Photos above from the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival in Austin by Brian Grosz.
I used to joke that, every ten seconds, a tattoo convention takes place around the world; these days it seems more like a reality. And that's good and bad. The good: access to artists and tattoo-related events in areas that normally would not have had that opportunity in the past. [For example, the super-fun Pagoda City City Tattoo Fest in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania.] The bad: top artists spread thin over different events, leaving convention organizers to fill booths with less-than-stellar tattooers. Plus, to me, it just feels less like a family freak show.
That said, I always enjoy seeing what goes down at the different shows, and over the past couple weeks, there were some big ones: the DC Tattoo Expo, Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival, and Tattoo Week Rio.
The most press went to DC Tattoo Expo, which is in its sixth year. DCist.com's coverage was the most interesting, adding some discussion to their slideshow (although I wish there were more photos of tattoos than of the many pin-up shots). There first big point was that the DC show is actually in Virginia because, as organizer Greg Piper explained, the capital has become "increasingly inhospitable to the tattoo industry." He says that this largely stems from the D.C. Department of Health's proposed Tattoo, Body Art, and Body-Piercing Facility Regulations, which puts forth some irrational rules (but are still under review). Here's more:
Issued last October, the proposal for additional regulation currently under consideration is the third version drafted by the DOH since 2013. Previous iterations faced vehement criticism and underwent revisions that eliminated provisions such as a mandatory 24-hour waiting period in advance of getting a tattoo.
DCist also interviewed Paul Roe of British Ink, who stated his belief that the current proposals were unfeasible logistically and could lead to unfair business practices, among other concerns; however, the article noted that Paul was confident that the proposals will ultimately be further revised. Read more here.
Also covering the DC expo, OnTapOnline.com has an extensive slideshow from the convention floor.
Mashable had fun at the expo, interviewing attendees for "Tattoo artists and enthusiasts talk about tattoo triumphs and regrets," which featured a number of our friends. In the article, Keith Lane shoots specific tattoo pieces and has people offer a story behind the work. For one, Gene Coffey (show below), who is a fantastic tattooer and wears some great work himself, talked about his first tattoo: "It was a skull; a small little one-inch skull on my arm. I got it when I
was twenty-four. I drew it myself and thought it was the coolest thing
ever...it's really not the coolest thing. It's not very cool at all,
actually." See more here.
This blog's own Brian Grosz sent us the Mashable link and also a few pics from the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival, shown at the top of this post. The 14th annual show, which took place this past weekend, was packed with artists, including some internationally renowned greats. The Lizardman performed all three days, among other entertainment, and there was some stiff competition during the tattoo contests. Brian took home a trophy for his work by Mike Rubendall. You can see Brian without his pants, alongside an equally pantsless Madd Huero, here.
You can also check out the action via Instagram hashtag #staroftexastattooartrevival.
So, while these weren't the only recent events, they offer an overview into tattoo gatherings today, which are getting bigger and bolder in their offerings. Again, good and bad. But at least there are pretty pictures.
One of the most sought-after tattoo artists for the "watercolor" abstract style of tattooing is our friend Gene Coffey, whom we last wrote about in March when this fabulous video profile by Snorri Sturluson was released.
Now, after 9 years working at Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn, Gene is opening up his own appointment-only tattoo atelier, Coffey Shop Tattoos. To celebrate, he's having an opening party this Thursday, September 3rd, from 7-10 pm and welcomes all to his Long Island City, Queens studio. Gene's neighbors, ASH Art & Space, will be having an opening of their latest exhibit, "Her Mojo," that night as well, so it's a way to get a double dose of art in one of NYC's hottest hoods. [More on the art show on Gene's blog.] In fact, Long Island City's art scene is what drew Gene to open Coffey Shop Tattoos there. The studio is just a few block from MoMa PS1 and the corpse of graffiti Mecca 5 Pointz.
