Whether they be full plot points or a glimpse into the life a character, tattoos have played starring roles in the history of contemporary film. Highlighting many of the more noteworthy movie tattoos, from 1955 through the present, is "The Mark of an Actor: A Supercut of Tattoos in Film."
Edited by Brett Roberts and Travis Greenwood, the film tattoos were chosen based on "artistic merit, plot importance, comedy, color, actor, design, genre, influence, and general badassery." It's a fun watch, especially watching how the renderings of these faux film tattoos have gotten better over the years. You can find the full movie list on YouTube.
Top tattoo by Soda Pop and bottom by Sky Cris.
As part of their San Diego small business series, The Circus Cartel produced this video (embedded below) profiling Broken Heart Tattoo. In the 5-minute film, tattooer and shop owner Sky Cris talks about what drew him to the art form and his path along that way, but what I really enjoyed was listening to him discuss some points on the business aspect of running a tattoo studio. As their portfolios are not really highlighted here as much as other tattoo docs we've featured, this discussion, and also that of the genesis of the shop, was the most engaging for me.
I particularly smiled when Sky explains how he came to the name Broken Heart Tattoo -- how people often get tattooed when they are down and out to feel better. He also references a song in which one of the lines inspired him: "There's a man on the corner who fixes broken hearts..." And that's seems to drive their work.
You can find Sky's tattoos, as well as that of resident artist Soda Pop, on the Broken Heart site and Facebook page.
Tattoos above by Andreas "Curly" Moore.
Tons of tattoo news hit the headlines while we were out on vacation, so I figured I'd give y'all a run-down of some of the ones I found most interesting:
First off, I had to giggle over how the fantastic Andreas "Curly" Moore offered his own version of "Palm Sunday" (shown above) last weekend at Lionel's Tattoo Studio in Oxford. The Oxford Mail quoted Curly saying: "It was Palm Sunday, so we thought for amusement we would do three free palms. The tattoos had no religious meaning, it was just for the sake of beautiful art." Check more of Curly's beautiful art here. [He's also featured in Black Tattoo Art 2.]
Then, specifically designed to kill my post-vacation buzz, The NY Times published yet another tattoo essay. It wasn't because the word "asymptote" was used twice in an article that was not about geometry. It wasn't because the writer used the word "tat." Ok, maybe it was that, but it was used in this context: "I felt how much I needed, from him and everyone, a certain kind of response: to feel inspired by the tat, and tell me so." The "tat" in question was a Latin phrase homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto, translated, "I am human; nothing human is alien to me." I can see how it would be interesting if the tattoo was just a hook in the article to have a discussion on what that means...but then the writer brings in all the same stale discussions about getting tattooed post-breakup as some form of reclaiming her body, a declaration of selfhood, and the tattooed body as public space in some form -- all very true, but nothing new. It also neglects another real truism: no one has to break up with you for you to get a tattoo.
Thankfully, The Wall Street Journal came through with an article focusing on the art: "In Brooklyn Mentoring Program, Arts Volunteers Get Tattoos Designed by Teens." The piece discusses tattooer Scott Campbell's work for the arts education non-profit Free Arts NYC, specifically, a project in which he tattooed, for free, the artwork of 10 teenagers from the mentoring program on 10 volunteers -- thereby, connecting them in a powerful way. As noted in the WSJ, Scott wrote of the project:
"The volunteer promises, from that day onward, even if they never see or speak to each other again, to always look at that tattoo and believe in that kid [...] So that no matter where they are or what they're facing, they know there is someone walking around with his or her name on them, believing in them."There's more heart warming discussion in the article. A great read. Scott's art will also be auctioned off April 30th to further benefit Free Arts NYC (with this great promo shown above).
Here are some other links to tattoo news this past week:
I'll keep an eye out for more tattoo news worth sharing! Feel free to post links you like in the Needles & Sins Facebook group, as many of you already do (which I love!).
[... or rather, fancy feet!]
We're off on a quick break to recharge but will be back with some fun, fresh posts on Thursday!
At a time when so many of those coming to tattooing are doing so from TV drama, what often gets lost is the history, craftsmanship, and community that are such integral parts of tattoo culture. And yet, above the noise, those who have dedicated themselves to the art continue to rise, innovate and inspire. The Leu Family exemplifies this.
The Leu's are more than just a tattoo family, however. They are a collective of artists creating exciting work in different mediums. The launch of their new site Leufamily.info is an online portal for that talent, from books to music to clothing to painting performances to hemp projects ... and naturally, stellar tattoo art. The site also offers some family history and short bios on all the artists.
For those new to tattooing, Filip Leu is the most sought-after tattoo artist in the world, creating stunning full body pieces, like the one above, that bear his definitive aesthetic. In 1982, he created "The Leu Family's Family Iron Studio and Museum" in Switzerland with his parents Felix and Loretta Leu. The community mourned Felix's passing in 2002, but he left a powerful legacy. Loretta, aka Y Maria, continues to share her art and amazing stories. [In December, we posted her interview with Demetra Molina in which she talks about her family and adventures.]
