June 2013 Archives

09:34 AM
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One of my favorite tattooists to follow on Instagram is Chad Koeplinger, but not simply because he puts on some of the boldest and strongest tattoos around, but also because, in between his tattoo pix, are mouth watering meals, often from the swankest of restaurants. His refined taste buds have become just as known as his tattoo skills, and so FirstWeFeast.com featured Chad Koeplinger's 10 Best Meals of 2013 (So Far).

Here's a taste from the article intro:

Consider Chad the ink-slinging Anthony Bourdain. Fellow tattooer BJ Betts calls him "the king of $500 solo meals." His quest for the best dining experiences is matched by only a few, and worthy of envy by all.

Crushing all pedestrian foodie dreams, here are the best meals Koeplinger's consumed thus far in 2013, from Nepal to his new home of Napa.
It's a great read and already has me trying to make reservations at Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse. Check all ten favorites here.

And for more on Chad's tattoo work, such as these pieces below, find him on Facebook as well as on Instagram (@chadkoeplinger).

[Thanks to Nick Schonberger for the link.]

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09:04 AM
the locust flyer A.jpgNext Sunday, July 7th, is the opening of Atom Moore's photographic exhibition "The Locust" at Sacred Gallery in SoHo NYC. It's a very personal exhibit in which Atom's photos tell a story of his friendship with a well known and beloved member of the body modification community, Adam Aries, and honors Adam's life, which was cut too short in 2011. Here's more info on the show from Sacred:

Atom Moore began photographing Adam Aries, also known as Zid, a decade ago. Zid was in many ways larger than life. His interests were not mainstream and he challenged many social norms. His gritty but beautiful look matched his straightforward attitude toward the world. Zid embodied the definition of living life the way you see fit.

Zid passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on March 22nd, 2011. In the wake of this tragedy, Atom has compiled a body of work from throughout their years making photographs together.

While Zid is no longer alive, his vivid spirit remains, both in these photographs and in the hearts and minds of the people who knew him. His unusual life touched many people, including his loving parents, who chose to remember him by getting a replica of his iconic locust tattoo. Atom is proud to share the unique and beautiful spirit of Zid through his photographs.
Exhibition runs from July 7th - 31st. Hope to see you there and celebrate a life fully lived.
09:10 AM
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This past weekend, while taking in the sights of all the beautiful freaks at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, Brian & I noticed something a little less fabulous:  tattooed skin on parade goers becoming sun burnt as we all partied under the strong rays for hours. And many tattoos looked like they'd never seen a bottle of sunscreen before.

We hear it from our tattooists all the time:  "protect your investment," "keep it out of the sun to keep it looking new longer," "don't make my work look bad--wear sunscreen!"

But slathering on creams and sprays every day takes time. It can be greasy. The protective film may mask the brilliant colors and bold blacks underneath. And the reapplying it...yeah, it's a pain. What's the alternative, however?

Beyond faded tattoos, the greater concern is skin cancer. And heavily tattooed people need to be extra vigilant because melanoma can be hard to detect among our artwork.

To be clear, tattoos do NOT cause skin cancer. Once in a while you'll see some bogus puff piece in the news citing statistics about more and more tattooed young people with melanoma. But that's just because more young people in general are getting skin cancer.

Nevertheless, tattooed people are at a greater risk because the signs of melanoma may be masked.

My friend Kathleen, a beautiful tattooed redhead, was diagnosed earlier this year with melanoma. Read her post on her experience, which has some great links on what to look for and how to prevent it.

A few weeks ago, there was a CBS News story on tattoos masking melanoma, in which the tattoos on those featured in the piece partially covered moles, making the melanoma difficult to detect. The CBS story has a bit of a negative slant to it, but it is a good reminder to protect the investment in our overall well being, and not just our tattoos.

So, slather on the sunscreen -- and often. Get regular skin checks by your dermatologist. And stay beautiful and healthy.
09:06 AM
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Despite tattooing being an ancient art that spans millennia, there are indeed tattoo "trends" whereby certain motifs or just general styles are highly popular at a given time, such as 90s Neotribal or color realism portraits of Gwen Stefani in the early 2000s.

