I was excited to learn that, earlier this month, one of NYC's premiere tattoo studios, Kings Avenue Tattoo, welcomed a new tattoo artist to their roster: Zac Scheinbaum. Zac rounds out the Kings Ave crew with a portfolio filled with my favorite things: dots, geometry and lots of black ink. I hit up Zac with a few questions about his work:
You've recently become a part of Kings Avenue Tattoo, coming from Saved Tattoo. As both studios have a high bar for excellence, what was your path like in tattooing to reach that bar?
I learned to tattoo in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at a shop called Four Star Tattoo. Mark Vigil apprenticed me. He is a very knowledgeable and incredibly talented tattooer. When I met him, and the years that followed, he showed me everything about how tattoos should be done, and the right and wrong ways that he thought to do things. I feel like I still learn and recall things he said to me all those years ago and they are totally relevant. But he also definitely "raised" me in a sense to have a high volume of respect for everything dealing with the craft...and artists that do it.
I initially came to New York to get my arm done by Mike Rubendall. He was a huge influence on me and definitely helped me to be where I am today even from back then. I also would've never met Chris O'Donnell without Mike. I had gotten tattooed by Scott Campbell over at Saved many years before and always thought that it would be so awesome to work there.
Long story short (sort of, after a rocky goodbye and a few months on St. Mark's), I ended up at Saved. Both Kings Avenue and Saved have always been gigantic influences on me and my work. It is a fulfillment of life dreams and goals to have the opportunity to work around these amazing artists.
How do you work to become better and better at your craft?
I never feel satisfied with my work, and I think that's important. I'm always trying to learn and get better. I sort of think of it as getting an education from all of these different amazing teachers, then taking things you like and don't like about what advice you are given, and deciding how to implement that to best fit your clients and your vision of the final piece of work.
I'm a fan of your style of blackwork and dotwork tattooing. How did you come to your style and what references do you seek out for your work?
The use of black and white imagery is what I have always been the most comfortable doing. I would love to do more color work also, but it is definitely a little harder for me to grasp sometimes. That being said, the strong use of dotwork and geometric tattooing that I do, I can attribute directly to Thomas Hooper. When he came to Saved, it definitely changed my mentality -- whether it was about my philosophy for tattoos, work ethic, design, and overall aesthetics, he had such a smart and different way of doing things. I really admire him and wouldn't be where I am without him. I've always loved this type of tattooing (Xed Le Head, Tomas Tomas, Jondix, Mike the Athens), but never understood how it was even possible. Thomas showed me how to make mandalas and how he suggested doing things, and I sort of took that, then just ran with it on my "own" after he left.
I'd say that, just within five years, the appreciation for blackwork and dotwork tattoos has grown exponentially in the US. Do you think that's accurate \? What are your thoughts on the growing interest in these styles?
I think every style of tattooing has a time and a place, and this just happens to be the time where this type of tattooing is getting a little bit more notoriety and acknowledgment, but I'm sure, as with all things, it will pass and something else will come up instead of it. Not that that's a bad or a good thing, but I think it's definitely something that, when people think of tattoos, this was just something they hadn't seen before and that's why it got so big -- because they didn't realize what was possible, or that a tattoo could be so detailed.
What do you love about tattooing?
I love tattooing because it's has given me the opportunity to do art every single day. I feel so honored that anybody would like to get tattooed by me. It means the world to me. Not only has tattooing integrated itself into every aspect of my life, whether I'm reading or having dinner or whatnot, I always can find new ideas everywhere. It lets you create all the time! You get to make people happy, and give them something that can change their lives.
What projects, travels, events are coming up for you that you'd like to share?
I'm working on a series of new paintings, and hopefully some flash. I am planning a trip to Japan early next year, but am not sure the exact dates yet.
Find more of Zac's work on his site and Instagram.
Above: Blackwork tattoo by Roxx 2Spirit. Floral tattoo by Joy Rumore.
On Monday -- P.Ink Day -- a group of truly exceptional tattooers, exceptional in their art and in their spirit, dedicated their time to transform mastectomy scars of kickass women into beautiful life-affirming creations. Just taking a look at Gigi Stoll's photos of what went down at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn that day, offers a glimpse into just how powerful and magical tattooing can be.
As I've posted here before, P.Ink or Personal Ink Project is an incredible resource that offers tattoo inspiration, ideas and info for breast cancer survivors. It also is a place where these women can research and perhaps even connect with skilled artists who can transform mastectomy scars into beautiful works of art. On Monday, P.Ink brought artists and survivors together in person, and picked up the tab via an Indiegogo campaign -- that still needs help with funding.
