On this Valentine's Day, I thought it fitting to share a story on Scott Campbell's view of tattooing lovers' names, which are considered "regrettable tattoos" by many. In this NY Mag interview, which includes a short film entitled "With Love" (directed by Steven Sebring), Scott talks about how he supports and applauds those willing to take a risk in expressing their love for another in a very permanent way, despite the odds of a lifelong relationship.
Here's a bit from that Q&A:
How do you think tattooing has affected your view on love as eternal?
Nothing's eternal. There's something in having tattoos that makes you realize that we are ephemeral. In having a bunch of tattoos, you end up taking your physical self much less seriously. It's not precious. We're not precious. And I've seen that since falling in love when I was a kid and getting girls' names tattooed on me, which are now faded and blurred and buried under others. We are a narrative that has a beginning and an end. If you try to hang on to anything forever, it's not going to work. What works is appreciating who you got.
Do you see a difference between a "love" tattoo, like the couple ones you see in the video, and a regular tattoo?
No, tattooing is just a way of communicating. It's like a language. The idea is where the power is. It's not in the type of ink you use. If you're tattooing a powerful idea, it will be powerful. If it's meaningless and just aesthetic, it will be meaningless.
And when I say meaningful, that doesn't necessarily mean I disagree with spontaneity and lightheartedness; there's an honesty in that. If you got a dolphin on your ankle during spring break, that's valid. It doesn't have to summarize your entire existence. It's the documentation of a moment. Some moments are heavy and some are light, and they're all valid.
There's often this thought that
getting someone's name as a tattoo is a poor decision. You mention in
the film that when you got Lake Bell's
name tattooed on you that people were surprised. Do you ever feel like
it's irresponsible to encourage someone to get a tattoo of someone's
name, to get something they might regret?
No, not at all. You're talking to someone who has tons of tattoos on them. I don't see anything hazardous in having a tattoo on you that might become irrelevant. Like if you have an ex's name, and you're not with them anymore, it doesn't make it any less significant.
I encourage people to get their lover's name, if they believe in it. Nothing bad can come from falling in love completely. Yes, you might get hurt. But in the long run, having an ex-girlfriend's name on you is much less tragic than being 70 and having never allowed yourself to never let go. Not getting a tattoo out of fear of regret is taking the skin on your legs, for example, and putting that on a higher pedestal than your emotional journey through life. That's an imbalance of priority.***
I highly recommend reading the interview, whether you agree with Scott's view or not.
I recently got my own "couple" tattoo (shown below, freshly tattooed): a small little fish to complement the detailed Porgy fish skeleton, tattooed by Tim Kern on my love. It's symbolic and not a name. With my day-to-day work being so precise and literal, I love expressing myself through tattoos in a way that is not. Yet, I see Scott's view on the beauty behind "potentially regrettable acts in passionate moments."
Tattoos above by Tim Kern.
Artwork above by Sam Clark.
Artwork above by Tim Kern.
Artwork above by Erin Chance.
I think this is the first post ever with a hashtag-like headline, but I had to highlight #3paintingsadayfor5days, which is fabulous tag to follow on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter for viewing fine art online, especially now that so many tattoo artists have jumped on it to share their work. In general, artists nominate each other to post, on their social media pages, three paintings a day for five days.
It's been great seeing my news feeds flood with art work from all mediums, like the fire drawings by David Sena below, or (two of) the digital paintings by Jason Butcher (also below). Often artists add some details about the works, like Tim Kern, who offers up beautiful sentiment about his inspiration, his wife Hang, for the works above.
I love this stuff!
Artwork above by Jason Butcher.
Fire drawings above by David Sena.
After our our Q&A with the fabulous Erin Chance last March, I heard a bunch of friends from around town voice how they were hoping that Erin -- who is based in Richmond, Virginia at Ghostprint Gallery -- would spend some extra time in NYC. Well, Tribulation Tattoo recently announced that Erin will be a guest artist at the studio from February 27 to March 4th, 2015. Friends rejoice! Erin is one of a number of artists who owner Tim Kern has lined up for winter. Check the guest list here.
To ask about an appointment with Erin, you can leave a message here.
Find more of her excellent work on her site, Facebook, & Instagram, as well as our Q&A.
In the latest edition of the UK's Total Tattoo Magazine -- its 10-year anniversary issue -- you'll find what the magazine graciously calls my "words of wisdom," although a truer description would be, "Here's a page of Marisa blathering on about something she doesn't like."
For this column, editor James Sandercock asked me to write further on the Daily Mail's crush on me, as I noted in my World's Worst Tattoo Reporting post. In that post, I talked about "The Fail" using my photo in a ridiculous article about how "middle class" people have tattoos. But it wasn't the first time a pic of me was featured. In my piece for Total Tattoo, I talk about how the tabloid has banked off my bod before.
