In Oakville, Ontario, Canada, some of the best blackwork/dotwork in the world is being created at Good Point Tattoos, home to Cory Ferguson. [And yes, he's another featured artist in my upcoming Black Tattoo Art II book.]Tattooing since 2000, Cory is a second-generation tattoo artist. His father, tattooist "Harley Charlie" Duarte, introduced him to the art at a young age but he got his start in the business by working under Crazy Ace Daniels at Way Cool Tattoos.
Cory is best known for his blackwork and dotwork tattoos. His signature style is a fusion of Polynesian tribal designs, geometrics, optical illusions, Asian art, and pointillism. I particularly love the way he plays with perspective and negative space in his blackwork.
In this recently released video profile (below) by CreateMedia and Christoph Benfey, Cory talks about his style and what drives him in the tattoo process. He has a great line where he explains how he prefers to focus on the visual rather than any deep meanings behind the tattoos:
"I'm not here to tug at your heart strings. I'm trying to mess with your eyes."
Watch the video to hear more on Cory's art and get an up-close look as he creates a refined dotwork piece.
As I finish up the second volume to my very first book, Black Tattoo Art, I'm really enjoying pouring over the hundreds and hundreds of images of neotribal, blackwork, dotwork, ornamental, abstract and traditional tattoo art. I'll be highlighting a number of artists from the book here, in addition to those I've profiled in the past.
Let's start the new year with the work of Mikel Johnson of 4 Truths Tattoo Sangha in Victoria, B.C., Canada.
Tattooing since 1996, Mikel more recently opened up his new studio 4 Truths Tattoo Sangha, where he tattoos largely in tribal and blackwork, although he says that he happily works with clients on other ideas if he feels he can do the piece justice.
As he notes on his site, Sangha is a word in Pali and Sanskrit meaning association, assembly or community. The tattooist and Reiki Master has a strong passion for the sacred and communal aspects of tattooing and that comes forth in his work.
I spoke with Mikel about his studio and work. Here's a bit from our chat:
What is the vibe of the studio like?
Comfortable and really mellow. I wanted the studio to be really relaxing...no unwanted distractions. I guess it's maybe inevitable that I wanted to work in the kind of environment that I, personally, like to be in and get tattooed in. That's what I have done.
What is your particular approach to tribal and blackwork work?
Honestly, I think I am still learning this. I find I look at a lot of old reference. I truly stand on the shoulders of a lot of giants. I think, right now, my style may come out in how I visually balance things. I am not sure I will ever be done working at trying to make it my own, maybe that's why I like this style of tattooing so much. There are so many subtle layers to this work.
What do you love about this style of tattooing and tattooing in general?
It's hard to put into words what I love about these styles of tattooing. It just makes sense to me, feels right to me. Given the time, I would ramble on about this for longer than I should. I think there is a point in a tattooer's career where they find a style they really love working in. I feel fortunate enough to have found mine. Tattooing is maybe one of the last things that is still magical. The whole process is really quite amazing. It's such a unique and human experience. How can you not love that?
What's the best way to make an appointment?
The best way to reach me is by email: info [at] mikel.ca. As I am a one-man show, I find it works best.
Any conventions or guest spots coming up?
Right now, I haven't any solid plans to work conventions. I am looking to work the Edmonton convention next year, and I would love to go to the Montreal convention as well. Internationally, I think the Tattoo Convention in Nepal would be amazing to go see. Who knows? Maybe I will try and make that work somehow.
For now, my main focus is getting the studio running smoothly.
I feel fortunate. Thanks to my wife April, my clients, and all my friends that support and encouraged me to do what I do. Be good to each other. We are all more connected than we think.
Mikel - 4 Truths Tattoo Sangha
#31 - 532 Herald St. * buzz #133
I'm excited to be working on the second volume of "Black Tattoo Art," finding artists around the world doing bold, black and badass work. One such artist Laszlo Kis of Windhorse Tattoo in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
What's particularly exciting about Laszlo, or Laci's, portfolio is how he can seamlessly move from heavy, tribal infused pieces to electric Americana to buttery black & grey to Japanese iconography. His artistic diversity is ever-present in his new book documenting his life in tattooing: "Windhorsetattoos by Kis Laszlo" available on Blurb.