To learn more about P.Ink and the transformation of mastectomy scars from the perspective of the tattoo artist and the client, check this HuffPo video (below) featuring P.Ink's founder Noel Franus, artist Joy Rumore and Megan Hartman, whom Joy tattooed on Monday (tattoo shown above). Joy also blogged about her experience, which is a great read.
For all the inspiration and beauty, thank you, P.Ink and the artists who made it all possible: Stephanie Tamez, Virginia Elwood, Ashley Love, Michelle Tarantelli, Roxx, Shannon Purvis Barron, Nikki Lugo, Miranda Lorberer, Jen Carmean, and Joy Rumore.
In March, we wrote about the Personal Ink Project or P.INK, which is an incredible resource that offers tattoo inspiration, ideas and info for breast cancer survivors. It also is a place where these women can research and perhaps even connect with skilled artists who can transform mastectomy scars into beautiful works of art.I've had the pleasure of working with the P.INK team, in a small way, on this event. P.INK is a "nights-and-weekends passion project" of a handful of employees at the Boulder-based ad agency CP+B who had been affected by cancer. Their goal is to see this project expand, including more P.INK Days should this first event be a success.
On October 21, 2013, that connection will be made when 10 tattoo artists will tattoo scar-coverage or nipple-replacement tattoos on 10 breast cancer survivors at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn, NY.
You can help make this event happen by being a part of the crowd-funded project for as little as $10. There are also tons of perks for those who can give more. For $50, there's digital swag and temp tattoos. For $500, you get an art print of one of the tattoos you helpedg fund.
And the art is guaranteed to be stellar considering the line-up:
If you can't contribute, spread the word by sharing this page and using #PinkTattooDay. You can follow P.INK on Twitter and on Facebook.
Learn more about the project from the video below.
By Matana Roberts
One of the most sought-after artists for blackword ornamental and sacred geometry tattoos is Thomas Hooper of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn. [In fact, he's currently not booking new clients.] Thomas is also a prolific painter and has worked on numerous design projects.
Thomas recently discussed tattoos, fine art and fatherhood with the designers at 3sixteen for their Singularities project, in which they highlight creative people in various industries.
You can read the full Singularities interview here, but I'll give you a taste:
Tell us about your first tattoo apprenticeship. What's something you learned that still rings true for you today?Check more work from Thomas on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Brooklyn's own Saved Tattoo is a powerhouse of talent with collectors traveling the world to get work that spans all genres. What's particularly exciting is when tattooists collaborate on a piece, melding their own unique artistry into one cohesive work on a very lucky client. This is brilliantly illustrated in Taylor Toole's video of Chris O'Donnell and Thomas Hooper working together on a backpiece for Ryan Begley (founder of Shirts & Destroy). The film pulls together footage from sessions 2 through 8, and it's a great peak into the process, especially for such a large tattoo.
Outside of tattooing, Chris, Thomas and Ryan are collaborating on a publishing venture specializing in hand crafted books and art editions: Artifact Publishing recently released Winter Solstice: Black Mandalas, Series One, which is a set of 28 prints each measuring 5.5" x 5.5". Each collection of prints is enclosed in a hand-stained wooden box and is a limited edition of 100. Details here. Chris and Thomas have also designed for Shirts & Destroy collections.
Looking forward to seeing more from them on skin, canvas, print and apparel.
With LA Ink canceled and NY Ink's first season wrapped, it's welcoming to see more and more media dedicated to footage focused on the art and offering real portraits of the tattooists.
One beautifully produced documentary short, which was recently released, is a look at the tattoos and paintings of Cris Cleen. The doc is filmed and edited by Andreas Tagger
who followed Cris as he tattooed at Idle Hand Tattoo SF and Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn. Along with Cris's thoughts on the art and his approach to "the tattoo experience," there are close-ups of his work -- a style that he describes as "turn of the century, more European influenced traditional tattoos."
Samples of his portfolio are shown below. For more, click CrisCleen.com.
Portrait of Sarah Wolfe (without border) by Bryce Ward
As I mentioned in my post on tattoos in the LGBT community, I'm featuring renowned tattoo artists in the community whose work I find inspiring. One such artist is Stephanie Tamez, co-owner of Saved Tattoo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Stephanie works in a variety of styles, from Japanese to black & gray to etching-inspired work and much more. One of my favorite tattoo projects is the backpiece above on my dear friend Sarah Wolfe, who documented the tattoo on her fabulous Evolution of a Backpiece blog. See more images of her work by Bryce Ward here.
