September 2009 Archives

12:08 PM
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This Friday, October 2nd from 7-10PM, join the Needles and Sins crew in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at Tattoo Culture's Fourth Anniversary Group Art Show opening.

On view, the fine art work of tattooists including the legendary Bugs, Dan Marshall, Liorcifer and Tim Kern, Dana Helmuth, David Sena, Emma Griffiths, Noon of France, and TC's resident artist Gene Coffey (whose oil painting is shown above), among other artists.

Many of you know most of our Needles and Sins events are held at Tattoo Culture because it's a large beautiful space close to subways and easy parking, but more important, it's an attitude free zone where people can enjoy the art work, chill, and party without pretension.

And yes, there will be free booze.

The show runs until November 13th. Hope to see y'all Friday.
02:56 PM
ed-hardy-mens-punk-18195-6192_zoom.jpgYeah, yeah, yeah; I know, I know... We all roll our collective eyes with every new product that gets Ed Hardy's name smeared across it and swear never to discuss it again.  But if this crap is gonna keep popping up like the cockroach/bedbugs version of Whack-A-Mole, my eyes are going to be rolling into the back of my head faster than Linda Blair's mother realized she needed two priests: an old one and a young one.

Well, I have nothing to comment on this latest abomination because my pal, Vince Neilstein, over at (my personal version of AP Reuters), pretty much hit that tarty little Frenchman right on his copyright/trademark-infringing head with this gem of a post:

"Punk's not dead... so we'll celebrate by charging $145 for an ugly t-shirt made by teens in a sweat-shop in Taiwan, to be worn by privileged suburban white males who wear supposed 'punk' clothing as a badge of identity."

Forget it... Punk is officially dead.  Long live punk.
11:00 AM
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I'm in recovery from this weekend's London Tattoo Convention, which means I'm in a Heathrow Airport pub nursing a cider and overpaying for WiFi. Evidently, I'm not alone in my post-convention haze. In disrobing at security, exposing my sleeves, the agents seemed jaded. Yet another freakshow passing through. Yawn.

Despite my crazy convention schedule, I've yet to become apathetic to the walking works of art that surround me there. Yes, it's about the art but it's also about being able to go up to attractive people and say, "Hi. I'm Marisa from Could you take your pants off please?"

And they do.
And I photograph it.

Check the new pics I  added to the convention Flickr set.

The Independent also has a review and photos from the show like the one above.

Looks like my plane is boarding. Will have the tattoo news for you tomorrow when I'm back in Brooklyn.
06:45 AM
London tattoo convention
Photo of Rie Gomita by Reuters via Edmonton Sun

After the longest flight of my life from NYC sitting next to a missionary hell bent of savin my soul, I arrived sleepless at the Tobacco Docks for the first day of the London Tattoo Convention. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a line queue of people that stretched along the massive venue -- and while I wasn't ready to have thousands see me make-up free with luggage under my eyes the size of steamer trucks -- I knew it was the start to a sweet party.

I ducked into the back entrance for artists & vendors and head to the Freaks Book shop booth, where I'm working with the fabulous Lorenzo to sell copies of my Black Tattoo Art book. I grabbed a copy and some flyers, and made my way around for shameless promotion, and naturally, drinks with friends.

I also managed to take my usual bad conventions photos. Check 'em here.

For great pix, see Edmonton Sun for the Reuters slideshow of images from Day One, like the ones above and below. Also check the Sky News photos and report.

The massive Tobacco Docks complex is impressive. Artists worked non-stop in glass framed partitioned spaces with natural light streaming in from the sun roofs. In the vaulted brick basement, you can buy anything from corsets to kicks, lobe plugs to pasties. Indeed, there were plenty of pasties with burlesque performers hypnotizing the crowd with tassel twirls, and some bump-n-grinds. A line up of bands played on two stages, and the numerous pubs were packed. Fine art works of the Tara Project and El Rana were on display on one floor while the Graffiti Kings worked on a mural on another.

As I walked around, looking at the crowd, which spoke in multiple tongues, I couldn't help but think of high school and its cliques. You had your dreadlocked hippies and mohawked punks, dark goths and neon ravers. The rockabilly pin-up girls were the popular cheerleaders while the bikers evoked the jocks, not necessarily for their toned physiques but because I could picture them taping some guy's hairy butt and flushing his head down the toilet.

And like high school, I tried to figure out where I fit in. I hugged and kissed members of each crowd but at the end of the night I found myself alone in a corner with my laptop uploading the day's photos and thinkin 'bout how I'd blog it all....I was the nerd.

More tattoo geekery from the convention to come.

