For an absolutely fantastic look at ATL's tattoo scene, check Hypebeast's The Atlanta Project: Navigating through Tattoo Culture.
The film features tattooers Miya Bailey, Jason Kelly, Russ Abbott, Keet D'arms, and Eddie Stacey -- renowned artists working in various styles -- and takes the viewers into their studios as the artists discuss the city's tattoo community. It's a great watch, and although I wish the experience of at least one woman tattooer was included, these artists all have some great insight into the dynamic art scene in Atlanta and share that energy in a really engaging way.
Here are some tattoo samples from Miya, Jason, Russ, Keet and Eddie below. Oh, and if you haven't checked it yet, Miya's documentary on professional black tattoo artists in America -- Color Outside the Lines -- is a must watch as well.
Russ Abbott tattoo above.
Miya Bailey tattoo above.
Keet D'arms tattoo above.
Jason Kelly tattoo above.
Eddie Stacey tattoo above.
We're giant fans of Atlanta metal-outfit Mastodon here at the Needles and Sins Compound - or, at the very least, Marisa is very patient and attends all of their local concerts with me - so I was quite a bit tickled when I saw guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds as a mayoral candidate in this advertisement for Liberty Tattoo.
It's also great to see that he doesn't mind mocking his tribal facial-tattoo (which, I've just learned has it's own facebook page!).
[H/T to Metal Sucks]
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.
A top tattooer specializing in photorealism, Tony Mancia, is captured up-close and in detail in this great video, also embedded below, produced by Steadfast Videos. It's a well produced, tight documentation of Tony's process in creating this "Pride & Envy" tattoo. It's particularly interesting for those who want to check Tony's technique -- you can get a glimpse of the needle configurations, how the ink is put in skin, the highlights and color effects, and other ingredients in making this really strong tattoo.
Find more of Tony's work at Manciatattoos.com. His private studio is located in Inman Park, Atlanta, GA; however, he's often on the road. Check his schedule here.
And find more of Steadfast's videos on Vimeo here.
In 2009, Miguel Collins interviewed Miya Bailey, tattooist, painter and co-founder of Atlanta's City of Ink. It remains one of our most popular posts, particularly because it dispels a lot of myths about tattoos and people of color. In their Q & A, Miya explains that, yes, you can put color in dark skin, but no, don't think you need to drill it in there. He also talks about his difficulties getting an apprenticeship as a black artist, what he's taught his own apprentices in turn, the relationship between tattooing and fine art, as well as the business behind running a successful shop. It's a great read.
Since that interview, Miya has been working on a film, with director Artemus Jenkins, on the experiences of professional black tattoo artists across the US:
Color Outside the Lines is one of the first of its kind to tackle the issue of race in the tattoo community. It does so in a way that is at times serious and at other times really funny; however, the film is informative and engaging throughout. [I had the pleasure of seeing a preview at the Complex Mag screening.] The documentary is not yet released -- they are entertaining offers and looking for the right distributor -- but you can get the feel of it from the trailer.
My own Q&A with Miya about the film and his art will be in an upcoming issue of Inked magazine. You can also check Miya out on Blogspot, Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
UPDATE: For an excerpt on my Inked interview with Miya, check out this post.
It's no secret that black artists are under-represented in tattoo media, but there is film in the making that seeks to remedy that. "Color Outside the Lines: A Tattoo Documentary" is a documentary by Artemus Jenkins and City of Ink's Miya Bailey with the goal of educating people about the possibilities of fine tattoo art and the skilled artists behind it. Here's more:
The film highlights the history of black tattoo culture and how it began in the south despite a heavily segregated climate for black artists seeking entry. We cover signature styles and how those styles have developed and influenced newer artists over the years. Tattooing in the media is another important aspect, as it is the biggest factor of how the cultures influence has spread. It is no secret that entertainers and athletes dictate the trends younger generations pick up on and tattooing is no different. What is suprising is despite the money these cultural icons have, some of their work is no better than the kid who got his in a basement down the street from his house. This further deludes the public as to what great artwork looks like and what is available to everyday people.