Stephanie Tamez hails from San Antonio, Texas where she worked as a graphic designer. She moved to San Francisco and learned how to tattoo while also working as an artist for Tower Records. In 2001, she made her way to New York and joined the NY Adorned family. In March, Stephanie joined Saved Tattoo.
Read more about Stephanie and her work on her blog.
Say what you will about New York, but one thing's for sure: this city is like a magnet for great artists. That means, at any given shop, you'll find talented tattooists from just about anywhere you could land a dart on a map. Recently, I sat down with Bailey Hunter Robinson.
I first met Bailey back when he was working with Chops at the now-defunct Hold Fast studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Bailey headed down south a few months ago but has recently returned and now tattoos out of Saved. We sat down over pancakes and talked about tattoos, Native Americans, and his (enigmatic?) personality.
P: So you grew up down south, right?
B: Yes, I grew up in Bay Minette, Alabama.
How'd you get into tattooing?
A series of bad choices I guess (laughs). I was always in the hardcore scene and around a bunch a kids who were heavily tattooed, they were all older than me, they were all tattooed. I had an apprenticeship at this shop called Hula Moon in Pensacola, FL, which turned out to really just be me working for a year. I wasn't able to do anything, I couldn't touch their machines, I had to break everything down, I made needles for all seven guys, took care of all seven of their stations. It was a really busy, military-style shop. And to make money I washed dishes at a Japanese restaurant.
When was this?
That was when I was eighteen. And then I decided I was gonna go to college to be a printmaker (because I'd never tattooed at that point). So I went to college for a little while, quit that and then I started tattooing when I was twenty-one. I did my first tattoo in Birmingham, AL. This guy Chad Soner helped me out a lot when I was first starting. I have a lot of old tattoos from him. He kinda showed me the basics: sharp end goes in to the skin, this is what a power supply looks like, have at it!
So that's what I did. I did my first tattoos there, I did like three or four and then moved back to Pensacola and got a job at the worst shop in the city. Because that was the suggestion pretty much, you know, 'Get a job at the worst shop!' So I tattooed for about six weeks. I took a bunch of pictures of these terrible tattoos I'd done and sent 'em to this guy in Tallahassee. He hired me so I went and started working for him. I told him I'd been tattooing for like a year and a half and he bought it.
Why the move up to New York?
I knew a bunch of people up here. At the time I'd quit tattooing. I quit for about six months and didn't want to tattoo anymore. I was living in Tallahassee, living in this dirty old punk house and just being scummy and gross and was like 'Ah, I gotta get my shit together,' you know. So I moved up here. I just wanted to be here because it's the birthplace of the tattoos that I like. This is where it all started and I wanted to be a part of it.
Funny, I wrote in my notes "connection to past" and that's something that seems to come through in your tattoos and paintings, too. It seems connected, especially the idea of a trade that involves working with your hands, moving to New York to become part of that history. Is there some part of doing a trade with your hands that appeals to you, too?
Honestly, I think tattooing's not a really tough trade. It's not a trade where you can say, 'I work with my hands.' I think someone that digs ditches, or someone that farms or rides tractors, literally works with their hands. That's tough work.
You know all tattooers are the same, you get fat and slouchy (laughs), it can't be that strenuous, you know? But I guess it's a feeling of 'I'm creating this thing' and maybe it looks like it's old...like I'm building furniture that's made to look antique; sometimes I feel weird about it.
Well, you've also referred to tattooing 'as just a job.'
It's nothing more to me than a job. It used to be so much more. When I was younger it was like, 'Tattooing is my life!' and I was so consumed with it and I was so into it. I wanted to be so good and I wanted to do this and do that. And I'd go get tattooed by this guy, by that guy, and then the older I got I realized it doesn't fucking matter. It's a job.
If someone comes in with a tattoo and I don't wanna do it, I'm not gonna do it. I don't take it like, 'Oh I have to do everything' because I don't have to do everything. I just do what I want and that's kinda how I live my life I guess. I used to be really wrapped up in the 'This guy is a really cool tattooer, and that guy is good, and I wanna be big like that guy' and maybe it's just part of getting older. Because who gives a shit? There's so much other shit to do. I'm really involved with antiques. I love that. I like doing things that aren't tattoo related. I like painting a lot of really Dutch-style art, that's another thing I'm really into, kinda Shaker-style stuff.
I was looking at some of the paintings up on your website. One reminded me of a George Catlin painting. It was a Native American chief.
