In the April issue of Inked magazine, now out on newsstands, you'll find my interview with the tireless Durb Morrison -- long-time tattooer and owner of Red Tree Tattoo Gallery, organizer of the incomparable Hell City Tattoo Fests, manufacturer of True Tubes innovative tattoo supplies, and all-around nice guy. In this interview, Durb talks about how he went from punk to entrepreneur and stayed on top of the tattoo game over all these years.Many artists today say that that community feel is gone, with the whole gentrification of the art form. What do you think about that?
Here's a taste of our talk:
You started off as a punk teenage tattooing with a homemade machine to becoming a renowned tattooist, who also manufactures innovative tattooing supplies. A lot has changed over the years.
Definitely. I was a skate boarding punk rock kid. At that time with skateboarding, there was a lot of artwork rotating around it, and a lot of that art had a traditional tattoo foundation to it. There were also some really heavily covered skateboarders, even back then, who I looked up to. When I think back, I can see how I was naturally attracted to certain things, and how I'm supposed to be exactly where I am today. But I never really set out to be a tattoo artist. I had done a lot of art classes in school, and naturally did a lot of painting, so I had the art in my blood and on my mind. Right around when I was 14, that's when my friends and I started hand-poking little tattoos on places we could cover up, like our ankles, so we wouldn't get in trouble. When I was 17, I started getting professional tattoos, going to shops, and hanging out with heavily tattooed people. Around that time, a guy who saw that I had the art skills down taught me how to make one of those homemade machines. That was the catalyst for everything because, not only did I have a tattoo machine, but I had friends who willing to let me do my artwork on them.
Did you think tattooing was something you'd do for a living back then?
It started really as recreational. I didn't take it as seriously when I was just getting into it. It was punk. It was a rebellious art form. We're talking 24 or 25 years ago. But after I started getting going with it and tattooing more people and seeing the effect it had on them--how they really loved their tattoos--it drove me to continue tattooing and dive into it artistically. I started studying it, looking at all the magazines, driving hours to hang out at certain studios and watch the tattooing. Also, there was the inspiration of the community behind it. There was just so much personality. It made me want to be a tattoo artist and dedicate my life to it.
If people say there's no community, it's because they don't put themselves out there and be a part of it. They just sit in their shops, complain and separate themselves from it. I feel very strongly about the community, and because I've been a part of it for so long, I wanted to give back. For example, by doing the Hell City conventions, we've brought people together; we've created relationships. People have even got married at Hell City. It definitely has a community feel in a creative environment.
People really have gotten married at your conventions?
We've had three or four couples get married at the conventions. We had one couple get married on the main stage on a Sunday in the morning before the show even got started. They had met at Hell City and two years later got married here. It was a match made in hell!
Read more in Inked magazine.
The Hell City Tattoo Fest in Columbus, Ohio is April 19-21. Go there. You may just meet your true love. You'll definitely get a stellar tattoo.
When Moscow tattoo artist Oleg Turyanskiy comes to the States as a visiting artist, collectors rush to schedule sessions for his color and black & grey realism work -- tattoos that not only capture a likeness but the energy of the subject.
The thirty-three-year-old describes himself as a "traveling tattoo artist" as he spends most his time on the road, although he does keep a home base in his native Moscow. Oleg says that he needs to travel to charge his creativity. In addition to guest spots at top shops around the world, you can find Oleg at a number of international tattoo conventions throughout the year. He says:
I adore attending tattoo conventions. I really love the atmosphere and spirit of such kind of events. I don't like working at the same place with the same people around for months in a row. I need to change my surroundings from time to time.
An art school graduate, Oleg has been tattooing since 2001, preferring realism, although he says his fine art work is largely fantasy driven. His trippy illustrations are like the Brothers Grimm on acid but he's quick to say that his work is not a product of drugs or alcohol--a question he gets a lot when people view his art. He's currently working on fairy tales himself in the form of a sketchbook, which will be available for purchase. [We'll update you on its release.]
Oleg's travel schedule is updated online here. His next US guest spot will be at Off The Map Tattoo in Easthampton, MA in August and September. During those months, he'll also be attending the Hell City Tattoo Fest and the Paradise Tattoo Gathering. Appointments with Oleg are made in advance. You can reach him via his contact page.
With Twitter and Hipstamatic (my first try at the photo app above), I'll be attempting to live blog the Hell City Tattoo Fest. That's the goal at least. Just got to the Hyatt Regency Columbus where the second floor bar is already filling up, and it is there I shall begin my research and reporting. I do this for you.