In a cool twist to exploring what are popular contemporary tattoo designs today, the National Post published "The Illustrated Guide to Tattoo Trends Across Canada." It's a fun piece in which tattooers across Canada were asked what they get asked to tattoo most, and then Andrew Barr illustrated them.

For example, a number of artists mentioned the "feathers-turning-into-bird silhouettes" (shown above), which I've been seeing myself everywhere. In fact, I just did a quick Google image search of "feathers turning into birds tattoo" and all of these came up. Then there are the ubiquitous Heath Ledger as the Joker tattoos, and the side finger tattoos (Thanks, Rihanna!).

It would be great if someone would really delve into what makes certain images so popular that they become full-on trends; meanwhile, the NP article is a quick and cute read.
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01:04 PM
Editor Alice Snape brings us the third installment of her marvelous tattoo magazine, Things & Ink where the theme is all about love, baby! In her words:

The issue is all about love, in all it's glorious forms. It explores love between lovers, friends and family, passion and romance throughout history. Paralleling love as an emotion with a love for tattoos. There's also an in-depth interview with Rachel [Baldwin], an exclusive competition to win an original by the cover star herself, plus lots more...

They've also put together a wonderful behind-the-scenes video of Rachel's cover-shoot (which is scored to a NoFX tune so, obviously, I'm pretty giddy about that fact alone).

Things & Ink pride themselves on their tagline: "Embracing Female Tattoo Culture," but I personally find the magazine to be gender-neutral - or in the words of the Slinky jingle: "It's fun for a girl and a boy!" Everything from the articles to the paper-stock to the typography are a pleasure to read, hold and view.

More importantly: they eschew what, in my opinion, is the blatant misogyny of the majority of tattoo magazines. When I pick up a tattoo magazine, I want to see great features on tattooing and images of great tattoos. If I wanted to see images of naked, minimally-tattooed women in provocative poses, well, that's what my subscription to Playboy is for; and to be honest, I only read that for the articles. (No, seriously, I swear).

Perhaps that's what "Embracing Female Tattoo Culture" actually means: we're here to appreciate the art, not objectify the person wearing it. If so, it's a sentiment that I strongly support and I'm glad that it's done so through such a quality product; and it's also a sentiment from which other publishers in the industry could certainly learn a lesson.

So, I tip my Vassar College cap to everyone involved with Things & Ink on a job well done and encourage everyone of all genders out there to dive into this magazine!

Click here to get your own copy and be sure to follow them on twitter.

[We've previously written about Things & Ink magazine here and here]
08:55 AM
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Portrait of Tennessee Dave James by Shawn Barber.

Yesterday, the tattoo community lost another great legend, Tennessee Dave James. I read about his passing from Baba Austin online, owner of Vintage Tattoo Art Parlor in LA, where Dave made his home in the recent years of his long tattoo history. He was a mentor and father figure, not just to Baba, but to so many artists. Laid back, with a gift of storytelling, Tennessee Dave James put on a strong tattoo. His tattoo calling card was his little outhouse tattoo design. If you find it inscribed on one of the many bodies around the world, you know that collector has a good Tennessee Dave story. 

To read more about Tennessee Dave's incredible stories, check this extensive Skin & Ink Q & A from 1998, with his tales of being tattooed at 15 in the fifties to tattoo turf wars to the Greek Mafia.

You can also read tributes to Dave on his Facebook page.
09:09 AM
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Today is the release of Ed Hardy's memoir "Wear Your Dreams: My Life in Tattoos," written with best selling author Joel Selvin. It is not just a story about one tattooist's life. It is an ode to the art of tattooing, its philosophy, and its culture.

There have been many stories and interviews with the man who forever changed tattooing. [I've interviewed him myself for Inked mag, which you can read here.] How he would draw tattoos on neighborhood kids as a child with eyeliner. His time at the Art Institute in San Francisco, which established the fine art basis that translated into his tattoo work, and his time in Japan, which changed his whole mindset on what a tattoo can be. The first tattoo conventions. His books. His paintings. His brand. They are all in there, with so much more. However, they are pulled together in a way that makes you feel that you are immersed in a great conversation, and you walk away, not just knowing about the life of another person, but knowing a bit more about yourself.