Here's a taste:
If Andy Warhol was correct that everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes, then I'm pretty pissed off that The Daily Mail is eating up all my allotted time. Over the past year, the tabloid has featured a picture of me in all my heavily tattooed glory, not just once, but twice-and both times they were not kind. I could liken the The Fail to a jilted ex-boyfriend, obsessed and angry that I've dared to do anything to my appearance without permission. But it's really more insidious. What the tabloid does (and they are not alone) is lure people in with tattoo images--many of which are used without permission--then slap a catchy headline over some cheap and easy content, all the while, having McDonald's ads flash in the background. Breaking it down: my bod is being used to sell burgers. Not the acclaim I was hoping for.
There are also great reads in the issue, such as the artist interviews with legend Horiyoshi III as well as Marco Galdo and Max Pniewski. And giveaways, including my Black & Grey Tattoo box set!! Grab the mag for more info.
Freshly inked head tattoo by Tim Kern.
Cover-up tattooed by Tim Kern at the Evergreen Tattoo Invitational.
This morning, my tattoo news alert was blowing up with mainstream media coverage of tattoo events across the US. This past weekend, three major conventions took place: the Evergreen Tattoo Invitational in Springfield, Oregon; the Motor City Tattoo Expo in Detroit, Michigan; and the West Texas Tattoo Convention in San Angelo, Texas.
The Evergreen Tattoo Invitational received a lot of local press coverage, particularly for a first convention, which was organized by Joshua Carlton and Riley Smith. The more extensive coverage came from The Register-Guard, which posted this video (below), as well as some photos from the convention floor. You can also find a slideshow from Evergreen at Komonews.com.
Tattoo above by Randy Engelhard, winner at the Motor City Tattoo Expo.
The Motor City Tattoo Expo celebrated its 19th year as Michigan's most popular convention. The Detroit News covered the event, as did MLive, which also has a sizable slideshow of images from the show. As with other convention coverage, there was an emphasis on the tattoo TV reality stars in attendance.
For the West Texas Tattoo Convention, K-San news offered this video, featuring a quickie interview with Oliver Peck.
I'll be covering my hometown NYC Tattoo Convention, March 7-9.
Photo by Edgar Hoil. Tattoo by Josh Lin.
Despite being covered in ornamental blackwork tattoos, I love all genres of the art, which is why it has been fun exploring them all in my books when I can't have them all on my bod.
One of the volumes from the Black & Grey Tattoo box set, focused on photo realism in tattooing, and on its pages were lush renderings of images, from pop culture portraits to wild animals to family tributes, and much more. There are so many ways to explore photorealism in tattooing, which makes it an exciting art form.
And when something is exciting, well, it usually ends up on TV.
The folks at Oxygen's tattoo competition show, Best Ink, have asked me to do a post on photorealism in light of tonight's episode, which pits the tattoo artist contestants against each other as they vie to create the best realistic drawings, and tattoos on clients who expect an artistic miracle in five hours. You can catch a preview of the episode here.
Insect tattoo by Tim Kern, Tribulation Tattoo.
Realistic tattooing has not merely developed in in the past decade--it has mutated, leaping far beyond normal progression in its artistry and execution. There has been explosion of photographic representations tattooed with great precision and depth. It has invigorated the tattoo community with the possibilities of mastering a difficult art on a difficult canvas.
Both new and experienced artists face a number of challenges in realistic tattooing; the most obvious one is making it look real--capturing the look, and even the soul, of the subject. Many portrait tattoos, for example, commemorate the loves of the wearer: family, pets, cars and even fictional characters. The personal significance prescribed to these tattoos adds to the great responsibility of the artist. Another challenge concerns the longevity of the tattoo. A skilled tattooist may choose not to render certain details in the tattoo exactly as they appear in the photo because, as skin ages, lines blur and ink fades, which could leave a portrait of Marilyn Monroe looking more like Marilyn Manson. Realism specialists also find ways to create a harmony with the body so that the tattoos don't look "slapped on" but appear organic to the wearer. It's particularly difficult to have this balance and stay true to the image but stellar artists find the right mix.
Beyonce portrait tattoo on Karolina by Andre Tenorio.
Keeping all this in mind, it will be interesting to see if the contestants on Best Ink do justice to the genre and come up with work that demonstrates the true artistry and exciting possibilities of photorealistic tattooing. The show airs at 10 PM EST ... and yes, we'll be drinking.
Today is the birthday of my dear friend Tim Kern of Tribulation Tattoo (check their fancy new site). Many know Tim for his "creepy cute" creations, but really, Tim is one of the most versatile artists I know, creating exceptional works in vastly different genres.
