June 2012 Archives

05:06 PM
damien echols tattooing.jpg
You would think after spending 18 years and 78 days on death row for a crime he never committed that Damien Echols of the West Memphis 3 would be hardened and bitter. Far from it. Affable and open, he's quick to make jokes and friends. He's got a poet's sensitivity. You can read it on his Twitter feed. And he's been immersing himself in art, from museums to his regular hangout, Sacred Tattoo & Gallery in SoHo, NYC.

At Sacred, Damien has not only been tattooed by their well respected artists but, in fact, has taken up the tattoo machine for the first time (with his blood borne pathogens certification) and is doing "X" tattoos, and occasionally his initials, which he stresses are for fun and not high art. Proceeds from the tattoos go to pay off the rest of the WM3 legal fees.There's a misconception that, with all the benefit concerts and fundraising by celebrities, the three walked out debt-free, but in fact, Damien's wife Lori had to take out two personal loans, and even on the very day they were set free, the Arkansas Attorney General called for an audit of the funds raised and slapped them with a $5,000 tax bill. So in getting tattooed by Damien you'll continue to support the WM3 cause.

Contact Sacred for details on how to make an appointment. [There may be a wait.] You can also donate any amount to the WM3 Freedom Fund.

A couple of weeks ago, Brian [Grosz] signed up to get an X from Damien on his toe (considering most of his other body parts are being covered now). Here's his blog post on that experience, which was indeed a lot of fun. I hung around and got to chat with Damien about tattooing and his own collection. Here's a bit of what we talked about:

Is this the first time you've ever tattooed?

The one I just did was my tenth tattoo. All X's and I'm not even very good at that! When Kevin [Wilson, the manager at Sacred] asked if I wanted to do this -- because we were getting tons of emails from people saying they wanted them done -- I said yes as long as he explained to them beforehand that I am not a tattoo artist. You will leave with some sort of mark on your body, but I make no claims as an artist. So as long as they come in and do it as fun, I love doing it.

Tell me about the very first tattoo you put on.

The very first one I did was on Nick [Wilcox]. He's done all these tattoos on me and so it was like why don't I do one on him. It was Kevin's idea initially. Kevin was then number two.

Kevin adds: I had to throw someone under the bus first!

How did Nick's come out?

Really good actually. But Kevin's are the best ones so far. The more I do them, the more downhill I go. [laughs] I think the reason theirs ended up the best ones was because I was laughing the whole time. Like, I stepped on the peddle accidentally and said, "Oh shit, did that go in?" That's the thing you never want to hear your tattooist say!

You're also doing your initials as well as X tattoos.

I'll do it if people want it but it's really hard for me to get them right.

Like you said, it's fun. People know that it's not a serious tattoo.

Kevin: People who email us say they just want to be a part of the process. They know the tattoos are not going to be spectacular. [Laughs]

damien echols tattoo.jpgDamien's X & initials tattooed on Kevin Wilson.

Is this something you want to do, become a tattooer?

I see a lot of people in the field, and they are real artists. When I look at someone like Paul Booth, I see something that I would work the rest of my life for just to be half as good. This is actually an art form. Back in the 70s and 80s, I remember, the only people who had tattoos were military and bikers. Now it's everybody. It's come a huge distance -- the quality of the artwork, the people who are getting it, and where they are getting it. Housewives and mothers get very visible tattoos. I wouldn't want to cheapen it.

But you are an artist yourself.

Usually not visual art. I do some visual art. These I designed myself - the talismans (points to tattoos). This is what I do, not something like portraits. I have four of these of my own design. Three on my arms and one on my chest. They're designed for different purposes. This one, for example, is for protection, the Archangel Michael. This one is for success in all ventures. And that's what it says around it in the Theban alphabet; it's also nicknamed the Witches' Alphabet. And inside is my name and the word "success" entwined. This one I actually got with Johnny Depp. It says "brother" on the outside and my name and his name in the middle of it. Mark Mahoney did it. He also did this one and this one, which means "Wind Over Heaven" from the I Ching. What this represents is, whenever you're facing huge obstacles, you don't focus on them or you'll lose heart and be defeated. Instead focus on just putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. I wrote about this in my journal log in prison. Well, they had a big concert to try and get me out and bring awareness to the case and one of the things they did was Johnny went on stage and read some of my journal entries, and the one he read was about this. So we got this tattoo because it was tying us together and also because my wife's nickname is "The Small," and this is called "The Taming Power of the Small."

