Photo by Edgar Hoil. Tattoo by Josh Lin.
Despite being covered in ornamental blackwork tattoos, I love all genres of the art, which is why it has been fun exploring them all in my books when I can't have them all on my bod.
One of the volumes from the Black & Grey Tattoo box set, focused on photo realism in tattooing, and on its pages were lush renderings of images, from pop culture portraits to wild animals to family tributes, and much more. There are so many ways to explore photorealism in tattooing, which makes it an exciting art form.
And when something is exciting, well, it usually ends up on TV.
The folks at Oxygen's tattoo competition show, Best Ink, have asked me to do a post on photorealism in light of tonight's episode, which pits the tattoo artist contestants against each other as they vie to create the best realistic drawings, and tattoos on clients who expect an artistic miracle in five hours. You can catch a preview of the episode here.
Insect tattoo by Tim Kern, Tribulation Tattoo.
Realistic tattooing has not merely developed in in the past decade--it has mutated, leaping far beyond normal progression in its artistry and execution. There has been explosion of photographic representations tattooed with great precision and depth. It has invigorated the tattoo community with the possibilities of mastering a difficult art on a difficult canvas.
Both new and experienced artists face a number of challenges in realistic tattooing; the most obvious one is making it look real--capturing the look, and even the soul, of the subject. Many portrait tattoos, for example, commemorate the loves of the wearer: family, pets, cars and even fictional characters. The personal significance prescribed to these tattoos adds to the great responsibility of the artist. Another challenge concerns the longevity of the tattoo. A skilled tattooist may choose not to render certain details in the tattoo exactly as they appear in the photo because, as skin ages, lines blur and ink fades, which could leave a portrait of Marilyn Monroe looking more like Marilyn Manson. Realism specialists also find ways to create a harmony with the body so that the tattoos don't look "slapped on" but appear organic to the wearer. It's particularly difficult to have this balance and stay true to the image but stellar artists find the right mix.
Beyonce portrait tattoo on Karolina by Andre Tenorio.
Keeping all this in mind, it will be interesting to see if the contestants on Best Ink do justice to the genre and come up with work that demonstrates the true artistry and exciting possibilities of photorealistic tattooing. The show airs at 10 PM EST ... and yes, we'll be drinking.
Earlier this month, tattoo news headlines included a story of how an Australian politician proposed a ridiculous anti-tattoo law that seemed like the work of another conservative crackpot. However, it turns out, that it is indeed something to pay attention to and fight. Sharron Campbell, a solicitor in Queensland, who works in privacy and information rights, explains here how serious this issue is and how all of us around the world can get involved.
By Sharron Campbell
Down in Queensland--land of beers, barbies, and shrimps to throw on them--a politician has proposed that anyone who gets a tattoo should be registered with the government. He thinks this will somehow stop bikie gang money laundering. Natural first reaction is to laugh: a law that ridiculous could never happen, right?
Australia has limited rights to free speech, there's no Bill of Rights, there's no general right to privacy. And in New South Wales, the State just south of Queensland, they passed laws just as bad as what's been proposed.
If you want to tattoo in NSW, you have to:
Once the wheels of government start grinding out a Bill it will be too late to stop it. Wherever you are in the world you can help, before it's law, before it goes any further, by telling the Queensland government this is not okay.
Find out how at www.tattoosarenotacrime.net.
The NYC Tattoo Convention took place this weekend and, as usual, I took some bad pics and posted them to the N+S Flickr page. Consider it more reportage than fine art photography.
You can also find convention pics from other convention goers on Flickr, on the convention's Facebook page, and via #nyctattooconvention on Instagram.
I was surpised there wasn't much media coverage since it's a big event in the city, but there is a great video from The Star Ledger, whihc you can check below.
It was wonderful seeing old friends and meeting many of you. Til next year!.
NYC Tattoo Convention
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For years people saw tattoos as a sign of rebellion. A middle finger salute to the rest of the world. Outlaw bikers got tattoos. Sailors on leave in Singapore got tattoos. Lifers in the joint got tattoos. But now in the United States one out of every three adults under forty has a tattoo! So what happened? How did tattoo go from something that was put on you to an expression that comes from within you? Tattoo Nation tells the story of a few people who helped transform the world of tattoo, and the way we think about tattoos, forever. This is the true story of the ink revolution.
The documentary "Tattoo Nation," has been lauded as one of the best contemporary films to explore tattooing to date. While the basis of the movie is black & grey tattoo culture, overall, it educates on the roots of how the art form arose from the streets to the galleries. Now the film is available for viewing straight to your computer or TV.
Last night, I was reminded just how much tattoos hurt. It hurt in a way that I wanted to travel back in time and slap my 20-year-old self who would proclaim, "Oh, it's just like scratching a sunburn" because, back then, I had never sat for hours while needles drilled into my bony shin [or 5 hours of line work on the ribs like last year.]
Over the past 4+ years, since I've moved back to my native Brooklyn, I've only been getting tattooed once or twice a year, when my artist, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo travels to NYC or when I make a trip back to Liege, Belgium -- home to Calypso Tattoo and where I lived for almost 8 years.
As I work on a unified body suit, a year can feel even longer because I'm excited to see my body continue to transform and to become the person I envision myself to be. At times, when working piece-by-piece on the design, it can feel like I'm in a state of flux. That "I'm not done." But the pace is important for a number of reasons.
In an age of instant gratification, there's something special about having to wait for what you want. It offers a greater sense of gravity and even ritual to the tattoo process. On a practical level, it also allows for more time to research patterns and gather ideas on how to bring all these motifs on my body together. Dan is really a master at creating that harmony and flow and taking a holistic approach to how the tattoos look on the body overall.