London tattoo convention 2
11:49 AM
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Tomorrow, at 10PM ET, is the season premier of Rescue Ink on National Geographic, and if there's any tattoo crew worthy of a TV show it's these guys: hard, tattooed NY badasses with a mission to save animals from abuse. They're not cops, animal experts or even animal control. But they are effective in (firmly) encouraging misguided owners to give up their pets if it is in the best interest of the animals.

On their weekly one-hour Nat Geo show, the crew takes viewers on ride-alongs as they work 24/7 fielding over 100 calls a week at their headquarters on Long Island to confront alleged animal abusers, rescue fighting dogs, and investigate stolen animals.

And yes, their tattoos play a part in their the intimidation factor. Check their tattoo collection here.

For a preview, here's a video overview of the show:

I'll be at the London Tattoo Convention tomorrow (and through the weekend), so I hit the DVR to watch it when I get back, but let me know what ya think in the comments section.
03:35 PM
50skatekid.PNGI'd be willing to wager that a large amount of Needles and Sins readers spent an equally large amount of time on a skateboard.  And about the time you and your skateboard became inseparable (and Gleaming the Cube was on constant rotation in the family VCR) you probably also started to develop a healthy dislike for both school and your parents.  Well, here's proof that it's possible to love skating, hate school and still buy your old man that "World's Greatest Dad" coffee mug come Father's Day.

The 50 Skate Kid.

Little Logan and his parents opted out of his 6th grade year of traditional schooling to take him around the United States so that he could skate in every state and learn firsthand about our nation in a decidedly non-traditional approach (all I learned in 6th grade was how to hide a Mad Magazine inside a science book and, IMHO, could have learned a lot more on the road).  As noted on their About page:

The idea germinated during a frustrating homework assignment about North Dakota, when Logan declared that he "would learn more by actually going to North Dakota!"  Somehow, this conversation led to high level discussion of experiential learning and dedication to one's passion (skateboarding, in Logan's case).  The result is a very interesting plan for sixth grade.

Sadly, I wasn't able to go out and meet Logan and his father, Matt, last weekend when they were NYC because they are looking for sponsors/donors along the way and I would have gladly bought a t-shirt and bought them some fine NYC cuisine/street-meat/shit-in-a-tray for lunch.  Regardless, I'm still gonna order that t-shirt in black and wanted to spread the word to all of you out there in internetlandville.

So, please pay a visit to and become a sponsor, buy some merch or check out the map to find out when they're coming to YOUR city buy them lunch. 

After all, this is how we help independent bands on tour... why not a 6th grader on a mission?

12:39 PM
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This painting by Billy Morrow Jackson, entitled Tattooed Man, was sent to me by my friend Matt Lodder who loves to search through the Smithsonian image archives (Matt's an academic who focuses on body modification, and my fave geek freak).

What gave me goosebumps here is the tattoo portraits of the "Birmingham Four" -- the four girls killed in 1963 by a bomb detonated at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham while attending Sunday school. The church was also used as a meeting place for civil rights leaders. The bomb was placed by Klu Klux Klan member Robert Chambliss who was originally found not guilty of murder and only received a fine and a six-month jail time for possessing dynamite. In 1977, he was tried again with new FBI evidence and sentenced to life in prison (where he died in 1985).

Jackson's painting is a wonderful example of the use of tattoos in fine art to bring home a powerful message.
07:53 PM
paris tattoo art fest.jpg Marianna & Veronique at the Paris Tattoo Art Fest

While I was working (and partying) at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering this weekend, my friend (and Belgian tattoo artist) Veronique Depuydt was doing the same at the Paris Tattoo Art Fest -- and she managed to take better pictures than I did. Check them on her Facebook page.

You can also view a quick video of that show on Australia's The Age site.

Stateside, the Minneapolis Tattoo Arts convention also took place this weekend and the City Pages were there to cover it. They have two fun slideshows of the convention with photos by Jon Behm (like the one below): the "sexy" photos and the "good" photos.

Looks like a fun time at both conventions! I'm off to the London tattoo show on Friday. Will have more pics and reports for you this weekend. 

10:00 AM
history.jpgDirector Lech Kowalski has apparently packaged up some interview footage from his original documentary, "Hey, Is Dee Dee Home," to give us a slightly-new DVD entitled, "History On My Arms."  It not only features extended uncut footage of bassist Dee Dee Ramone rambling on in his nasal insanity and goofing around on a guitar - but apparently Dee Dee walks the camera crew through the story of each of his tattoos (tattoos which reportedly got him into a heap of trouble with the notoriously conservative and militant band-leader, Johnny Ramone). 