He is also an incredible painter. He is wicked in karaoke. And his wife is super hot.
I could go on, but I'll let his bio speak further:
Tim Kern is a rotten carny bastard. A seventh-generation twin, he was born in a state of Misery... Half-cooked and with a lazy eye. Over the years, he has developed a passion for human oddities, prestidigitation, and serial killers. Tim has been a tattoo artist since 1995, and works at Tribulation Tattoo in NYC. If seen, do not approach, and shoot on sight.I'll also add to that a little known fact: Tim tattooed my most secret tattoo--a signature caricature piece on the back of my head, as shown disembodied below. [Photo by Til Krautkramer.]
Check more of Tim's work on Facebook and Instagram. There's also his free portfolio iPhone app powered by BodyMod.org.
His work will get in your head. [Yup, I said it.]
Hurricane Sandy made a mess of the transit system here in NYC and reports are informing me that New Jersey has actually cancelled Halloween (can they do that?!). Fortunately, Marisa and I already managed to get in our Hallows Eve festivities last weekend with a rousing evening of karaoke with tattooist Tim Kern (who was dressed as a very convincing Gene Simmons) and Friends. In honor of our "Tank Girl and Booga" couples-costume (and the fact that I'm a Hewlett & Martin junkie), I wanted to post these two great Tank Girl tattoos.
[Tank Girl tattoo by Bryan Hall of Cherry Hill Tattoo in Naples, FL]
[Tank Girl tattoo by Joe Capobianco of Hope Gallery in New Haven, CT]
Happy Halloween, everyone!
Starting off your week with this personal essay from our Craig Dershowitz on scoring a tattoo appointment with a booked artist, and the disappointment of having to cancel.
My mom is sick. I am in a bitter court battle. My new apartment requires two months security plus first month rent. They say that when someone gives multiple excuses, they are probably all lies. Believe me, I wouldn't believe this if I wasn't living through it. It is not believable. I cope with tattoos, through tattoos. Tattoos are cathartic and liberating. They remind me that I have control and power over myself, regardless of how many things are conspiring against me. They bring physical pain that, when there is so much mental pain, is a welcome respite. You know when the pain of a tattoo will end and you know how it will end.
For the initiated, tattooing seems like a never-ending process. We are constantly picking our next piece, considering our next artist and, usually, in the midst of a large project. But, there is a finite amount of skin and as each session closes, so too, eventually, does the body. It was my goal to have my body complete by the end of 2012. Tim Kern is in the middle of my back piece (above). Claire Reid is in the middle of my thigh (below right), and I had an appointment with Yoni Zilber for portions of my chest.
And, I had to cancel them all. Not only was it personally upsetting, it was professionally problematic. I know these guys. Their schedules are beyond packed. I wonder how many seconds it took for any of them to fill my spot with someone off of a waiting list. Getting another appointment can be difficult. Getting a reputation for being a flake is worse. Getting them to believe an excuse or three that you yourself wouldn't believe is the worst.
In a small shop in the Village, a tattoo artist told me that he wished he could get work from Yoni and asked if I could get him an appointment. Tim is enigmatic and booked--constantly. Claire travels the world and is only in the States about once a year. All three are legends in the community. All three are incredibly talented. All three have spots on my body reserved for them that, until complete, feel even more empty and naked than if they had nothing on them at all.
I was whining to Marisa about this situation and she told me what a controversial problem it is. Some artists are so booked and full of willing subjects to take any open spot so it's not that big an issue. Others take great offense as if it was a personal slight. The reasons, true reasons, for cancelling are equally across the board. Whether it is financial constraints, laziness, forgetfulness or some serious, life-altering change, the reasons for cancelling an appointment range from meaningful and necessary to insulting and rude.
How each artist copes is probably based on their own personality mixed the experiences they have had in the past both with that particular collector and with random others. I am lucky to consider Yoni a friend and know him to be a genuine, caring and family-oriented man. When I told him about my mother, he knew I was telling the truth and had immediate concern. He returned the money I had Pay-pal'd him and gave good wishes. Tim said not to worry and was extraordinarily flexible and kind. Claire was still in Australia but promised to ask the earth for healing. If you know Claire, you know this is completely in line with her beliefs and personality.
Their generosity was, mostly, their general nature. But, it was also coupled with what they know about me. I had never blown off an appointment with them before. I had sat through long sessions and I have recommended them and promoted them as much as possible. Each one deserves it too. Such a familiarity between artist and subject is, however, not the norm. And, in the interest of preserving an important relationship, there are standards everyone should abide. I am going to get deep now!
I want to thank all the very beautiful people who came out Saturday night to party with us at Tattoo Culture for the NYC release of Black & Grey Tattoo: From Street Art to Fine Art, my latest tome co-authored with the excellent Edgar Hoill, who also shot many of the images in the book including the one above.
