March 2010 Archives

04:09 PM
I don't try to have 'a flowing design sleeve,' that's all going to run into each other. I just really want to look like my grandfather, right when he got out of the brig in 1946.
--Jesse "The Devil" Hughes

What do Sailor Jerry, Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal and Eastwood Guitars have in common?  I'm not quite too sure, myself - other than the obvious response that Jesse has an extensive collection of traditional, Americana tattoos; he wrote a song about Kat Von D; and he also plays guitar (albeit, mostly in open-tuning). 

But the good news is that all three have banded together for a contest in which you can win an Eastwood Airlines RS-II guitar that's been signed by all the touring members of the Eagles of Death Metal - Jesse, Dave Catching, Brian "Big Hands" O'Connor and Joey Castillo.

So, while it will decrease my own chances of winning this hollow-bodied piece of single-coil retrotasticulousness, I feel the need to encourage all of you to enter by filling out this form.

Seriously, what's NOT to love about Jesse?

12:10 PM
This Saturday, April 3rd, join us for a hardcore night at Sacred Gallery for the music photography show of Nathaniel Shannon entitled While The Others Were Sleeping. The opening kicks off at 7PM in the excellent exhibition space adjacent to Sacred Tattoo in NYC's SoHo.

This solo show features images of raw, sweaty (and often bloody) live performances of artists including Henry Rollins, Dillinger Escape Plan, Pentagram, Gwar, and many more. Also on view are Nathaniel's group portraits and diptychs shot on tour and in the clubs. What makes Nathaniel's music photography so powerful is his instinct to capture the frenzied climax of that gig you'll remember for the rest of your life -- like Judas Priest's Rob Halford belting over Glenn Tipton's melodic hooks. Through this show, you can own a piece of that moment.

For a preview of the exhibition, check Nathaniel's online portfolio.

Nathaniel is a freelance photographer and musician from Michigan living in NYC. His work has appeared in over fifty publications, several record sleeves, and seven installations. A full-length book of his music photography is underway.

While The Others Were Sleeping is curated by the wonderful Kevin Wilson, who has an incredible line-up of shows through the year.

Hope to see you Saturday for a rock experience that won't get your teeth bashed in by an errant steel-toe boot. And yes, booze will be served.
12:24 PM
tattooed women NY Post .jpg
Today, I'm in the NY Post because I too slept with Sandra Bullock's husband I'm a tattooed NY woman, and as the headline proclaims, "In-your-face tattoos aren't just for home wreckers -- lots of New York gals have highly visible body art."

Aside from the repeated use of the word "tats" (you know that triggers my gag reflex), the article does a good job (for The Post) of getting across the message that women make up a large part of the heavily tattooed, and no, we're not all celebs and strippers.

Ethan Morgan of East Side Ink, who has been tattooing for two decades, said in the article that half of his clients are us gals, adding "They [women] are getting large tattoos, and they're really picky about their work. It's cool."

And it is cool, despite the negative press from the ill-famed Michelle McGee, whom I wrote about last week; indeed, it's because of McGee that this type of discourse about the tattoo community is in the papers at all. This negative gives voice to the positive; at least it gave me a chance to do my usual tattoos-as-a-fine art shtick to an audience beyond you pretty people.

Just walking through the door of my local town hall bodega, the owner Ralf yelled out, "There's our work of art." [He also said, "Feel like a rock star, Red? Don't let it go to your head."]

Alas, not everyone gets it. If you read the comments to the article, you'll see these quotes:

"Who wants to marry that? Or have that be the mother of your children. The tattooed trash look is for a 1 night stand or at best she will date her look heroin dealer/junkie."

"As my son once remarked: 'tattoos make you look stained'."

"Maybe that's the new art, hang a tatooted [sic] person on your wall!"

Ok, that last one was funny.

The irony is the most tasteless comments come from anonymous trolls who call us "trashy." Close-minded comments following these tattoo articles are too common, and in response, I often give the old tattoo cliche: 

The difference between tattooed people and non-tattooed people is tattooed people don't care if you have tattoos or not

I encourage you to offer your own thoughts in the article forum. I know it'll be done in the same vein as you live your life: artfully.
10:02 AM
Horiyoshi dragon.jpgJohn Mack continues his weekly guest blog post on his experience getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III over the course of nine years. Check out his previous posts:  Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIIIPart IX and Part X.

When in Japan, I love chatting with the locals in small neighborhood bars. In the comfortable anonymity of these places, I sometimes reveal that I'm tattooed, and often people want to see. If the situation is right, I oblige them and take off my shirt.

Then the most surprising thing happens:  sensing a rare opportunity, other customers and bar employees join in by pulling back their clothing to reveal tattoos -- and it's usually over half the men and women present doing so. Many of the Japanese I've met in these situations think that their compatriots don't have tattoos, but the reality is that they don't show them.

There's a stereotype that tattooed Japanese must be part of the criminal underground, the Yakuza. However, in my experience, only one person I met admitted to a Yakuza connection. He was a civilian, but his father was a Yakuza gangster who wore a dragon tattoo.  He had an amusing story about his boyhood.

When he was a child, his father threatened, "If you're bad, this dragon will bite you!"  That scared the hell out of him.

