02:37 PM
Bernie-sanders-tattoo.jpgAartistic studio's Bernie Sanders tattoo above.

US presidential election campaigns are getting hotter and firing up supporters - so much so that tattoo studios across the country are offering free candidate tribute tattoos, depending on where their politics lie. The recent news had features on Bernie, Hillary and Trump tattoos. Here are some highlights:

In Vermont, Tyre Duvernay of Aartistic studio is offering free Bernie Sanders tattoos, depicting the outline of Sanders' famed tousled hair and thick-rimmed glasses. Tyre began tattooing the Bernie tributes in response to a New Hampshire studio giving customers free Donald Trump tattoos. Initially, the Aartistic artists were just offering free cover ups for the Trump tattoos, but then they decided on doing the free Bernie tattoo promotion, which will likely run as long as Sanders is in the running.

So what happens if Bernie doesn't win? NY Mag has some ideas on turning that Bernie tattoo into another iconic figure, like Larry David, Danny Devito, and Chuckie from Rugrats.

Trump tattoo.pngDonald Trump tattoo by Clay Dragon Tattoo.

The New Hampshire tattooer who is offering those Donald Trump tattoos is
Bob Holmes of Clay Dragon Tattoo. As reported by Fox News (of course), supporters of the GOP presidential candidate "have been lining up to get the Donald's name, slogan, or even face permanently inked."  The Wall Street Journal also has a video piece on the free Trump tattoos.

Hillary Clinton tattoo.pngHillary Clinton tattoo on Justin Smith via the Washington Post.

Hillary Clinton is also getting some tattoo love from fans, like Justin Smith, whose tattoo is shown above. The Clinton campaign volunteer in Charleston S.C., told the Washington Post that he tattooed Clinton's portrait on his leg because Clinton has been his "hero for 23 years." Check the video spotlight on that tattoo.

More candidate tattoo photos can be found on Playbuzz.
02:40 PM
Alex Binnie London map.jpgThe Museum of London's "Tattoo London," which opened January 29th, has been creating a lot of buzz with its exhibit that explores the history of professional tattooing in London as well as tattooing today. Featured artists who created original works for the show include Lal Hardy at New Wave, Claudia de Sabe at Seven Doors, Mo Coppoletta at The Family Business, and Alex Binnie at Into You Tattoo.

Now the prints of their commissioned works are available for purchase online here, including Alex's
"Body of London" (above), which he describes as "a lyrical map of London, envisioned as a body, the beating heart of SOHO, the parks as lungs and the 'villages' blossoming flowers." The prints start at 25 BP for a small version, then up to 80 BP for extra large.

"Tattoo London" runs until until May 8, 2016. As I noted in an earlier post, on February 22, there will be an event "Tattoo London: under the skin," where you can meet these artists and also enjoy an illustrated talk by our friend and tattoo history expert Dr. Matt Lodder.

A good deal of the research behind the exhibit comes from Matt's work, which has been discussed in recent articles on the show, including this article in The Independent and this BBC article.

Doesn't look like I'll make it to the show, but I like that artwork from the show is available for all. Check it.
01:49 PM
More interesting news on the tattoo copyright front, which you know I love as a lawyer and tattoo nerd!

On Monday, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York against Take-Two Interactive and other companies associated with the video game NBA 2K16 for reproducing the tattoos of the basketball stars featured in the game series without permission.

The suit was filed by Solid Oak Sketches, a company who licensed the tattoo designs from the following artists who tattooed stars like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant:  Justin Wright (LeBron James), Shawn Rome (LeBron James), Tommy Ray Cornett (Eric Bledsoe and Kenyon Martin), Robert Benedetti (Kobe Bryant), and Leslie Hennelly (DeAndre Jordan). More on the licensing deal later in this post.

The lawsuit filing, Solid Oak Sketches v Take-Two, can be found here.

Ok, let me break this down:

While I've been writing about tattoo copyright since 2003, the discussion of tattoos being protected under copyright law didn't really get much buzz until 2011, when the infamous Mike Tyson Tattoo Copyright case was filed. I wrote about that extensively here, here, and here.

In that case, the tattooist who tattooed Tyson's facial tattoo, Victor Whitmill, sued Warner Bros. for copyright infringement in prominently featuring his tattoo design in The Hangover 2 and its advertising. The case,
S. Victor Whitmill v. Warner Bros., settled for an undisclosed amount, soon after Judge Catherine D. Perry, who presided over the preliminary injunction phase, stated: "Of course tattoos can be copyrighted. I don't think there is any reasonable dispute about that . . . . [T]he tattoo itself and the design itself can be copyrighted, and I think it's entirely consistent with the copyright law."