As he did at Tattoo Culture, Gene will continue to book his appointments 3 months at a time. Currently, he is booked up through November 2015, and will open his books again November 1, 2015 for appointments from December 2015 - February 2016. You can email the shop November 1 and request a consultation form at that time.
I hope to see you at the opening party and art show this Thursday. Coffey Shop Tattoos is located at 21-36 44th Road,
Long Island City, NY 11101. [Subway E M G 7 to Court SQ - 23 St., 1 block away]
See more of Gene's work on Instagram.
I thoroughly enjoyed this Heartbeat NY video profile on Gene Coffey, resident artist of Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn, in which he shares his thoughts on originality, plagiarism, and finding one's own voice in tattooing, among other great discussions on the art.
Gene is just as adept in painting images with words as he is with a tattoo machine and with brushes. I love how he phrases his work as a remix of images and experiences said with a slightly different accent, and also how he explains how he came to develop his distinct tattoo style, in the vein of his fine artwork, with the encouragement of innovating French tattoo artists Noon and Loic (aka Xoil), who are regular guests at Tattoo Culture. Gene says that Noon advised him to take out every image in his portfolio that he no longer wanted to tattoo and just to leave those works that represented the type of work he wanted to take on going forward. He did so, and in the process, became a tattooer renowned for expanding the definition of what a "tattoo" is.
I also found myself nodding my head and saying Amen when he talked about "tattoo plagiarism" and finding copies of his custom tattoos. He shares that it's not just a copy of an image that someone is stealing, but all his life experiences that it took to make that tattoo.
Of course he says this in a much more quirky and interesting Gene Coffey way, so I recommend watching the full video, which was created by Snorri Sturluson.
Find more of Gene's tattoos on Instagram, and the Tattoo Culture site.
The greatest gift of this blog is getting messages from y'all sharing your own beautiful works of art and the stories behind them. Unlike what reality TV shows tell us, not every tattoo has to have some great deep meaning. Much of my own tattoos were done simply because I like the way they look. But surrounding the tattoo -- whether it be the process, the symbolism, the design, and even just what your mama said about it -- is, indeed, a story.
Fellow New Yorker, Elaine, sent me a message about how she arrived at her recent work of art and was gracious to let me share it with you.
Elaine, who is of Filipino heritage, had commissioned West Coast-based artist Christian Cabuay for her own original Baybayin calligraphy. Baybayin was the ancient written language of the Philippines prior to the Spanish arrival in the 16th century. Christian is an expert in Baybayin, and I highly recommend exploring his site for tutorials and further information. Interestingly, Christian has a Baybayin translator on his site, but it comes with the warning not to use it for tattoos, as "the program is accurate but it's only as good as what you enter." As in most general tattoo advice, it's best to get it done custom and by an expert.
With her custom calligraphy in hand, Elaine was looking for an artist to translate the design on her body. She found Black Tattoo Art and my writing on the Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon Tribe -- a group of people, largely based in the US, of Filipino ancestry, who are reviving Filipino tattoo traditions. The Tribe works with a number of tattooists around the world in translating the ancient tattoo patterns and writing on skin, and one studio they work with is Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn, NY.
Tattoo Culture's renowned resident artist, Gene Coffey, worked with Elaine to create her Baybayin tattoo, incorporating his trademark splatter and color swath, resulting in this wonderful work shown above, which Elaine is "over the moon about." I love hearing that!
In sharing her story, I wanted to convey that coming up with a work like Elaine's could often take time and a lot of research, but the result is worth every bit of it all.
View from the Keystone Lodge, and Johnny of 13 Roses Tattoo, Atlanta.
My trip to the Paradise Tattoo Gathering began even before my bags were packed. The party kicked off in beautiful Keystone, Colorado last Thursday, and I followed along in real time on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Most posted their images with #paradisetattoogathering so it was easy to follow. Check them here.
The photos highlighted the tattoos being created on the convention floor but also what was going on behind the doors of the many seminars -- like 3D works from Chet Zar's sculpture workshop, and portraits in progress from those lucky enough to get into Shawn Barber's sold-out painting class. And naturally there were VIP party pix. Horns-high group photos in various Instagram filters.