Like many Yakuza, the father was missing portions of his fingers.  Instead of revealing that he had chopped off his own fingers in atonement for gangland transgressions, the father claimed to have been mutilated by a fan. The boy spent his summers in mortal fear of electric fans.

His father left when he was young and had been largely incommunicado thereafter. Nonetheless, on his chest, the son bore the same dragon tattoo as his father.

A dragon not unlike the one Horiyoshi III gave me (shown above).


Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos.  As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.

03:50 PM
TattooIssue-210x277.jpgI haven't picked up a copy of Revolver Magazine in quite some time because, with a few exceptions, I find the state of modern/mainstream "heavy" music to be pretty despicable ("Dude, you're wearing eyeliner and skinny jeans; cut out the Bad Boy routine 'cause I ain't buying it").  But, I caught the scoop from the boys over at Metal Sucks that Revolver had released their first ever Tattoo Issue (March/April), so I ran out to a newsstand.

And then another one... and another one.

In fact, I've been to 8 NYC/Brooklyn magazine shops in the last 24 hours and have come up entirely empty handed. 

Is it being kept off shelves because of Kerry King's skull (inked by Paul Booth) which has been drenched reigned in blood?  Or is it because of people vying to skip Booth's extensive wait-list and get the temporary tattoo he designed that's included with each copy of the mag?

Quoth the Prince of Darkness on the matter:

You could make fun of me for making a temporary tattoo--or you could think about the fact that I'm getting to your children. And you know, I'm all about fucking up the heads of little children.

So, if you can find a copy in your town, you're a step ahead of me.  Then again, I don't really care about what Tommy Lee and Chester Bennington have to say about their tattoos...

Read more about the issue on Revolver's blog or order your copy from their online store.
11:14 AM
madam lazonga inked.jpg

The April issue of Inked Mag is just out and it features my Icon profile of one of the godmothers of our tattoo generation: Madame Vyvyn Lazonga.

I was a bit star struck during our phone interview because she's not only one of the first female tattooers of the modern tattoo movement--being a part of pushing tattoos as a fine art--but she's also one of the first women of our times to be heavily (and beautifully) tattooed. Vyvyn has had sleeves by Ed Hardy before many of y'all were born. She's been an inspiration to me and it was wonderful chatting with her. Here's a taste of our talk:

How would you describe your own tattoo style?

Most of my work is non-literal, organic. I'm intrigued by the idea of changing the skin so it looks more like fabric or wallpaper--a fusion of different things but more decorative than symbolic. Often people come in with so many different symbols and things that are meaningful to them but ruin the whole artistry of what they are trying to convey. So more often than not, I have to tell them not to include as many symbols, to keep it simple and bold. Tattoos don't need a great, grand story. I want to go the opposite: I don't want any of my tattoos to mean anything. I want people to see them as walking art, which is different than trying to convey many messages on your body.

For more, pick up the April issue on newsstands or read it online at Zinio.

Lazonga tattoos.jpg
12:36 PM
56691_thailand_tattoo_festival-1.jpgAt the Buddhist temple in Wat Bang Phra, about 30 miles (50km) west of Bangkok, Thailand, devotees (and spectators) gather every year to receive Sak Yant -- tattoos believed to imbue the wearers with magical powers -- at the Wai Khru ceremony.

Wai Khru translates as Honor the Teacher, and that teacher revered has been the abbot of Wat Bang Phra. In her Globe & Mail article, Jennifer Gampell explains:

"More magical than intellectual, his special skills involved applying talismanic tattoos and -- even more important -- activating them. His tough-guy students believe that empowered tattoos will protect them from danger (gunshots, knife thrusts, road accidents) and endow them with positive personality traits.

For example, Hanuman (the monkey god) is supposedly a great and clever fighter; dragons are brave and wise; geckos are loving. Since the empowering spells wear off over time, true believers like to recharge their talismanic batteries at least once a year."

These "superhuman" tattoos are featured in a CNN video of this year's festival.  

Best illustrating the festival are the stunning photos of Gavin Gough, including the one shown above of an enraptured devotee. Gavin's images move from the intimacy of the monk's needle penetrating skin to the writhing crowds outside the temple. A descriptive introduction and captions offer further context.

I encourage you to explore more of Gavin's work online. [You can also find his photography in Vanity Fair, Nat Geo, The NY Times, among so many other publications. His stock photography has also graced postage stamps and billboards.]

For budding and seasoned photographers seeking to capture Thailand on their own with some guidance, check Gavin's Bangkok Photo School and private workshops.

I'll be checking in on Gavin's blog for more beautiful images of body art and beyond.

[Thanks to Brayden for directing me to the Wai Khru photos.]
10:27 AM
Michell McGee NY Post cover.jpg
About a week ago, the tabloids began their frenzied coverage of Michelle "Bombshell" McGee, a self-described "tattoo model," who not only had an affair with Jesse James who's married to actress Sandra Bullock, but also served up the details of their trysts in an effort to "cash in" and become "famous."