Fast forward to July this past summer, when the lawyer for Tyson's tattooer, Michael Kahn, reached out Take-Two Interactive to reach a deal on behalf of the tattooers. As noted in Bloomberg Business:
Kahn offered to drop the threat of legal action against Take Two in exchange for $819,500, covering the use of eight tattoos in the 2014 and 2015 versions of the game, according to a copy of the letter filed with the complaint. The law firm also offered a perpetual license covering 2016 and beyond for $1.44 million.

Kahn's law firm, Capes Sokol Goodman & Sarachan PC, said it calculated the offer based on figures from an unrelated case in which a tattoo artist was awarded $22,500 for the unauthorized use of one of his works in a video game by THQ Inc. In that case, a lion tattoo over the rib cage of Ultimate Fighting Championship champion Carlos Condit was used in THQ's UFC Undisputed, which sold 4.1 million copies, the law firm said.

You can find the letter and the breakdown of the interesting math used to reach these numbers in the exhibits to the lawsuit filing.

Take-Two declined the offer, which lead to this filing (by another law firm, not Kahn's). What I found particularly interesting in this complaint (demand for jury trial) is how the Solid Oak lawyers note just how important the tattoos play out in the game:  "On social media, 2K has promoted the improved tattoo customization as a major feature in the game." "Game reviewers praised NBA 2K16's improved visuals, which included smoother looking character models and more individualized tattoos." I think a jury will pay some attention to these claims.

I'm guessing, however, that the case will settle as other tattoo copyright cases have.

And then we'll probably see the NBA get after their players to get releases from their tattoo artists to the rights to their tattoos -- just as the NFL did in August 2013.

When artists and athletes come to agreements on tattoo artwork, it can be a win-win, as we saw with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who got written permission from his tattoo artists to feature his tattoos in the Madden video game franchise. More on that deal here.

So, what kind of deal are we talking about for tattoo artists licensing their art? In the exhibits to the complaint filing, you'll find the licensing agreements between the tattooers and Solid Oak. In them, the artists get 8% of the net earnings of Solid Oak for their designs. I've seen licensing agreements go for more, but it depends on the deals and also how good your lawyer is.

The lesson here is that the rights of tattoo artists are being taken more seriously -- and even more so with every suit filed.

For more on my writing on tattoo copyright in the US check these links:

07:50 AM
kostek tattoo band.png There's been some buzz over a VICE Netherlands interview with the Belgian band Tat2NoisAct, who, for ten years, has been tattooing live on stage as they play. There is one professional tattooer among them: Kostek, a Brussels-based tattoo artist. Kostek's portfolio follows the Art Brut/minimalist style of tattooing, which seems well suited for this kind of chaos.

You can check a live performance in this video (below). And as you'll see in the comments to the video, among other social media, there are those who question whether the tattooing is just a gimmick to garner attention or another artistic level to the performance.

In the Vice article, Kostek and fellow band members Ffl and Joakim state that it all started off as a joke back in 2005, thinking it would be a one-time thing, but then it grew into something more over time. Here's a bit from the Q&A:

Do you start the tattoos with a specific idea in mind or is it mostly just random patterns?
Kostek: Sometimes I have something in mind, sometimes I don't. It really depends on the rhythm of the music. Joakim invented a machine that amplifies the sound of the tattoo needles. So when we tattoo during a show, we're are also making music with those machines. If my arm wasn't so fully inked already, it would almost look as if we wrote the music on our bodies.

How would you describe your sound?

Fyl: Well, we're actually pretty eclectic. Sometimes our sound is a little punk rock and other times it's more like noise, hardcore or even afrobeat.
Joakim: These days our sound is a lot more structured, though. It used to be mostly noise - it was just about the energy and the tattoos. But we have been doing this for 10 years now, so we've become better songwriters over the years. We rehearse every week but we don't tattoo every week.
They also explain that they do not tattoo audience members because of cross contamination concerns, and anyway, even after ten years, they still have plenty of skin left to tattoo these performance pieces.

Read more and see photos from the performance here. From there, you can decide where you fall on that gimmick versus art spectrum.

08:34 AM
Austin tattoo expo.jpgLizardman Austin.jpgAustin tattoo expo2.jpgPhotos above from the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival in Austin by Brian Grosz.