I flew out of NYC Friday afternoon. With enough frequent flyer miles, I scored a roomy business class seat. Once settled in for the flight, the grey-haired grandfather sitting next to me smiled and said, "I love your sleeves." Turns out his kids have sleeves of their own. We spent a good portion of our flight making fun of the freaks: the tattoo-free suits getting drunk off the free booze soon after take-off. But I guess I was the freak to some. Heavy tattoo work is not as common outside of coach, and I found myself having to answer (again) the question: What band are you in? Because, ya know, hot towelettes are only for tattooed hands with record deals.
But within hours, I was amongst our people at the Keystone Lodge, with tattoo's rock stars like Bob Tyrrell, Nick Baxter, Durb Morrison, Nikko, Noon, Jeff Gogue, Damon Conklin ... the list goes on. Check the full artist line-up.
Jeremiah Barba tattoo on Mr. Scary.
Throat tattoo by Tim Pangburn on the wonderful tattoo journalist Mary D'Aloisio.
The big buzz Friday afternoon was Adrian Lee's "Bloodwork: Bodies" exhibit. It is a stunning collection of backpieces and bodysuits created by 53 tattooers around the world and documented in meticulous detail. Adrian gave a talk about the work with a slideshow presentation and also signed copies of his must-have book.
The evening closed with a Drink and Draw party, compliments of Graceland Tattoo. Considering how Keystone's high elevation [9,280 feet] was messing with us, I gave props to those who could manage more than a couple of drinks. Lack of oxygen makes for lower bar tabs. I did find myself surrounded by three tattooists taking full advantage of altitude inebriation, and they suckered me in to judging a napkin art contest. There were a lot of animated penis drawings -- all artfully done of course.
Ashley's neck and backpiece by James Kern. Fantastic cover-up work.
Saturday was another full day of tattooing and seminars. One seminar that I found particularly interesting was "The not so secret secrets of the tattoo world" by Kris Richter of Beyond the Ink. The seminar (free to all with admission passes) focused on how to choose the right work and artist, and while beneficial to even long-time collectors, it was really a great primer for those new to the art and especially those trying to navigate the whole convention scene. One of the most popular seminars that day was James Kern's Advanced Cover-Ups For Tattooists. Artists completely packed the room to learn from and get critiqued by the cover-up guru himself. My Copyright, Trademark, and Licensing Seminar with John Kastelic followed James's class, and while far from packed, I had a blast talking tattoo law with a fabulous group of artists. [I was also honored to be included on the tattoo business panel Sunday night.]
Sunday rounded out with the completion of some large-scale tattoo works going on that weekend -- with so many fantastic artists from around the world, attendees took full advantage of the opportunity. But whether local or international, all tattoo artists working there had a reputation for excellence. This curating of tattoo talent is a key component of Gabe Ripley's events. You can't get a bad tattoo at Paradise.
Another component is community -- that friendly, laid-back vibe throughout the show where you feel you are a part of something, kinda like the Island of Misfit Toys except on a mountain and the dolls all look like Tim Burton creations.
We all closed down the lounge of the Keystone Lodge that Sunday night/Monday morning. It was filled with hugs and hook-ups, booming laughs (including my own notorious cackle), and wholehearted promises to connect before the next show. It was a tattoo Shangri-la. Paradise, even.
Gabe's next event is the tattooer-only Paradise Artist Retreat in New Mexico, March 25-28.
Tara's sleeve by Vince Villalvazo.
Thigh tattoo by Gene Coffey.
Gene Coffey himself.
In the latest issue of Skin & Ink magazine (August 2011), I take a look at the progressive work coming out of Brooklyn's own Tattoo Culture via resident artist Gene Coffey (whose work is shown here) and a host of international talent including Belgium's blackwork specialist Dan DiMattia, and France's avant-garde artists Noon and Loic [aka Xoil], among many others. In fact, owner Chris Budd acts as a "tattoo concierge," helping tattooers from outside New York find places to stay, procure temporary permits, and build a local fan base.