Something tells me he doesn't have any Kat Von D memorial pieces of his pomeranian and his narrative runs more along the rails of, "Johnny Thunders and I gave these to each other on a four-day smack bender... So, ya know... That's cool."

And while I will admit that I haven't seen it yet (and would gladly accept a free copy sent to the Needles and Sins compound for a proper review *ahem*),  that lone one-star review on Amazon is a little disconcerting:

"...there is one reedeming part where Dee Dee stops playing and goes into the kitchen to cook some eggs and you here him banging around the kitchen while he begins a conversation with his cat!"

But if you've ever seen interviews with the D-Man, you know that he might as well be talking to cat - and that's just what makes him so lovable.  Hell, even my mom loves the Ramones, and if you love the Ramones, you just gotta love Dee Dee, nonsensical giggling and all.

10:13 PM
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Check more of my bad iPhone pics of the Paradise Tattoo Gathering on Flickr.

For much better photos, head to the Paradise site and click on Live Coverage.
09:52 PM
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The above is a screen cap of my tattoo Tweets from the Paradise Tattoo Gathering. You can see all my Twitter updates here.
04:02 AM
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The tattoo news this week has been a pop culture bonanza. It was all about fashion, celebs and products, and so my review today will be a tattoo tapas of tasty tidbits. It won't fill you up, but you can enjoy a guilty pleasure every now and then.

Let's start with the surreal ...

With Patrick Swayze's passing, comes the birth of Swayze tribute tattoos. Like this Swayze Pour Vida backpiece (above) [via Louise Palanker]. But we all know that nothing will ever come close to the Swayze centaur tattoo. Point. Laugh.

We wouldn't be able to do our internet point-and-laugh thang is we all listened to Kelly Osbourne. Kelly, known for her high style (and sobriety), is telling the world 'Don't get a tattoo." And we agree. Don't get her patchwork of badly thought-out work like the Nicole Richie-inspired mini-angel wings or the I'm-a-musician-so-tattoo-a-keyboard-on-me tattoo. [Thanks David!] I would, however, consider an Ozzy Pour Vida tramp stamp.

For true high style, check the Rodarte tribal inspired collection, which the fab Susanah Breslin was all aTwitter on Tuesday. Backstage turned into a faux tattoo shop with MAC artists creating Polynesian inspired designs on models using body markers.

Grazia mag has the deets: "Eight different half sleeve, four full sleeve and one neck tattoo design were being drawn onto the models with a medical marker (think plastic surgery type pen) a concept MAC are testing out for a body art product, PRO Micronized Airbrush in Black Black and Liquidlast Liner in Point Black." See pics here and here.

military badass.jpgThe Rodarte show was inspired by female warriors of tribal cultures, but check this image (right) of one of our own from[Thanks, Scott!]

Speaking of cheez...Vince Neil of Motley Crue opened his second tattoo shop.

And if that wasn't one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, then Rihanna's tattoo debut was. But the The New York City Department of Health wasn't having it. They fined East Side Ink where Rihanna tattooed several of the shop's employees for "operating with an unlicensed tattoo artist on site." The fine amount could range from $200-$2000.

In North Caroline, a couple of kitchen table scratchers were arrested when a teen they tattooed got a staph infection from bad inking. They are charged with tattooing without a permit and tattooing a juvenile.

If people wanna play tattooist, they should go to Toys R Us, not ebay for starter kits. I've blogged about GR8 TaT2 Maker for years but HuffPost just caught on & listed it under its 7 Most Inappropriate Products for Children. Next to the Pole Dancing doll. [Thanks, Urban Gypsy (NSFW)]

If that didn't leave you feelin dirty, these links will:

And with the image of the beautiful Megan Fox, I'll leave you now and wish you a wonderful weekend.
06:49 PM
freddy negrete tattoo.jpgTonight, at 9PM EST, is the third episode of Marked on the History Channel, a show that seeks to reveal the dark underbelly of tattoos.

Tonight, they look at Chicano style tattooing. The black & grey stylings that rose from the LA streets and prisons, and have been refined by tattoo legends like Good Time Charlie Cartwright, Jack Rudy, Brian Everett, and Freddy Negrete (whose work is shown right).

In fact, Negrete is featured in tonight's episode. Here's what director Robert Palumbo says about it:

"Artist Freddy Negrete, one of the originators of the Chicano style, takes viewers on an exclusive journey, deep into this unknown world where we decode the ink that decorates the bodies of current and former Chicano gangbangers."