I'll go through phases where I'll be obsessed with Native American stuff and I'll paint like twenty native American things and then I'll be like, 'Ugh, I don't want anything to do with it.' It kinda goes in cycles. For a while I did nothing but Native American tattoos basically. Every single tattoo would be that, not necessarily because I wanted to, it just kind of evolved into this phase and then it just stopped and as soon as it started it was done. I could've had a portfolio of just Native American stuff. And then it was gypsy girl heads. And then that was done and now it's just, unfortunately like nothing (laughs), a big portfolio of nothing.
How would you describe your style?
I definitely try to be diligent about it, with the colors I choose, the line weights and stuff. But I don't know, I can't think of how to describe it. I just want it to look like my opinion of Americana. Sometimes I want it to look really old and gnarly, like it coulda been done on the Bowery and sometimes I want it to look really fine and crisp like an old cigar box label or bicycle ad from the turn of the century or something. Those two things really influence me. But as far as what I'd describe it as, I'd just say Americana.
What do you think makes a 'good' tattoo?
Something that's got a decent amount of black. I like a lot of black. I like to be able to tell what it is from far away. Anything that's not a new idea pretty much makes a good tattoo (laughs). Anytime someone comes up with a new idea, it's probably a bad idea (laughs).
Are there subjects you always want to tattoo? Horses, Native Americans?
I'm always up for that stuff. If I could have it my way, I would literally tattoo nothing but horses, Native American stuff, birds... that might be it. Ooh, and snakes.
How about other tattooers you're into?
I love Theo Mindell's stuff. He's like he perfect mix, he's one of my favorites. And there's this guy Chris Queen, I like his stuff a lot. It's very different and honest. It's very vignette-looking and he pulls it off perfectly. He does the tattoos that I have tried to do and I just can't do 'em. But those guys, I get really excited when I see their stuff. And then you have the obvious Bert Grimm.
Anything coming up on the horizon?
I'm trying to have a show in the fall, a solo show, but no tattoo stuff. The folk art and stuff... I would like to do it elsewhere but it'll probably be at Saved, late October. I was actually thinking of maybe doing it at the other Saved location in the city, just get a different crowd in there.
How is that place?
It's nice. It's still under construction right now, but it's surprising. It's kind of a weird marriage of two bizarre businesses. It's underneath a cafe with a little store that sells 'items.' They sell things like old filament lights, all kinds of stuff.
Before we finish, I got one more thing I have to bring up. You've got a bit of a reputation of being kind of surly... some might even use the word 'asshole.'
Yes, apparently that's a very big issue (laughs)! Well, I guess it's all perception. I feel like I'm kind of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of a person and I was raised by a take-it-or-leave-it kind of person and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
If you don't like it, you don't have to fucking get it, but don't expect me to bend over backwards. I'm no one special by any means, but neither are you. So if we're not gonna come to an agreement, there's no point in wasting my time or yours. And sometimes I feel like I get kind of a bad rap about it. There are a lot of people that are bigger jerks than me. But maybe 'cause I'm not as outgoing as other people, I don't smile while I'm being mean or something it just comes out wrong.
I don't know. I've always gotten that my whole life. It's weird because, for the number of people who think I'm a jerk, there's also a number of people that think I'm really nice...well, I don't know if I'd say a lot of people (laughs). They're my friends, how 'bout that. I think it's really weird. But apparently it's a big deal and a lot of people talk about it, other tattooers. If people think I have a really bad look on my face or whatever, hey, I'm just ugly (laughs). This was my favorite question so far, by the way.
On Friday, Marisa posted a bit of an introduction on tattooer John Reardon, which let's us skip the foreplay and get straight to the Q&A.
I met up with John at Brooklyn's venerable Saved Tattoo in Williamsburg and headed around the corner to Roebling Tea Room to talk about tattoos, his book (the Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting a Tattoo) and cheeseburgers. Here's how it went.
PS: I think I'm just gonna get the oatmeal. I actually ate before I came over here...
JR: I'm doin' the pork roll. I was actually here for breakfast, this morning. I had the granola then... Ah, fuck it, I'm getting a cheeseburger. I kind of eat like an asshole.
(Laughs) All right. Wanna start?
Where're you from originally?
And how'd you get into tattooing?
My dad had tattoos. I don't know, we were kinda white trash.
How long you been tattooing?
It's thirteen years this summer.
And how'd you learn?
Just started hacking away at my friends. A guy up in New Hampshire helped me out, showed me what to do, but if I ever had any questions, I could usually call him up and he'd help me out over the phone.
Did he give you a machine?
Ah... I ordered some shitty machine from the back of a magazine. I was 18, just graduated high school, my friends chipped in. It was illegal in Massachusetts and we were tired of going to Rhode Island or New Hampshire to get tattooed. I was going to art school and they were like, 'You're gonna learn how to tattoo.'
And you went to Pratt, right?