I was going to ignore it or link it as a small footnote to a news review here, but as the week went on, the news stories moved beyond this tattooed woman and became about tattooed women. From newspaper covers to radio shows like Howard Stern to gossip blogs and comment forums, words like "skanks," "sluts," "whores," "trash," "idiots," "fuckups" ... became to attached to all of us, so I can't ignore it.

Over the weekend, I sought to write this post, a diatribe against a stupid girl. The first draft was an angry rant. The second was an attempt at humor. But neither conveyed how I really feel. I feel sad.

And so this post isn't entertaining. It isn't a call to arms against the media. It is a shout out to young women, and men as well, to let them know this:

Being tattooed should be an expression of love and how beautiful you feel about yourself, not a cry for others to give that to you.

michelle mcgee.jpgWhile Michelle McGee stands as a blaring example of the latter, she is not alone. The title "tattoo model" has become a sought-out occupation amongst many. "Tattooed Vixens," "Hot Inked Girl," "Painted Pin-ups."  Countless young women vie for these titles rather than M.D., J.D., or Artist in Residence.

Watch this video of "Sexy Miss Tattoo" to see how ugly these contests can be.

Some blame the magazines and websites for exploiting these girls, but really, they wouldn't be able to have these features if no one sent in their naked or half-naked photos.

Inked Magazine, (which I write for so the hypocrisy is not lost on me) has a Girl of the Day, who you can "share with your friends." A girl a day. One picked out of hundreds who upload their photos to the mag's site. [To be funny, I did a feature early on in this blog called "Objectified Tattooed Man" and barely got one a month.] 

Granted, the essence of tattoo magazines is to show tattoos, to show skin, and the more tattoos you have, the more skin you'll show. But it need not be done in a way that evokes the "skank" and "trash" tramp-stamp of approval.

Not an easy task, however. Next week I have a photo shoot for a magazine article where I talk about being a tattooed lawyer (and also promote my book). And it has been really tough to find something to wear to show the art on my arms, back, stomach and ribs without looking like ... well, Michelle McGee. I've thought about ditching the shoot altogether but I want more professional tattooed women in these mags and hopefully we can start that trend.

It can still be sexy -- because I believe tattooing is sexy in itself -- but as the recent headlines have shown, today's tattooed "bombshell" is more likely to be a post-traumatic mess. Our weapon of mass seduction should be the allure of strong women and men kickin ass to further their lives and, thereby, society's perception of the tattooed.

So thank you, Michelle McGee, for showing us the ugliness to inspire greater and more beautiful things for ourselves.
02:34 PM
John Mack continues his weekly guest blog post on his experience getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III over the course of nine years. Check out his previous posts:  Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII and Part IX.

horiyoshi iii female backpiece.jpgIn all my time at Horiyoshi III's studios, I have seen a female client just three times.

The studios have no private room.  My appointments were always in the afternoon, so initially I guessed that perhaps women's appointments were in the morning when somehow greater privacy was afforded them. 

As I've already told you, there was often a squad of male apprentices and tattoo enthusiasts present.  Undressing and getting tattooed in front of them would surely give pause to most women.  It certainly intimidated me at first.

I avoid talking about other clients, so I did not ask about it for many years, but in 2009, I finally inquired with Horiyoshi about his female clientele.

"John-san," he said in a slightly incredulous tone.  "Now, how often have you seen women in my studios?" 

I admitted that most of the women I had seen were journalists.  I asked why he had so few female clients.

"They just don't come here.  It's hard for them to undress; it's uncomfortable.  Personally, that's better for me.  Frankly, I would rather not tattoo women."

Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos, and we all keep him really busy.  As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.
12:45 PM
RM_10_02_600_400.jpgIf you happen to be in NYC, you should definitely check out Ryan McGinley's new exhibition for 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' at Team Gallery in Soho.

The show is comprised of all digital black-and-white portraits shot over the course of two years. Subjects comprise mostly of young people pulled from all over the world.

209553_05_0197g_V2B_600_400.jpgThere is a great interview for Viceland with Ryan, talking about the project and how most of the subjects he naturally shot were tattooed...

The exhibit is on view at Team Gallery now until April 17th. There is also an accompanying book being released by Dashwood Books compiling all of the black-and-white portraits.

02:00 PM
while the others were sleeping.jpg
We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog blather for announcements of vital importance.

First, we're having another art event, and while we'd love to send out those "Save the Date" magnets that creative couples mail out for their big day, it seemed ill fitting considering the work being shown:  Nathaniel Shannon's live, candid music photography of bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan, Pentagram and GWAR. A better reminder would be to punch yourself in the face really hard right now, and by the time the bruising goes away, that's when the show will open. April 3rd. At the most wonderful Sacred Gallery. I'll soon be doing a full post on the event -- entitled While the Others Were Sleeping -- but for a preview, click here.

devil horns.jpgAnd to get yourself in the right frame of mind for the exhibit, join us for some live metal this Saturday, March 20th, on Manhattan's Lower East Side at The Local 269 for the SOS and Friends Show featuring our own Brian Grosz and his stoner metal outfit Dogs of Winter. This is one of the last remaining gigs for the Dogs so bring your $8 cover and throw your horns high. They should jump on stage around 10PM. The remaining shows are at Cousin Larry's in Danbury, CT for the SubRosa Party on April 9th, and April 14th in Brooklyn at Public Assembly for the Hipsterwrecktomy party.