We've also featured the work of Aia Leu, who authored "The Art of the Leu Family," a beautiful 192-page volume that contains select pieces of diverse art work, including "Don Feliz's surrealistic psychedelic art, the mandala art of Y Maria, works from Miriam Tinguely, Filip Leu, Titine K-Leu, Aia Leu, Tanina Munchkina, Ajja S.F. Leu and some pieces by other members of the family."
Leufamily.info offers a taste of that art work, and also, outside links to purchase the book, as well as prints (including this wonderful work by Titine, shown below), music by Ajja, and tattoo-inspired organic clothing created by Ama Leu. [I love the Filip-designed track tops and Ama's "Lips" tee.]
Lots of Leu goodness in one site. Check it!
Sydney Parkinson's illustration of a tattooed Maori from Cook's first voyage.
In case you missed it on the Needles & Sins Facebook group yesterday, Anna Felicity Friedman recently posted a large portion of her tattoo-history dissertation on her wonderful TattooHistorian.com blog about the "Cook myth," which, as she writes, is "the common assumption that modern Western tattooing somehow derived from contact with Polynesian peoples during Captain James Cook's voyages in the late 18th century."
Here's a bit from her writing:
In addition to demonstrating that tattoos were often seen in a positive, or at least neutral, light, a crucial subsidiary aim of this dissertation is to debunk what can be termed the "Cook myth": the perception in many scholarly and popular texts from at least the 1950s that the historical origins of modern tattooing among Westerners exclusively derived from Cook's first voyage to the Pacific and his and his crews' encounters with tattooed people in Tahiti--that Cook, et. al., somehow "discovered" or "reinvigorated" tattooing. But this is clearly not the case. A look at texts from before the mid-eighteenth century demonstrates that many authors, explorers, scientists, etc. were wellfamiliar with the practice of permanently marking the body with a substance embedded underneath the skin. For example, one of Cook's contemporaries, explorer Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu, writing about the Marquesan tattooing he saw in 1791, noted the similarities to and contrasts with the European tattooing that he said was not only common but of great antiquity:Read more, and check the footnotes for additional reference, here.
The discussion of NYC's gentrification is nothing new, but it still stings every time I learn of another institution of art, music & grit close its door to make way for mega-store or "luxury" anything. One living institution, who has had a profound effect on NYC's tattoo scene, is documentarian, fine artist and tattoo artist Clayton Patterson. And, as the NY Times reported this weekend, Clayton will be shutting his Outlaw Art Museum and leaving NY's Lower East Side with his wife Elsa Rensaa, explaining, "There's nothing left for me here."
In a time where our own tattoo community feels gentrified -- complete with "celebrity" tattooers working in glass cages -- it's understandable why Clayton and Elsa are leaving town and heading for Bad Ischl, in Austria, where, for almost 15 years, he has collaborated with the Wildstyle Tattoo Convention.
Wildstyle is one of the many projects Clayton has worked on for tattoo artists and collectors. In 1986, Clayton and Ari Roussimoff started the Tattoo Society of New York (TSNY), with the assistance of Elsa, and the group was instrumental in working to overturn the NYC tattoo ban in 1997. When asked by Vice, what about the role of TSNY, he explained:
It was difficult to learn to tattoo in the city, but the TSNY changed much of that. Those interested in art and tattooing gathered at the Society meetings. The whole 1990s New York City new wave came out of the TSNY. The magazines came to the Society meetings. It is through the Society that Debby Ullman, who had worked at Outlaw Biker and Tattoo Review, moved over to Pat Rusians of Pink Coyote Designs, who was looking for an editor to start a new magazine. I introduced her to Jonathan Shaw, and they started, International Tattoo Magazine. At that time there were not that many photographers on the tattoo scene. Early on, there was Charles Gatewood. Then Steve Bonge started taking photos in the mid 70s. He was instrumental in getting photos of tattoos into Biker magazine. He became the lead photographer for International Tattoo.
When, in 1998, Steve Bonge and his partners, Lawrence Garcia and Wes Wood (Wes was a partner for the first year) created the New York City International Tattoo Convention, Clayton came on as an organizer and manager of the show, making it one of the iconic tattoo events worldwide.
Beyond the tattoo community, Clayton is renowned for documenting the culture of the Lower East Side since the late seventies, particularly the Tompkins Square Park Police Riot. One of Clayton's most well known work is his Captured film.
