Results tagged “backpiece”

07:58 AM
Jill Bonny copy.jpgBackpiece above by Jill Bonny.

Tim Hendricks copy.jpgBackpiece above by Tim Hendricks.

Ron Earhart copy.jpgFront torso tattoo by Ron Earhart.

Stunning large-scale tattoo work by stellar tattooists are captured in Markus Cuff's new book entitled "Torso" -- a 120-page hardcover of Markus' photographs spanning 16 years, which document tattoo culture and the evolution of the art form across the United States and Pacific Islands. 

The artists include Horiyoshi III, Mike Rubendall, Horitaka, Jill Bonny, Khalil Rintye, John The Dutchman, Carlos Torres, Matt Breckerich, Clark North, Aaron Coleman, Steve Looney, Ron Earhart, Nate Bunuelos, Edwin Shaffer, George Campisi and Denny Besnard. Their differing tattoo styles conveyed in backpieces and front torso tattoos should be of interest to a wide range of tattoo enthusiasts.

The "Torso" book release and signing will be tomorrow, Thursday, November 20th, from 7-10pm, at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. There, you can pick up a copy of the book; also, grab it online now here or pre-order from Amazon here.

[Interesting side note on Markus: In addition to being a photographer and artist, he was also the original drummer for Emmylou Harris and the cult band The Textones.]

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07:53 PM
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Last week, a beautiful tattoo video (below) was released online featuring Alexis Calvie of Black Heart Tattoo in St. Raphael, France. Filmmaker Arnaud Payen does a great job in capturing the dark and sexy vibe of the studio as well as the process of creation as Alexis works on a sacred geometry inspired sleeve. There are close-ups of the line work as well as how Alexis builds on the sleeve using the stippling technique.  The video inspired me to take a close look at Alexis' portfolio, as well as the other artists at Black Heart, and I really loved what I found.

Check their work yourself on their Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram @blackheartattoo pages.

ALEXIS CALVIÉ - Dotwork tattooing from Arnaud P. on Vimeo.

02:58 PM
8330d1356070011-full-back-piece-thread-003-copy.jpgI love stories of body transformations, particularly large tattoo work, so I thought I'd share a piece by Brian Dunn, entitled, "Kuniyoshi Dreamin'" on Medium's Human Parts collection. 

In his essay, Brian writes on the creation of his Utagawa Kuniyoshi-inspired Japanese backpiece, tattooed by Jay Cavna in Mesa, Arizona; however, he shares more than just the process, but also the thoughts that run through one's head when making such a huge personal change:  the leap of faith with the artist, finding the right expression, dealing with the physical pain ... and how to tell your wife. Brian is a really engaging writer and uses words like "sweet, callipygian backside," so how could I not share it?

Here's a taste:

Despite not having any recent successful pain management campaigns to point to, I was confident that I would lie like a cadaver while still recognizing that what men think we're capable of is both wildly optimistic and grossly inaccurate. We consistently overestimate our ability to do everything from throwing a football over those mountains to drinking a gallon of milk in one hour. That I had zero qualms about my ability to lie perfectly still while someone carved into my dermis for hours meant nothing in the final analysis, but blind self confidence was one thing I had going for me.

It wasn't the only arrow in my quiver. If I should ever be writhing on the table and looking to bolt, I need only remind myself that nothing's more sad than an unfinished tattoo. Except the person wearing it. I've heard of tattooers who, when tattooing dragons, save the eyes for last. They claim that it's only when the eyes are done that the dragon comes metaphorically to life. No one wants to walk around with a blank-eyed, dead dragon adorning their skin. What's more, half-completed tattoos are a tangible sign of failure. What example would I be tacitly setting for my young daughter if, every time we went swimming, I ripped off my shirt to reveal her father's lack of follow through in the form of colorless peony flowers?

I also had my modest-patron-of-the-arts status to uphold. I support live jazz. I've donated to NPR. I buy the occasional art fair original work of art. When I ponied up the deposit for the tattoo a month before my first session, I wasn't just saving a slot. No, I was entering into a tacit contract with Jay to see things through to the end. Composition is crucial for large tattoos, and I was making the man fit three large animals, plus clouds and waves and flowers, onto a funky-shaped canvas complete with curves, lumps, and crannies (see buttocks). His work was markedly front loaded, and my tapping out after a session or two would render his pre-tattoo toil for naught, effectively pissing off a man who would see me naked and was at liberty to divulge to the entire shop the relative size of my genitalia.

Read more of "Kuniyoshi Dreamin'" here. And see more of Jay Cavan's tattoo portfolio on Instagram.
02:46 PM
king kong  jpg.jpgZeuss.jpg Creating a personal challenge, with the end goal of highlighting the possibilities of tattooing for a wide audience, Jeromey "Tilt" Mcculloch recently completed a 5-year-long project to create 100 backpiece paintings, largely rooted in traditional tattooing.