Does Lori have a tattoo?

She got her first this morning!

What did she get?

She got three little birds in flight around her ankle.

You didn't do it I'm assuming.

No! She asked me at first and I said no.

Did you have tattoos going into prison?

Just little things. If you look closely here you can see it's a cover up of a girlfriend's name when I was 16 years old. It was ridiculous.

Did you hand poke it yourself?

Yeah. [Laughs] And I have other hand poked things on my leg and my chest. I was too young to actually go to a real studio.

What's the long standing attraction to tattoos for you?

For me, what it feels like is literally armor. Every time I get tattooed, I feel like I have a protective layer. Something that acts as a buffer zone between me and the world. There's a certain amount of physical pain that comes with it but for me it's very psychologically and physically comforting. There's something about it that is just completely and absolutely relaxing. People talk about how bad it hurts, but for me, it's comforting enough where I've actually dozed off while I was being tattooed. But again, it's something that protects me from the rest of the world.


Damien and I continued to chat while he tattooed Brian's toe like a pro. He's discussed his new book "Life After Death," which will be released by Penguin Books in September. In it, he describes the hell of living on Death Row and his battles with the American justice system. You can pre-order it on Amazon.com as well.

A film on the WM3 ordeal, West of Memphis, co-produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, will be released in December. Here's the trailer below.

For more on Damien, definitely check his wonderful Twitter feed.
12:05 PM
There are tons of tattoo-related iPhone apps. Most are crap. The TattooNOW iphone app is not. It's good and it's free.

TattooNOW.com features countless galleries of top tattoo work from artists across the globe, and have contests to highlight the very best of this work. This iPhone app loads up the last 50 tattoo of the day winners for daily inspiration. The other galleries include the last 50 tattoos uploaded to TattooNOW, the TattooNOW news feed and the TattooNOW video channel. If you need constant tattoo stimulation, you need this app as it updates 12-20 times a day.

The TattooNOW peeps are also developing apps for others, particularly tattoo studios, artists, conventions and suppliers. To help reward early adopters, they're extending $500 off development costs (which range from $1,499 to $3,499) to the first 6 clients. Demand has been great, and I'm not sure if there are spots left, so hit them up at  (413) 585-9134 or shoot them an email.
11:34 AM
Fashion's fabulous bad boy Jean Paul Gaultier has translated his passion for tattoos in a variety of media -- from his numerous body art-inspired fashion collections (like his Spring/Summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection) to his own skin, tattooed by the infamous Tin Tin Tatouage in Paris.

Now, he's brought the cool to Coca Cola with his third limited edition Diet Coke bottle, aptly named "Tattoo." According to the Hollywood Reporter, the bottles are now available in nine European countries, but not yet in the US. As for the cost, HR says, "Oddly, we can find no mention about how much these limited edition bottles cost. Guess it's like that old saying, 'If you have to ask....'"
09:29 AM

The latest Hold Fast video profile from the Sailor Jerry folks features New Orleans badass Annette LaRue of Electric Ladyland Tattoo. With a sharp wit, low tolerance for bullshit and a trove of brilliant tattoo stories, Annette does the Sailor Jerry legacy proud.

I interviewed the veteran tattooist for her Inked mag profile last summer, and it was a blast. You can check that full Q&A here.
09:02 AM
Yesterday, the LA Times published  "Horihide still practices the dying art of hand tattoo" -- Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore's article on the Japanese tebori master Oguri Kazuo aka Horihide. It's a fantastic read and one that I wish was ten times longer to get a greater sense of the rich tradition this master carries forth as he continues to tattoo at age 79.

The article follows a Japanese-born American software manager, Motoyama Tetsuro, as he goes to Gifu, Japan to finish a tattoo that began decades ago. Here's a taste:

With old masters passing away and young apprentices lacking the patience to learn the painstaking craft of tebori (hand tattooing), many followers believe its days are numbered.