The NY Times offers more on his background documenting this scene:
Almost from the moment he arrived from Calgary, Alberta, in 1979, Mr. Patterson's world has been the downtown demimonde of squatters, anarchists, graffiti taggers, tattoo artists, junkie poets, leathered rock 'n' rollers and Santeria priests. When he and his companion, Elsa Rensaa -- she, too, is an artist -- landed in New York, they took an apartment on the Bowery where their $450 monthly rent was paid by their jobs producing commercial art prints, and where one of their neighbors was the not-yet-famous painter Keith Haring.Four years later, the couple bought the building where they live today -- once a dressmaker's shop, at 161 Essex Street -- at a time when Art in America magazine described the neighborhood as a "blend of poverty, punk rock, drugs, arson, Hell's Angels, winos, prostitutes and dilapidated housing." This was the culture that Mr. Patterson seized as his subject, wandering the area on endless expeditions with his camera and gradually acquiring an archive of ephemera that grew to include graffiti stickers, concert posters, images of tattoos, thousands of hours of audiotape and videotape and empty heroin bags he had picked up off the streets.Clayton's collection of photos and several ink-on-paper prints, as well as Elsa's paintings, will be on view in a pop-up gallery in NYC's Meatpacking district (58-60 9th Avenue, off West 15th Street), opening next week, April 15th. The show entitled, "$16 Burger" (Clayton's taunt of the price of this city's food), will be a fitting send-off for such a force in the tattoo and art world.
In the latest edition of the UK's Total Tattoo Magazine (May 2014), you'll find my "Who Owns Your Tattoo?" article, this time looking at the issue through the UK's Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). The title may evoke thoughts of some dystopian universe where evil tattooist overlords dictate what people do with their bodies; however, the article is really about when tattoos are used for a purpose other than being worn proudly. It's not too long and touches on only basic points, but the goal is to get people thinking about these concepts.
I'm also not that familiar with the CDPA, so I contacted an expert, Catherine Jasserand, PhD researcher at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, to ask her her thoughts on copyright as it relates to custom tattoo designs. I posed this question to her: "If a customer comes to a tattoo studio with an idea but not a design, and the tattoo artist creates an original work for the customer and then tattoos it, who would own the design (if there is no agreement between them)? The artist? The client? Both of them?"
Catherine shared these thoughts for the article:
"An idea in itself is not protectable. If the client gives very vague instructions, then it is doubtful that he or she could be considered as a joint author. However, if client is contributing to the tattoo and decides on important elements such as the composition, shape and so on, I believe it could be argued that the client and tattoo artist could share authorship. In the end, what is important is to question the level of freedom that the tattoo artist has in the execution of the 'design' and which level of creativity is she using."Jasserand also noted that, even if the client pays the tattoo artist, the payment does not mean that copyright on the tattoo is automatically transferred to the client. According to the Intellectual Property Office, the official government body responsible for granting Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the UK, "When you ask or commission another person or organisation to create a copyright work for you, the first legal owner of copyright is the person or organisation that created the work and not you the commissioner, unless you otherwise agree it in writing."
For the full article, pick up Total Tattoo (which you can also find on US newsstands) or download a digital copy.
Outside of the article, Catherine and I also chatted a bit about common copyright issues relating to tattoos on continental Europe, so hopefully I'll get to further explore that sometime soon.
For more on my writing on tattoo copyright in the US check these links:
French artist FUZI-UVTPK was interviewed by Complex Magazine in this video (shown below) while he was in Brooklyn, tattooing at Muddguts gallery.
Complex describes FUZI as the pioneer of the "Ignorant Style," which I have to admit, I'm pretty ignorant about myself; however, in the video, FUZI explains his tattoo philosophy, heavily influenced by his graffiti background, to shed some light on how he approaches his work. For example, he says that one of the most important things for him to "be free to create [his] art, to have no rules" -- how he's not looking for someone to tell him to do his tattooed lines better; he wants to do his lines, his own way.
Whether his lines are strong or not, FUZI was booked solid for his NYC trip. See more of his work here to see if you dig his style yourself.
If you ever hung out in an American independent record store in the 90s, there's probably no doubt that you've heard of Rocket From The Crypt - an awesome alt-punk band (with a horn section!!) who emerged from the San Diego scene in 1989. Well, they've recently reformed for a reunion tour - which some pals of mine just caught in Los Angeles, and they'll be in NYC for the next two nights - but there's some unfortunate news for those who have chosen to permanently adorn themselves.
Here's the backstory: around 1991, the band decided to take a logo from one of their singles and get it tattooed on themselves. Then, they decided that anyone who got the tattoo would gain free admission to their shows FOR LIFE.
But, as the Wall Street Journal reports - it simply isn't feasible anymore on their current set of dates.
Mr. Reis says the group heard from "hundreds" of tattooed fans asking about admission. When the band asked clubs to let them in free, they were told there was no room. The venues had sold out. "When we were around the first time, selling out shows was not our forte," he says. "There was usually plenty of room."
What was fun was to see how artists (and clients) reinterpreted the design to their own personal interests.
[Tattoo by Mike Stobbe]
Long before I ever decided to get tattooed, I always that this was a brilliant piece of marketing (as well as a way to truly connect with your fans). Sure, it's real easy to get your favorite band's logo tattooed on you, but it's rare to get something back from it; true artistic reciprocity.
While most of the work that I've found online isn't of the caliber we usually feature, I still think that they had an awesome idea.
Read the WSJ article here.