Follow the tattoo tweets here.
Following today's theme of I want, I want, I want...
Behold: Joe Capobianco's limited edition sexy art toy called "The Bride."
Working with toy creators Kid Robot, Joe modeled this "Capo Girl" on a tattoo he created for The Baroness, shown below. The figure is 8 inches tall of soft vinyl. As Joe posted on his blog, there's also a very limited number of glow-in-the-dark versions, which look killer cool.
"The Bride" goes on sale tomorrow at 11am EST on the Hope Gallery Online Store.
The official release and toy signing will take place at the Hell City Fest this Friday from 6-8PM, where it will be offered at a special convention price of $75 (rather than $99).
Just another reason to join us in Columbus this weekend.
Art shows opening this weekend...
Tomorrow, at the Last Rites Gallery in NYC, the second Flesh to Canvas group show featuring the fine art of renowned tattooists opens at 7PM. Artists include Paul Acker, Alex Adams, Guy Aitchison, Nick Baxter, Aaron Bell, Paul Booth, Joe Capobianco, Joshua Carlton, Mike DeVries, Chris Dingwell, Little Dragon, Alex Garcia, Goethe, Gunnar, Anil Gupta, Ryan Hadley, Robert Hernandez, Phil Holt, Nikko Hurtado, Brian Murphy, Roman, Juan Salgado, Stefano, Toxyc, Kurt Wiscombe and Phil Young.
Recently, I've been getting a bunch of press releases for mobile applications relating to tattoos -- most recycling old flash, ala the tribal dragon, and touting it as a way to "pick your next ink" [bleh]. Naturally, I hit the delete button.
But just this week, a new app hit the iTunes store that has quickly become my favorite:
Check Tattoo IQ by the Hell City crew.
Essentially, it's a trivia game where the more right answers you get, the higher you climb the tattoo social ladder, from scratcher to apprentice to tattoo guru. And getting to tattoo guru ain't easy. The questions are fun but also challenging, covering topics including the history, lingo, tech & bio, and culture surrounding the art. A clock ticks down so there isn't much time to ponder things like "Who patented the first tattoo machine?" or "How many layers does a tattoo get injected into the skin?"
Don't expect a cheat sheet either. If you need to find the right answer, you gotta keep playing (or resort to the Google gods). New questions are added every month so the game doesn't get stale.
Tattoo IQ is smart, entertaining (especially some of the wrong answers) and only 99 cents. Definitely worth the download.
Other tattoo apps reviewed here: Tattoo Shop and Tattoo Mania
When trolling around the Detroit Tattoo Expo this past weekend, I previewed an upcoming art book that will be a must for your library:
Pint Size Paintings: Miniature Paintings by Big Artists.
In essence, Durb Morrison and the Hell City crew have curated a 224-page hardcover art book featuring paintings done on mini-canvases, specifically 2" x 3". Fine art from top tattooists like Kari Barba, Aaron Bell, Zsolt Sarkozi, Nick Baxter, Guy Aitchison & Michelle Wortman, among so many, many others, are displayed in gallery format. With Volume 2 already in the works, Pint Size Paintings may grow to be the biggest collection of miniature artwork any where.
The canvases may be small, but there's nothing meager about the artwork. In fact, working on this scale was a challenge to many artists. I particularly like how Damon Conklin described it:
Miniature painting teaches the art of delivering only the lean nutrients of a piece ... graphic glorification of the lowest common denominator. No bones no fat no bullshit only the most important strokes of beauty.
The debut show of these mini- masterpieces will take place at Hell City Killumbus 2010 in May along with the book's release.
You can get a preview of the work yourself, including the ones below by Guy, Nick and Kari, on the book's MySpace photo page.
My guess is that the book will sell out fast, so it's probably best to pre-order it for about $30 from the Hell City Books online.
I was looking forward to attending the Hell City Tattoo Vacation at the Arizona Biltmore but with my book being released early (this Thursday), I couldn't swing.
Thankfully, many of my friends attended and are happy to share their photos with all of us.
The first batch in is by the fabulous Ryan Keough. Check over a hundred of his photos here. Ryan focused his camera on the top roster of artists tattooing as well as the competitions. View some amazing tattoos. More on the show coming up.