I heard something about you teaching Eli Quinters how to tattoo?
Um, no, not really. I mean we just kind of hung out. We were like the only Straight Edge kids on campus for the most part. The first time we hung out was at a Hatebreed/Bloodlet show. And he's like, 'Hey, uh, you do tattoos, right?' and I said yeah and he had this big fucked up tattoo on his back and he asked me to fix it so I said all right. We just ended up hanging out after that. And he asked me to teach him how to tattoo. I was like, 'I can show you all the shit that I know,' but I didn't really know shit at the time. And then he ended up getting an apprenticeship at the shop I worked at.
Where was that?
Medusa on St. Marks. It's not there anymore. I started there in '98 and he started there in '99, I think.
So how'd you end up at Saved?
I knew Scott Campbell for a while and we always used to drink together...
This was after the straight edge phase.
Oh yeah, yeah (laughs) that kinda fell off around 2000. But Eric Jones was quitting so I filled in for him.
Considering Pat Sullivan, our resident "I-Swear-I'm-Not-A-Hipster" blogger, will soon be interviewing John Reardon, I felt it fitting to revisit the tattooist's book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting a Tattoo.
Released last year, John walks readers through every step of the process, from deciding on the art and artist, to physically prepping for the event, to aftercare. It's a comprehensive guide for first-timers, which also features his own tattoo art and designs.
For those looking to get tattooed by John, he now divides his time between Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn and Bright Side Tattoo in Copenhagen, Denmark (ya know, just the next exit on the Brookly-Queens Expressway). Pat will have more on the artist coming soon.
While John does a great job with the book, I did want to add five tips, rather warning signs, on when walk away from the needles:
1. If the studio slogan is this: "If You Can't Run With The Big Dogz, Go Piss With The Puppies," walkz away.
2. If the design has you feeling less like Megan Fox and more like Meghan McCain, walk away.
3. If your tattoo artist has a "degree" from the Las Vegas Ink School, walk away. In fact, if you are prone to seizures, don't even click the animated Giff-laden site for the school.
[Thanks, Chris, for the link and headache.]
4. If the artist's portfolio is consistently featured on the Fail blog, walk away.
5. Finally, if your tattoo artist looks like this and is willing to tattoo a full constellation on your young face, walk away. Or at least walk away from the media blitz.
Photo via Supertouch.
While my mom has asked specifially NOT to honor her with blood and ink ("A nice brunch is fine, dear."), that doesn't mean you can't take advantage of the $100 Mom tattoos Scott Campbell will be doing at The Smile, his Manhattan home away from Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn. Quite a deal considering he charges a grand for his first hour of tattooing.
Scott created the special flash above for Sunday's event, a sheet he'll throw out once he's done that day. Tattoos will be given on a first come first serve basis from 8am-6pm.
THEN, once you're inked, you can submit your Mom tattoo here to win free chicken for a year at KFC. But if you don't find a coronary appealing, there's also the chance to win a motorcycle or family vacation (they offer no more details on these prizes except you have to register by tomorrow).
Also, the first 200 who upload a picture of a real or temporary mom-themed tattoo by 4PM Sunday will get $10 in KFC gift checks. Just please don't get their own KFC heart tattoo. Please.
Now go kiss your mom.
Thanks to Scott and Vince for the KFC links!
Scott Campbell of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn is consistently in the news for tattooing celeb clientelle, but it's his first major solo art show this weekend that's making headlines today.
Opening tomorrow at the O.H.W.O.W. Gallery in Miami, Make it Rain takes the visual language of tattooing and moves it from skin to sculptures, paintings, drawings and photography.
For more images from the show and other works, check out Cool Hunting's review.
Scott Campbell can make a mean tattoo, as shown above, and now he'll be doing it amongst designer cheeses and fancy footwear in the latest Bond Street storefront called The Smile.
Yesterday, Urban Daddy profiled the new cafe/general store/tattoo shop, and by this morning, my Inbox was flooded with forwards of it with a range of critiques, from the positive (tattooing getting couture cred) to the bleak (another nail in the tattoo cool coffin).
What I found most interesting is this Observer article where Scott notes that tattooing at The Smile accommodates his high-end Manhattan clients who don't want to venture to his Williasmburg shop, Saved Tattoo: "Them walking into a tattoo shop is them leaving their turf, their comfort zone, so there's a little bit of hesitancy." [Yeah, I know. The skinny jeans wearing hipsters of BK pose a menacing threat to East Side socilaites.]
Scott is known for being the NY tattooist to celebs but it's his work on us regular schlubs where his A-list work is best demonstrated. Check his portfolio here.