While Tattoo Culture is a full-service custom shop where clients get tattoos in a variety of styles, the focus of the article is the more controversial work that push the definition of what a tattoo should be. Here's a bit of that discussion:
[Gene] credits the roster of guest artists at Tattoo Culture for his artistic growth. "We just feed off of each other's creativity. If I had never worked with people like Noon or Loic, for example, I wouldn't have even tried something weird like what I've been doing lately."Beyond the weirdness (and Gene himself is a strange egg), Tattoo Culture has a relaxed friendly vibe that seems to stand in contrast to the cooler-than-cool attitude of their Williamsburg neighborhood, also known as ground zero for hipsters. The studio also holds regular art shows, exhibiting classic tattoo-inspired painting, photography, mixed media and modern works.
Check their Facebook page for events and guest artists. Gene regularly updates his portfolio on his own Facebook page as well.
I'm really excited for the opening of Tattoo Culture's anniversary group art show in Williamsburg this Friday, October 8th from 7-11PM. The tattoo studio/art gallery is our second home -- an attitude-free zone that welcomes top artists around the world to work alongside resident tattooer Gene Coffey. This week, France's Loic and Noon have arrived to create their abstract/art brut badassness.
Gene and Noon will be showing their fine art in this group show with Emma Griffiths, Bailey Hunter Robinson, Fade Kainer, Dan Marshall and Liorcifer, among others. There'll be beer, snacks, and as usual, really hot people in attendance.
Hope to see ya there!
Tattoo by Gene Coffey stolen from TattooNow.com's Tattoo of the Day.
Beautiful walking works of tattoo art, like ya fine selves, are becoming a tattoo majority, and yet, those who pollute the tattoo gene pool make the big headlines. Sheesh. It wasn't a pretty week for tattoo folk in the news thanks to rabid sports fans, Nazis, and of course, Stephen Baldwin.
Let's begin our review with the burning post-Super Bowl question: What's the ColtsSkinDeep dude feeling like this morning, and will all those autograph tattoos be covered by better memories of yesterday like Betty White/Abe Vigoda portraits or the
Even the Tongan ancestral tattoos of Colts' Fili Moala could not bring the mojo for the team.
While there were plenty of stories on Super Bowl tattoos (even videos), one rebel reporter wrote a feauture on those who prefer the pain of a new tattoo over the Cheetos and beer halftime heartburn. Score!
Indeed, sports tattoos are generally not credited in the evolution of fine art tattooing, but at least they don't further stigmatize the tattooed as criminals like these jackasses:
A Nazi firebombed a tattoo studio in Monterey because they refused his tattoo request: a swastika and an image of President Obama overlaid with crosshairs. He faces seven years in prison for this and another torching.
An upstate NY tattooist was arrested after being found via his social network posts; cops further punked him by leaving this note on his Facebook wall: "Just a quick thank you for giving us your current employer's name and address. Without the help from you and your friends, your arrest would not have been possible. Special thanks for the excellent photos you provided for the U.S. Marshals. Without the help of criminals such as yourself, our job would be much more difficult."
Yet another criminal, this one with a tattoo that reads "Why Try" across his head, is astounded that he was identified (and arrested) for choking a 72-year-old man in a carjacking.
Beyond the criminals, tattoo stereotypes will remain as long as people with bad taste continue to get them. You'd think a bastardized Ed Hardy design tee would be enough, but some need to take their gift of gauche to the next level.
That level being a pornographic Mario Bros tattoo.
Such mistakes can be left behind when we pass -- an upside of death! -- but not for some who wish to enshrine their decorated skin, or at least try to like this dude:
A New Zealand man requested his tattoos be preserved upon his death but because the guy who handles this stuff was on vacation, the body was cremated instead, tattooed skin and all. The family is considering suit over the lost tattoo collection, which includes a Playboy bunny, Aries and Taurus signs, and a DB Export beer logo -- tattoos fiercely mocked by someone other than myself.