I used to joke that, every ten seconds, a tattoo convention takes place around the world; these days it seems more like a reality. And that's good and bad. The good: access to artists and tattoo-related events in areas that normally would not have had that opportunity in the past. [For example, the super-fun Pagoda City City Tattoo Fest in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania.] The bad: top artists spread thin over different events, leaving convention organizers to fill booths with less-than-stellar tattooers. Plus, to me, it just feels less like a family freak show.

That said, I always enjoy seeing what goes down at the different shows, and over the past couple weeks, there were some big ones: the
DC Tattoo Expo, Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival, and Tattoo Week Rio.

The most press went to
DC Tattoo Expo, which is in its sixth year. DCist.com's coverage was the most interesting, adding some discussion to their slideshow (although I wish there were more photos of tattoos than of the many pin-up shots). There first big point was that the DC show is actually in Virginia because, as organizer Greg Piper explained, the capital has become "increasingly inhospitable to the tattoo industry." He says that this largely stems from the D.C. Department of Health's proposed Tattoo, Body Art, and Body-Piercing Facility Regulations, which puts forth some irrational rules (but are still under review). Here's more:

Issued last October, the proposal for additional regulation currently under consideration is the third version drafted by the DOH since 2013. Previous iterations faced vehement criticism and underwent revisions that eliminated provisions such as a mandatory 24-hour waiting period in advance of getting a tattoo.

Among the latest proposal's controversial elements is a stipulation that all equipment and materials used in tattoo shops must be purchased from suppliers registered with the city's health department. An online petition opposing the rule notes that there is currently no method of registering with DOH, and argues that passing the regulation would make it difficult, if not impossible, for shops to legally furnish themselves and do business within the District. [...]

"This is why I do the show in Virginia, and not in D.C. proper," Piper said. "I can't invest in future shows and then worry when 2017, 2018 comes around, are we going to be able to have those shows? So, it keeps us out of the city. We'd like to have a proper D.C. show, but if the city doesn't want us, it's not a battle we're fighting. Arlington's happy to have our money."

DCist also interviewed Paul Roe of British Ink, who stated his belief that the current proposals were unfeasible logistically and could lead to unfair business practices, among other concerns; however, the article noted that Paul was confident that the proposals will ultimately be further revised. Read more here.

Also covering the DC expo, OnTapOnline.com has an extensive slideshow from the convention floor.

Mashable had fun at the expo, interviewing attendees for "Tattoo artists and enthusiasts talk about tattoo triumphs and regrets," which featured a number of our friends. In the article, Keith Lane shoots specific tattoo pieces and has people offer a story behind the work. For one, Gene Coffey (show below), who is a fantastic tattooer and wears some great work himself, talked about his first tattoo: "It was a skull; a small little one-inch skull on my arm. I got it when I was twenty-four. I drew it myself and thought it was the coolest thing ever...it's really not the coolest thing. It's not very cool at all, actually." See more here.

Gene Coffey tattoo.png This blog's own Brian Grosz sent us the Mashable link and also a few pics from the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival, shown at the top of this post. The 14th annual show, which took place this past weekend, was packed with artists, including some internationally renowned greats. The Lizardman performed all three days, among other entertainment, and there was some stiff competition during the tattoo contests. Brian took home a trophy for his work by Mike Rubendall. You can see Brian without his pants, alongside an equally pantsless Madd Huero, here.

You can also check out the action via Instagram hashtag #staroftexastattooartrevival.

Outside of the US, Tattoo Week Rio, billed as Latin America's biggest piercing and tattoo convention, garnered lots of press, mostly in Portuguese and Spanish. Here's a video from the show (embedded below).  You can see more on Tattoo Week's YouTube channel. Sputnik Mundo also covered the event as did Venezolana de Television.

So, while these weren't the only recent events, they offer an overview into tattoo gatherings today, which are getting bigger and bolder in their offerings. Again, good and bad. But at least there are pretty pictures.

07:20 AM
MyraBrodsky-handtattoo .jpgMyraBrodsky-butterfly.jpgMyraBrodsky_fish.jpgToday's artist profile features up-and-coming Berlin tattoo artist Myra Brodsky, whose solo exhibit and pop-up tattoo booth at the BRIGHT Tradeshow opens today through the 21st, during Berlin Fashion Week. The exhibit coincides with the release of her first art book, "Myra Brodsky Tattoos," a 36-page hardcover that features a selection of recent paintings and best-of tattoos capturing Berlin's creative culture.