Can't make the shows? Download the DOW record for free here.

For the wordsmith set, I have another call for submissions from the tattoo and poetry journal Holly Rose Review. The journal editors are looking for tattoo images that evoke the theme of their fourth issue: Worry. For more information on submitting tattoo work for this issue, click here or join their Facebook page.

Finally, show some love to our newest advertiser, State of Grace Publishing. Yes, the same people who've brought the finest of Japanese tattooing to the US and one of our favorite conventions. Their Shige book, which I reviewed here, is an absolute must-have for collectors; their UGLAR book became a museum exhibit; and their Pint & Ichibay sketchbooks will inspire your next work.

Without advertisers like State of Grace, MATW Clothing, Father Panik, Tattoo Culture, and Devil City Press we wouldn't be able to give you ALL THIS (arms wide open) for free, so please support us by supporting them.
08:43 PM
joan jett tattoo.jpg

Everyone's been talking about Alice in Wonderland-inspired tattoos, but I've been jonseing for ink on The Runaways, which opens this Friday. And with this film tribute to rock matriarchs, I give you my own Ode to Joan Jett's Tattoos.

* First, the tattoos!

* Second, the symbolism behind them, shared in the most wonderful book, Permanence Tattoo Portraits by Kip Fulbeck, shown above.

* Third, people who have tattoos of Joan:  here, here and here. None of them truly fitting tributes but devotional nonetheless.

* Fourth, this would be a way better Jett tattoo.

* Finally, bonus trivia: During Joan's Runaways years, she only had one small tattoo below the belt-line, which can be found on sullen girl Kristen Stewart in the film. The original tattoo was done when Joan was 16 by Lyle Tuttle. [Bonus useless trivia: A fake tattoo "foreshadowed" Dakota Fanning's role as Cherie Currie.]

Considering Joan is the executive producer for the film -- and allegedly made Kristen cry on set -- I'm thinking The Runaways movie is gonna be the [cherry] bomb. [sorry]  For a preview, check the YouTube trailer.

04:30 PM

Here's one for my Atlanta homies:  tomorrow is St. Patrick's St. Pabst day at the Graveyard Tavern in East Atlanta, a day that will not only be filled with green-tinged alcohol but tattoos. The city's top shops including 13 Roses, Ink & Dagger, Sacred Heart and Liberty Tattoo are all part of the event with contests for best -- and worst -- tattoos.

I see there's also a Leprechaun pinata. Can't beat that. [sorry]
11:46 AM
noon heart tattoo.jpg
Tattooed New Yorkers looking for love should head over to Waterhole Bar & Restaurant in the Flatiron District at 7:30PM tonight for their "Inked Speed Dating" event. The Village Voice explains:

"Decorated men and women (and the men and women who love them) are invited to attend this romantic mixing marathon and find the skin of their dreams, as well as the person inhabiting it. Who needs pickup lines when 'show and tell' is in order?"

And be sure to tell us how it goes. Price for inclusion is $25.

The joined heart tattoo above is by Noon. Read more on the artist here.
08:16 AM
John Mack is back with another guest blog post on his experience getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III over the course of nine years Check out his previous posts:  Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII and Part VIII.

johnmack09_munewarisuji.jpgIn 2005, Horiyoshi III finished my backpiece, yet I was in the grip of tattoo addiction and still had more time reserved with the master. The very next day we continued with munewari, the front of my torso.

I had only a backpiece for just one day. [See an image of that backpiece here.]

I commented to Horiyoshi III that tattoos are addictive, and he corrected me:

"Tattoos are not an addiction; they are a collection.  A tattoo collector is just like a conventional art collector who buys a painting, hangs it on the wall, and then moves on to acquire the next, unique piece.

Tattoo collecting is a spiritual pursuit, while addiction is a physiological need.  Addicts repeatedly take the same drug over and over without limit.  A tattoo collection has variety, and it has an end.  Once you collect the whole set, you're done.

As you complete your tattoo collection, you yourself become art."


Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos.  As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.

05:41 PM
Sims Tattoo Artist.jpg
Last week, a new expansion pack for The SIMS 3 Ambitions was announced (you know, the game where you play god and manipulate the lives of little virtual people). In this pack, are new career opportunities for these simulated peeps and guess what job is now available in the latest edition? Yup, tattoo artist (why else would I blog this?).

Here's a screen cap above of the tattoo shop where your SIM will create beautiful works of body art like the flash seen on the walls. Now all SIMS can sport the 90s tramp stamp and douche-indentifying barbed wire armband. sigh. Watch the game trailer here.

The Associate Producer on the SIMS 3 development team did a quick Q&A, which can be found on Electronic Theater, and here's a taste of what he said about the tattoos:

"Using the tattoo chair in game (or at the local Salon) your Sims can tattoo their neighbors with both fantastic and questionable body art, for a price, of course. The Tattoo System is an incredibly powerful new creative tool for our players. Players can apply multiple tattoos in up to five layers, scale them, change the colors, and even modify opacity. Players can also upload and share these tattoos on the exchange, giving our community yet another creative outlet. There's a lot of variety!"

