Just before my 30th birthday, around 12 years ago, I started thinking about tattooing my body in one complete overall look. Going beyond just some cool pieces that I already had, I began envisioning a body suit (one that could be covered under business suits for work) in ornamental blackwork patterns, like what you'd find on ancient Greek vases. I wanted something feminine and graceful and -- like those vases that remained intact over millennia -- powerful and timeless.
And as luck would have it, I happened to be married to a renowned blackwork tattooer, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo in Belgium. Moving toward the blackwork bodysuit I wanted, Dan created (during our marriage and afterward as good friends) beautiful works for my sleeves and backpiece, ribs and stomach, my snake hips, thigh, shin, and even a fancy foot. And there's more planned with Dan for the future.
With lots of room on my legs, however, I thought it would be a great opportunity to collect work from another artist, but whose style could harmonize with my existing tattoos. I had a particular artist in mind, one whose work I had been admiring since I first saw it around 2003 online: Nazareno Tubaro in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Nazareno, Naza for short, has a portfolio that spans from strong heavy black to refined and delicate dots. Naza masters how those designs fit with the shape of the body, so that they beautifully complement the wearer. I had featured Naza'a work on my old Needled.com blog, as well as Needles & Sins, and he has been a part of both of my Black Tattoo Art books, and in Tattoo World. In working together on these projects, we became friends, and I knew that if he tattooed me, I would not only have gorgeous tattoos, but also a lot of fun. I was absolutely right.
Finding the opportunity to take a week off from work, I booked my tattoo vacation to Buenos Aires, leaving May 1st, and arriving back to NYC yesterday. Naza suggested that we start on one leg, my left one, which had existing work from Dan, so that I would have one complete piece first, before moving on to my right leg, which didn't have any work other than my snake. We'd tattoo for three days, spacing out the sessions for rest and healing. I also didn't want to immediately jump on a 10 1/2 hour plane ride after our last session. I worked out the details with Naza's assistant Ander, and the schedule was all set in advance.
Prior to my arrival, I had sent Naza some photos of my leg, and also indicated which tattoos he had done in the past on others that I really liked, so he had some idea of what I was looking for. [Naturally, this was only for reference, and never to copy an original custom tattoo.] I didn't even think to ask in advance of our first session for any sketch or preview of the design because I trusted that Naza would come up with something that I would love. That trust is key for me.
The day I arrived in Argentina, Naza and his girlfriend Xoanna picked me up from my hotel, just a few blocks from Naza's private tattoo studio in the hip Palermo Hollywood area of Buenos Aires. They took me for the yummy steaks the country is known for, some sightseeing, and I also got to hang out and watch the practice for his band Ruda, in which Naza plays a mean bass.
[Obvious note on tattoo vacations: You want to load up on the sightseeing prior to any major work because of swelling and just general fatigue after long painful sessions. Save the post-tattoo days for book reading and flooding your friends' social media feeds, as I did.]
On the day of our first appointment, Naza showed me what he had sketched out -- and it was perfect. Floral ornamental designs, of varying shapes, to be lined and filled with dots. We then took some time to find the proper placement, to fit my body and existing tattoos. Naza also drew freehand along with the design stencil so that there was a seamless flow.
With all that done, it was time to tattoo. Prior to the session, I had taken about 5 droppers of Pamela Shaw's Quaternity Holistics "Pain-Free Tincture", which is an all-natural tincture to help pain sensitivity, and it chills you out. I also had a bottle of Advil in my bag, in case I was really in pain.
Tattoos hurt. We all know this. And tattoos on the knee and in the knee ditch are a particular bitch. Gratefully, however, Naza works super-fast, as well as meticulously, and he's also a "light-touch," in that you don't feel that he's drilling into you. He asked me what my favorite music was, and played Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, some of our mutual favorites. He cracked jokes, and engaged in conversation, so that my focus wasn't on any discomfort. The sessions were actually ... enjoyable. You don't hear many people say that when a tattooer is running a thick black line from your ankle, up your knee, and across your thighs.