"If you know the master, why would you want to work with someone else?" asks Motoyama, 62, who first received the outline of a dragon by Horihide on his right shoulder in the 1970s. Motoyama lost touch with the master -- who works only by word-of-mouth introductions in backdoor locations -- before the work was complete. Last November, after a 30-plus year search, he finally located Horihide and traveled back to Japan from his home in Cupertino, Calif., to finish the piece.

Software managers have not made up the bulk of Horihide's clientele. Yakuza and geisha wear much of the master's art. And while the popularity of tattooing expands beyond the underground in Japan today, it still holds deep social stigma -- as evidenced by Osaka's crazy right-wing mayor ordering government employees to reveal whether they are tattooed, then basing employment decisions on this. As the article notes, this stigma still keeps artists like Horihide "under a cloak of secrecy" -- or at least out of the spotlight for the large part, making profiles like this in a mainstream publication a rare treat. 

Horihide also talks about his start in tattooing as an apprentice at the age of 19, where he suffered beatings to learn the craft. There are some great quotes, which left me wanting more. So I did a search and came up with this 1996 essay for Tattoos.com in which Horihide muses on his life as a teenage gang leader to becoming a tattoo artist and later meeting Sailor Jerry. Also a must read.

Great stories and a bit of history.

08:38 AM

Papa Joe's Tattoo Sign Build from Luke Holley on Vimeo.

Once again, Luke Holley offers another great video from the tattoo trenches, but this time, it's on the art and craft of sign making.

Check Papa Joe's Tattoo Sign Build video.

[Via HeadovMetal.]
06:27 PM

Tattoos on hot athletic bodies. You're welcome.

** UPDATE: Click this YouTube link if you have trouble viewing.**

This is getting me pumped for the Olympic games in London, July 27 to August 12. There are a bunch of cool videos, beyond body art, on the NBCOlympics.com site and they'll be streaming the Trials and Games as well. So, we can cheer on our favorite athletes from our desks without having to flex a muscle.

Go Team Tattooed!
09:06 AM
I got something for my European homies:  One of my favorite artists, Nazareno Tubaro, has left his Buenos Aires studio for a bit and is doing a Scandinavian tour this summer hitting Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Here's where he'll be:

From June 23rd to the 27th, he'll be at another favorite -- Colin Dale's SKIN & BONE in Copenhagen.

From June 28th to the 30, he's tattooing in Helsinki at TATUATA.

From July 2nd to the 4th, he's tattooing in Alesund (Norway) at TATTOOS.NO.

From July 7th to the 10, he's tattooing in Halmstad (Sweden) at AMIGO INK.

Contact Nazareno at consultas@nazareno-tubaro.com.

And check our artist profile on him here. I'm hoping he'll be doing a US tour soon.

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10:57 AM
dia_de_los_muertos_tattoo.jpgTattoo by Paul Reynolds

One of the wonderful things about attending a convention is getting to discover new artists and their own approaches to tattooing. At the NYC Tattoo Convention, I stopped one guy with a great thigh piece and got a chance to ogle -- another plus to these shows -- and it turns out he owns a studio and was tattooed by one of his artists. That's how I came to today's artist spotlight on Studio 28 Tattoos, right in NYC. 

Studio 28 Tattoos, a fully custom shop, was opened by TJ Cantwell in 2010 when he finally got tired of working in finance and wearing a suit and tie every day. TJ spent most of his time in The Village getting tattooed and decided to combine his love for the art with his business experience. He linked up with his favorite tattooists and created Studio 28.

alex_alien_tattoo.jpg Tattoo by Alex Alien

Artists in residence are Alex Alien and Paul Reynolds.