And then there are ... sigh ...
... Tattoo. Removal.
I promise to remove such ugly thoughts by focusing on top tattoo work this week like the image above by Gene Coffey stolen from TattooNow.com's Tattoo of the Day.
My Brooklyn homies, Chris Budd and Gene Coffey of Tattoo Culture just got back from last weekend's Evian Tattoo Expo in France and had a blast. Today, Gene takes over Needles & Sins to offer his review of the show.
Also check Gene's pix of the convention on Flickr.
By Gene Coffey
After a short train ride from Geneva, Switzerland to Evian, France, Chris Budd and I began our Evian Tattoo Convention adventure. A quaint little town on the lake that borders Switzerland and France, Evian seemed an odd place to put on a tattoo convention. We arrived Thursday, a day before the show began, and the town felt sleepy and unaware of the potential madness that was about to descend on it. Old french couples, poodles in tow, strolled the cobblestone streets peering at the obvious outsiders dragging our luggage noisily towards our hotel. Check-in. Drop bags in rooms. Let's see what Evian has to offer. We headed to a little pub at the end of the block and grabbed a bite. Cheese crapes and coffee presented by an angry old french man in a restaurant that stunk of the old mangy dog pacing the floor and leering at the customers. It was going to be a loooooong weekend.
The sun rose behind a backdrop of mountains, marking the entrance of the weekend and the beginning of the convention. We headed over to the Palais des Congres for Friday morning set-up. The space is awesome: three floors with a fountain outside, a beautiful facade, a stage and skylights. We were greeted by Dats, the organizer of the show, who was warm and welcoming even under the obvious pressures of putting on such a shin dig. We headed upstairs to our booth. It was huge and directly under the skylights. Our booth-mates hadn't arrived yet, we I began to set up.
Destiny and fate had prompted me to shave my beard just days before leaving New York, but I opted to leave the mustache intact. Then as our friends Noon and Xoil from Needle's Side arrived I was overjoyed to behold that both of them were also sporting the most dapper of manly mustaches too. Instantly we became the Mustache Men. Patrons began to file in and the air filled with the buzzing of machines and murmurs of french. Cheek kissing abounded.
Within an hour of the convention starting, I already had a customer and the tattooing began. I felt a bit like the odd man out in our booth. I didn't know anyone there and didn't speak any french, so it was a great escape to go right to work. A couple hours later I had finished the piece and was pumped to walk around and see what everyone was up to. Chris had already made the rounds so he stayed in the booth and I wandered the isles. The caliber of artists in attendance was superb. Kevin LeBlanc, Adrian Dominic, Horitada, Tommy Lee, Olivier, Brent McCown and many more made for a well rounded selection of styles from around the world. The day marched on at the usual pace of every convention until...
The most horrible, soul crushing, embarrassing, pathetic display of unashamed human behavior ensued as the GodGirls took to the stage for the "Sexy Show". I can honestly say that it was the first time in my life where I have seen a hot, naked girl and been so entirely turned off that my penis almost inverted itself and tried to turtle head its way back into my abdomen. The first girl to come on stage to dance and strip in what I suppose was some mutated French version of burlesque was best described by Chris when he turned to me and said "She looks like a deaf person trying to dance to music she can't hear." And it went downhill from there. I'm all for public nudity, but MY GOD!!! If your going to do a "Sexy Show" perhaps a little rehearsal in front of a mirror might do a bit of good before you go on stage and make an "ass" of yourself.
Friday ended. Saturday began at 10a.m. The convention was packed with people by 11. It was really great working with Noon and Xoil. Their work it so happy and carefree that everyone who came up to our booth instantly broke into a smile. They taught me a few key phrases in french which helped me to spread my American sense of humor to the unsuspecting french people. "Bonjour. Voulez-vous sentir ma mustache?" was my favorite.