Originally from Monor, a Hungarian city near Budapest, Laci began tattooing at sixteen years old in his hometown. He traveled throughout Hungary, working in Budapest, Balatonfured, and Sopron before moving to Sao Paulo, where Misi Karai, a long time friend from Hungary, invited him to work at his studio, Misi Tattoo. After three years, they decided to open up a new studio called Tattoo Tradition, where Kis worked for over five years until going out on his own in early 2010 and establishing Windhorse Tattoo.
When asked why he's chosen not to concentrate on one particular tattoo genre, Laci says he feels it is important not to limit himself to one style in order to fulfill the wishes of different clients: "I believe that, for some strange reason, people know what they will have on the body -- as if the tattoo has been there all along even before they enter the studio. Therefore, I cannot ignore their request, but must work with it."
I was hoping that he'll make a trip to the US soon, but with two young children, he's staying in Brazil for a while. Time to start planning a South America tattoo vacation.
See more of Laci's work on his blog and website.
For those interested in hand-poked tattoo work, Grounded TV Network created this documentary short on Butterfly [no web site found], a painter who discovered traditional tattooing by hand in Goa, India and has traveled the world sharing her art ever since.
In the video, Butterfly discusses her spiritual approach to tattooing and the freedom to be able to work anywhere -- up in trees and volcanoes she says -- giving people the opportunity to be tattooed in nature and sacred spaces. [However, as far as I know, she has not tattooed in Tompkins Square Park with found objects from garbage cans.] The film is by Syd Woodward and definitely worth the watch.
I've really tried to put a moratorium on my use of the term "badass," but I gotta make an exception here as it so perfectly fits the body of work -- and tattooist herself -- in this artist spotlight: Roxx TwoSpirit (aka Bling Bling Roxx) of 2Spirit Tattoo in San Francisco.
Roxx is on my A list in the US for exceptional blackwork tattoos -- whether they be big, bold and heavy black or delicate, highly stylized line and dotwork. Roxx says that her inspiration stems from "a fusion of indigenous art, the beauty found in nature, urban street culture, and fine graphic design." She has a particular talent for harmonizing the art to the bodies of her loyal clientele, so that the tattoos appear almost organic to the wearer. It's powerful work.
Her tattoo career began on the streets of London in the late 80s, hand-poking punk rockers. She's lived and worked all over Europe and has finally settled down in San Francisco, CA. When Roxx is not painting San Francisco black, it's all about photography, her girlfriend Corey and their pitbulls Sumo and Apache.
See more of her work on Tumblr and Facebook.
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.
A fierce artistic energy emanates from London's illustrious/infamous Into You Tattoo. Owner Alex Binnie opened Into You in 1993, and since that time, the studio has garnered worldwide praise for innovative tattoo work from all members of its tattoo family. While tattoos in a variety of genres are created, Into You has a particular reputation for blackwork, and one of the artists renowned in this style is Tomas Tomas.
When asked about his life in tattoo, Tomas says that the search for his very first was disappointing after visiting many studios and feeling uninspired by the work he saw. He explains that he had his own vision for tattooing and spent the past 18 years unearthing and sharpening the style he yearned for as a child.
After some years, thanks to the rare tattoo publications available at the time, he discovered the work of various artists at Into You and connected with it. He became an avid customer there, spending hundreds of hours getting tattooed entirely from head to toe by the several resident artists. So it was only natural he found his way on the other side of the needle in these walls.
At Into You, Tomas hit upon a version of tribal blackwork that he says is his "attempt to reveal a new tribal graphic vocabulary in tune with the technological world." While still committed to the ancestral essence of this type of tattooing, he looks toward the future in London. He explains:
Further exploration of this practice revealed that, often, tattoos in tribal societies were poetic visual representations of the environments and cultures in which people lived at the time. It was also a celebration of the mysteries of life. I then realized, rather unconsciously, these same desires and values still fuel many to get tattooed today worldwide.
Tomas further discusses his tattoo philosophy, references and new works on his blog. Check it for tattoo inspiration and a great read.