Myra's tattoos follow the neo-traditional tattoo movement, with particular notes from 1920s Art Nouveau, Baroque and Renaissance art, the Victorian era, and Rococo. Myra says she's also influenced by new realism, an early 20th century art movement. 

Myra played along with The Proust Questionnaire for tattooers. Here's  our Q&A:

What is your current state of mind?
Well, you caught me in a lazy kind of mood. I just got tattooed for a few hours and feel very sleepy and powerless. Ha!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I always feel perfectly happy spending as much time as I can with my girlfriends.

What is your greatest fear?
Ugly bearded men with chest hair...They really can scare the shit out of me.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Diana Vreeland, Mata Hari and Billy The Kid. I got their faces tattooed on my body.

Which living person do you most admire?
Ronnie O'Sullivan and Richard O'Brien.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What is your greatest extravagance?
My large scale tattoos and my hair

What is your favorite journey?
Any journey is nice!

What is your most treasured possession?
Baby, you don't wanna know! Haha!

When and where were you happiest?
Well, last weekend after having 3 drinks at a pub!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
If I could, I would so turn myself into a rabbit.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
You may well ask! If I can call the possibility to go where ever and when ever I want an achievement, I would do so.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Not having any ambitions or not being able to lose yourself in dreams.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Dr. Frank N. Furter and Morgan Hiller (from Tuff Turf).

How would you like to die?
Not by a plane crash, that's for sure.

What is your motto?
I always like to quote Norman O Brown: "Meaning is not in things but in between them."


You can find Myra at Black Mirror Parlour in Berlin. See more of Myra's work on Instagram.

11:16 AM
MLK tattoo.pngTattoo above by Mario Bernardi.

malcom-x-mlk-tattoo.jpgTattoo above by Robert Pho.

cecil porter tattoo_MLK.jpgMartin Luther King portrait above by Cecil Porter.

In honor of
Martin Luther King Jr Day, every year, I search social media to find beautiful tattoos dedicated to a man who is an icon for aspiring to peace, equality, and justice. And every year I find a few more, but not as many as I would like, considering how many portraits and other tattoo odes are dedicated to pop culture celebrities. Here are some new works I found, along with pieces I have posted before.

I'll be reading his
"I have a Dream" speech again today to inspire me to work for something bigger than myself.  
martin luther king tattoos.jpgTattoos (left to right) by Joshua Carlton, Mike DeMasi, and Logan Aguilar.

08:04 AM
Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry.jpg Today is Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins' 105th birthday, and to celebrate, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum will be providing free streaming of the "Hori Smoku" film on the Sailor Jerry website for the rest of January.

"Hori Smoku" is a feature length documentary exploring the roots of American tattooing through the life of Norman Collins. The film showcases rare interviews from Collins' protegees, Don Ed Hardy and Mike Malone, features archival footage of the birth of tattooing as we know it, and explores the evolution of the global tattooing phenomenon.

Here's a glimpse from the trailer below. Watch the full film here.

08:32 AM
durga tattooing.jpgPhoto of Durga tattooing at the the 1st Traditional Tattoo Camp.

The recent tattoo news hit everything from indigenous tattoo practices worldwide to, well, the worst headlines ever...

One of my favorite stories was coverage, including great photos, of the 1st Traditional Tattoo Camp, which took place last month, in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. The event was organized by our friend Durga, who has worked tirelessly on the revival of Mentawai tattoo traditions. Durga and his crew hosted a select group of artists at the camp from around the world in a celebration of tattoo culture. Here's a bit from the Daily Mail article:

The festival earlier this month in Maguwoharjo village in Java's cultural heartland gathered people from across Indonesia and the world at the studio of celebrated Indonesian tattoo artist Durga, a leading figure in the revival. Durga has championed tattoos from the western Mentawai islands, home to a semi-nomadic tribespeople famed for their body art and the practice of sharpening their teeth, which they believe makes them more beautiful.

Mentawai tattoos, generally long lines looping over the shoulders and chest and more elaborate patterns on feet and hands, were long part of local culture and signified the tribespeople's close links to nature.