The film is still in production and set to be released early next year but they need help raising money for further filming and post production. More details on how you can contribute on their Kickstarter page.
For more discussion on tattooing in the black community, read Miguel's interviews with Miya Bailey and Roni Zulu.
[Via the wonderful InkButter blog.]
Lena from Ink & Dagger Tattoo Parlour in Atlanta sent us this video of owner Russ Abbott tattooing a full sleeve on Adam Machin of The Tattoo Company in Machester, UK. As they note on their blog -- with lots of exclamation points -- Adam sat for a total of 24 hours [!!!] over a three day period. [I'm ashamed for whining about my last 7+hour tattoo session.]
The video above shows the process from initial design to final delirium. Check it.
Atlanta's Corey Davis wears a lot of labels: tattoo artist, painter, designer, marketing maven, musician, and more recently, filmmaker.
The renaissance man has created a series called Corey Davis Was Here: Somewhere Over the Pond, which are intimate video vignettes that follow Corey and the City of Ink crew as they travel to Europe and experience its art and culture. Part 1 (video above) takes off with a sleep-deprived landing in London and then it's off to the tattoo convention at Tobacco Docks. Not every episode is tattoo-centric, however; rather, they are travelogues as seen through the lens of tattooists.
Check the rest of the episodes on Creative Control TV. I'm diggin the CC media platform that houses programs on everything from gospel, to skateboarding, to tattoo culture -- all with unique perspectives from storytellers who do in fact keep creative control over all content and production. For real.
For more on Corey, read his news page or follow his magazine Greedmont Park.
For more on City of Ink's Miya Bailey, read Miguel's interview with Miya from last summer where they discuss art, race, and putting vibrant color tattoos on black skin.
Photo by Rachel Bodenstein
While the word "Tats" normally tempts my gag reflex, it is easily allayed with tattooed eye candy like those above. They're cast members in a new theater production about tattoos entitled Tats: The Experience.
Writers Kat Reynolds and Colleen Hammond Whitmore have created a play, which includes music, dance, and puppetry, where the main characters are tattoos.
Daniel Guyton in Access Atlanta previews tomorrow's opening at the Woodruff Arts Center:
"The play (though, truthfully, it is much more of an event than a play) primarily follows Mattie, along with Len, Dinah, Nash, Ansley, Sue and more, as they explore the motivations, causes, feelings, and reactions to the body art which they, or their friends have obtained. While the individual tattoos and body art are the primary characters here (make no mistake, this is NOT Death of a Salesman), the script still manages to follow (believably, heartwarmingly, and hilariously at times), the stories of 16 characters (all played by 7 actors), who have (or have witnessed) said tattoos. [...] As I read through the script, I laughed, I grew thoughtful, I felt genuine sympathy, and I found myself understanding and accepting tattoos in a way I had never thought before."I know, it sounds corny, but I'm reserving judgment until I see the play myself; hopefully; it will come to NYC.
The real problem for people who truly love tattoos and are heavily tattooed is that not every tattoo has to be an epic tale. You can simply want a tattoo for beauty, just because you like it. Art for art's sake.
Yet, those who only know tattoos from TV have quite a different picture. In every reality tattoo show, there must be drama and ethos behind a tattoo. I understand you need this for TV, but it doesn't make it "reality." The biggest complaint I hear from tattooists today is this:
"Why do I need to hear clients talk about their dead dogs or why daddy didn't love them? You should come to a tattoo studio for art, not therapy."
In fact, "tats" don't need a story. But maybe it will still make a good show. At least there are pretty actors to ogle.
The first performance is tomorrow at 7:30 PM and tickets are only $15 each. For my Atlanta friends reading: if you go, hit me up and let me know what you thought.