And then there's the fact that I have enough time to forget the pain.
The new tattoo on my calf and shin, is comprised of all dots. No lines this time. When it heals, I'll post better pictures so you can really see how Dan worked the density of the dots to create some beautiful light effects. Using a rotary machine, which doesn't have the harsh buzz of the coil, Dan worked tirelessly for over four hours to make every point perfect. And as always, I'm thrilled -- although my happy dance will have to wait until the swelling goes down.
Another art show we'll be attending tomorrow -- a show I've been excited about since I learned about its progression last Fall -- is "Apokalupsis" A Contemporary View From the Revelation of John The Divine by the wonderful Adrian Dominic. The show opens tomorrow at Sacred Gallery (from 8-11pm) and runs until June 30th. Based on the preview, it's really a must see. And the story behind the series is compelling as well. Here's a bit from it:
Beyond painting, Adrian has been creating exciting tattoos, described as dynamic sculpturesque designs, since 1999.You can see more of his tattoos and fine art at www.adriandominic.com.
So, I hope to see y'all at "Apokalupsis" tomorrow. Considering that David Sena's "Blunted Paranoia" show is in walking distance to Sacred Gallery, I'll be hitting up both exhibits. Should be a fun night!
With the NYC Tattoo Convention in town this upcoming weekend, there are many events leading up to it, particularly, some exciting art shows.
One show I'm looking forward to attending is Blunted Paranoia, which features the collaborative works of Carlos Little and David Sena at the tattoo studio and art gallery, SenaSpace, located at 229 Centre Street, NYC. The artists will be presenting new drawings and some sculpture, along with a device for making their next series of drawings. They offer this on the show:
IEAD Fireworks Hardware Candy Cigarettes 229 Lungs Oil Tar Bar Smoke Bombs USA Map 10 Gallon Hat Hurricane Iraqi Map 111 Cat Heads Combustion Blunts 157 Logo Boot Optics Mushrooms Fuse Respirator DMT May 1975 Cooper Union The Tombs McKibben Street Carfire Where's The L At? Zack Thompson Street Tattoo Construction Site Brooklyn Swedish Girls Fire Robbers Weed Terrorism Doom Dance 9/11 Rooftops Terrorists Travel London Amsterdam '93 Till Infinity Raves Strip Search Bunker 255 Juice Bar Spot Crack Weed Invaders Washington Square Summons Sulphur.Blunted Paranoia is open May 16th through June 16th. We'll be at the opening this Thursday, which takes place from 6PM-9PM, with an afterparty following to celebrate the birthdays of both artists with DJ, drinks, and treats. RSVP to email@example.com.
The "birthplace of modern American tattooing" is often traced to The Bowery, and even more specifically, Chatham Square. It was home to Samuel O'Reilly and Charlie Wagner, both of whom patented the first modern tattoo machines. Mildred Hull tattooed in a barber shop on the Bowery. And naturally, it was home to the famed Bowery Boys: Stanley and Walter Moskowitz.
So it seems fitting that a long-time fixture in today's NYC tattoo scene, Daredevil Tattoo, would chose a spot just a few blocks from Chatham Square to make it their new home. Daredevil is a place where you could get a stellar custom backpiece or a small flash banger and be treated with equal courtesy and respect. The no-attitude tattoo studio is owned by Michelle Myles and Brad Fink, who you'll often find at international tattoo conventions when they're not at Daredevil or Brad's regular home base, Iron Age Tattoo in St. Louis, where they both hail from.
Daredevil's new home will officially be open for business by June 1st, as Michelle writes in her blog post on the move. Here's a bit from that post.
And with that trend comes fancy highrises, boutique hotels, and very high rents. While Michelle adds that it felt like she was "punched in the stomach" when her landlord said he'll be raising the rent by 50%, it prompted a move to a bigger and better space--a place where they can properly pay tribute to tattooing's roots. She adds:
The most exciting news for the new shop is that Brad will be bringing his historical tattoo collection to be on display at Daredevil. Brad's collection is massive. It includes a Thomas Edison engraving pen that the original electric tattoo machine patent by Samuel O'Reilly was based on. He also has an original O'Reilly sheet of tattoo flash. We love that the new space is only a few blocks from Chatham Square, which is the birthplace of modern tattooing. New York City is so important to tattooing historically we are honored to pay tribute to that history and to create a destination to share that history with others.With an expanded shop, comes the need for an expanded crew, and so they are looking for a new artist to join their tattoo family. More info on Devil City Press.
The new space is at 141 Division Street, and their hours continue to be noon until 10 pm seven days a week.
Check the work of Michelle (see below), Brad (see above), and their tattoo crew here.
The wonderful Amanda Wachob is no stranger to this blog as she continues to expand tattooing's vocabulary, beyond representational art, with her experimental work. Largely known for her brushstroke effects, Amanda takes a painterly approach to the art form but still keeps the strength of a traditional tattoo.
Amanda talks about this approach on Boston's NPR news station, Here & Now, with a segment entitled "Turning Tattoos Into Fine Art." Along with photographer Paul Nathan, who is the author of "Generation Ink," she also answers some of the standard questions like, Does it hurt? or What will happen if you no longer like it? And she does so in a way that best represents our community. You can stream the show or download it to your media player for offline listening.
A few weeks ago, Amanda was also featured on Huffington Post with a short profile and slideshow of her tattoo and fine art.
Amanda works out of a private studio in Brooklyn. Find out more about her on AmandaWachob.com.