Alex got his start in tattooing 18 years ago in his home town of Mexico City.  Starting out, Alex had no one to teach him the art or take him under their wing, so he learned from looking through magazines, trial and error, and a desire to master the craft.  Learning with homemade inks and machines, his first break came a few years into tattooing when a friend came back to Mexico from LA with professional-grade machines, ink, and flash sheets that Alex was able to buy off him. From there, he developed his skills, earning a reputation that has traveled with him to New York, where he has made his home since 2001. Alex has a diverse portfolio, but you can see a particular love for black and grey and photo realism.
camera tattoo.jpgTattoo by Paul Reynolds

Paul Reynolds started tattooing in the UK 12 years ago. He says that, from as far back as he can remember, all he wanted to be was a tattoo artist but it was a hard business to get into without knowing someone in the industry. He then started his fine art degree at the Royal College of Art in London and after that joined the British Army, where he was in active service for 10 years. He got his break while living in Spain where he met Andrew Higham, who was willing to teach him. Using his degree, he progressed towards photo realism with micro detailing. He wanted to continue to learn from the best in the business and further refine his craft, and to do so, traveled the world from from France to Fiji. He's now made NYC his home base and works in all different genres of tattooing.

Both Alex and Paul work largely by appointment only. Studio 28 Tattoos is located at 108 West 28 St, 3rd Floor, in Manhattan.

hanya.JPGTattoo by Alex Alien
01:15 PM
bowery tattoo.jpgThis Father's Day, we're happy to have Doug Moskowitz, son of tattoo legend Walter Moskowitz, talk about what it was like being raised by one of the Bowery Boys. Before Walter passed in 2007, Doug recorded his father telling golden stories of tattooing on NY's rough Lower East Side. Those stories are immortalized on the two audio CD set Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants -- a perfect gift for dad, mom, your crazy uncle, and especially your tattooist. A must have.

By Doug Moskowitz

My dad was Walter Moskowitz and this Father's day I would like to tribute my late father with this guest blog entry. My dad tattooed (with his brother Stanley) in an era when the lines were bold, the shading was heavy, and the tattoos were always readable. The designs were often about loyalty, toughness and love. My dad could read human nature as if each person he encountered in his life was filed away like an acetate stencil. He lived in the moment and relished the wonderment of the natural world.

walter moskowitz 1970s.jpgNonetheless, the real triumph of his life was the way he performed as dad. His wife and kids were so important to him that he stuck out life on the Bowery where at any time there "could be good people or real scumbags." He would often have rowdy visitors to his shop who only wanted to fight and he would have to defend himself. Then of course there was the government who wanted to shut the tattoo shops down. So, I asked my dad why and how did you put up with all of this? He said matter-of-factly, "I had to provide for my family ... they come first and foremost", as if my question was from outer space. There was just no way he was not going to deliver for his family. He was a tough guy who would go to the end of the earth to defend his family and his right to provide for them.

As a Dad, he was selfless and you always knew that when he was with you there was no other place he would rather be. He did not buy much in the order of material comforts, he greatest joy came in what he could share with his family. To that end our mom and dad provided us with enough love and life lessons that the kids were never left wanting. We grew up in an environment rich in loyalty and love. Our dad was bold and his dedication was always readable.
He was true old school.
04:15 PM
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In April, I posted the preview to an important and incredibly engaging film on the experiences of professional black tattoo artists across the US"Color Outside the Lines."

The documentary is conceived and produced by Miya Bailey and directed by Artemus Jenkins, and features tattoo icons, like Jackie Gresham -- the first professional black tattoo artist renowned in the US -- a woman who more people need to know about and will thanks to this film. A preview clip with Jackie is below.

In Atlanta, on June 21st, there will be a screening of "Color Outside the Lines" at the Midtown Art Cinema from 7-9:30PM.
You can buy your tickets in advance here for $10 tickets or get the premium ticket for $20, which comes with an advance copy of the DVD.

You can also order the DVD when it drops on June 27th on the film's site.
12:35 PM
The radio station WNYC -- which I stream online here -- is on almost all the time in our place, if only so I can feel like I'm getting smarter. Well, I just learned that I have a chance to actually get smarter about something I particularly love: the history of tattoos and body decoration as discussed by the ultra-awesome tattoo anthropoligist Lars Krutak, who has been featured here before.

Lars will be on in a half-hour on The Leonard Lopate Show, along with tattooist Scott Campbell, who will be talking about the mechanics, art and removal of contemporary tattoos.