For the full schedule of Marked episodes, check the History channel site.  
05:05 PM
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Graffiti artists turned tattooists, including MED (from Tuff City), are traveling to Sderot, the town bordering the Gaza Strip, as cultural ambassadors for Artists 4 Israel.

While there, they will be painting bomb shelters, turning burnt out buildings into living art installations, and practicing art therapy for children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. And, hopefully, collaborating on a backpiece. Mine!

Politics aside, this is an amazing opportunity for artists to prove that creativity and unity supersede terror and war every time...even if it is only for a brief, beautiful moment.

These artists are donating their time and the city of Sderot are opening their homes to provide food and lodging for the artists. If you'd like to contribute to the journey, click the link below. Every little bit helps. Bigger bits help more. Who has the biggest bits?

12:35 PM
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Bravo TV is also using tattoos to promote Top Chef: Las Vegas. With the 57-photo slideshow of contestant ink -- ranging from the delish to the unsavory -- you can pick your own winner. My fave, Ashley Merriman above with some top tattoo work.
11:23 AM

Here's an example of a corp co-opting tattoo cool, but actually in a cool way: The Suzuki Swift tattoo typo ads, airing in the UK now.

Unlike throbbing tattooed boobies, the connection between the tattoo and the product is clear -- a need for a quick exit. These fun ads earn my Resplect.  

resplect.jpg Via Homotography. [Thanks, Evan!
07:01 PM
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Because we just love a good Internet meme. And is the one of the moment.

Via Boing Boing.
12:29 PM
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Last Thursday, at the release party for my Black Tattoo Art book, I did diva it up but I was also thrilled to share the spotlight with amazing photographers who contributed to the book. One photographer in attendance who wowed the crowd with his portraits of David Sena's tattoo clients is Damian Sandone.

Shooting tattoos is not an easy task, and for professional photographers, it involves coming to portraiture with a different approach than a usual sitting. Here's how Damian describes it:

"I love to use lighting as a means of dramatic affect especially when it comes to tattooed bodies. It's different from shooting a portrait; faces are beautiful and tell a lot about a person, but the story isn't deep. Their face can only show so much about themselves. Tattoos bring a whole other dimension to a person's individuality. That belief, or idea, or dream, whatever it may be, is what I like to bring to the surface with the proper lighting effect."

Damian is a third-generation photographer who creates works with such fluidity that, indeed,  each photograph tells a story. His digital works can be found in campaigns for Nautica, Kenneth Cole, Tommy Hilfiger, Scoop, and so many more.

Currently, he's working on a project for Postures for the Planet, a non-profit working to bring yoga education into schools, in which he is shooting a series of photographs using yoga instructors in NYC doing postures in and around the city.

Damian and I are planning an exhibition of his work at Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn in the next couple of months. Check it.

Contact info for Damian:

Damian Sandone
347 W. 39th St.,  Studio 6
New York, NY 10018
05:54 PM
mock1.gifNot to say that I'm among their ranks, but I happen to know a lot of talented people.  People who inspire me through their individual avenues of expression - be it music, acting, writing, painting, tattooing, photography or just bare-bones intelligence.  And then there are people like Alex Walker - a guy who has made myself and plenty of my rock-n-roll cronies just shake our heads and mutter, "Shit... I ain't NEVER gonna be that good."  Whether he's finger-picking a Leo Brouwer Etude on the subway platform or creating a delay-pedal homage to Michael Jackson in his bedroom, I always have to sit back and drool.

So its with great pleasure that I announce today's official release of his latest track, "Sacrifice," available for free download at

You can read Alex's thoughts on the song over here at his blog, but I prefer the opening paragraph from his press release:

How do you release a "Summer Anthem" during a season plagued with monsoons worthy of a January in Jakarta?  If you're ALEX WALKER, you don't give a fuck; you just write the song and wait for Al Roker, Al Gore and the rest of the world to catch up with you.  SACRIFICE, the latest single from ALEX WALKER, is the track you would have heard bumping from drop-tops in every major city if we had actually had a "summer."

It's free to download, so quit sittin on yer thumbs and get clicking!
02:08 PM
Lotus_Neck_Tattoo.jpgJust another reminder that an important tattoo expo, vacation, learning experience begins Thursday: The Paradise Tattoo Gathering in the beautiful Berkshires.

The world's greatest artists will descend upon Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort for a long weekend of seminars, panels, workshops and general merriment. And yes, most (around 60) will be tattooing, so join me in this tattoo vacation and relax with some fine art poking. Check the artist line-up, which includes Mike Cole who's work is shown right.

There's too much going on to list it all here so check the events page on the schedule.

For an idea on what to expect, view these videos from last year's gathering.