UPDATE: The beautiful Chris Stauber just sent me the link to her photos from Hell City, including her husband Peter picking up a bunch of trophies at the tattoo contest. Congrats!
Earlier this week, I posted Chris Stauber's Hell City Redux, which looked at the show from the point of view of the collector. Today, we have musician and tattoo apprentice, Justin Stitches, and his view from the stage.
When not playing with The Jackalopes at the show, Justin took tons of great photos. Rock on!
By Justin Stitches
I had the extreme pleasure of being invited with my band The Jackalopes (fronted by tattooist Rev. Chad A. Wells) to play this year's Hell City Killumbus convention on Sunday. My first thoughts were that the artists were going to be all sorts of pissed at the loud horror-punk noise emanating from the main stage...that and everyone knows that Sundays at conventions are traditionally recovery days for all involved. However, our set was awesome (despite no on-stage monitors, which is a nightmare, kinda like playing under water) as we actually had a crowd watching, nothing was thrown at us, and if there were any shut-the-fuck-ups lobbed our way, I sure didn't hear 'em.
As for the actual convention, it is definitely one of the best put together tattoo shows in the nation. Durb and company make sure that everyone is well provided for and has a great time. Attendees can always expect tons of things to see and do, and even the kids can get all painted up at the Heck City area.
Organizer and tattooist Durb Morrison with legendary Lyle Tuttle.
The list of artists attending is always a wet dream for tattoo fans and collectors, including Durb, Robert Hernandez, Mike DeVries, Sean Herman, Tim Kern, Dan Marshall, Joe Capobianco, Rev. Chad A. Wells, Tony Ciavarro, Rich T., Guy Aitchison, Shawn Barber, My Tattoo crew, Mike DeMasi, Jesse Smith...just to name a few. Even the vendor list was drool-worthy: Alissa Brunelli, Hardnox Clothing, Evolve Jewelry, Pulse, Godoy Machines...
If you missed it in Killumbus, Hell City Phoenix is coming up in September... get ready now!
See more photos here.
The tattoo news this week was all about celebs, conventions, and a little bit of controversy, and to highlight these top stories, I'm posting this photo of Andy shot by Sean Toussaint at Parkside Lounge for my upcoming tattoo book. Andy's tribal lotus tattoo is by Shinji of NY Adorned. Granted, there is no real connection, but considering that my Inbox has been flooded with "check the hot tattooed chicks" emails this week, I felt compelled to respond in kind. In fact, if you're a tattooed man who would like to be objectified by my girls and gays on this blog, please send your photo to marisa at needlesandsins.com.
Ok, unto the news ...
A Georgia man, who forcibly tattooed his 3-year-old son in their trailer home now faces criminal charges of cruelty to children and tattooing a person under the age of 18. The tattoo is letters DB for Daddy's Boy. This guy should find the same fate in jail, Darrell's Bitch perhaps.
The controversy lies in the response to the story on the Atlanta Journal Sentinel blog, asking Is tattooing a child worse than piercing a baby's ears or circumcising a newborn boy?
"Are tattoos more painful than piercing or circumcision? Not sure that's true.
While there are some obvious responses -- like piercing not having the permanence of tattoos -- the issue does reignite online debates particularly over circumcision. Some of the comments to that post thoughtfully discuss the topic but, alas, most do not. Feel free to share your thoughts below.
In more pleasant conversation, conventions were big news ...
Columbus media was abuzz with stories on the Hell City show this past weekend, especially Columbus Alive, which devoted much of its pages, online and off to the show. Behold the awesome cover of organizer and tattooist Durb Morrison (shown right) and profiled inside as one of their many "Inked Up" features. Also check the audio slideshow.
The Columbus Dispatch reported on the convention's tattoo competitions, calling them a "grittier version of a beauty pageant." Nice ink coverage, media & tattoos. [Stop that eye rolling!]
More coverage for the NYC Tattoo convention, with Fangoria sharing their experience and photos. [Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors comes to NYC"s Jacob Javits Center next Weekend.]
A small convention in upstate NY, the Mowhawk Valley Tattoo Expo, got coverage as well.
In celeb tattoo news ...
HuffPo is excited over Angelina's small embellishment of her existing tattoos, essentially a small frame of the coordinates of her babies' birthplaces.