The motto of tattoo journalist Travellin' Mick is "Wherever I lay my head is home," and over the years, "home" has often been remote villages where Mick has stayed with indigenous people documenting their culture and body modification practices. While he has written extensively about his experiences for many tattoo magazines, the images and essays have never been collected into one comprehensive volume. He's now setting out to do so.
The first step in his publishing projects is a calendar and traveling exhibit called "In Your Face: The Beauty of Traditional Tattooing." The engaging wall calendar can be ordered via Trust Bodymodification's online store for 20 Euros or by contacting Mick through his website. The US price is $30 and the UK's is 20 BP.
Mick recently showed "In Your Face" in Singapore, and his next exhibition will be at Melbourne's Rites of Passage Festival, January 28th to 30th. He plans to bring the series to cities across Europe throughout 2011.
Describing the motivation behind "In Your Face," Mick says:
Over the last ten years of traveling, I accumulated a vast archive of photographs of traditional tattoos on people from around the world. Even though they were originally taken for documentary purposes, over time I realized that many of the portraits I did have an undeniable aesthetic quality: They tell stories of those people, show their pride and beauty. Often they are the very last ones of their kind, maybe 100 years old, and in their faces and eyes you can clearly see the history of their people.
Here are just a couple of images from the calendar and the stories behind them:
"March: I was looking for traditional tattoos in Gujarat province of India near the Pakistan border. I came to an old weaver's house, who was maybe in his 50s. He said: 'Oh, I don't have any tattoos, but my grandmother has!' She was 96 when I took those photos, and she was very alert and funny."
"April is a crazy one: This boy is a refugee kid from Myanmar. There is a monastery on the Thailand side of the border, where those kids are taken in, given an education, learn how take responsibilities by training horses and practicing martial arts. They get marked by the head monk, with a bee, because it is a social animal, one that labours for the well-being of the whole society, not just himself."
I'm looking forward to seeing the next stage in this project, a large-format book filled with his photographs with detailed descriptions of the images along with travel stories, his personal philosophy, and more.
In what can only be described as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, tribal/blackwork tattoo specialist Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo is adding more color to his tattoos!!!
[Not enough exclamation points exist to express this shocking news.]
I just saw the half-sleeve above on Tattoo Now's Tattoo of the Day -- a feature I check religiously -- and thought, "Wow, interesting use of color in dotwork shading amongst blackwork. I wonder who the artist is..." Wait, that's my tattoo artist (and yes, the dude I was once married to for all y'all gossip mongers)!
Considering Dan is tattooing my foot next month when he's in for the NYC Tattoo Convention (May 14-16), I figured I'd head to the Calypso Tattoo website and see what other new things Dan's been doing to mix up his portfolio. Alas, I didn't find anything crazy like a biomechanical portrait tattoo of Beyonce surrounded by Koi fish (I wish!), but there were new artistic influences like this modern art tattoo and this Egyptian-inspired piece; however, it seems he is staying true to what he is renowned for: a powerful blend of tribal-inspired art like these works and more feminine henna-inspired tattoos.
While Dan is booked for his New York trip, the best way to get work from him is to head to his studio in Liege, Belgium for a tattoo holiday. [Hit him up via his contact page.]
Once it's healed, I'll be sure to post pix of my new foot tattoo, which will complement the other one prettied by Jacqueline Spoerle (wrote about healing that one here).
If you haven't seen Dan's tattoo work on me, check 'em here.
Like David Hasselfhoff and unpasteurized cheese,
tattoos are big in Germany, and this weekend, I got a large dose of all (a
little less Hoff than cheddar but one in the
same). The 18th Annual Frankfurt Tattoo Convention -- yes, the
convention was older than some of the attendees -- kicked off this past
Friday in its usual spot: The Messe Frankfurt, a massive
modern expo hall in the center of this commercial city.
It wasn't my first Frankfurt tattoo foray. It was about seven or eight years ago when I last attended and, other than a shorter artist list and more vendors, much hadn't changed. There are certain elements that give this gathering its own specialness, which I will list for you but first...
Ok, key points on the show:
Photo of Rory Keating Tattoo on Lady Miss Nataka in Black Tattoo Art
It's been a month since I blogged about my Black Tattoo Art book, so I figured I could get away with a quick, shameless update.