The other well known body art from Indonesia is found among the Dayaks, an array of semi-nomadic tribes who traditionally lived in the jungles and mountains of vast, biodiverse Borneo island shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Their tattoos featured thick, black lines forming images inspired by nature, such as flowers, leaves and animals, that mark a person's journey through life.
The indigenous practices of Inuit tattooing were the focus of this CBC News article (sent by our friend Brayden Wise). The piece looks at Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's film Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos, which follows her journey to learn about traditional Inuit women's face tattoos before getting tattooed herself. What's particularly interesting is the discussion of Arnaquq-Baril's hesitation to screen her film to non-Inuit audiences for fear of cultural appropriation. Here's more:

Through interviews with elders across Nunavut, Arnaquq-Baril's film describes how the practice of tattooing women, which she says used to be nearly universal, was all but stamped out in just one generation as a result of the concerted efforts of Christian missionaries.

Arnaquq-Baril says the cultural significance of Inuit tattooing is great, often marking the maturing of girls into womanhood, but she also says it's "fragile" and that non-Inuit copying the tattoo designs would be disastrous for Inuit trying to reclaim their culture.

More on Inuit tattooing can be found in Lar Krutak's Tattoo Traditions of Native North America, in which Arnaquq-Baril is also featured.

Samoan tatau is the subject of this OC Register article, which looks at the work of Si'i Liufau, owner of A Town Tattoos, who learned the traditions from the Sulu'ape family -- the name most associated with tatau revival. There's some interesting talk of melding the old with the new:

Instead of using the traditional tools, for health safety Liufau fashions a modern version from stainless steel and plexiglass, which he makes for each customer. It takes about 30 minutes to craft the tool.

Much of the traditional process remains, however. It takes three to four helpers to work on one person; some are there to stretch the skin. It's all done freehand. The man or woman lies on the floor on a mat, not in a chair. They wear traditional dress, called a lavalava, which looks like a sarong. Many times families come and feed the tattoo artist and observe.

I really enjoyed reading how these revivals are taking shape, making it a great tattoo news week!

In other news ...

David Bowie's death on the 10th inspired many tributes to the artist, including tattoos, (like the one below). I posted a couple Bowie portraits on Instagram, and you can find more via #davidbowietattoo.

Forbes covers the recent case that finds tattooing is artistic expression protected by the First Amendment. Check my breakdown of the Buehrle v. City of Key West case.

A slideshow of last weekend's Minneapolis Tattoo Arts Convention can be found on the Star Tribune site.

Finally, some headlines that were so bad, I couldn't ignore them:

* "Barman with Henry the Hoover tattoo on his crotch says it's ruining his love life."
* "This British Man Has a Large Rim Job Tattoo on His Back, No Really."
* "NY Mom Arrested After Allegedly Tattooing 'Ride or Die' on 12-Year-Old Son's Hand"

David Bowie tattoo by Chris Jones.jpgDavid Bowie tattoo by Chris Jones.

08:26 AM
tattoo london.png [Image copyright Kate Berry]

From January 29 until May 8, 2016, the Museum of London will show "Tattoo London," an exhibit that explores the history of professional tattooing in London as well as tattooing today. On display will be newly commissioned artworks by tattooists from the city's most renowned studios: Lal Hardy at New Wave, Alex Binnie at Into You, Claudia de Sabe at Seven Doors, and Mo Coppoletta at The Family Business.

On February 22, there will be an event "Tattoo London: under the skin," where you can meet these artists and also enjoy an illustrated talk by our friend and tattoo history expert Dr. Matt Lodder. It's a party, so there will be music and an after-hours bar.

A good deal of the research behind the exhibit comes from Matt's work, which is also discussed an article in The Independent on the exhibit. Here's a bit from that piece:

It has recently emerged that Macdonald was the first person in the Post Office Directory, the Yellow Pages of its day, to offer a professional tattoo service in London. The publication created the category of tattooists for him in 1894, and he was the only entry under that heading for the next four years.

Matt Lodder, a lecturer in contemporary art and visual culture at the University of Essex who worked on the exhibition, said: "While tattooing was going on, there is no evidence of another professional studio in Britain at the time, working on paying customers."


Macdonald worked in London's Jermyn Street and was considered one of the pioneers, alongside Tom Riley and, later, Burchett. He said his clients ran from assorted dukes and maharajahs to the kings of Norway and Denmark.

Britain's King Edward VII was tattooed in Jerusalem and his son George V acquired body art in Japan, sparking a trend among the public. 

"One of the reasons Macdonald was so busy was because people wanted to copy the king," Dr Lodder said. "Macdonald claimed to have tattooed George V, but he probably did not."

More of Matt's findings in the Independent article.

It looks to be an informative and fun exhibition, with a good run, so I'm hoping to get to London before May 8th to check it.

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