There are many fine artists who have influenced tattoo art, whether it be the subject matter of their paintings or the techniques they use translated on skin or their philosophy of creation. Alex Grey has inspired tattooists in all of these ways. In turn, Alex has embraced the tattoo community and worked with tattooists like James Kern, whose work is shown above, as well as Guy Aitchison and Michele Wortman, among many others. More recently, these artists created the Visionary Tattoo Workshop and Live Painting. The hope is to see more of those events take place, and in a space that is a work of art in itself.
The vision of that space for Alex and Allyson Grey is Entheon.
In NY's Hudson Valley is the Grey's Chapel of Sacred Mirrors or CoSM, a center for visionary arts and culture. What they'd like to do is evolve CoSM into "a building that is a sculpture" where people can "take a journey through art." In order to do that, they are seeking help via Kickstarter -- and there are tons of great perks. How the Greys envision Entheon is best described in the video below, and you can find images of the plan for the space on their Kickstarter page. Also on that page is a video from Alex's TEDx talk, "How Art Evolves Consciousness," which I highly recommend checking.
Considering Alex's impact on the tattoo community, it would be wonderful to see artists give back (especially if they tattoo his images) and support this project.
In a wonderful marriage of tattoos and technology, the fine folks of TattooNow TV present The Paradise Artist Retreat Skype Preview Extravaganza -- live artist interviews streamed online, where you can also participate and ask questions from the chat room.
The extravaganza kicks off today at 5PM EST, with this brilliant artist line-up: Alex and Allyson Grey, Guy Aitchison, Jeff Gogue, James Kern, Chet Zar,
Michele Wortman, Damon Conklin, and Steve Peace. The talk will be a taste of whats to come
at the Paradise Artist Retreat, which takes place March 25-28 in Tamaya Resort, New Mexico.
You can check the previous TattooNow webisode here featuring Guy Aitchison, Markus Lenhard, Gunnar, and Kelly Doty. A true tattoo education.
I had such a pleasure interviewing tattoo power couple Michele Wortman and Guy Aitchison of Hyperspace Studios for the January issue of Inked magazine's Icon feature. [It's the one with Kat Von D and Deadmau5 all lovey on the cover (pre-breakup).]
In the interview, Michele and Guy share how their distinctive artistic styles developed, some of the controversy behind their approaches, how one can be a better artist through attitude adjustment, and their most cherished collaboration: baby Kaia Rose.
Here's a bit from our talk:
You're both renowned for your distinctive styles. How would you describe them?
GUY: I work in abstract style--a lot of different abstract styles--but generally it's earned the definition of biomechanical. This can take many forms as long as it's a nonrepresentational kind of tattooing that flows with the human form. it could be something that is either kind of robotic--imagine a Transformers style--or it could be something a bit more organic, like an alien exoskeleton with all kinds of crazy textures. or sometimes you get a mix. People who get tattoos from me generally just want to get tattooed. a lot of people feel like they need to have a pretext for their tattoo that symbolizes something, but people who have collected enough often will arrive at a place where they are getting tattooed because they're getting tattooed. They like tattoos. They are looking to be decorated. That's the number one rule of this style. Make it attractive, make it flow well with the body, make it sort of exaggerate the musculature a bit. it's meant to be flattering but also meant to instill a sense of, "Wow, I've never seen anything like that before." When people come across it, they should be stopped in their tracks a bit.
Guy Aitchison Tattoo above.
When you first started tattooing and developing this style in 1988, it was really new and innovative.