Listen to it live or catch it in the archives after it airs.
01:22 PM

In September, from the 13th through the 16th, 120 brilliant tattooists from around the world will come together to share ideas, critique, create art, learn new developments in the industry, and of course, tattoo eager collectors.

The Paradise Tattoo Gathering is aptly named because it doesn't fit the usual "convention" menu. It's a place where artists and all lovers of tattoo can once again feel like we're a community, and to leave feeling better about the state of the craft despite the surge in its exploitation. It also doesn't hurt that it will be at the Keystone Resort, in Keystone, CO -- the heart of the beautiful Rocky Mountains. An excellent tattoo vacation destination.

What I particularly love is that the top tier of many of the schools of tattooing will be present. No matter what your preferred style -- from realism to biomech to blackwork -- there will be the very best to work with you. Check out the artist list here. While many of these tattooers book up well in advance, many save time for walk ups. Of course, it's recommended that you email or call an artist to set up a tattoo in advance if possible.

Fine art galleries and seminars are a huge part of this event as well. Chet Zar and over 20 live painters will be creating artwork onstage. Shawn Barber will be teaching three painting seminars. Adrian Lee is bringing his "Bloodwork:Bodies" art show and book signing. Chris Lowe is bringing "Still Standing: A Wounded Warrior Project" benefit art show with over 60 pieces of art for sale that will also go on prosthetic limbs for wounded vets. Al from Amped 3D is bringing his life sized 3D "Holographic" images and massive camera rig to document the best tattoos of the show. Ian McKown is curating a group art show of miniature paintings. And there will be a group art show from the tattooing artists.

Education is the big draw for the Gathering. For one, Stefano Alcantara is doing a seminar & workshop on realistic tattooing.  [Correction:] Nick Baxter's holistic tattooing seminar has been growing each year. Jeff Gogue's "Tattooing as I see it" is big one too. Other featured teachers include Tommy Lee Wendter,  Alex De Pase, Bob Tyrrell, James Kern, Larry Brogan, Alex De Pase and TattooNOW. Oh and me!

[Shameless plug:  I'll be doing a seminar with another heavily tattooed attorney John Kastelic entitled "Controlling, Protecting and Profiting from Your Work: Copyright, Trademark & Licensing for Tattoo Artists & Collectors." All are welcome as we'll be taking about issues (in a way that's not lawyer speak) that affect everyone in the tattoo community and beyond. We'll be giving out sample contracts and informative handouts. You'll won't find lawyers offering so much for so little. Best to register in advance and feel free to send questions beforehand.]

It's also best to get your tickets for the show in advance to save some money and beat the lines. I'd recommend booking your rooms early as well before they sell out. Call 800-258-0437 with Code CF1PTG for Keystone Lodge reservations (the Gathering has sold out the New England resort all 4 years).

I'm truly excited for the Gathering and hope to see y'all there!
09:43 AM
Photo by Edgar Hoill

The long-debated issue within the tattoo community of regulating tattoo ink was recently discussed in this Chemistry World article, which is worth a quick read.

Generally, there's little to no regulation of tattoo inks in the US & UK, and it's largely self-policed. The big brands offer MSDS (Material Safety Date Sheets) to let you know what's in them. Here are some links to check those sheets for yourself:  Intenze, Starbrite, and Eternal Ink. [Note the California-mandated warning on Papillon Tattoo Supply that states metals and toxic chemicals may be contained in inks -- although not specific to any brand.]

The debate tends to be whether self-regulation is better than that by the government. In the article, Alan Beswick, of the UK Health and Safety Laboratory says that perhaps it's better to keep it within the industry:

Beswick is keen to stress that he is wary of promoting regulation that would compel tattooists perform expensive testing on the dyes they purchase. 'I believe, and this is the case in many industries, that quality standards are raised from within and if clients and users of the inks start to ask questions of the suppliers then the chances are that those suppliers will have to up their game.'
An argument against this, however, is that the market is flooded with ink suppliers from all over the world not taking the same precautions as the long-standing reputable brands. Pat Fish, whom I interviewed for Inked mag, says she won't use color inks anymore because she doesn't trust them, citing fungus found in batches of even famous inks. There are interesting arguments on both sides.