Tilt, who owns New Life Tattoos in Champaign, IL, would hang each painting on the wall of his shop as each piece was finished, which inspired clients to think about large scale tattoo art on their own bodies (such as one client who has begun his Kraken backpiece painting tattoo), or to incorporate elements of the larger pieces into other works.

In its entirety, Tilt's project is over 6 &1/2 feet tall by 32 feet wide when displayed together, an amalgam of the 100 15x20 back piece paintings. He's currently traveling to tattoo conventions to display the project as a whole, and is in the process of self-publishing a book on the paintings. [Tilt is also the author of Classic Flash Vols. 1 and 2.]

Jeromey Mcculloch backpiece Paintings.jpg I asked Tilt about how he has drawn ideas for such an extensive project. Here's what he said:

I think that, within a project that takes as long as something like this (5 years), it is inevitable that one will struggle with new ideas. One of the highlights of the project has been watching it go in waves. I enjoyed the process of starting and going in one direction and then trying something different. As I did that more, it freed my mind up to other compositional ideas. Another highlight for me was the growth in understanding the Japanese motif. I have always enjoyed the Japanese aesthetic and this project was perfect for exploring it deeper.
Tilt also said that he would keep a sketchbook in which he made 2-inch thumbnail sketches any time he saw anything that he thought had compositional value, and many of those ideas were then incorporated into the backpiece project.
When asked about what motivated him to embark on this 5-year endeavor, he said: "The main idea of this project was to get people to look at the collection and realize the endless potential of the back as a canvas. It seems we are limited in thought until we see possibility, only then can the creative juices can begin to flow."

See more of Tilt's paintings and tattoo work on Instagram, Facebook, and the New Life Tattoo site.
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12:02 AM
erin chance tattoo.jpgThe US imported exceptional tattoo talent when New Zealand's Erin Chance decided to make Richmond, Virginia her new home. I became a fan of Erin's work, which leans towards the neotraditional, from her time at Auckland's renowned Sacred Tattoo studio, and I'm stoked that Erin will be sharing her talents on the road in North America (and places beyond). I grabbed Erin for a quick email Q &A. Here's how it went down:

First off, when did you officially make the US your home?

I finally got my Green Card right before Christmas 2012, so I've been here just over a year now. Best Christmas present! I'm based in Richmond, VA., but on the road a lot.

Has moving to Virginia had an impact on your work?

A little, mainly what machines I use, etc.. My art has been going through some changes. I'm sure tattoos will follow suit before too long.

You have a wonderfully diverse portfolio, but also one with a particular bent towards neotraditional work. Do you prefer to work in different tattoo styles or focus on one genre?
Thank you! I really enjoy Neo-traditional/illustrative work above all else, but I also enjoy recreating fine art as tattoos from time to time. Not photorealism, at least in colour. That terrifies me! Ha! More like comic covers or fantasy paintings. I'm a nerd.

erin chance tattoo 1.jpgSince you began tattooing in 2006, has there been any experience, whether it be in tattooing or personal, that had a profound affect on your work?

Traveling has been a huge part of my career since early on. I've been places and met people I probably wouldn't have had the chance to if it weren't for tattooing, and it's impossible not to learn from those experiences. Also getting the job at Sacred, so early on in my career was an opportunity of a lifetime. Dean Sacred and Dan Andersen were amazing mentors and I wouldn't be where I am today without them. Chris Bezencon of Eastside Tattoo in NZ was my first mentor. There I learned a unique approach (by modern standards) to tattooing. Rotaries and single needle outlines! As a result, I am much more comfortable using a tight 3 than a 9rl [round liner]. Ha!

One of your tattoos that has made its way all around the internet is the stunning fox hunt themed backpiece, (shown above). Could you tell us more about that piece?

The fox hunt scene is on an old family friend. I've known Steve my whole life, and he was actually a huntsman for years so this was a tribute to that time in his life. Although we don't actually have foxes in New Zealand. Haha. It took somewhere around 70-75 hours (7 full days and 2 halves) over 2 months. He is a machine!

If you could sum up your philosophy on tattooing, what would it be?

Work hard. Give the cleanest tattoo you can. Make people happy, but not at the expense of your own professional integrity, or sanity!

erin chance tatto2.jpgYou recently showed your fine art work at Glitch Gallery. What are the parallels between your fine art and tattoo work?

Generally, my art and tattoos are more or less the same style, but for this show, I definitely pulled away a little in some pieces. I think, as I start painting more, the shift will become more noticeable.