I'll be there from Friday afternoon through the weekend hawking my Black Tattoo Art book so look for my table. If I'm not there, I'm probably in the hot tub.

[Also on sale there: Guy Aitchison's Reinventing the Tattoo. It's a tattoo tome on everything from design to execution.]

Can't wait to see ya there!

10:27 AM
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Freaks & Flash at Intuit, the Center for Intuitive & Outsider Art, in Chicago is a brilliant exhibit featuring tattoo flash designs along with sideshow banners.

Tattooist Nick Colella of the Chicago Tattoo Company says the highlights of the show include flash by George Burchett, Sailor Jerry, Amund Dietzel, Samuel O'Reilly ...
A Who's Who of Old School Masters!

In fact, many of the pieces have not been on public display since they were taken down from the walls of the shops in which they originally resided.

In addition, the exhibition features four sideshow banners depicting tattooed performers by banner artists Fred Johnson, Jack Cripe, and Snap Wyatt.

The show will run until January 9th.
You can view the work from Tuesday to Saturday 11am-5pm (Thursday it's open until 7:30pm) and admission is free.

10:11 AM
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11:05 AM
jesus tattoo.jpgLame headline, I know, but did you really want me to put a blaring "tattoo masturbation cure " up there in bold for your coworkers to glance at. Just thinking of you.

Meanwhile, Brian "Head" Welch, former KoRn guitarist, is thinking about Jesus so he doesn't touch his penis. He explains:

"The Jesus tattoo on my hand keeps me from masturbating and I haven't been with a woman since my ex-wife left me almost five years ago. I go to those extremes to be like Christ and it works for me."

If only "Freak on a Leash" fit on ten fingers, then maybe we all would've been saved from "Nu Metal." Praise be.

The news is up later. And it will be decidedly more highbrow.

Thanks, Scott!
11:04 AM
As Marisa and I attempt to caffeinate ourselves into recovery from last night's bacchanal book release party at Tattoo Culture, I want to nudge you over to my homeboy Nate's photo gallery at Driven By Boredom for shots from last night (taken for Inked Magazine).

my-knee-hurts-79.JPGBig thanks to everyone in attendance for such an amazing evening - especially those of you who bought a copy of Black Tattoo Art.  Seriously.  We love your money.

(Photo courtesy of - duh)

09:58 AM
Marisa's Black Tattoo Art book release and subsequent party tonight at Tattoo Culture might be dominating the headlines around these here parts, but for those of us tattoo junkies with monstrous 4x12 Marshalls on the brain, there is another event worth noting...

Sure, I could talk about the Amazin Autumn line-up of NYC shows: Clutch, Jesus Lizard, Mastodon with Dethklok, Baroness, et cetera.  But none of these events offer free tater tots.

poster_091209.jpgRighty roo, Rorge.  Free fucking tater tots, all night long at Trash Bar.  Open bar from 8-9pm with paid admission ($7) and the mighty - albeit petulant and nerdy - Dogs of Winter taking the stage at 10pm.

Click here for the Facebook invite.
06:39 PM
Yesterday was the US launch of the racing game Dirt 2, and what better way to promote virtual off-road rallies than, ya know, a Flash app that lets you tattoo some woman's breasts. The app is called "Dirty Tats." And that's not even the worst part.

The obviously sex starved Codemasters who created the tattoo game know how to do creepy well, albeit unintentionally. After the intro of loud and just plain bad pop-metal, you're treated to gooey come-ons from a voluptuous vixen who purrs "I like the personal touch," or "Looks like you have some hidden talents." My special talent was not vomiting while trying to get the words "misogyny" across her chest via the Lettering tool.

And like all bad tattoo Flash games, there are the bad tattoo flash stencils that you can stick on her, like the Tribal fish and Kanji for "why am I wasted my time."

Once you've wasted that time, you get to share your tattooed boob image
by downloading it as a wallpaper or sharing it via Facebook or Flickr. But is that kind of productivity something you'd like the world to know?

Oh, did I mention the boobs move and throb? That was the best part.

Bottom line: if you regularly enjoy eating Cheez Whiz from the can and have a Microsoft logo tattooed on you, you'll love Dirty Tats.
10:27 AM
I'm sure you'll soon get queasy reading incessant posts on my  Black Tattoo Art so here's some virtual Pepto for ya ...

A FREE copy that you can win via the fab

That's $159 saved in your wallet. Buy something nice. A kicky hat perhaps.

To enter to win, go to the bottom of this page, click on Contact and select "Black Tattoo Art Book Giveaway" from the drop-down menu. Tell them your favorite tattoo artist and they'll pick at random from entries received before 11:59 pm EST on 11 September 2009.