While there hasn't been an epidemic of poisoned tattoo collectors, many people do indeed have serious reactions, especially to certain colors. So you could ask your artist about the MSDS sheets if you're concerned. You may come off as a little uptight to some, but as Beswick notes above, it may encourage more artists, and then companies, to pay attention to what you're putting into your skin.
11:25 AM
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You probably know our buddy Erik "The Lizardman" Sprague from his full-body transformation/modification, his army of wax replicas at Ripley's, his book Once More Through The Modified Looking Glass, his band Lizard Skynard, his live act (equal parts sideshow and scathing social commentary) or his seemingly ubiquitous presence on any televsion special dedicated to the odd and the adorned.

In line with his usual humility and self-effacing demeanor, he has declared today - his birthday - to be Lizardman Day!

Everyone is encouraged to raise a toast to him at 11:57pm CST and there's even a prize package for those of you who send him photos of you and your friends taking part in Lizardman Day celebrations!  (The Lizardman will also be live-tweeting his day of debauchery @TheLizardman23)

My longevity, such as it is, depends entirely upon people who I simply cannot abide potentially outliving me.
--The Lizardman

Happy Birthday, brother - you made it once more around the sun!

04:41 PM
art brut jef.jpgContinuously pushing tattoo art beyond its traditional tenets is Jef Palumbo, a French-born tattooist who, for almost 20 years, has created a style that he describes as "just something in between 'pop' and 'street art'." Jef has inspired countless artists, particular those in the "art brut" collective largely concentrated in France, Belgium and Montreal.

Jef humbly explains how he came to develop his signature portfolio:

I'm not the best about Japanese style or realistic, so I had to find my own way -- what I really enjoy doing and not what I can do to make money or bla-bla-bla. [I'm] inspired mostly by pop art, and every time I'm walking in the street, I find brand new ideas, especially in Berlin -- there are so many pictures everywhere. And also the "Muppet Show's drummer" [Animal]! Haha!
He also says he enjoys working with "maximum freedom" from clients, not limited to a specifically defined subject matter, but having the ability to work together with many ideas.

Currently working in a private atelier in Berlin, Jef still travels back to Belgium, where he was for many years in Brussels at La Boucherie Moderne. There's a chance he'll be coming stateside soon, as he's looking for a guest spot in NYC. Hope to see him here!   

You can see more of his work on Facebook, and reach him at jefboucherie at gmail.

art brut tattoo.jpgart brut jef 2.jpg
12:08 PM
Last week, we posted the latest Sullen Clothing contest, where two readers will score either the Hurt Locker Dufflebag, a super-sturdy, footed carryall with padded shoulder strap, and interior & exterior pockets; or the Metal Handbag, a vegan-friendly, faux leather shoulder bag, rock-n-roll studded, also footed and with interior & exterior pockets. I just plugged into Randomized.com all the names of those who Tweeted at us or posted in our Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook and the winners are ...

Congrats, Beth Miller and Brian Fuller!

You can still get a hold of these bags for free if you spend over $120 at the Sullen online shop this month. They're worth $60 each so it's a deal.

More contests coming up. Thanks to all y'all for playing along!
01:33 PM

In yet another example of how fantastic the marriage of tattoos and tech can be, here's Ryan Reeb's video "Go Play Trains."

It starts off looking like another beautifully produced short on the creation of a tattoo. There's the studio view, stencil placement, set up...The camera moves in for an up-close, slow motion view of needles poking skin, but then, unexpectedly, it morphs into a tattoo dreamscape, following the penetrated ink beneath the surface via some CGI creativity. The result is a fun, trippy look at strong, and very real, tattoo work.

Adrian Sanchez from American Electric Tattoo in LA did the tattoo on Ryan, which was inspired by Ryan's son Ollie. Here's more from the YouTube description:

I wanted to get a tattoo for my son Ollie. I love this stage in his life where he can lose himself in his imagination while playing on his train table. So I got an old steamy on my arm with his name on it. While I was getting tattooed a couple of my friends helped me shoot this video to commemorate the event. Out of my curiosity for how ink disperses through the skin and love of shooting video "Go Play Trains" is born.
I asked Ryan what Ollie thought of his dad's tattoo and he said his son loves it and calls it "Ollie train."