While all the body art seen in the trailer seems "questionable," I agree that it's an added creative dimension to the game that appears pretty cool. Just wish that developers would hire real tattooists to work on the designs instead of getting stuck with the same ole cliches.
01:31 PM
ace daniels.jpg
I'm saddened to learn that one of Old Guard of the tattoo world, Crazy Ace Daniels, died this Monday, March 8th, from natural causes. He would have been 59 years old on April 30th.

Ace described himself on his Facebook page as the "janitor" of Way Cool Tattoos in Woodstock, Ontario, adding "I mop the floors, clean the toilets and once in a while they let me do a tattoo!" It was his sense of humor and love for the art and history of tattooing that endeared him to so many in the community, even those like myself who never met him in person.

For just how much he was loved, read the stories on the FB memorial page dedicated to him.

RIP Ace Daniels.jpgI only spoke with Ace online. He was generous to school me in tattoo anthropology and lead me to information on his wonderful tattoo archive, the online incarnation of his "World's Strangest Museum," which housed over a thousand artifacts and art surrounding all types of body modification, from tattooing to scarification to corsetting. [The museum closed in 2003 and re-opened as A.C.E.S. Place in 2003.]

Here's a time line of his life, from his first tattoo at 13 to opening Way Cool Tattoos in Woodstock on October 1, 2006.  Also read a fun recent interview with Ace where he talks about his artifact collection, the best weed in the world, and GWAR.

This Saturday, March 13th, a celebration of Ace's life will take place at Way Cool's Woodstock studio from 2-4 PM. Then on Sunday, there will be a wake, or rather a goodbye party, in Toronto at the Cadillac Lounge starting at 7 PM.

For more information on these memorials, click here and here.

R.I.P. Ace.
11:08 AM
coffee tattoo
Ok, this isn't my usual monolithic tattoo news review as I've been on the convention circuit for the past two weeks, but I wanted to share some things I found when I opened my eyes and Inbox this morn.

First, before I even reached for my first cup, The NY Times greeted me with the image above (by Ashley Gilbertson) of the coffee knux tattoo in its article on the best cafes in NYC. And it reminded me of an old fave on of such career killers wrapped around a cup of coffee. And then it made me long once more to tattoo my hands. And then I remembered that one day I may need to be employable once more. And then I also remembered that the Times article had nothing to do with tattoos, so I drank some coffee and moved on.

Then, my Inbox dinged with a real tattoo story: Daily Candy's front page profile today on the fabulous Amanda Wachob. And while the word "tats" and phrase "upgrade your tramp stamp" made coffee shoot out my nostrils in frustration, it is nice to see a great artist get some sweet props from the masses. We featured Amanda here last October and noted her experimental tattoo projects that got us hyped (sans caffeine). Here's a sample of Amanda's work below.

amanda wachob tattoo.jpgAnd finally, just before I was about to click publish on this post, I got a Facebook reminder that, tomorrow, Amelia Klem Osterud will discuss her book The Tattooed Lady: A History at Word bookstore in Brooklyn from 7:30-9PM. We featured the book here in November and I've devoured my copy since. As an added bonus, tattoo artists Bad News Becca and Emma of Porcupine Tattoo will be discussing their work.

So, that's the run down of tattoo goodness I found all before noon. A good omen for the day. [The mega-round up will be up soon. I hope.]

04:56 PM

Here's a tattoo pursuit making me love Canadians even more: The Two Dollar Tattoo Project.

In essence, it's a challenge to inspire tattooists to create works beyond their comfort zone and then share their creations online. It's also a way for shy collectors to get an artful little tattoo without the big reveal. And for me, it's another part of my tattoo voyeurism as I love seeing blog updates of work coming in that are fun and well done.

The project is founded by "eccentric curmudgeons" Philip Barbosa from Stick & Poke, George Brown and Matt Ellis of Seven Crowns Tattoo, and Alie K. at TCB Tattoo Parlour. Let me let them tell you the details of Two Dollar Tattoo:

"All artists participating will be expected to create unique works of tattoo art executed with only a single needle (as in single-needle configuration, No cheating using a round or a mag for any of the tattoo!). Line-work, shading, colour...all must be executed with the same needle! The size of the final product will be expected to fill the space of a "toonie", a Canadian two-dollar coin (approximately 28mm or 1 1/8" in diameter). The artist should utilize all of the space within the circle since in this case its not just size that matters. The Two Dollar Tattoo Project is expected to be both a game of camaraderie as well as a professional courtesy for artists and industry people. The only monetary exchange for the tattoo is to be a shiny Canadian $2 coin, which can be used for sizing of the drawing and final stencil, and MUST be utilized as proof of compliance with the set parameters."

The video above (found here on YouTube) shows how it's done. More details can be found on the site's right sidebar.

And as for how these tattoos heal and will age (that is, will the lines spread into each other becoming a two dollar blob) ... well, here's their answer.  
04:43 PM
Frankfurt tattoo convention.jpg

Like David Hasselfhoff and unpasteurized cheese, tattoos are big in Germany, and this weekend, I got a large dose of all (a little less Hoff than cheddar but one in the same). The 18th Annual Frankfurt Tattoo Convention -- yes, the convention was older than some of the attendees -- kicked off this past Friday in its usual spot: The Messe Frankfurt, a massive modern expo hall in the center of this commercial city.