Where is the best place online for people to purchase your artwork?

You can by my prints at

When you're not tattooing or painting, what do you love to do?

I'm a gamer, haha! Not that I ever get time for video games these days. I read a lot, and I have 3 lovably annoying cats that love sitting on my lap or shoulder while I'm trying to draw.

Any guest spots and conventions coming up?  

So far, I have a guest spot at Archive Tattoo in Toronto coming up, then Hell City Columbus, Silver State Reno, a guest spot at Red Rocket NYC, the New Zealand Tattoo & Arts festival, and the Melbourne Body art Expo. I'm sure there will be more added in between though.

See more of Erin's work on her site, Instagram, and Twitter.

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07:55 AM
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I'm a big fan of blogs that chronicle the evolution of large scale work -- watching someone's transformation from what mama gave them to their own artful individuation (like Brian's Bodysuit to Fit).  One that I'm following now with great interest is David Bragger's The Battle Royale Tattoo by Bob Roberts blog.

Bob Roberts and his Spotlight Tattoo are legendary. I know the word "legend" gets thrown around a lot but in this case it's incredibly apt to describe an artist who came up in the craft at The Pike in Long Beach from 1973, was taught by Bob Shaw and Col. Bill Todd, worked with Cliff Raven and Ed Hardy, and pushed tattooing to an even greater level of artistry. Spotlight remains a vigorous shop as well as a tattoo landmark.

backpice bob roberts.jpgDavid has been spending a lot of time this year at Spotlight. Bob finished up his leg work, which you can check on Flickr. It's a fantastic piece with some great art by Robert Ryan mixed in as well.

And with the leg done, it was time to move on to this back. In September, David began the blog with the sketches Bob had done for the backpiece. The posts then follow to stencil placement, lining, passing a kidney stone (!!), and the latest post shows the start of shading (and notes the soundtrack to that session). I'm loving the comments David adds along with the images. I highly recommend you give the blog a click.

Beyond being a tattoo connoisseur, David is also a player and instructor of old-time fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar. Watch some of his lessons on YouTube.

For more on Bob Roberts, you gotta pick up the definitive book on the artist: "Bob Roberts: In a World of Compromise...I Don't" published by State of Grace.

11:11 AM
10 months.  55 and a half hours under the needle.  Three giant tubs of Aquaphor.  Numerous discussions with my credit card's fraud department.  And countless attempts to bleach the blood and ink out of my sheets.

My backpiece by Mike Rubendall is finally complete... for now.

See pics (semi-NSFW) and read about the process at


02:09 PM
While we all await the return of our editrix-in-chief - who has been at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering in Colorado, slinging books and lecturing on copyright - I thought I'd take the time to point you all once again to my blog documenting the progress of my backpiece by Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo.

We just wrapped up sitting number 16 a few weeks ago (putting the total count at 51.5 hours of tattooing) and if you haven't had the chance yet to peruse the process, get clickin!

(WARNING: there are pictures of my booty up there, so you might want to consider the site NSFW)

05:02 PM
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In our home there are two large tattoo works in progress, which means it's fully stocked with creams, painkillers, vodka, chocolate, and "tattoo sheets" (not the 1,500 thread count kind). Yesterday, I talked about adding to my tattoo collection with more rib work.

Today, Brian writes about his 11th tattoo sitting on his Bodysuit to Fit blog. Brian's got 38 hours already racked up with Mike Rubendall of Kings Avenue Tattoo. Check his post on how the backpiece is evolving ... and what it's like to score appointments with one of the most sought-after tattoo artists.
11:17 AM
sitting-7.jpg[I'm gonna put the full-disclosure up front: there's full-exposure on the click-through link.  If seeing a naked man's behind isn't appropriate for your workplace - or if it just plain skeeves you out - don't click, just enjoy the cropped photo above]

After another four-and-a-half hours last Thursday, Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo finally wrapped up all of the black-work/background for my dragon back-piece.  I couldn't be happier, if only because it means that we're done tattooing my butt-crack which is - to say the least - an unpleasant experience.

Head on over to my blog, Bodysuit To Fit, to read about my latest sitting and see the uncropped version of the above photo. 

Remember, it's NSFW.

11:54 AM
Darcy Nut tattoo.jpg
Some of my favorite blog posts and videos document the creative process of large-scale tattoo projects by stellar tattooists, offering insight into the way an artist works as well as seeing a collector's body transform into awesomeness. One project I've enjoyed recently is Luke Holley's video series on a backpiece created by Darcy Nutt of Chalice Tattoo in Boise, Idaho.