I'm so happy to be doing this give-away with the Cool Hunting crew -- the very best curators of high design -- because it brings me back to the roots of my tattoo blogging. Our joint blog venture began in 2005. [About a year later, we sold it to Rivr Media. It ceased publication in February this year.]

My first, humbling moment clicking "post" for Needled was in their home, watching Josh hunched on his knees getting his back tattooed as he typed away on his Mac. It was a sight (and a great view!).

And so I always have felt part of the Cool Hunting family, at least their lowbrow little sister.


Also online today is a post on Black Tattoo Art featured in Piel Magazine, the virtual bod mod magazine published in Argentina by tattooed goddess La Negra. Le Negra has stunning tattoos by fellow Argentinian artist, Nazareno Tubaro, whose work is shown above and featured in the book. See more from his portfolio here.

Book, book, book, blah blah blah. Alright, let me get working on the tattoo news review to cleanse your palate from all my shameless book promo.
05:24 PM
Black is beautiful, my friends.

In fact, I've taken the statement to heart (and skin) with enough black ink in my dermis to fill the Library of Congress. And with this passion for blackwork tattoos, I began collecting images and some stories of the world's best tattoo artists only working in black ink with the help of my primary tattooist, former hubby, and friend, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo, renowned himself for this style. The result ...

Black Tattoo Art: Modern Expressions of the Tribal.

The book will be released this Thursday, September 10 and yes, there will be some partying. Join me on Thursday at Tattoo Culture from 7 to 10:30pm for drinks, food, and an awesome playlist of tunes by the fabulous Ron Worthy.

Keep in mind that the book -- published by fine art and erotic publishers Edition Reuss --  is a 536-page, thread-bound hardcover with silver embossing that weighs over six pounds. A friend suggested that it will also nicely double as a home defense device. Or free weight.

evan tattoo by david sena.jpgEvan's sleeves by David Sena of North Star Tattoo

For more info on the book, I did write a fancy press release with big words. What I didn't mention in the release is the year-long process of seeking out pictures and stories of the top blackwork artists. Many of whom shun online communication and enjoy long stretches of time without any worldly contact so to rejuvenate and become inspired for the masterful tattoos featured. But try to explain large size 300 DPI format to 'em ... I joke. Kinda.

Seriously, it was a great honor to curate the very first English language book EVER dedicated to blackwork tattooing in its many forms. It was inspired by Ed Hardy's TattooTime premier issue entitled New Tribalism. In it, the legendary Cliff Raven said one of my favorite quotes:

"The perfect tattoo -- the one I believe we are all struggling toward -- is the one that turned the jackass into the zebra."

Raven, one of the pioneers of the fine art tattoo movement, wrote that after 20 years of tattooing, he found "decorative art" was the tattoo style that best fit the human canvas. He explained that creating two-dimensional elaborations on a three-dimensional object is akin to "pin striping an auto as opposed to copying Frazetta paintings onto the sides of vans." It was a bold statement, but one perfectly suited to the tattoo movement it trumpeted.

He called this style "Pre-Technological Tattooing." Hardy called it "New Tribalism." Most have used the term "Neo-tribal" to define the tattooing of Leo Zulueta, one of the first contemporary tattooists to fully dedicate his body of work to interpreting the arts of indigenous cultures (also featured in Black Tattoo Art).

More recently, many tattooists have been defining their portfolios as "Blackwork," taking their tribal interpretations even farther but still adhering to the decorative arts tenets. Indeed, there is a rainbow of terms to describe this monochromatic art form.

blackwork tattoo vincent.jpgWork by Vincent Hocquet of Beautiful Freak Tattoo

For this book, we kept it simple with the title "Black Tattoo Art: Modern Expressions of the Tribal" to encompass the various designs and aesthetics that have sprung from the Neo-Tribal movement; a movement which took root in the late sixties, flourished in the eighties and nineties, and pollenized the beautiful offshoots of today.

The title is deceptively simple, however, because what really is "modern black" tattoo art?

It's not a book on traditional tribal tattooing. There is a chapter that looks at a few artists today reviving their ancestral tattoo arts, but this is a very small part of this monster volume.

It is a book that looks at how today's tattooists have taken the tenets of tribal arts -- the soulfulness and harmony with the body -- and applied it in contemporary, imaginative ways.

To see sample pages of their work in the book, check the Black Tattoo Art Flickr set.
11:08 AM
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I was looking forward to attending the Hell City Tattoo Vacation at the Arizona Biltmore but with my book being released early (this Thursday), I couldn't swing.