Ed achieves this in the way he weaves tattoo philosophy within his own story. He doesn't hit you over the head with anything like, "This is what tattoos are about." In fact, he clearly states, "I don't know why people get tattoos"; but he then adds, "but I do think people get tattoos for themselves, first." And he goes on to explain his thoughts on why this is a very personal art and what it does for people. He even notes a time when a sailor came into his shop in San Diego, and Ed said to him, "Who did the fucked up eagle on you?"  As he said this, Ed knew that he was wrong; that it was this sailor's favorite tattoo and he had no right to be critical. This passage was also a reminder to keep my own tattoo snobbery in check.

He also talks about "the magic" of tattooing:

Like Lyle Tuttle always says, "tattoo" is a magic word. It hits people in a way that no other visual medium does. And it is not simply visual, but visceral. Everybody has an opinion about it and everybody has a gut reaction. And because they are permanent, tattoo raise all these issues about life and death.
Read more on Ed's life in "Wear Your Dreams: My Life in Tattoos."

Ed will be doing readings and book signings in New York, California and Hawaii. He kicks off the book tour today in Manhattan at 6pm at Barnes & Noble on 59 Warren Street in Tribeca.  Check his full schedule here.
08:38 AM
pazyryk tattoo.jpgLast year, we wrote about the Pazyryk Mummy with 2,500 Year Old Tattoos, aka the "Altai Princess," who was being returned to her home in the Altai Republic to be on display for public view.  

The "princess" was discovered in 1993 by Dr. Natalia Polosmak, and largely kept at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk, preserved by the same scientists who who preserve the body of Lenin. The mummified woman was buried among others, including two tattooed men who also had intricate tattoos. Dr. Polosmak was quoted in The Siberian Times stating, "Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated, and the most beautiful. More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps - but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks." [See the tattoos and drawings below.]

The artistry and beauty of these tattoos have naturally inspired today's tattooists.

Colin Dale, of Skin & Bone Tattoo in Copenhagen, Denmark, recently tattooed this Pazyryk-inspired work (with his own twist) -- and he did so by hand, not machine. The work won second place for Female Ornamental at the St. Petersburg Convention.  The collector is a Russian anthropology student in St. Petersburg, which is also home to the Hermitage Museum, where other Pazyryk Mummies are on display. [You can also see photos and drawings of the tattoos on the Hermitage site.]  

Colin told me that another Pazyryk/Scythian piece was beautifully done at last year's Copenhagen Ink Fest by Kai Uwe Faust at Kunsten pa Kroppen. Photos (some of which are not safe for work) can be found here.

I think these contemporary interpretations of ancient tattoos are a testament to the everlasting power of the art form. And they just look amazingly cool.

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09:18 AM
Happy Lizardman Day!

I am told that this is how we are to celebrate all that tattooed green goodness:
  • Greet everyone with "Happy Lizardman Day!" all day on June 12th
  • Send Lizardman Day cards - make your own or modify existing ones
  • Change your facebook/twitter/whatever profile pic to one of you & Lizardman - don't have one, just photoshop it
  • Draw forked tongues on the faces on your money and add thelizardman.com to it
  • Paint or costume yourself to look like The Lizardman
  • Stay home from work or school and throw a Lizardman Day party

The day culminates with a world wide toast at 11:57pm CST (time of Lizardman's birth!).

Now go forth and scare some children!


Lizardman, Brian & I at Coney Island.
08:32 AM
Normally, when I get a press release about "free tattoos," I'm wary, as per Sailor Jerry's famed maxim: "Good work ain't cheap. Cheap work ain't good." But when the tattoos are Sailor Jerry's own flash, timeless and powerful, then I have to share the news.

Tomorrow, June 12th, is the 40th anniversary of Sailor Jerry's passing, and to celebrate his life, top tattooers across the US will be offering free tattoos of iconic Sailor Jerry art in the "102 Tattoos for 102 Years of a Legend" campaign. The cities include NYC, LA, New Orleans, Ybor City, Chicago, Austin, Denver, Jersey City & Secaucus. See details on each city here.

