Results tagged “Inked Icon”
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.
Photo of Miya Bailey by Nick Burchell.Read more of our interview in Inked.
Atlanta-based tattooist and painter, Miya Bailey of City of Ink, is no stranger to this blog. Last month, we posted on the screening and DVD of Color Outside the Lines, the first documentary to explore the experiences of professional black tattoo artists in America -- a film I highly recommend. And back in 2009, Miguel Collins interviewed Miya about his art and career, and also techniques special to tattooing black skin.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Miya myself a couple of months ago for Inked magazine, and that Q&A is featured in the August issue, on newsstands now and available as a digital download. Let's just pretend that "television personality" JWow-whatever from the Jersey Shore is not on the cover (classing up the image of tattooed women, of course) and focus on our talk, which touched on how art got Miya out of the projects, how he developed his tattoo craft, racism in the tattoo community, and what Color Outside the Lines is about.
Here's a taste:
In the film, you also say that you were really attracted to tattooing artistically and even took a needle and thread and starting poking your own skin at a young age. What was the main attraction?
For more on Miya, check him on Blogspot, Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. His film Color Outside the Lines can be purchased online for $20 here.
The inimitable Pat Fish -- "The Queen of Celt" -- is internationally renown for her powerful and intricate Celtic knot work tattoos. She is also known for being quite outspoken, calling bullshit on issues she believes harm the tattoo industry and collectors. Pat does just that in our Icon Q&A for Inked mag.Your work has moved towards pointillism and other new directions, but still largely keeps to the traditional Celtic designs. Where are those influences coming from? Conventions?
In the interview, she raises some of those controversial issues, like potential dangers in color tattoo ink as well as the ethics of giving clients exactly what they want. Pat also shares some of the lessons she learned from her mentor, the legendary Cliff Raven, who changed her life, and how her pet mule, Tobe, has done the same. Here's a taste:
Absolutely. When I worked at the NIX Tattoo Convention up in Toronto, I met both Colin Dale and Cory Ferguson, and I was stunned by their pointillism. All the time when I was at UCSB art school, I was using pointillism, using dots to do my shading. But I had never done it in tattooing. Why not? I don't know. So I started exploring how to pull that into my style. Also, I had a pretty strong feeling that the governments of the EU and the US were going to outlaw colored tattoo ink, but I was wrong about this. I figured, well, maybe it will just happen that I have to adapt my style so that black ink is all I'll have, and it's good enough. I can't imagine why [colored ink] is still legal. It's just wrong. It's a hugely dangerous thing to have something that nobody knows what's in it. There's no oversight or MSDS [Material Safety Data Sheet] provided. Here we are hoping for the best and sticking it in our clients.
Don't you think that there would be an epidemic, with so many color tattoos, if the inks were dangerous?
I think the big risk is that there are so many more suppliers today than there were in the past. It used to be that you would get powder and put it with your own preferred suspension agent and there you go, you have your ink. Now there are, what, a hundred ink suppliers and none of them have any MSDS, and even the really famous ones have ended up with fungus in a batch.
Beyond health issues, there are also moral issues to consider in tattooing. For example, there was a lot of buzz over a woman getting a huge "DRAKE" tattoo (in honor of the singer) on her forehead and whether the tattooist should have done it. What do you think about that?
I interact with a lot of the older generation of tattoo artists and they say, "Somebody is going to do that tattoo. Why do you pretend that you care about that person? It's money." My attitude is that I rather have them angry with me over something I didn't do than something I did. I have morals, and I have to be responsible in this life for everything I do. If I really feel that it will make them a person who relied on welfare because now they made themselves into a freak and can't get a job, then I need to step up and tell them No. I've had people come in and thank me later for not having done a tattoo that I refused to do. That's a nice moment.
You have a lot of people flying into Santa Barbara from all over the world to get tattooed by you, but is Celtic work still as popular as it was, say over ten years ago?
I've been selling my designs online now at Luckyfishart.com since 2001, and there was a point where people were buying a lot more Celtic stuff than they are now, but it's hard to tell. Right now the trend is words. People will call me and go on and on about how much they love my designs and then just ask for two Gaelic words on their arm. Give me a break. For me, words age badly and look goofy. Unless they are really big, they don't have a graphic quality to them. I usually decline to do it, which is hard to do in this economy.
In the Dec./Jan. issue of Inked magazine, you'll find my Q&A with the inimitable Ed Hardy, a man who inspired fellow artists and tattoo collectors to move beyond the tattoo "menu" on shops walls and pursue custom, personalized art. For those outside the tattoo world, his name is associated with everything from trucker hats to condoms, and because of his Ed Hardy clothing line and merchandising deals, the Californian native was able to retire with a sizable nest egg and fully return to painting, ceramics, and other mediums after 40 years of tattooing. Of course, Hardy remains connected to tattooing, largely through his Tattoo City studio in San Francisco, Hardy Marks Publications, and the occasional tattoo souvenir for a lucky fan.
In this interview, Ed talks about the documentary "Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World" [recently released on DVD], the tattoo impulse, his fine art, and he briefly addresses the haters. Here's an excerpt:
Do you think the whole popularity of tattooing will dissipate?
It's interesting how the Ed Hardy brand and unexpected commodification of tattooing has freed you up to do fine art. It's seems at odds with commercialism in some way.Read more in Inked.
UPDATE: The full article can be found online here.
In this latest Inked magazine (the Rock-n-Roll issue), I interviewed veteran tattooist (and rock star in her own right) Annette LaRue of Electric Ladyland Tattoo in New Orleans. We had a fun time chatting about everything, from inking her first tattoo at 13 years old to handling French Quarter drunks to her upcoming retirement. Here's a taste:
You must tattoo a lot of characters. Any favorites?
Well, we had this one guy we called "The Sheriff of Frenchmen Street." He sat outside on the bench all day long and drank draft beer. I had an apprentice and told him, "You got to go out there and tattoo that guy. He's out there every day, he's got tattoos and you can do better than what he's got." So he went over and got the guy, Dave (The Sheriff), to come in. He became one of our favorite customers. All our apprentices tattooed him. For every five apprentice tattoos, I'd do one good tattoo on him. He was awesome. After Katrina, he moved away and couldn't get back. We found out a couple of years later that he drank himself to death. There are a lot of characters like him who we don't see anymore.
With Katrina and the oil spill, and the people of the Gulf experiencing a lot of heartache, how does this translate in the tattoo business? Do you see a lot of people getting memorial tattoos for example?
Oh yes. People here like to wear their strong emotions. And they do it through tattoos.
That's got to be heavy.
It was horrible the first year or two after Katrina. Everyone who came in had a tragic story. Three guys who worked for me lost everything they owned. So yeah, it changed everything. But it made business great. We never had an appointment book before that; we were a walk-in shop. A couple of guys would have appointments a couple of times a week, but now over half of our tattoos are by appointment. It shocks me everyday just how many people come in. I'm not trying to brag, and I'm sorry for other people not doing well, but we've been blessed and really lucky. It's also been a lot of hard work. I'd like to give my crew the credit. These guys are really the life of the shop.
Read more in the latest issue of Inked on newsstands now and available for download online.
For my latest Icon profile for Inked Magazine, I had a blast interviewing Baba Austin of Vintage Tattoo in Los Angeles. Baba is a great storyteller, and in this Q&A, he shares what it was like apprenticing under the legendary Jonathan Shaw, touring with Vanilla Ice at his prime, and evading cops while executing a graffiti throw-up at the age of forty-three. Here's a taste from our talk:
When did you start to learn the craft yourself?
Read more in Inked's "Sex Issue" on news stands now or download the digital edition.