Thankfully, many of my friends attended and are happy to share their photos with all of us.

The first batch in is by the fabulous Ryan Keough. Check over a hundred of his photos here. Ryan focused his camera on the top roster of artists tattooing as well as the competitions. View some amazing tattoos. More on the show coming up.

UPDATE: The beautiful Chris Stauber just sent me the link to her photos from Hell City, including her husband Peter picking up a bunch of trophies at the tattoo contest. Congrats!
12:22 PM
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I was going to keep this story for Monday's news review but I'm posting it now to leave you this weekend with some tattoo magic, that is, tattoos in Cambodia that are viewed as "supernatural armor against all kinds of harm."

Yesterday, The Global Post featured John Maloy's extensive article and beautiful photos by Vin Dao on traditional hand-poked tattoos performed by monks and "magic men" on soldiers to protect them in battle -- protections that include being impervious to bullets or landmines, and being invisible to the enemy.

The article describes the tattoo technique, designs ... and most interestingly, the "rules" to keep your magic potent like basic ideals of not stealing or committing adultery, but also more arbitrary rules of not eating dog meat and refraining from urinating and defecating at the same time. That's right, no protection for tandem pee-ers and poopers.

Today, however, there are less tattoos on Cambodian soldiers, some say, because of looser morals. One magic man tattooer explains:

"During the fighting, most of the fighters were powerful -- the magic worked. But with peace, many came to the cities and starting drinking, sleeping with girls and the magic has faded away."


"I decided to stop giving the tattoos because I cannot trust the young people these days. If they had tattoos they'd probably fight. Before, we thought about the liberation of our country. We had a good spirit."

Check the whole fascinating article and photos here.

And may your weekend be filled with good spirit.
09:56 PM
As Marisa has a meltdown ramps up for her book release party and subsequent publicity touring, this weekend I begin rocking a Bettye LaVette with my own personal hell to raise...

It's with great pleasure that I announce the beginning of Safe To Swim Weekend 2 tomorrow brought to you by the Patron Saint of the New England Music Scene - and founder of Sub Rosa Party - Anthony Yacobellis.

And while I may be "follicularly-challenged" in comparison to the cats and kittens on the flyer above (designed by yours truly), I can safely stake my claim in the event as both a vendor and a musician.

This Saturday, Marisa and I will be giving away Needles and Sins swag and slinging t-shirts at the Lapdance Academy Records booth from 1pm on and my stoner-metal band, Dogs of Winter, will be gracing the "Cultural Commission Stage" at 6:50pm.  So if you're in Danbury, CT, or the surrounding area, definitely come on by and pose for pictures with us!

Over 35 bands will be gracing the outdoor stages and the subequent "after-parties" from Friday until Sunday, including: my old and dear friends, Earl Greyhound; my collaborators and confidants, Saint Bernadette; the NHL's favorite novelty act, The Zambonis; a frightening version of myself in 10 years, Joe Roberto; and my nominee for "best band name ever," Total Dick.

Admission to the outdoor shows is totally free!  Bring a lawn-chair and cooler and prepare to have your face melted.

And for those of you out of range, follow Safe to Swim Weekend on their Twitter feed or just check out Mr. Yacobellis on Vimeo.

(Seriously, if any of you are in touring bands, you NEED to get in touch with Tony - if you have your shit together and have your chops up, he is the man to know for your runs between NYC and Boston.)
03:23 PM
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Photo of tribal tattoo masters Leo Zulueta and Rory Keating by Diane Mansfield

It's been tough getting to the media's tattoo news when I'm focused on my own, the upcoming release of my book Black Tattoo Art: Modern Expressions of the Tribal on September 10th.
I'll be doing a shameless post soon with more info on the book and how to buy it, but you can actually get a preview of what's in store by picking up this month's Inked Mag and checking out my interview with the godfather of modern tribal tattooing, Leo Zuluetta of Spiral Tattoo (shown above with Rory Keating who is also featured in my book). Here's a taste from that interview:

"I think there's always going to be a stigma to tattooing. Even as accepted as it is today, there's always a stigma, which goes back to deeply rooted church morals in society (although I have tattooed a Catholic priest twice at Bob Roberts' shop). Modern society will never accept something too primitive."

I agree with Leo. Just look at some of this week's headlines and see how true it is:

The Dallas Police Department's "no visible tattoos" policy went into effect yesterday. Officers argued that the tattoos actually helped their job when undercover by giving them "street cred" but the Department still said that tattoos can be considered "offensive" when the cops go back on patrol. [As a tattoo snob, I raise my pointy nose at many a bad work, but if I'm in trouble and need a cop, no amount of inexplicable Kanji will ever offend me.]