Some venues will be making you "Aim for your ink"; that is, you'll have to throw a dart on a board of Sailor Jerry flash and wherever it lands, that's the tattoo you'll get. So ya better practice your throw. And as usual, there will be Sailor Jerry Rum on hand.

Sailor Jerry Day events are also taking place across the UK in London, Brighton, Edinburgh and Manchester, where 40 Sailor Jerry fans will be able to get tattooed for just 12BP. And again, there will be rum.

For more, check the Sailor Jerry US Facebook page and UK Facebook page.

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09:01 AM
Jun Cha tattoo 1.jpgJun Cha tattoo 2.jpgWe've been seeing a lot of "pop-up" tattoo studios from renowned artists around the world, in which art spaces are constructed to present the tattooers' work, often before the eyes of the art and design community. Almost like a guest spot, but with a spotlight.

LA-based tattooist Jun Cha recently worked a 14-day pop-up tattoo studio in Paris, and filmmaker Santiago Arbelaez captured that trip. That footage is beautifully put together in the video below.  The video shows Jun working on a sleeve (shown above in the first image) that best demonstrates his style, which melds black & grey fine line with classical and Renaissance art. Jun talks about his influences in the video, and he also offers some background about how he came to tattooing at the young age of 16 and progressed from there into a sought-after tattooist.  There are also wonderful Paris street and museum scenes as well. A great 4-minute break to add some beauty to your day.  

Check more of Jun's work online:

08:46 AM

When I read "tattoo secrets revealed" on CNN, I kinda groaned. These quick and cutesy news clips on tattoos tend to all be the same...BUT when I watched it, I found that our friends over at the beautiful 13 Roses Tattoo Parlor in Atlanta, Georgia were the artists sharing the shop talk, so I knew it would be good. The video is super fun, especially learning about the type of tattoos pious preachers are getting these days! At just a minute and a half, it's worth the click.

Check the tattoo work of the 13 Roses Tattoo artists on their site and on Facebook.
09:09 AM
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Particularly for those, like myself, with a passion for ornamental tattoos, the carved skulls of Portland-based artist Jason Borders are incredibly engaging, with their hypnotic patterns and beautiful lines. They're the ultimate in postmortem adornment.

Using a dremel, akin to using a tattoo machine, Jason approaches his work on bone through "personal subliminal exploration," adding in his artist statement, "my work reveals the blurred line between imagination and reality, animal and human, life and death."

A number of these works are available for sale at Paxton Gate in San Francisco and their online store, such as the Dremel Drill Bull Scapula for $275 or the Dremel Dril Horse Skull for $1,500, among others.

Also, check Jason's work in other mediums, which also offer a nod to tribal tattoo culture.
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09:06 AM
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The latest issue of Inked magazine has one of the most favorite interviews I have ever done: a Q & A with the inimitable tattoo legend Spider Webb. I have interviewed Spider before, and every time, there's another fantastic story I have never heard before -- and I want our talks to go on for as long as he doesn't get bored with me, but then there's that limited magazine word count in which only the highlights get put into the article. With Spider, every word is a highlight.

So what I've done is taken an excerpt from the article and put it below. Following that, you can read more and get another crazy tale -- about grave robbing, porn star Annie Sprinkle and more -- which wasn't published.

Learn more about Spider at Spiderwebbtattoo.com

spider webb tattoo 2.jpgFrom Inked magazine:

Spider Webb, born Joseph O'Sullivan, is considered one of the most important people in contemporary tattoo history. With more than 50 years in the industry, he has legitimized tattooing as an art form, helping to bring it into galleries, museums, and even Christie's auction house, where a tattoo by Spider Webb was deemed "priceless." He fought to legalize tattooing in New York City after it was banned in the '60s by tattooing on the steps of museums. He expanded what some viewed as the limitations of tattooing through his conceptual art pieces and tattoo performances. And he's done all this with humor, flair, and mischief. Spider Webb, who holds a master's degree in fine arts, continues to create art, tattoos, tattoo machines,and trouble at his tattoo museum in Charlotte, NC. You'll also find him at tattoo shows and galleries around the world.

You've been bringing tattoo art into fine art galleries since the '70s. You're particularly known for your conceptual art pieces. How did that get started?