Alas, we were so busy drinking, eating, and dancing Saturday, that we didn't take many party pix. [If you took some, send 'em my way please.] Here are a couple below and more to be found on our Black & Grey book Flickr set.
UPDATE: the fabulous Jeff Rojas took some wonderful photos from the party and posted them in a Flickr set here.
** I still have a few author copies left at a reduced rate. Contact me at marisa @ needlesandsins dotcom for details. **
More on the book here.
All these people rock.
I don't think I have one photo with Tim Kern that doesn't have us throwing up devil horns. Photo courtesy of the beautiful Hang Tran--soon to be Mrs. Kern (not pictured here).
And speaking of Tim Kern, I'll leave you with one of his many works highlighted in the book.
In working on my upcoming Black & Grey Tattoo book, I came across rockin realism in the form of tattoo artist portraits, including Paul Booth, Bob Tyrrell, Jack Rudy, Tim Kern (above), and other greats. And so I had to learn more about the man who pays tribute to these artists with his own skin. Here's the story of Broken from the UK:
Please tell me about your tattoos and who did them.
I have some horror-inspired tattoos from different artists in the 80s/early 90s. But, about 10 years ago, thanks to the internet and increased number of tattoo magazines, my passion for tattoos was re-awakened. Paul Booth and Bob Tyrrell were top of the list, although I never thought for one moment I would ever be tattooed by them. Then in 2005, London started with a new tattoo convention and the following year, I decided to take a chance and email Bob Tyrrell. I knew I wanted a portrait tattoo and horror movie stars were the obvious choice for me, but having seen so many, I wanted something more unique. Then it hit me. Tattoo artists! These guys were creating masterpieces and yet tattooing was still seen as something only criminals, bikers and the lower end of society would get.
So, as Paul Booth was top of my list, I asked Bob to do a portrait of him [shown right]. Ten minutes later, I got a reply and it was all set for the London Convention. It was also very important to me to have Bob tattoo the Paul Booth portrait because they are close friends. With all my portrait tattoos, I have the same philosophy. I think that a close bond with the subject they are tattooing makes for a more personal and unique tattoo. [Also at that convention I met Tim Kern and got a severed wrist tattoo.]
The following month I had decided on getting a tattoo sleeve of tattoo artist portraits. I met Bob in New York and he was more than happy with the artists I had in mind. So, over the next few years, I got portraits of Filip Leu, Jack Rudy and Robert Hernandez, from Bob. Before the Hernandez portrait, I needed to find a suitable artist to tattoo a portrait of Bob. The obvious choice was Robert Hernandez. He was very happy to do it and he ended up doing it at the London Convention 2008, with Bob watching.
Very interesting experience.
He told me he was honored to be part of my project. The following year at the convention, Bob tattooed the portrait of Robert on, with Robert watching. Again, it was a surreal experience, but that made it even more special.
[In between the portraits, another artist who I was desperate to get a tattoo from, was Milosch. His black and grey is amongst the best in the world. In 2008, I planned to set up an appointment with him in the Czech Republic. After emailing him, he told me was doing a convention in the UK and a guest spot at a studio beforehand. When I found out the studio was 20 minutes from my house, I knew it was fate. He created an amazing demon on my calf and we have become good friends.]
Tim Kern and Benjamin Moss [shown left] were next on my list, but I felt that these artists would be better suited to doing a self portrait. I had already met them both and they are extremely friendly and gracious people. When I asked them, they were more than happy to do it. I wanted them to do a more horror inspired portrait and they both came up with something amazing.
What has been the reaction by the tattooists to your requests?
When I asked Bob Tyrrell to do the Paul Booth portrait, he told me that he would get Paul to pose for the photo reference. I've met Paul a couple of times since and he is genuinely honored by it. In fact, all the portraits I've had done, have been specifically photographed for each one. I haven't met Jack Rudy yet, but Filip thought his was really cool when I showed him and all the others say it's an honor to be a part of it too.
Why tributes to tattooists?
I chose tattooists because, since getting back into tattoos about 10 years ago (after 10 years when I didn't get anything), I realized just how far tattooers had come as artists. Nowadays, so many tattooers also work in fine art. People like Paul Booth, Robert Hernandez, Jeff Gogue and Carlos Torres etc...could easily have a career as fine artists. Yet, many people still don't see tattooing as an art. So this is just my small way of showing my appreciation for such an under appreciated art form.
Your portraits are largely in black & grey--what do you love about this style?
Black and grey, to me, is a timeless medium. Just like b&g photographs, they have an aura about them that just says class. I also think there is more focus on the subject with b&g. With color, there is the option of moving with each color. Black and grey needs more self awareness.
See more of Broken's tattooist portraits here.