I had a chance to talk to Miya Bailey at the Tattoos For a Cure Convention in Los Angeles back in April. Miya, with Tuki Carter, have built Atlanta's City of Ink Tattoo into a household name in the city, and garnered a well deserved rep beyond. Here's how the conversation went...
I've been tattooing since '93.
How did you start out, was it an organic process?
It started out, first, because of poverty. I was living in the projects. I had a baby. I was a father. I was really trying to make a way for my children.
So what I did, like anybody from the hood, I started to do it the home way, but I knew I couldn't get past hood money doing it that way. I knew I was a businessman by nature so I decided to follow the right path and get an apprenticeship, which was hard in the early '90's -- it was '93 so trying to find an apprenticeship took a long time. I researched a couple of shops and ended up West End Tattoo.
How did you choose that shop?
I wasn't choosing it. I went down the phone book in alphabetical order and was denied down to the W's.
Almost 3 years. From Julia [Alponsio, formerly of West End], I learned the aspects of sterilization, professional tattooing and also the business aspect. I believe that you can be a talented artist, but if you have no business sense, you're not really going to make it.
How did your experiences as an apprentice affect how you choose your apprentices now?
My apprenticeship was hard. For my shop, I like competition; everyone wants to feel that they are the best artist. The way to prove that you're the best artist is to outdo the next person. That's what I try to instill in my apprentices.
Tuki and I learned tattoo from bikers, old school bikers, so we had to learn the traditional way and learn the aspect of old school biker culture. The shop was run by the Outcasts Biker gang.
The owner of the shop was female property of the Outcasts Biker club; therefore, everyone in the club was our boss, her husband was our boss also. So we learned and worked a lot.
I assume these were white boys?
When I lived in Asheville, NC, I tattooed mostly white clientele. When I moved to Atlanta, which is a mostly black city, I tattooed all blacks. The actual truth is the Outcasts Biker Gang is a black biker gang. Atlanta is a chocolate city.
I didn't have much experience tattooing white skin until I started to develop my own style in the early 90s. A lot of people don't know this but I was into the Gothic style, you know, zombies and dark imagery.
This was the era of Paul Booth, and anything that Paul Booth was doing at the time, everyone followed.
Let's talk about your inspiration for painting as well. What came first: the tattooing or the painting?
I've been drawing all my life. I'm an illustrator first; I've been doing illustrations since I was a kid. The earliest drawing I have is from '79 -- it's recognizable, you can tell what it was even though I was young. I started painting in '97, and professionally tattooing in '94.
Is there any connection between your painting and your tattooing?
No, with tattooing I have to listen to someone else's ideas and be inspired by them. I have a lot of clients who say, "I just want you to do anything," but you can't really just do anything. I might be in the mood to do a bunny rabbit on somebody, you know, then they are like "I didn't have that in mind." So you have to see the personality -- it has to spark something in me; I have to be inspired by the client. They have to move me some way.
In painting, I'm not thinking about business. In tattooing, I'm thinking about mass appeal -- how other tattooists are going to react to the tattoo. I'm thinking of everyone else except myself. In painting, I'm only thinking about myself, not about sales, the message. I'm not worried about anything; it's just a free flowing of my life and my culture. The life I live, that's my paintings. I see painting as my vacation from tattooing.
I look at tattooing as more as more of a 50/50 of business and art. In painting, I take the business aspect out of it: it's raw pure art.
In Atlanta do you have a lot of contact with other artists? Is there a lot of collaboration.
The tattoo shops really don't collab because of the business aspects to it, but the artists know each other. The tattoo community in Atlanta is pretty close knit. We're cool with the shop that me and Tuki started in. We're cool with all of our apprentices. We paid our dues, we didn't burn any bridges, and we didn't step on anybody's toes. We created our own lane, so everybody gotta have to respect that, unless you're just a real hater. We are cool with all the artists that come to our art shows.
So you have art shows at the City of Ink?
It's an art gallery first and foremost. We do a new show every month. The next is the Corey Davis solo show.