It wasn't my first Frankfurt tattoo foray. It was about seven or eight years ago when I last attended and, other than a shorter artist list and more vendors, much hadn't changed. There are certain elements that give this gathering its own specialness, which I will list for you but first...

Frankfurt Tattoo Convention photos. Photos I obviously didn't take as they're in focus.

Ok, key points on the show:

1. Lots of Germans. They may not understand all my jokes and refer to me as a "small hyper person," but there was a lot o' love. Most at the Frankfurt show were serious collectors with large intricate work that harmonized really beautifully with their bods. Typical German craftsmanship.

2. A dearth of hipsters. Some say hipsters are as likely to be seen at a tattoo con as in Target, but I've seen enough getting their asses tattooed with Hello Kitty (one is enough!), or the ubiquitous ironic tattoo that keeps booths busy, to say otherwise. Maybe it's an American thing. Because as I walked through the crowded aisles of the convention hall, I looked around in wonder and thought to myself: "Wow. I haven't seen one dude who would ask to borrow his girlfriend's skinny jeans and Spice Girls tee." [Well, maybe except for this dude.] I took a deep breathe of that testosterone and it smelled good. 

3. Germany still holds the record for most tribal and blackwork tattoos per capita. And considering that I'm covered in blackwork [and even did a book on it, ahem], I was giddy being among my tribe. It was in serious contrast being at the Detroit convention the previous weekend where barely any people entered the tribal competition. In Frankfurt, there even was a portion of the hall sectioned off -- complete with Tiki hut -- where traditional tattooists, including Vatea, Roonui, and the Suluape family, worked by hand and machine. That said, I did notice that European artists were working in way more black and gray as well as fantasy & comic-styled tattoos.

4. Convention food sucks all over the world and Frankfurt was no exception. I'm not asking for haute cuisine, just something I can digest. And oh, my heart goes out to convention-going vegans. Best bet: always pack a lunch.

5. Finally, the very best part of Frankfurt, and any show, is seeing friends whom I only run into a few times a year in different cities, in different countries. It always makes me feel that there still is a "tattoo community." Shout-outs to Volle, who tattooed his Maori inspired art non-stop but still had time to look up and crack jokes; Elson Yeo of Singapore, who did a rockin horror sleeve over extensive scars, working the keloids perfectly into the design; and Clarabella of Brazil, my first Euro-convention homegirl who has been accessorizing me for over a decade.

So, I landed back into Brooklyn just a couple of hours ago and will now settle into my jet lag. I'm taking a convention break until the NYC one in May so if you have photos and stories of those you're heading to, send 'em my way.

Auf Wiedersehen.

02:10 PM
Not that I spend a lot of time - or any time for that matter - reading Entertainment Weekly, but Jay Fingers from The Ministry of Cool and StereoCool brought this article to my attention the other night over some adult beverages at the Needles and Sins Compound.

Turns out that Penguin Books is releasing a "Penguin Inks" series "in which the publisher commissioned tattoo artists and illustrators to re-imagine the covers of six modern classics."

Of course, they fail to mention anywhere the names of these tattoo artists, so I can't exactly give credit where it's due.  In fact, it really wouldn't surprise me if they just hired an in-house design team to do something in a "tattoo style." 

Now that I think about it, I really can't understand why any of these books would need tattoo-centric cover art.  From the standpoint of a graphic designer, I don't understand how this stylistic choice represents or enhances the stories beneath the dust-jacket; other than a "Well, tattoos are cool" perspective.

What are your thoughts?  Anyone know who these artists are?

(Oh, and while I have my "graphic designer" cap on, I'd like you all to know that I did the cover art - as well as produce and engineer - a pair of indie/electro tracks for Alex Walker, available right now as a free download from Lapdance Academy.  You can grab them in high quality MP3 format right over here.)

08:00 AM

John Mack offers another guest blog post on his experience getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III over the course of nine years Check out his previous posts:  Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, and Part VII.

In a comment to my last post, a reader inquired about the difference between machine and the tebori (hand poke) tattooing. I was just going to tell you about that.

As for how it feels, the location matters much, much more than the method. The main sensory difference is the sound and cadence of tebori. After this video above of Horiyoshi III doing tebori winds up to full speed, I can almost feel it myself.

Horiyoshi explained that it is the result attained after about four years that makes the biggest difference. He said that a machine works best for outlining because its precise, thin line does not spread over the years while tebori does spread into soft, smooth gradients ideal for shading. He had an almost poetic way of stating it in Japanese that went something like, "The disadvantage of one method is an advantage in one application, and the disadvantage of the other method is an advantage in the other application."

Horiyoshi then commented, "You like tebori better, don't you, John-san." This man can see right through me. I guess I do like tebori, not because it feels any better, but because it's a rarer and more authentic experience that yields a superior result. Both methods use needles, and getting stuck with needles hurts.

For the past few years, Horiyoshi has used a machine exclusively. When I asked about this, he said that as one ages, it becomes difficult to perceive fast-moving objects. He dramatized by waving his hand past his face, then making a mystified expression as if he had missed something.

