Now I'm thinking to myself, What am I going to do next? I know what I'll do. I'll become the Invisible Man. And that's what I did. So I started to do the Unwanted Tattoo. I would be invisible. I wouldn't even be there. The first fucking thing I did was I took my doorbell apart, and I took out the black piece that you push to ring the bell, and I put in a piece of an ink an and a thumb tack. Then the mailman of all people rings my bell and he tattoos his thumb. I said, "Oh shit, that's fucking cool." Then I started to make other ones. I made the unwanted tattoo toilet seat. Then I did the greatest one of all: the gas pump. A guy tattoos his hand when he squeezes the thing. A lot of these things I had to rig up a video camera because I don't want to be there when the guy or girl freaks out. They think they can wash it off but they can't. There's a lot of humor in tattooing--people who don't want it, not wanting what I'm giving that day. Isn't that cool? [Laughs.] Children laugh about 2,000 times a day, and most adults laugh about 40 or 50. People are so afraid. I think tattoos take a little bit of fear away. Makes them a little stronger.
Read more from the article here. Keep reading for an unpublished Spider story.
Despite being the go-to source for celebrity tattoos, Mister Cartoon has remained true to his LA street roots, tattooing his signature black & grey style in the heart of Downtown's Skid Row -- at his aptly named Skid Row Tattoo studio -- as well as creating murals, apparel and merchandise, among countless projects, which you can read about on his site and blog.
In today's New York Post, Cartoon was featured, but not about tattooing Beyonce or Kobe, but about his favoitre hangouts in LA, in a street-styled travel piece, which is a good read. Here's a bit from it:
First stop is a spray-painted mural (246 S. Garey St., between Second and Third streets). It's Mister Cartoon's enormous, glorious tribute to Los Angeles, centerpieced by the Dodgers' logo and nodding to Day of the Dead, LA's famed freeways, Cartoon's iconic angry-clown graphics and, of course, a couple of sexy, scantily clad girls. "This is about me going out there and showing what I can do with spray paint while the sun beats down," Cartoon says of the project that took him two weeks to complete and was totally freestyled. "This was about graffiti and crushing and letting people know that I still have it."Read more of Cartoon's LA picks here.
And if you want to learn more of about the artist himself, check this video (below) where Cartoon talks about his start in tattooing, his low rider obsession and staying true to his crew.
There are many reasons to spotlight Larry Brogan: his ability to create tattoos in different genres and make many different people happy; his focus on promoting fine art; his drive to further the artistry and also help other tattooists become better business people; and he's also just one down-to-earth cool guy.
Last month, Larry celebrated the opening of his new studio & gallery in Lockport, Illinois, Tattoo City and Flower of Life Art Gallery. Check photos of the gorgeous new space here. Over two hundred people attended the opening, including the Mayor of Lockport, and other city officials. I spoke with Larry while he was working on opening the new place and dealing with zoning issues. In effectively pursuing his right to do business within the city, he was not only able to open up the new shop, but he was able to change officials' minds about tattooing and show them that it really is an art form. He's also working closely with the community by holding quarterly art shows that will benefit local charity organizations, particularly working for art education in schools.
The new tattoo shop houses four other great artists: Jessica Weichers, Chucho Rodriguez, George Zabala, and Steven Middleton.
Check out all their work on Tattoocityskinart.com.