In Pennsylvania, a State Police recruit is suing the Department because he was told that he had to remove his tattoo in order to be hired. Wow. The government telling candidates to undergo painful laser removal? He's suing under First Amendment arguments and claiming that the Department's tattoo policy is vague and overbroad. This one might win.

Across America, tattoo studio owners still have a hard time opening up shop.

In Malmo, Sweden, the nightclub The Swing Inn has a "no tattooed women" policy because they think "tattoos look distasteful." Thankfully, nightclub popularity doesn't even have the trendy staying power of the Kanji tattoo. Look forward to eating at the McDonald's that replaces it soon.

In Canada, a teardrop tattoo may land a Toronto man behind bars for life. The man was acquitted in the shooting death of a rival gang member but now that has been reversed because the Ontario Court of Appeal said that the lower court should not have excluded testimony from a gang expert that the teardrop tattoo signifies that the wearer has killed. This is a bad call. Tattoos symbolism is not a science. Yes, a teardrop could mean the guy killed a rival but it could also mean that he lost a loved one or fellow member. It could even be a dumb attempt to gain street cred. Leave it out of evidence.

[But a visible tattoo did help one Chicago man accused of robbery go free.]

Of course, there are the dumbasses that justify the stigma, like these people:

Maria Erika Vasquez of Brownsville allegedly tattooed her 6 and 10-year-old sons -- with three dots on the hand for "Mi Vida Loca" no less. Mother of the Year.

Or cage fighter Toni Valtonen who sports a large Nazi Swastika tattoo -- not the "gentle" kind we talked about last week -- along with a ton of other bad work. While he noted his tattoo regret in a statement, the best way to do so is with cover-ups and laser removal. Toni, here's more info on laser removal. A donation to a Holocaust museum would also be nice.

In shiny, happy tattoo news ...

sean risley in alexander mcqueen adThe tattooed hotness of the above Sean Risley, model and former bodmod blogger, is gracing numerous mags this month -- notably Purple's Fall 2009 Fashion issue -- in Alexander McQueen's latest ads. See a close up of the add and Sean's tattoo work here.

The Hindu also talks about how hot tattoos are in India right now. Here's a taste of that interesting article on a growing tattoo culture:

While the old favourites -- angels on shoulders, tribal art on the lower back and Yin-Yang across biceps -- are still popular, people also design their own art now. Tattoo artists are constantly asked to come up with unusual concepts. Most people rarely stop at one tattoo - the city average is, in fact, is about five per person. And, 'conservative' Chennai is reportedly studded with seemingly regular people with unprintable tattoos across unprintable parts of their bodies.

"If you come out partying with me, in one evening I can show you ten people that have tattoos near their genitals, says tattoo artist Tarun of 'Ink,' adding with a laugh, "And you'll go, 'What! Really? But he/she seems so normal!"

Check the slideshow illustrating the article, which includes this photo below.

In Australia, tattoo culture is equally thriving. According to the Herald Sun, "Popularity of tattoos among young Melburnians continues to grow, with a survey finding 70 per cent of people aged 16-30 are considering getting one in the next five years." Interestingly, tattoo removal is also on the rise -- "500% in the past two years."

And across the Internet, tattoos rank in the top 5 of the most common image or videos shared on Twitter, according to

Case in point: the Twittered Tattoo Ode to John Stamos and his brilliant portrayal of "Uncle Jesse" in the classic must-see TV show Full House. Here's the Twit pic.

Have Mercy, indeed!
11:05 AM
Tonight, at the Yves Laroche Art Gallery in Montreal, Shawn Barber and Turf One will present their unique style of portraiture in Life Size, a dual exhibit that will run until September 13th. The show is being presented in conjunction with the Montreal Tattoo Convention, which takes place at the gorgeous Gare Windsor. Always a fabulous convention.

The opening is from 6-9pm and both artists will be in attendance. Should be a fantastic exhibit, which pays homage to beautiful freaks.
03:18 PM
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Photo of Joe Aguilar by Daniel C. Britt. Facial tattoo by Christina Aguilar of Inked Temptations Tattoo.

Today, the SF Weekly's The Snitch blog posted photos by
Daniel C. Britt that he took at this past weekend's Tattoo Expo at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

Daniel surprisingly was not allowed to take photos in the convention hall, but still caught some great shots in the parking lots outside. My fave is this existentialist tattoo, but I just wish the tattooist was credited. It's a great piece.

Also check out Daniel's fabulous photos at the first National Single Cougars Convention. Rowr!

The tattoo news is coming up.

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