The outline was done in one session, for what we would get done in this trip. [Some more spaces on my left leg will be filled in my next trip.] The following day I rested, keeping my leg iced and elevated. For a spaz like me, keeping still is the greatest challenge of all, but I forced myself to do something I never do: relax. [Ok, ok. I did sneak away for a bit to see some old friends from the body modification and performance scene. How could I pass up a chance to have La Negra Modified Goddess make me panquques con dulche du leche?!]
The remaining two appointments were all dotwork and some fine line fill-in. The dots were tiny and layered expertly for some buttery shading. It's a painstaking process, although, actually, less painful and easy on the skin. Naza also used fine lines as the veins of the leaves in the design for added texture. In total, just counting the time the needles were in my skin (outside of design, coffee and cookie breaks) Naza did all that work in only 6 hours!
Nevertheless, after that third and last session, I was beat. The next morning, after 9 hours of sleep, I was feeling great and took a couple of hours to sightsee. But before I did, I had wrapped my leg the night before with Saniderm aftercare medical bandages. Tattooer Jess Yen was swearing by it at the last NYC Tattoo Convention for faster healing, and to keep it safe and clean. I kept the bandages on for the next day as well, until right before I got on the plane (as I didn't want too much compression when taking the long trip). [See more on how Saniderm works here.] The final night before I left, I partied with Naza and Xoana, and made plans for my next trip back to finish the leg and then start the next one.
I am grateful, not only for the beautiful tattoo, but for the kindness and the wonderful experience I had getting tattooed. Creating that kind of experience is what distinguishes good artists from truly great ones -- ones worth flying to another continent, even with so many greatt artists in your backyard. I look forward to further tattoos and giggles soon.
For more photos, check my quick Flickr album of my sessions at Naza's studio. You can find more of Naza's work on Instagram.
Yesterday, I had my first tattoo session on my leg with Nazareno Tubaro in beautiful Buenos Aires, Argentina. [Here's a sneak peak on my Instagram of the initial outline.] As is normal for a long leg session, there's some swelling and I have to rest up, so I took this time to review the latest tattoo news and pick my faves for you.
A number of you have sent me links to the story that wrist tattoos are interfering with the Apple Watch's heart monitor. On its support site, Apple wrote, "The ink, pattern, and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor, making it difficult to get reliable readings." To take care of the tattoo problem, Conan came up with a fix: the Apple Watch Hand. It's a cute parody and worth a look for a giggle. The video is embedded above.
Another big story was the extensive temporary tattoo on model Cara Delevigne at The Met Gala. NY tattooer Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy, who has created permanent tattoos on Cara, used markers to create a cherry blossom tableau that caused a buzz, even amid the near-nakedness of Beyonce, J-Lo, and Kim Kardashian. Cosmopolitan interviewed Bang Bang on how the temp tattoo was created, as well as his celebrity clientele and tattooing Bieber on a plane.
In a more thoughtful article, S.E. Curtis writes on Millenials, tattoos and feminism for The Riveter. In it, there's a great quote from author Margot Mifflin on the whole "What will your tattoos look like when you're old?": "This is the comment of someone who may not understand that a whole demographic of people are going to share tattoos on aged bodies, which may indeed look worn and stretched, just liked aged bodies look worn and stretched," she says. "I think on some level this is an expression of older people's anxiety about their own aging bodies." I also found Margot's thoughts on tattoos & Millennials quite interesting:
"It's harder for Millennials to be original than it was for previous generations, because so much is digitally shared and the information moves so fast, and because trends are commercialized and commodified so quickly." According to Mifflin, tattoos are a way for a person in their 20s and 30s to self-define. This kind of body modification is less likely to be a statement about their cultural status or affiliations than it was in the past.Today, BoingBoing also wrote of Margot's must-have book "Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoos."