As you can see in the video, your skin moves around quite a bit during tebori, but with a machine, it stays relatively stationary. So, no more hand tattooing for this master.

Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos, and we all keep him really busy.  As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.
09:34 AM
stanley moskowitz by Shawn Barber.jpgThe March issue of Inked Mag is out now and, as Marisa has previously pointed out, along with featuring beautiful heavily tattooed women in lesser and lesser states of undress, there are occasionally some righteous articles written by some or one of these here contributors on N+S.

This month, I got to speak with living legend "Bowery" Stan Moskowitz. And while I was nervous that he'd somehow be able to reach through the phone to break my face and toss me down a flight of stairs, I managed to get through the interview in one piece.

Here's a little preview of why you didn't -- and don't -- fuck with Bowery Stan. 

There are a lot of rough stories from [the Bowery] days.

...You didn't know who the hell was comin' through the doorway. One time this guy comes in and he punches me in the stomach. See, I have to remember that 'cause no one ever did that before. And he says to me, "You do a good job, kid," and here he punched me in the stomach, the fuck. I picked up a ball-peen hammer I had and I hit him right in the head with it. Right in the forehead! Holy shit, it starts to bleed like a bastard!

And then you tattooed him anyway.

Yeah, I tattooed him. Well, my father saw the guy bleeding and he was spurtin' blood everywhere. He had a hot towel he put on him and he put this here blood-stopper on, and finally it stopped. So then my old man sat him down and I tattooed him! He gave me a tip and said he was sorry. [Laughs.] You know, it's laughable. It wasn't laughable then. Jesus Christ, now that I think of it--it's a good thing I wasn't older. 

Stan is currently living in Florida and it's rumored that he'll be tattooing (still!) at this year's Philadelphia Tattoo Convention March 26th-28th.

Painting of Stanley by Shawn Barber.
07:19 PM
pint size paintings.jpg When trolling around the Detroit Tattoo Expo this past weekend, I previewed an upcoming art book that will be a must for your library:

Pint Size Paintings: Miniature Paintings by Big Artists.

In essence, Durb Morrison and the Hell City crew have curated a 224-page hardcover art book featuring paintings done on mini-canvases, specifically 2" x 3". Fine art from top tattooists like  Kari Barba, Aaron Bell, Zsolt Sarkozi, Nick Baxter, Guy Aitchison & Michelle Wortman, among so many, many others, are displayed in gallery format. With Volume 2 already in the works, Pint Size Paintings may grow to be the biggest collection of miniature artwork any where.

The canvases may be small, but there's nothing meager about the artwork. In fact, working on this scale was a challenge to many artists. I particularly like how Damon Conklin described it:

Miniature painting teaches the art of delivering only the lean nutrients of a piece ... graphic glorification of the lowest common denominator. No bones no fat no bullshit only the most important strokes of beauty.

The debut show of these mini- masterpieces will take place at Hell City Killumbus 2010 in May along with the book's release.

You can get a preview of the work yourself, including the ones below by Guy, Nick and Kari, on the book's MySpace photo page.

pint size paintings 3.jpgMy guess is that the book will sell out fast, so it's probably best to pre-order it for about $30 from the Hell City Books online.
09:26 AM
[Ed. note - Brian Grosz has been getting tattooed by Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo for several years now.  His previous reflections on the process can be found here.]

P2260001.jpgOutside of the fluorescent lighting and the lack of leg-room, the train ride out to Massapequa was fairly painless.  Ordinarily, I drive out to my sessions at Kings Ave Tattoo, but given the miserable weather (and the fact that NYC trending topics on Twitter were "Snowpocalypse" and "SnowtoriousBIG"), I decided that mass transit was the way to go.  After all, I find driving in Long Island to be fairly treacherous in the first place, but the moment the weather turns sour, my van pulls a Cinderella and morphs into a giant lunchbox/cinder-block with Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel after a long night at the club.

I ducked into the cab-stand at the train station, which was manned by a squat man with hair plugs watching horse racing on a flickering television set.  When he asked where I was heading and I replied, "844 Broadway at North Kings," he keyed the button on his dispatch handset and growled, "Someone get down here - I got one for the tattoo shop!"  I suppose it's a popular destination in them there parts...

The cab screeched up outside and as I closed the door behind me, my driver - an older guy in a satin "Vietnam Vet" baseball jacket and presumably a laryngectomy - turned around, raised a device to his throat and asked in a robotic montone, "Tattoo shop?"

I responded in the affirmative as casually as I could, thinking to myself, "Jesus, I've gotta quit smoking..."  But, as he spun the wheels and swerved out onto Broadway, I was hit with the notion that I'd actually had this very same cab driver in Poughkeepsie, NY, over a decade ago.  After all, both hacks had the same flagrant disregard for traffic laws and the passenger's bill of rights.

While Mike was setting up and choosing colors for the left side of my chest (I've tried to keep this piece entirely in his hands in terms of color choice, design elements, etc), I mentioned my experience with my cyborg cab driver and the long-shot possibility that he had driven me to the Poughkeepsie train station back in '98.

"He's been driving forever and he did disappear for a few years - it's totally a possibility."