I also asked for some tech info for my freak geeks and Ryan explained: "The slow motion / high speed stuff was filmed with a PL mount Cooke 300mm prime mounted on a Y5HD Diablo (Hurt Locker cam) and the other stuff was filmed on a Canon 5d Mark 2. Music was created by Ryan Leach."

Definitely check it.
12:51 PM
One of the greatest science fiction authors of our time, Ray Bradbury, died today at the age of 91. In the countless obituaries being published, many of his great works are cited, including "Fahrenheit 451," "The Martian Chronicles," and "Something Wicked This Way Comes." It is, however, Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man" that is particularly beloved by much of the tattooed masses.

"The Illustrated Man" is a collection of short stories that are told through the images that come to life on one drifter's skin -- from stranded astronauts to robotic clones.

Here's an excerpt of the Prologue, from when the narrator meets the Illustrated Man on the side of a road:

How can I explain about his Illustrations? If El Greco had painted miniatures in his prime, no bigger than your hand, infinitely detailed, with all his sulphurous color, elongation, and anatomy, perhaps he might have used this man's body for his art. The colors burned in three dimensions. They were windows looking in upon fiery reality. Here, gathered on one wall, were all the finest scenes in the universe the man was a walking treasure gallery. This wasn't the work of a cheap carnival tattoo man with three colors and whisky on his breath. This was the accomplishment of a living genius vibrant, clear, and beautiful.

"Oh, yes," said the Illustrated Man. "I'm so proud of my Illustrations that I'd like to burn them off. I've tried sandpaper, acid, a knife . . ."

The sun was setting. The moon was already up in the East.

"For, you see," said the Illustrated Man, "these Illustrations predict the future."

I said nothing.

"It's all right in sunlight," he went on.

"I would keep a carnival day job. But at night--the pictures move. The pictures change."

I must have smiled. "How long have you been Illustrated?"

"In 1900, when I was twenty years old and working a carnival, I broke my leg. It laid me up; I had to do something to keep my band in, so I decided to get tattooed."

"But who tattooed you? What happened to the artist?"

"She went back to the future," he said. "I mean it. She was an old woman in a little house in the middle of Wisconsin here somewhere not far from this place. A little old witch who looked a thousand years old one moment and twenty years old the next, but she said she could travel in time. I laughed. Now, I know better."

"How did you happen to meet her?"

He told me. He had seen her painted sign by the road SKIN ILLUSTRATION! Illustration instead of tattoo! Artistic! So he had sat all night while her magic needles stung him wasp stings and delicate bee stings. By morning he looked like a man who had fallen into a twenty color print press and been squeezed out, all bright and picturesque.

"I've hunted every summer for fifty years," he said, putting his hands out on the air. "When I find that witch I'm going to kill her."

The sun was gone. Now the first stars were shining and the moon had brightened the fields of grass and wheat. Still the Illustrated Man's pictures glowed like charcoals in the half light, like scattered rubies and emeralds, with Rouault colors and Picasso colors and the long, pressed out El Greco bodies.

"So people fire me when my pictures move. They don't like it when violent things happen in my Illustrations. Each Illustration is a little story. If you watch them, in a few minutes they tell you a tale. In three hours of looking you could see eighteen or twenty stories acted right on my body, you could hear voices and think thoughts. It's all here, just waiting for you to look. But most of all, there's a special spot on my body." He bared his back. "See?" There's no special design on my right shoulder blade, just a jumble."

"Yes. "

"When I've been around a person long enough, that spot clouds over and fills in. If I'm with a woman, her picture comes there on my back, in an hour, and shows her whole life-how she'll live, how she'll die, what she'll look like when she's sixty. And if it's a man, an hour later his picture's here on my back. It shows him falling off a cliff, or dying under a. train. So I'm fired again."