We open up to anybody; we're the only art gallery in Atlanta that doesn't ask for a percentage of the sales. Our goal is to really start a movement where the artists can make money and stop undercutting other artists. My number one goal is to show that artists can be millionaires.
The more freedom you have, the better artwork you have. A lot of times, when an artist is not worried about paying that phone bill, that power bill, you can create what's real and what's raw. In Europe, they respond to artists; they pay artists to be artists. In America, the lack of art is really bad.
Quincy Jones said we don't have an ambassador of arts and music. I think we need one.
In Atlanta is there a black tattoo scene?
We are the black tattoo scene, period. We got another couple of artists, but they all started from one shop. The Atlanta tattoo culture started in West End [...] It's changing now, but in the early 90's, there were no other black shops in Atlanta.
Personally, I think it's totally opposite than tattooing white skin -- it's a completely opposite thing. It's like going to any beauty salon: a white woman would get a perm one way, a black woman will get a perm a different way. You can't use the same methods you would when your tattooing white skin.
If you're a tattoo artist and you master black skin, you can easily move over to white skin. But just because you're good on white skin, doesn't mean you can do just anything on black skin. It's surgery and art, 50/50.
Are there any colors you stay away from?
No, I don't believe in that color thing. You know how they say black skin is limited in colors, but no, it's all about how you slow down -- and who's training you. You know we learned through trial and error at City of Ink. Every artist, we master each color one at a time. The same way you apply yellow, you wouldn't apply purple; the way you apply greens, you won't apply reds. We learn each color in.
On white skin, you can work a lot of colors the same way. On black skin, if you're using yellow, you have to ease up a little bit. A lot of people think you have to drill it in, but if you soften up a little bit, you might have a better result.
So it's about tuning your machine as well?
Fine tune your machine and you're good to go. That's what it's about. Your tattoo machine and working the inks that you got. It's not all about the name brand of the ink and all this stuff. It's all about who's training you and how you take your time doing it.
Then it's a longer time to put the tattoo in, you can't rush through it?
You can't rush through it because it will show. It will show.
We talked about the art, now let's talk about the business of tattooing. Many tattoo artists aren't as organized as you are or have your managerial skills. Do you put a lot of thought into this?
I'm really big on leadership, and I'm really big on business. When me and Tuki were putting City of Ink together, my mind state was Barry Gordy, you know how Barry Gordy put Motown together. He groomed his artists, he showed them how to market, he showed them how to dress, he showed them everything.
Tuki is a fashion icon in Atlanta, and he started a whole culture of how people dress in Atlanta. So I thought that would be a good way to market our artists, with a little of Tuki's fashion sense to give an image to the shop. With that image, you can promote it.
With us its not just an [art] apprenticeship about tattoos, we teach all aspects of business. Number one: it's about business. Number 2: it's about appearances and how you carry yourself. A lot of people don't know that we all had dreadlocks, we were all wild. That image scared a lot of people off, so we decided to all cut our hair off. It was a business decision.
We changed the location. We changed the name of the shop [previously, Prophet Art]. People were scared of the word "prophet" so we changed it to City of Ink, based on the movie City of God.
You fine tuned your business model to the masses.
To promote it there is nothing wrong with that; to me, tattooing is commercial now anyway. I didn't want to make it so commercialized that other tattoo artists got mad at me but I wanted to do it before another shop did.
The number one thing is that you tattoo because you love it, but you still have to make money.
We are learning as we go; we haven't mastered everything yet, but we haven't reached a million dollars yet either. We want to inspire other people in other cities that you can be an artist and not be a "starving artist." We want to destroy that whole image of the starving artist. I think artists should make the same money as athletes. We use our minds and bodies. I just think we should make more money than football players and basketball players. That's just my opinion.
What is next for City of Ink?
Next is dropping this Hollyweerd album. It's Tuki and his group. It's a whole culture, it's a lifestyle, it's music, it's fashion, it's art, it's business -- it's all these aspects of being free, and freedom is our number one message.