The weekend was one of the most positive tattoo convention experiences I have had. The attendees were all friendly people. Very few d-bags. No biker brawls. And lots of amazing tattoos! It was sad when it ended Sunday night. Gear was packed. People faded away. Quiet returned to this little french town. But not before 25 of us went to have one last bash at a local restaurant. Good food and great new friends was the perfect way to end the convention.
One of the great things about Evian is that it is a 40 minute ferry ride away from Lausanne, Switzerland. Home to Filip Leu. Monday morning Chris and I headed there to visit him. He was super welcoming. Gave us some coffee and we hung out for about an hour. It was awesome to see his shop and his artwork. It felt like a tattoo mecca. As people (about 30 of them) arrived we took it as our cue to break out. We said our goodbyes and it was all over.
Au revoir, Evian. Voulez-vous sentir ma mustache?
See more of Gene's Tattoo Work on his Flickr Portfolio.
Tattoo Culture in Williamburg, Brooklyn has always been a second home for me. Owner Chris Budd has given his big, beautiful studio over as our Needles & Sins party and gallery space, an office for me to blog when I wanna break outta my apartment, and just a hangout of good friends and artists from all over the world.
Now, Tattoo Culture has found a home here on this site in their advertising support, as you'll find their distinct logo to the left.
Resident artist Gene Coffey is skilled at all styles, from abstract to Japanese to lettering and, most important, his clients love him because he doesn't bring attitude to the studio but a great sense of humor. His work is featured in this post.
What also makes Tattoo Culture special is that it acts as a concierge studio to international tattooists, artists who bring tattoo styles that are rare to find even in the NY metropolis, like the Art Brut style of Noon or the blackwork of Daniel DiMattia. Other artists have included Max.Schmal of Austria, Jake Abandonment and Adam of Darklite from Australia, Sento of Spain, among may others.
The current guest artist is my homegirl Emilie aka Klak of Belgium who is an old school tattoo diva but can rock a black & grey piece like she came from LA. Emilie will be tattooing at the studio until mid-November.
In fact, she's taking over for the week as Gene and Chris head to this weekend's Evian Tattoo Show in France. Chris will be taking photos and bringing back a report for Needles & Sins, so look out for that in the coming weeks.
If you're interested in advertising on N+S, hit me up through the contact link.
This Friday, October 2nd from 7-10PM, join the Needles and Sins crew in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at Tattoo Culture's Fourth Anniversary Group Art Show opening.
On view, the fine art work of tattooists including the legendary Bugs, Dan Marshall, Liorcifer and Tim Kern, Dana Helmuth, David Sena, Emma Griffiths, Noon of France, and TC's resident artist Gene Coffey (whose oil painting is shown above), among other artists.
Many of you know most of our Needles and Sins events are held at Tattoo Culture because it's a large beautiful space close to subways and easy parking, but more important, it's an attitude free zone where people can enjoy the art work, chill, and party without pretension.
And yes, there will be free booze.
The show runs until November 13th. Hope to see y'all Friday.
Just posted photos on Flickr of the Flesh to Canvas opening Saturday at the Last Rites Gallery.
As usual, it was a packed show with the usual mix of goth chicks, artists with foreign accents who "only paint nude women" (ahem), tattooists and collectors. Paul Booth held court while his minions dutifully hung on his few words; many filled the seats of his theater adjacent to the gallery to watch his documentaries; the Art Fusion experiment, pictured above, also drew onlookers as artists engaged in live collaborative drawing.
Also in attendance, cheesecake tattoo king, Joe Capobianco -- who is consistently the nicest guy in the room everywhere he goes -- and had a piece in the group exhibit. We also bumped into Gene Coffey of Tattoo Culture in Williamsburg, Brooklyn -- who is consistently the weirdest guy in the room -- and he told us of the paintings he's been working on for a future show at TC. [Gene and I were brainstorming ideas for a tattoo he'll do on me when I get back from vacation. I'll keep ya posted on that.]
The highlight of the opening, as always: Paul's lovely mother, who has such a saintly glow about her, it's hard to believe she birthed the Dark Prince of Tattoo.
See more photos of the show here.