Now, if you order the book from LastGasp.com, and put in the promo code "Needles" at checkout online, then you get free shipping -- and considering the book weighs about nine pounds, that's a big savings.
In the 536-page hardcover, you find 35 of the very best blackwork artists paying homage to the ancient roots of tattooing in their contemporary interpretations. No other publication has curated the work of so many esteemed international tattooists working in black ink and gathered them into one MASSIVE comprehensive volume. Check sample pages on Flickr.
A full page review of the book is in this month's Total Tattoo magazine and it got 5 out of 5 stars, saying "If we had a six star rating, Black Tattoo Art would certainly merit it." Woohoo!
Black is beautiful, my friends.
In fact, I've taken the statement to heart (and skin) with enough black ink in my dermis to fill the Library of Congress. And with this passion for blackwork tattoos, I began collecting images and some stories of the world's best tattoo artists only working in black ink with the help of my primary tattooist, former hubby, and friend, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo, renowned himself for this style. The result ...
Black Tattoo Art: Modern Expressions of the Tribal.
The book will be released this Thursday, September 10 and yes, there will be some partying. Join me on Thursday at Tattoo Culture from 7 to 10:30pm for drinks, food, and an awesome playlist of tunes by the fabulous Ron Worthy.
Keep in mind that the book -- published by fine art and erotic publishers Edition Reuss -- is a 536-page, thread-bound hardcover with silver embossing that weighs over six pounds. A friend suggested that it will also nicely double as a home defense device. Or free weight.
Evan's sleeves by David Sena of North Star Tattoo
For more info on the book, I did write a fancy press release with big words. What I didn't mention in the release is the year-long process of seeking out pictures and stories of the top blackwork artists. Many of whom shun online communication and enjoy long stretches of time without any worldly contact so to rejuvenate and become inspired for the masterful tattoos featured. But try to explain large size 300 DPI format to 'em ... I joke. Kinda.
Seriously, it was a great honor to curate the very first English language book EVER dedicated to blackwork tattooing in its many forms. It was inspired by Ed Hardy's TattooTime premier issue entitled New Tribalism. In it, the legendary Cliff Raven said one of my favorite quotes:
"The perfect tattoo -- the one I believe we are all struggling toward -- is the one that turned the jackass into the zebra."Raven, one of the pioneers of the fine art tattoo movement, wrote that after 20 years of tattooing, he found "decorative art" was the tattoo style that best fit the human canvas. He explained that creating two-dimensional elaborations on a three-dimensional object is akin to "pin striping an auto as opposed to copying Frazetta paintings onto the sides of vans." It was a bold statement, but one perfectly suited to the tattoo movement it trumpeted.
He called this style "Pre-Technological Tattooing." Hardy called it "New Tribalism." Most have used the term "Neo-tribal" to define the tattooing of Leo Zulueta, one of the first contemporary tattooists to fully dedicate his body of work to interpreting the arts of indigenous cultures (also featured in Black Tattoo Art).
More recently, many tattooists have been defining their portfolios as "Blackwork," taking their tribal interpretations even farther but still adhering to the decorative arts tenets. Indeed, there is a rainbow of terms to describe this monochromatic art form.
Work by Vincent Hocquet of Beautiful Freak Tattoo
For this book, we kept it simple with the title "Black Tattoo Art: Modern Expressions of the Tribal" to encompass the various designs and aesthetics that have sprung from the Neo-Tribal movement; a movement which took root in the late sixties, flourished in the eighties and nineties, and pollenized the beautiful offshoots of today.
The title is deceptively simple, however, because what really is "modern black" tattoo art?
It's not a book on traditional tribal tattooing. There is a chapter that looks at a few artists today reviving their ancestral tattoo arts, but this is a very small part of this monster volume.
It is a book that looks at how today's tattooists have taken the tenets of tribal arts -- the soulfulness and harmony with the body -- and applied it in contemporary, imaginative ways.
To see sample pages of their work in the book, check the Black Tattoo Art Flickr set.
I'm been quiet here because I'm on deadline for my book on blackwork tattoos, but the boys have been blogging wonders, albeit cranky ones.