We do love our Angie, but Megan Fox may be stealing our affections with the latest news of her wanting to get sleeved:
"Every time I get a tattoo, it's a little f***-you to anyone who tells me not to. I like the way getting a tattoo feels."Megan graces the June cover of Elle mag, and as The Insider shows, there's the hot back tattoo-baring cover and the more demure one where her Marilyn Monroe portrait on her arm is covered by text. I found the tattooed one at my local Brooklyn press shop. Which is one is your store carrying?
Ah, nice to write about celebrity tattoos without the overwhelming desire to hurt myself. I do so want to see a fully sleeved leading lady. No matter how vapid the news surrounding the latest A-List ink, the impact on how our society views tattoos is greatly affected by celebrity culture. A culture that has sparked many a tattoo as well.
Then there's tattoos in the "luxury market," like Coach's recent attempt to cash in. A massive FAIL in design but always interesting to me how a lowbrow art is being used to hawk highbrow goods.
To meet the new clientele inspired by these changes, tattoo studios themselves are changing. The LA Times looks at the high-end tattoo ateliers setting up shop in Las Vegas casinos. Check the slideshow here.
Am I depressing y'all with all this?
I remain on the fence, embracing the evolution of the art but also but also fondly looking back at my first tattoos, pre-legalization in NYC, where just finding the studio was an adventure in itself.
And while I find myself trippin down memory lane, I'll leave you with some quick and dirty links:
Our fabulous friend, Chris Stauber, was at this weekend's Hell City show in Columbus, OH getting tattooed but also taking in the city and enjoying the convention's many events. Here's her redux below and a few photos of the show on Flickr.
By Chris Stauber
I am exhausted from the flurry of activities surrounding Hell City in Columbus, OH this past weekend. It's hard to decide which is more swollen, my belly from eating too much at the fabulous North Market all weekend long or my beautiful new elbow piece by Tim Creed. Both were totally worth the trip.
We arrived in Columbus on Thursday evening. The trip started off well between the clear skies and friendly Off the Map tattoo artist, Stretch, offering to split a cab with us at the airport. Once settled in the Downtown Hyatt, we paid a visit to the two rooms where the participating Innerstate artists were already working on their paintings. It was impressive to see so many wonderfully talented artists come together to work side by side. The environment was casual with conversations (and beer) flowing in many of the work spaces. The variety of techniques and content was already beginning to show in this early phase of development.
By the end of the night, the works were relocated into the main display room where some artists continued working into the late hours. And with each passing hour, Hellions filled the hotel, and of course, the hotel bar. Hell City was getting started.
Friday the floor opened at noon. The traffic flow seemed less than the year prior, which one could certainly chalk up to the current economy.
The Innerstate painters slowly rolled in and continued work on their projects. This new Innerstate room laid out the artists in a manner that mixed their varying styles while showing the variety in both subject matter and techniques.
A large DJ station sat near center of the room providing a variety of inspirational work grooves to the artists. The end of the room held a merchandise store for many of the participating artists' goods including prints, clothing and books.
My husband had signed up for one of the Friday competitions, Best Sleeve, so we spent some time awaiting his category and chance to show the crowd.
[Check Pete Stauber's tattoo and story.]
One of the greatest features of Hell City is the software and technology they use in their competitions. There is nothing worse than a few hundred people standing around a stage of a tattoo convention all squinting to see some tiny tattoo. Hell City displays each work up on two huge projection screens for the entire show to see. A crowd pleaser.
At 10PM, the awards were announced and the floor closed up quickly afterwards. I have to brag that Peter won Third Place Best Sleeve; we were both so pleased to see the brilliant artist, Mike Cole, get recognized.
Saturday started off with a much bigger crowd, with a huge line of those waiting to get in. The Innerstate artists continued progress on their works. Several, including Shawn Barber, Kim Reed and Damon Conklin, created more than one piece over the weekend. Carson Hill and Don McDonald magically transformed their biomechanical works into 3D wonders.
While I had some reservations about taking 30 to 40 great tattoo artists away from tattooing all weekend long at a tattoo convention, it really worked. There was an unspoken vibe of inspiration flowing through the space, and there is no doubt they fed off of one another -- although there were some jokes about not feeding the caged artists on display.
I filled day two the same as the first: checking out the tattooing, painting, various competitions, and stage entertainment. But I also fit in a 20-minute massage at the convention's massage booth. [Ed's note: A booth that should be a must at every convention for collectors but, more importantly, for the hard working artists.]
We ended the day at the awards. This time Peter took First Place Best Small Color for Mike Cole's intricate green and pink alien circuitry under his arm. [Here he is double fisting his trophies.]