OC Weekly has another fantastic tattoo profile, this time on the legendary Rick Walters. The 70-year-old tattooer, with 50 years of professional tattooing under his belt, offers some gems in this feature, such as the following:
Tattooing doesn't really change, it just keeps going in a vicious cycle," Walters says. "Every 15-20 years, we get some art kids who think they can tattoo like they oil paint. They don't realize it has to have the black in it, because the black ink is carbon-based, so it dries, gets hard, and acts like a wall. The color wants to keep spreading, so if you don't use enough black, it'll just look like a puddle of melted crayons after 15 years."Some other interesting tattoo news links include:
* Another lawsuit against Black Ink Crew for tattoo scaring and infections.
* Canada's Global news writes on "The dangers of do-it-yourself 'stick and poke' tattoos."
* Kansas tattooer helps breast cancer patients.
* Video from Sochi's first tattoo festival in Russia.
* Famed blackwork tattooer Curly Moore and his wife Jacqui are featured in The Mirror as the "Most Tattooed Couple in Britain" [although, they never claimed to be -- and it seems that The Mirror didn't get it all right].
My second tattoo session is tomorrow. I'll be writing about my experience soon. Meanwhile, I'll try to keep up with the blog on my post-tattoo rest days.
Art work above by Alex Binnie.
On September 18th, the highly anticipated "Body Electric" exhibit at the Ricco Maresca gallery in NYC will open, featuring the fine art work of a stellar roster of tattooists, who include Saira Hunjan, Jef Palumbo, Duke Riley, Noon, Nazareno Tubaro, Amanda Wachob, Jacqueline Spoerle, Colin Dale, Scott Campbell, Peter Aurisch, Chuey Quintanar, Horiren First, Alex Binnie, Minka Sicklinger, David Hale, Stephanie Tamez, Virginia Elwood, and Yann Black.
The show is guest curated by the wonderful Margot Mifflin, author of Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo (and my co-conspirator in recent lectures, including Women's Ink). In her essay, "Visionary Tattoo," Margot writes that "tattooing has sprung free in the new millennium, liberated by artists who combine fresh concepts, holistic design, and masterful technique in thrillingly original styles." It is this "new generation of conceptual trailblazers" whose work Margot and the Ricco Maresca gallery have chosen to display in "Body Electric." Margot further writes:
The visual art featured here reflects their tattoo sensibility--the next best thing to showcasing the living canvases that bear their designs. They hail from around the globe: In Lucerne, for example, Jacqueline Spoerle uses Swiss folk motifs in lyrical silhouettes perfectly suited to tattoo's inherently graphical nature. In Los Angeles, Chuey Quintanar takes fine line black and grey portraiture to a new level of grace and power. New Yorker Duke Riley's maritime narratives betray a blush of nostalgia through strong line work and meticulous cross-hatching. In Argentina, Nazareno Tubaro blends tribal, Op Art, and geometric patterns in flowing compositions that embrace and complement human musculature. And in Athens, Georgia, David Hale, a relative newcomer, folds the curvilinear lines of Haida art into his folk-inflected nature drawings.I'm incredibly excited to attend on the 18th, not simply to view the works, but also to spend time with a number of the artists who will be arriving specifically for this exhibit. For one, Nazareno Tubaro of Argentina, one of my most favorite blackwork artists, will be at the show (and he'll also be a guest at Kings Avenue Tattoo NYC from 9-12 to 9-15). In addition to those artists whose work is on display, I hear many more will come to celebrate the opening. I hope you'll join us as well.
Art work above by Horiren First.
Art work above by Colin Dale.
This weekend, I received a succession of excellent text messages: they began with a video of an Argentinian tattooer dancing in his underwear...followed by photos of that same tattooer creating a dotwork masterpiece on another talented artist and friend. These are the very reasons smart phones were created.
Nazareno Tubaro of Buenos Aires, in his signature stippling style, adorned the face of his Brazilian blackwork brethren, Garcia Leonam. The tattoos meld with existing work on the top of Garcia's head, then flow in beautiful symmetry down along his face and scalp. You can get a glimpse of the painstaking technique of building a bold composition out of small dots by this close-up below (before Naza tattooed the second line along the ear).