How it all happened was a girl was interviewing me for a magazine, and she said, "Spider, what are the limitations of tattooing?" Being a big fucking know-it-all, I said that it's the size of the human body; that's the limitation. Then after I saw the interview in print, I thought, What kind of bullshit is this? What limitations? We have to get rid of limitations. So I thought to use a whole bunch of people in X 1000. I tattooed one X on 1,000 people, with a big X on the last person made up of 999 Xs to complete a conceptual piece. ... Then I started to do the Tattoo Vampire. It's a conceptual piece with just two simple dots on your neck. I've been doing that act for 30 years all over the world, from Studio 54 to the sewers of Paris, in Gracie Mansion, and in museums and galleries. It's a great show because there's sex, blood, kiss- ing, and you get to live forever. It's a very beautiful performance. Then I thought to myself that what would be real cool is if I become cupid and just tattoo one dot. So it's the same as the vampire act except I use an arrow and I make one dot for love, usually on a girl, but on men too-- and there'll be the fake blood and a breast exposed. That's what every- one wants, and I give it to them.

What other conceptual pieces have you done?

Do you remember Pulsating Paula? She was one of the photographers when they first started tattoo magazines. She's a biker girl. She's great. I tattooed her clitoris one time with a monkey tooth I pulled out of an alligator's skull. She was one of the first people I did the cupid tattoo on. Now I'm thinking to myself, What am I going to do next? I know what I'll do. I'll become the Invisible Man. And that's what I did. So I started to do the Unwanted Tattoo. I would be invisible. I wouldn't even be there. The first fucking thing I did was I took my doorbell apart, and I took out the black piece that you push to ring the bell, and I put in a piece of an ink an and a thumb tack. Then the mailman of all people rings my bell and he tattoos his thumb. I said, "Oh shit, that's fucking cool." Then I started to make other ones. I made the unwanted tattoo toilet seat. Then I did the greatest one of all: the gas pump. A guy tattoos his hand when he squeezes the thing. A lot of these things I had to rig up a video camera because I don't want to be there when the guy or girl freaks out. They think they can wash it off but they can't. There's a lot of humor in tattooing--people who don't want it, not wanting what I'm giving that day. Isn't that cool? [Laughs.] Children laugh about 2,000 times a day, and most adults laugh about 40 or 50. People are so afraid. I think tattoos take a little bit of fear away. Makes them a little stronger.

Read more from the article here. Keep reading for an unpublished Spider story.
10:43 PM
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Despite being the go-to source for celebrity tattoos, Mister Cartoon has remained true to his LA street roots, tattooing his signature black & grey style in the heart of Downtown's Skid Row -- at his aptly named Skid Row Tattoo studio -- as well as creating murals, apparel and merchandise, among countless projects, which you can read about on his site and blog.

In today's New York Post, Cartoon was featured, but not about tattooing Beyonce or Kobe, but about his favoitre hangouts in LA, in a street-styled travel piece, which is a good read. Here's a bit from it:

First stop is a spray-painted mural (246 S. Garey St., between Second and Third streets). It's Mister Cartoon's enormous, glorious tribute to Los Angeles, centerpieced by the Dodgers' logo and nodding to Day of the Dead, LA's famed freeways, Cartoon's iconic angry-clown graphics and, of course, a couple of sexy, scantily clad girls. "This is about me going out there and showing what I can do with spray paint while the sun beats down," Cartoon says of the project that took him two weeks to complete and was totally freestyled. "This was about graffiti and crushing and letting people know that I still have it."
On "date night," when Mister Cartoon wants to get busy with Mrs. Cartoon, he often opts to kick it at the Standard, Downtown LA (550 Flower St., 213-892-8080, standardhotels.com). "People who work there have sleeves of tattoos," marvels Cartoon. "Go to the Four Seasons and they're completely stiffed out. My wife and I like to meet at the rooftop bar here and pretend that we don't know each other. Maybe we sit in one of the cool, little pods together. Then if I play my cards right . . ." His voice trails off, but his smile tells all.
Read more of Cartoon's LA picks here.

And if you want to learn more of about the artist himself, check this video (below) where Cartoon talks about his start in tattooing, his low rider obsession and staying true to his crew.

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