All the time he had been talking his hands had wandered over the Illustrations, as if to adjust their frames, to brush away dust--the motions of a connoisseur, an art patron. Now he lay back, long and full in the moonlight. It was a warm night. There was no breeze and the air was stifling. We both had our shirts off.

"And you'll never found the old woman?"


"And you think she came from the future?"

"How else could she know these stories she painted on me?"

He shut his eyes tiredly. His voice grew fainter. "Sometimes at night I can fed them, the pictures, like ants, crawling on my skin. Then I know they're doing what they have to do. I never look at them any more. I just try to rest. I don't sleep much. Don't you look at them either, I warn you. Turn the other way when you sleep."

I lay back a few feet from him. He didn't seem violent, and the pictures were beautiful. Otherwise I might have been tempted to get out and away from such babbling. But the Illustrations . . . I let my eyes fill up on them. Any person would go a little mad with such things upon his body.


In 1969, the film The Illustrated Man was released, embodying the same dark, foreboding tales of the book. The trailer is below. You can also rent or buy the film on Amazon. But I highly recommend getting a copy of the book, a literary gem that still holds up today.

RIP Ray.

03:14 PM
colin dale tattoo.jpg
Tattoo by Colin Dale.

Last week, the HuffPo's Religion section had an interesting article by Jacob D. Myers entitled, "Holy Ink: The Spirituality of Tattoos." In it, Myers, who is tattooed, explores the spiritual impact of body art and breaks it down into three observations:

* Tattooing can change one's identity, having an affect on how the tattooed person is viewed by others and how she views herself.
* Tattoos are "roadsigns," that is, when tattoos mark a significant life moment, they can "be powerful enough to return one to that state of spirituality."
* And tattoos can make one feel a part of a community.

This may not be big news to all who are tattooed, but it's great to have a well written piece read by those who simply see tattooing as a "fad," or even worse, the realm of "the lowest elements of the human race."

Not every tattoo need be imbued with great spiritual significance, of course, but I agree with Myers in many ways -- most important, that I do feel I am part of a community. It's why I'm sitting here writing this blah blah.

The added bonus of this piece is finding out that Myers is tattooed by one of my favorites Colin Dale of Skin & Bone in Denmark, and that his wife is tattooed by my own artist, Daniel DiMattia of Belgium. There's a great passage in the article where he describes how his wife views her tattoos:

When I asked what she thought about herself on the other side of the needle, she explained that her tattoo did not change her, but was an indelible expression of her journey toward her authentic self. She sees her tattoo as an outward mark of an inward journey, accessing a part of her self that had always been there. I asked her how this step along her journey made her feel and she replied, to my surprise, "Fierce!"
Fierce, indeed. More tattoo images in the article's photo slideshow.

floral tattoo.jpg Tattoo by Daniel DiMattia.

[Many thanks to David G. for the link!]
04:40 PM
FB_JuneFreeBagPromotion.jpgGot another Sullen Clothing contest for y'all and this one is extra awesome. I have two of their bags to give away:  the Hurt Locker Dufflebag, a super-sturdy, footed carryall with padded shoulder strap, and interior & exterior pockets, worth $60; and we also have the Metal Handbag, a vegan-friendly, faux leather shoulder bag, rock-n-roll studded, also footed and with interior & exterior pockets, worth $60.

Two people will be picked next Monday, the 11th, to win the free bags. BUT the bags are also free for those who spend over $120 on Sullen merch through June.

Ok, as usual, here's how to play: Two winners will be selected randomly from those who comment -- any love note will do -- on this post in our Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook or hitting up @NeedlesandSins on Twitter. On June 11th, we'll put all the names of the commenters into Randomized.com will pick the winners.

Good luck!
11:03 AM

The guys at Ronink Films in Spain have another great tattoo video out, just like their one on True Love Tattoo in Madrid. Check their film short on Unity Tattoo in Granada, which offers a beautiful look into the city, the studio and the work of a talented crew of artists.

See more of their tattoo portfolios here.

juanma_vasquez.jpgTattoo by Juanma Vasquez

david snachez.jpgTattoo by David Sanchez

david ramirez tattoo.jpgTattoo by David Ramirez
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