Naza and Garcia created a short video from their session, which you can find on Naza's Instagram. You can find Garcia on Instagram as well. You won't, however, find the half-naked dancing video online. Not yet.
One of my favorite blackwork tattooers -- actually one of my favorite artists in general -- is Nazareno Tubaro of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He's no stranger to this blog, but I had to share this photo he posted on his Facebook page of work he did on a client because it is truly exemplary of how beautiful hand tattoos can be.
Check more of Naza's work here.
I got something for my European homies: One of my favorite artists, Nazareno Tubaro, has left his Buenos Aires studio for a bit and is doing a Scandinavian tour this summer hitting Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Here's where he'll be:
From June 23rd to the 27th, he'll be at another favorite -- Colin Dale's SKIN & BONE in Copenhagen.
From June 28th to the 30, he's tattooing in Helsinki at TATUATA.
From July 2nd to the 4th, he's tattooing in Alesund (Norway) at TATTOOS.NO.
From July 7th to the 10, he's tattooing in Halmstad (Sweden) at AMIGO INK.
Contact Nazareno at email@example.com.
And check our artist profile on him here. I'm hoping he'll be doing a US tour soon.
I'm loving this this playful video of blackwork badass Nazareno Tubaro, which offers an up-close look at his set-up (with a wink). The video is shot by Emiliano Vargas and Macarena Magnani, and edited by Magnani and Bruno Gradaschi (who also did the post-production work). A fabulous collaboration.
I'm a long-time fan of Naza. [He's featured in Black Tattoo Art.] His powerful black tattoos -- from geometric dotwork to twists on Borneo tribal -- have earned him a reputation that reaches far beyond Argentina. He began his career in 1996 in his hometown of Bahia Blanca. It was at a time when information on the art of tattooing was extremely scarce. Without industry magazines or tattoo blogs to guide him, Nazareno set out for a more traditional arts education to further his craft and enrolled in the state university of fine art in Buenos Aires. He says that the lessons learned in art school opened him up to new ways of expression in his tattoo work. He continued to practice and study tattooing while at the university, and shortly after graduation, he began working as a tattoo artist professionally.
Art school, however, did not provide all Nazareno needed to know to master his craft so he traveled, visiting artists around the world, including those in Borneo, Spain and Mexico, to learn different tattoo approaches and also make a network of friends who share information and support each others' work.
In 2009, Nazareno opened his private tattoo studio in Buenos Aires. He also does frequent guest spots at Windhorse Tattoo in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Now I just need to convince him to make a trip to Brooklyn.
I'm sure you'll soon get queasy reading incessant posts on my Black Tattoo Art so here's some virtual Pepto for ya ...
A FREE copy that you can win via the fab CoolHunting.com.
That's $159 saved in your wallet. Buy something nice. A kicky hat perhaps.
To enter to win, go to the bottom of this page, click on Contact and select "Black Tattoo Art Book Giveaway" from the drop-down menu. Tell them your favorite tattoo artist and they'll pick at random from entries received before 11:59 pm EST on 11 September 2009.
I'm so happy to be doing this give-away with the Cool Hunting crew -- the very best curators of high design -- because it brings me back to the roots of my tattoo blogging. Our joint blog venture Needled.com began in 2005. [About a year later, we sold it to Rivr Media. It ceased publication in February this year.]
My first, humbling moment clicking "post" for Needled was in their home, watching Josh hunched on his knees getting his back tattooed as he typed away on his Mac. It was a sight (and a great view!).
And so I always have felt part of the Cool Hunting family, at least their lowbrow little sister.
Also online today is a post on Black Tattoo Art featured in Piel Magazine, the virtual bod mod magazine published in Argentina by tattooed goddess La Negra. Le Negra has stunning tattoos by fellow Argentinian artist, Nazareno Tubaro, whose work is shown above and featured in the book. See more from his portfolio here.
Book, book, book, blah blah blah. Alright, let me get working on the tattoo news review to cleanse your palate from all my shameless book promo.