GUY: Well, I wasn't the first person to do this stuff. I was attracted to H.R. Giger's paintings. That was part of what got me interested in tattooing initially. I wanted to tattoo stuff like that. For those not familiar, Giger designed the sets and monsters for Ridley Scott's Alien movie. It has this look that just has a natural flow, great depth, and a sense of realism to it. I thought it would look great on skin. in my first year of tattooing, I came across a few people who were actually doing Giger paintings as tattoos, and a few had done a really nice job of it. It definitely proved the point that it was a viable style. I then started hanging around a few of these tattooers: Eddie Deutsche, Greg Kulz, aaron cain, and Marcus Pacheco. These are the ones who were really exploring the abstract style at the time. We started working on each other and collaborating in various different mediums, and then diverged away from being Giger clones, and each of us looked to redefine what we were seeing. In particular, I was looking for ways to make it look stronger as a tattoo. I was working with bigger shapes that flowed with the body as the structure for the whole thing. and then you have basically this infinite variety of textures and effects, lighting, things that you can apply to it. So it was definitely influenced by H.R. Giger and by these other tattooers I worked with, but at this particular juncture, 23 years later, it's certainly taken on its own look.
Michele, how did your style develop?
MICHELE: My style originated from being a collector and not necessarily resonating with the early work I collected. I started to assess it more and realized that I wanted something that was more unified, that had less weight to it, and that reflected more of how I was feeling rather than the styles that were available at the time.
Around when was that?
MICHELE: It was around 1995 when I first got a half sleeve. I know that's not very much coverage, but at the time it seemed it, because you didn't really see women with the coverage you see now, and it felt like a big step. Then I got a chest piece a year later. My work had a fair amount of black in it, and I wanted something that felt lighter and a little freer. So I started getting lasered, getting rid of all the black in my ink so that I could reconstruct it, and during that period of time, I became a tattoo artist.
Michele Wortman tattoo above.
Would you say your style is more feminine?
MICHELE: It's interesting you should say that because originally I had wanted a half sleeve of flowers, and this girl looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said, "You would get that. How typical of you." That bothered me, so I decided I would rebel against my feminine nature and get architecture, which is very masculine in my opinion, very manmade. The fact that i rebelled against my feminine nature in the beginning only to come back to it later was an interesting lesson for me--to be comfortable and enjoy things that might be associated with having feminine qualities and not try to fight it and be someone I'm not. That had a lot to do with the energy i was putting into my tattoo work, and that became my defining style.
Black is really part of the old-school tattoo tradition, black and bold. Have you ever been criticized for not following these tattoo tenets?
MICHELE: Absolutely. I've been heavily criticized for my style. I've had people come up to me at tattoo conventions, slam my portfolio down, and tell me that what I was doing wasn't tattooing. So I had a steep hill to climb, and I still feel like I'm climbing it. But if you believe in what you do, you need to stick with it.
Do you have a response to the technical critiques?
MICHELE: I do have a response. Early on there was some validity to their assessment because I was just learning to tattoo and my work wasn't as developed as it is now. It was definitely very experimental, not using black outlines. The black has a boldness to it, and it does seem that it stays in the skin better, so I can see their point. The thing is, work that is soft in contrast with a limited use of black needs multiple passes. If someone has a piece that doesn't look so hot, it's not necessarily because it won't work. You really need to get that saturation and develop contrast over multiple sessions, since you don't have a strong, bold line holding your design in place. It's a different approach to tattooing, so it has its own flavor of rebellion in there, even though it may be viewed as a stereotypical feminine aesthetic.
Read the rest of the Q&A here.
Also check Guy & Michele's online resource for tattooists and collectors: Tattooeducation.com.
For those on the East Coast, I have another fantastic event, also on Saturday July 21: The worlds of tattooing and visionary art will come together in a live event at Alex Grey's historic Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in upstate New York. Veteran tattooists Guy Aitchison and Michele Wortman will be teaching a workshop on Visionary Tattooing -- that is, tattoos that come from the imagination that are done with the intention of healing, empowerment or positive transformation. There's limited seating available. Click here for ticket info.
For those who can't make it in person, there will be a free live webcast of the evening's events beginning at 5:00pm EST. Go to www.tattoonowtv.com/visionary_tattoo.html to tune in and be a part of it online.