Sunday morning came upon us late as we didn't get to bed until 4 am. We mainly went around saying our good-byes; I particularly enjoyed meeting some new people this year including Innerstate participant Lizi Sage along with Jim and their adorable son. Lizi's painting was magical and makes me consider jumping on a plane to the UK for a session.
All weekend, the show had a smooth rhythm. During the competitions, the MC was entertaining and well-spoken, often buying judges time to look at entries while challenging the audience with amusing trivia and rewarding correct answers with swag. The lay out of the show over several floors makes the convention seem big and helps control the flow of bodies.
Again, kudos to Durb and his crew for a helluva convention. Hope to see you all at Hell City Phoenix, September 4-6.
Some gooooood tattoo gatherings are coming our way this summer, taunting me as I watch my book deadline approach and savings account diminish. The next one that I'll be heading to is Hell City Phoenix, September 4-6, so I need help in covering these other events. Send me your pix and stories -- especially if you're attending this weekend's Hell City Killumbus, Ohio show (posted earlier this month). Should be a blast.
Also awesome is the Ink & Iron show aboard the haunted Queen Mary next weekend, June 4-6. See a preview from the video above, and photos from past shows here. Ink & Iron not only houses the best tattooists and avid collectors but offers other goodies like car shows, pin-up pageants, an art gallery and tons of other events.
Then, two weeks later, June 19-21st, is the infamous NIX convention in Toronto, Canada. The artist line-up remains one of the best, and includes exciting new artists from Taiwan and China. The North by NorthEast Musix Fest is also taking place that weekend just five minutes away and is free to NIX VIP passholders.
On the upcoming art gallery calendar ...
Back in NYC, at the Last Rites Gallery, the new gallery director Andrew Michael Ford will feature a show destined to be an annual event whereby tattooists from around the world show their fine art. Entitled Flesh To Canvas, the show opens June 13th at 7pm and includes work from the following artists: Shawn Barber, Nick Baxter, Aaron Bell, Paul Booth, Boris, Kim Saigh, Joe Capobianco, Marcus Pacheco, Leslie Reesen, Jon Clue, Damon Conklin, Jeff Gogue, Phil Holt, Nikko Hurtado, Little Dragon, and more. I'll be there. Hope to see ya.
Tons of tattoo news from the past week that I'm putting together, but I thought I'd take a break and shoot y'all some faves on the tattoo convention circuit this month.
First up, my fave for the past 12 years, naturally in my home town: the NYC Tattoo Convention at the historic Roseland Ballroom in the heart of Times Square, May 15-17th. See photos from past shows in my convention collection on Flickr. I'll be there Saturday and Sunday taking photos, interviewing artists and partaking in general shmooziness. Will have Needles and Sins stickers on hand so look for me, and as always, please dont tell me you thought I was taller.
Next, May 29-31st, is the most fabulous Hell City Killumbus show, at the Hyatt Regency Downtown amidst the art galleries, restos and shopping in downtown Columbus, Ohio. I did a preview (and travel tips) of the show for Inked Mag, getting organizer Durb Morrison's picks on where to go while in town for the convention, but as he stressed, the tattoo weekend is designed to "keep all the Hellions under one roof for one hell of a weekend." He adds:
"We try to offer events and parties right in the hotel, like the Innerstate Art Party Saturday night and our first-ever roast on Sunday night, which will be paying homage to 'The Mayor of Tattooville,' Chris Longo. As always, the [Hyatt Regency] Big Bar on 2 will be kicking with attendees and artists celebrating all weekend long."Sadly, I wont make it to Columbus, but I am get to the next Hell City convention in Phoenix, Arizona at the gorgeous Biltmore Resort and Spa, September 4-6.
Two other shows worth mentioning, although I can't vouch for them personally, are the Roanoke, VA show and the Maritime Tattoo Festival in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Roanoke Tattoo Fest takes place this weekend, May 8-10th, with some top artists like Bob Tyrrell, Larry Brogan and Mathew Amey in attendance as well as long time legends like Judy Parker, Pat Sinatra, and Mary & Mike Skiver. My beloved Chuck Eldridge of the Tattoo Archive is also giving a seminar on historical tattooing.
And in beautiful Nova Scotia, the third Maritime Tattoo Fest will also host some great artists, and looks like a good time ... despite the mud wrestling.
The news is up later!