Blackwork is everything from traditional tribal tattooing, like the timeless Polynesian tatau ...
to neo-tribal made famous by Leo Zulueta and Trevor Marshall ...
to the dotwork technique mastered by artists including Xed Lehead, Dan DiMattia, Erik Reime and Colin Dale, among many others ...
to modern interpretations of non-traditional tattoo motifs like this henna-inspired work above by the fabulous Jacqueline Spoerlee ...
to the all-black graphic art of Yann Black, Jeff, Boucherie Moderne, Noon, and other French avant garde tattooists.
So that's what's keeping me busy these days, but I'll be back tomorrow with your news review.
[Editor's Note: Thrilled to have Pat Sullivan blogging here, especially today!]
Photo taken from Pat Fish's Tattoo Portfolio Video.
St. Patrick's Day is here and though it's possible that by the time you read this it may have kicked your ass in a drunken Irish twister of green beer, Clancy Brothers sing-a-long, and maybe a brawl or two, I thought a quick and semi-scattered minute on Ireland and tattoos might be fitting.
Let's start with the inventive Irishman Samuel O'Reilly, who opened up shop on the Bowery in NYC's Chinatown in 1875. O'Reilly modified Thomas Edison's "autographic printer," essentially creating the modern electric tattoo machine that would revolutionize tattooing overnight. O'Reilly later apprenticed Charlie Wagner, one of the most well known (and well documented) tattooists in the good ol' USA who was ingrained in the tattoo-freak-show-New-York of the 1930s and 40s.
Next up is Norman Keith Collins, Sailor Jerry, Old Ironsides himself. Though trying to tie his Collins bloodline to west Cork and Ireland's own Michael Collins is probably impossible, his ancestry is undeniable. Equally undeniable is, of course, Sailor Jerry's influence on the world of tattoo -- now made even more so by the Sailor Jerry brand -- for what he brought to the craft, the artwork and, lets be honest, the 'tude.
Dedicated to keeping the Celtic and Pictish tattoo traditions alive today is tattoo artist Pat Fish aka the Queen of Celt. Working out of Tattoo Santa Barbara in California, Pat Fish has amassed a dense library of designs on what has to be thousands of clients. Her work is amazing and if I happened to live on the other coast, I'd be over there in no time.
Most likely belting out a rebel songs about this time is the crew at Classic Ink Tattoo in Dublin. Though they work with other styles, their traditional ink punches up that old fighting spirit, whether it's a harp, a memorial or just a classy naked lass. I've never met the artists there, but let's just say it's one more reason to get back to Dublin.
So when you raise your glass this St. Paddy's, give a small cheers for those tattooed Irish and Irish Americans who have been part of the story and those who keep the needles buzzing.
Happy St. Paddy's Day!
In case you missed my last Needled entry on tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak, I'm posting info on his new, wonderful show Tattoo Hunter, which airs on the Discovery Channel.
Check this week's episode, Saturday at 1PM, where Lars "treks deep into the jungles of Indonesia in search of the spirit tattoo of the Mentawai tribe."
Read about his fascinating experience online. Here's a taste:
[...] another way the Mentawaians keep their souls "close" is by beautifying the body. Individuals, be they male or female, who neglect their bodies by not keeping them beautiful with beads, flowers, sharpened teeth, and especially tattoos will cease to be attractive to their souls. In such cases, the soul may decide to leave its human host and roam about the body free. But if the soul does not return to its home, it may decide to withdraw to the ancestral world at which point that person must die.The following episode airs March 21st at 1PM and finds Lars in the remote mountains of the Philippines in search of the tattoo of the Kalinga head hunters. A must see!
Tattoo Hunter is not the only tattoo travel show. Coming this Spring ... Tattoo Highway.
Ok, I know it's unfair to juxtapose a show that has a tattoo scholar offering culture, history and adventure against one where a "reality tv star" travels across America in his mobile tattoo parlor called "Ministry of Ink." But it has potential to be the fruity dessert to a meaty dish. Here's a taste of what you'll find there:
The tattoos viewers will see Pendelton create this season include a memorial portrait created from the ashes of a man's wife mixed with ink; a tattoo that can only be seen under a black light; a giant gorilla riding a scooter, and a pair of matching eggplants.
They had me at the memorial done with ashes but, yeah, lost me at the gorilla and eggplants. Really?