The events will include the following:
** A screening of the documentary "Innerstate," nominated for Best Documentary at the 2010 Great Lakes Film Festival, about tattooists creating visionary paintings. Here's the trailer below.
** A dynamic panel talk on visionary, magical and ritual tattooing, featuring Alex and Allyson Grey, Guy Aitchison, Michele Wortman, James Kern and Natan Alexander.
** A live painting event that will go from the end of the panel talk until the wee hours. Alex, Allyson, Guy and Michele will be creating visionary paintings while DJs keep the energy going. You can check out some previous live painting events here and here.
Check this short promo trailer for The Visionary Tattoo below.
To view Guy & Michele's tattoo work, including the pieces below, head to Hyperspacestudios.com and their studio's Facebook page.
Tattoo by Guy above.
Tattoo by Michele Wortman.
Artwork by Timothy Hoyer
Over the years, when interviewing renowned tattooists about the greatest influences on their work, the name Eddy Deutsche is constantly being dropped. As part of the first crew of artists at Ed Hardy's legendary Tattoo City and later working with Horitaku of the Horitoshi family, Eddy developed a style that has inspired other artists to go beyond traditional tattoo tenets and experiment in their compositions and techniques, to meld various artistic influences and create unique works of tattoo art.
Eddy is a consummate innovator, and his latest project, featuring the fine art of tattooists, is another exciting example of this: Raking Light Projects is an online art gallery featuring fine arts and collectible prints created by stellar tattoo artists. With co-owner Andrew Fingerhut, Eddy invites a select group of artists to create a work of fine art based on their interpretation of a theme, along with several single-edition prints to showcase their individual artistic style and creative perspective. The work is then made available for viewing and purchase exclusively on RakingLightProjects.com.
The first theme is "Liberation," interpreted by Guy Aitchison, Jondix, Timothy Hoyer, Bert Krak, Carlos Rodriguez and Derrick Snodgrass. It's fascinating to see the vastly different approaches to the theme. Andrew offers more on this:
The overall collection successfully showcases the diverse perspective and the true depth of talent found among a select group of working tattooists. Some art proudly reflects the expressive, bold elements long associated with the best tattoo work. Other work reveals alternative facets of creativity that are as uniquely suited to paper and canvas composition as they are distinct from ink on skin. The tattoo commonality among participating artists can be celebrated, critiqued or ignored because the body of work stands strongly on its own.
Andrew also explained more about the process:
A variety of traditional and digital printmaking techniques were utilized to create the prints. Each participating artist created original artwork that served as source material for a single edition of 20 or 25 prints. Once the prints were produced, the original artwork was destroyed or cancelled to preserve the underlying value of the edition and to ensure that the prints are objectively considered limited edition works of art. All prints are signed, numbered and include an artist-verified Certificate of Authenticity. Each artist was closely involved in the printmaking production process and their time, attention to detail and effort is proudly reflected in the resulting artwork.
I can personally attest to the print quality, having a hand-signed mixed media print on canvas of Timothy Hoyer's "Void," which hangs near my desk as I write this. As noted on the Raking Light site, it is giclee on gallery-wrapped canvas with silk-screen overlay; printed on Lyve fine art canvas using Epson archival pigmented inks; coating applied and pulled by hand on silk-screen machine using Glamour II varnish. The result is a powerful piece that is worth much more than its $250 price.
To view all available works, check the Raking Light gallery.
Tim Lehi laser etched wood print (above).
Mixed media print by Jondix.
We've written about the wonderful Tattoo Education site before but I thought I'd revisit it in this post to update you on some new and interesting info recently posted.
In the latest entry, Hyperspace Studio's Guy Aitchison discusses how he approaches complex cover-up projects like the one above. While primarily targeted towards tattoo artists, the post is a great read for anyone wanting to learn more about the possibilities of turning a less artful tattoo into something beautiful without hitting a laser center. It's like a tattoo make-over. [That actually wouldn't be a bad reality show. You heard it here first!]