"No shit," I mused.  "But I figured it would be rude if I asked him, based solely on the cabby/voice-box connection."

"Well," Mike proposed with a smile, "You could've asked him, 'Do you have a brother in Poughkeepsie?  Because I know a cabby up there who sounds just like you...'"

A couple of hours later, we had completed the color for the Fu dog on my left side: orange and golden mane, red spots and blue eyes (for my father; the dog on the right will have green eyes, like my mother and an inverted color scheme).  As I carefully slid into my shirt and coat to venture back out into the cold, Eric at the front desk rang up the cab company for my return trip to the train station.  Apparently someone on the other line picked up because he simply replied, "Yeah" and hung up the phone.

"That was easy," I said.

In his best impression of the dispatcher he said gruffly, "Tattoo shop - one goin to the rail, right?"

I could only imagine who would be my driver on the way back... Admittedly, I was kinda hoping for Handsome John Pruitt - that guy with the hook for a hand who drove the tow-truck in Adventures In Babysitting.


[Kings Avenue Tattoo is located in Massapequa, Long Island and is home to artists Mike Rubendall, Grez, Matt Beckerich, Justin Weatherholtz and Brian Paul.  For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 516-799-5464]

12:50 AM
Adam's knuckle tattoos by Dan Marshall.jpg
The 15th Annual Detroit Motor City Tattoo Expo has come to a close and while everyone else is at the after-party now, I'm staying in to break down the weekend for ya -- beyond my incessant Tweets -- because (a) I'm a nerd, (b) no really, I'm pretty socially inept, and (c) I'm simply freakin exhausted from all the parties that have been running till dawn since Thursday.

But, as I learned from the knuckles of Adam Callen of, ya only live once and the past four days have been worth every bag under my eye. Which is why I stayed away from the cameras and just took my own less-than-stellar shots.

Check my Detroit Tattoo Expo pix here.

Ok, here's how it went...

* On Thursday, I arrived at the Marriott Renaissance Center -- a labyrinth of circular walkways that lead to GM cars, a suspended Starbucks and conference rooms that would be filled during the weekend with tattooists as well as pharmacists. [And during the course of this weekend, it was clear who were the drug dealers and who weren't.]

* The hotel lobby bar began to brim with the tattooed; lots of hugs, back-slaps and complicated handshakes were shared between friends who largely see each other on the convention circus circuit. Drinks were poured and the next thing I know, I'm whisked away to a casino in Greek Town (my people!) and taught how to play craps. This was my first lesson of the weekend. The second was not to drink tequila with Mexican tattoo artists. Let this be a cautionary tale for you as well.

Tattoo by Abey of Lowrider Tattoo.jpg* The snow fell hard on Friday, so attendance started slow but there was a steady stream of people. Most booths were buzzin as the artist line-up was stellar. What I particularly loved was the diversity of artists from different tattoo families. [I stole "tattoo families" from Sean Herman who used it to describe tattooers who inspire each other in a certain style.]

For example, you had long time black & gray greats like Jack Rudy, Brian Everett, Tony Olivas, Bob Tyrrell, Robert Hernandez, among many younger stars including the Lowrider Tattoo crew -- a crew who swept most of the B&G contests with work like this (right) by Abey Alvarez.

Then you had the amazing photo-realism family including, but def not limited to, Sean, Mike Demasi, Joshua Carlton, Mike Devries, Dan Henk, Monte, -- and Nikko Hurtado who did this rockin portrait on Alissa Brunelli of her father.

The real family of Americana legend, Professor Dana Brunson was in attendance. Dana worked the booth with his wife Dot and son Jason.

Bio-Mech/Organic was repped by Carson Hill, Nate Kostechko and the illustrated stylings of Jime Litwalk, Tony Ciavarro, Larry Brogan and Kristel Oreto rocked all weekend.

* In fact, the highlight of Saturday for me was seeing one of Kristel's pimped out Hello Kitty's on some guy's butt (entitled "Candy Ass"). Check it on her site here. And below is the (kinda NSFW) video of that special moment of adornment.

* It's funny how I completely adore the ass tattoo but freaked out over the MANY facial and neck tattoos on really young collectors -- kids that didn't even have sleeves but went straight for the career killers. *sigh*

* And in that "you kids get off my lawn moment," Adam from BodyMod (remember him from when I started this increasingly long post?) put me in front of his video camera so I could whine about how I get regular emails from these kids asking me to sue companies that won't hire them. To which I always say, Boo Hoo. [That vid should be up soon.]

* The show wound down around 7pm and most artists went out to dinn. I didn't join because I feared the post-dinner fest. And I'm all fested out.

Plus I wanted to share my weekend with y'all because, you know, I love you.

So, I head back to Brooklyn this Monday morn, rest up for a few days and then I'm off to Germany for the Frankfurt Tattoo Convention next weekend. My goal is to have photos and a review for that show as well ... and I have high hopes for more butt tattoos!
connect with us

Marisa Kakoulas
Miguel Collins
Craig Dershowitz
Brian Grosz
Sean Risley
Patrick Sullivan
Needles and Sins powered by Moveable Type.

Site designed and programmed by Striplab.

NS logo designed by Viktor Koen.