Wanna know more about Tattoo Education? Check their campy infomercial!
Today, on the wonderful Citizen Radio with Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny, the featured interview is with Guy Aitchison, "tattoo artist and philosopher" as they call him.
You can hear that interview streamed through Breakthruradio.com.
The "tattoo artist and philosopher" tag is fitting as the podcast touches upon everything from why Guy became a tattoo artist to tattoo myths to fighting greed and commercialism to scientific studies on human behavior to ... it gets deep, man. And that's good because it allows the personality of an iconic tattoo artist to show through beyond the usual questions on tattoos and technique. You feel like you're really getting to know the artist, and that's a credit to Allison and Jamie for their light but smart interview style--and all while Jamie is getting his half-sleeve by Guy.
It's an enjoyable listen even when the conversation gets most serious, and I learned a few things (and will be buying a subscription to New Scientist magazine, which Guy quotes at length).
For more on Guy, hit Hyperspace Studios.
This week, legendary tattooists Guy Aitchison and Michele Wortman have expanded their book publishing company, Proton Press, to include instrumental music produced within the tattoo industry.
The music label kicks off with five albums, each with their own signature electro-groove: Sunchannel by Michele Wortman; Hydrone by Brion Norwalk, a tattooist from Ohio; Divine Machine by Corey Cudney, a tattooist from Buffalo, NY; Satchi Om (self-titled), a tattoo collector from Oakland, CA; and Sursum by Peter Stauber, a tattoo collector from Las Vegas.
You can preview the music here and also purchase them as downloads or CDs.
Chris Stauber interviewed Guy & Michelle about this new venture. Here's a taste of that talk:
GritCity Inc. recently released a tattoo photo-book focusing on Philadelphia's tattoo culture: Tatted: A Documentation of Self Expression the Most Permanent Ways.
The Pure Gold Gallery, host to the book release party, exhibited images from the 160-page hardcover with this tag: "3 City Blocks, 1 Year, 1 Pad of Paper, and 1 Photographer."
That photographer is Philly's own Marianne Bernstein who hunted tattooed strangers along the three-block stretch of South Street for a year, asking if she could photograph them and their tattoos. She says that she approached about 100 people and only one refused. In addition to taking their portrait, she gave them her notebook and asked if they could write down what their tattoos mean to them.
The book opens up with an essay by Independence Seaport Museum curator Craig Bruns, who offers a history of the art in Philadelphia. He calls the city "the cradle of the American tattoo," noting that sailors brought tattooing to the "New World" when Philadelphia was the nation's largest port. Other essays include those by tattooists Guy Aitchison, Shawn Barber, Troy Timpel, and the old salt himself Philadelphia Eddie, among others.
Read more about the book's genesis in the Philadelphia Inquirer article, which also includes an extensive photo gallery from the release party and the book itself.
You can buy Tatted directly from GritCity for about $35.
PS: Ok, you know how much I hate the word "tatts" and any derivative thereof, but as Miguel keeps telling me, it's part of street culture and I need to chill. Considering the book is about street photography and tattoos, I will.
Just another reminder that an important tattoo expo, vacation, learning experience begins Thursday: The Paradise Tattoo Gathering in the beautiful Berkshires.
The world's greatest artists will descend upon Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort for a long weekend of seminars, panels, workshops and general merriment. And yes, most (around 60) will be tattooing, so join me in this tattoo vacation and relax with some fine art poking. Check the artist line-up, which includes Mike Cole who's work is shown right.
There's too much going on to list it all here so check the events page on the schedule.
For an idea on what to expect, view these videos from last year's gathering.
I'll be there from Friday afternoon through the weekend hawking my Black Tattoo Art book so look for my table. If I'm not there, I'm probably in the hot tub.
[Also on sale there: Guy Aitchison's Reinventing the Tattoo. It's a tattoo tome on everything from design to execution.]
Can't wait to see ya there!