In November, we posted Luke's video of the tattoo first session on Darcy's client Graham. Since that time, Luke has filmed all 12 sessions, which are available for viewing on his Vimeo page. For those with attention deficit disorder, Luke has also created a video that shows the whole transformation under four minutes, which we've posted below.

To check more of Darcy's work, head to her Facebook page and on the Chalice Tattoo site.

A Back Piece Tattoo in Under 4 Minutes Tattooed by Darcy Nutt from Luke Holley on Vimeo.

More work by female tattooists coming up during this National Women's History Month.

01:08 PM
While we're in the midst of some renovations here at the Needles and Sins Compound, I'd like to direct your attention to my other blog, Bodysuit To Fit, which I'm using to chronicle my backpiece by Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo.  We just wrapped up my sixth sitting last Friday (putting us at 22 hours of work to date) and my latest post touches on the pain, the process and the progress.

(WARNING: there are some pictures of my butt up there so, depending on where you work, some pics might be NSFW).

And, while I have your attention, I want to let you know about an event that I'll be taking a part in this coming Sunday at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn.  A fellow musician and old friend of mine by the name of Alex Berman has been battling Hodgkin's lymphoma for 12 years now.  He's a tough dude, not to mention a father of young, twin boys.  He's about to begin an allogenic bone marrow transplant, which doctors say will save his life.  Needless to say, it's an expensive process, so a bunch of us in the New York music-scene have come together to help out.

This Sunday, starting at 1pm, we'll be having live performances (including an acoustic set from yours truly at 1:45pm) and a ton of CDs, vinyl and t-shirts for sale from local musicians - all of the proceeds from which will go towards Alex's care.

I sincerely hope you can come out to help us help Alex.  You can read about his story and donate online here.


12:08 PM
Marisa and I are in the annual, last-minute scramble here at the N&S Bunker in preparation for the holidays, so posting will probably be a little light over the next few days.  That said, I will also refrain from spreading holiday cheer in the form of back-slaps, firm hugs and butt-squeezes because I go in for another session on my dragon backpiece tomorrow.  Don't ask me why I scheduled it this way... I enjoy sitting at Christmas dinner.

Two weeks ago, I handed my back over to Mike Rubendall of King's Avenue Tattoo and, because we're a bunch of blogging dorks, I've decided to chronicle the experience at Bodysuit To Fit.  I'll be doing my best to chronicle the sittings in words and photographs (read about Sitting 1 here and Sitting 2 here) and will try to refrain from twitteresque posts like "Oh god, all I wanna do is scratch my ass."

So, please - give it a read!

[FULL DISCLOSURE: Some of these pics are kinda NSFW.  Nothing frontal, just my narrow little butt]

08:05 AM
horiyoshi III backpiece.jpgJohn Mack is back with another story about getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III over the course of nine years. Check out his previous posts:  Part I Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI.

During the first years of my visits to Horiyoshi III, all manner of tattoo devotees were constantly present: foreign and domestic apprentices, Horiyoshi's clients, Horitomo and his clients, journalists, even graduate students researching their masters thesis or doctoral dissertation.

Quite a few of the apprentices and clients I recognized from photographs in the various books about Horiyoshi's work. This photo of was taken by Mr. Handa, who appeared in Takahiro Kitamura's book Bushido: Legacies of Japanese Tattoo. This book influenced my tattoo choices, and here was one of the characters from the book taking pictures of my tattoos! What a role reversal. [See a larger image of the above on Flickr.]

Everyone took advantage of the opportunity to brandish their tattoos. Japanese of many occupations change clothes for work, which allowed the apprentices to show more skin, and of course we clients had to expose our tattoos. Outside the studio, tattoos could be displayed only at public baths and once a year at festivals, so this was a welcome respite from the disapproval lurking out there in the real Japan.

Everyone was polite, yet quite interested to see each others tattoos in progress. When I undressed, those present would take the opportunity to scrutinize me. Privacy was not a part of this experience. Nonetheless, I became accustomed to it, and I too was able to observe many superb tattoos.

johnmack07_tattoomaster.jpgAround 2007, the scene changed. The hangers-on were gone, and Horiyoshi and I were regularly alone during my appointments. Journalists, sensing the the opportunity to record the end of an era, descended on the studios, where Horiyoshi welcomed them. I found it interesting to listen in on the interviews and even got the opportunity to comment myself.

Once in 2008, I arrived at the tiny Isecho studio to find it jammed with photographic equipment, a columnist for Tattoo Master magazine, an interpreter and a photographer. They took this fine cover photo for the Spring 2009 issue right there in that tiny room.

The mix of clients has changed over the years as well. In the early years of my experience, most appeared to be construction tradesmen, followed by non-Japanese, then Yakuza.

In 2009, I mentioned these changes in clientele to Horiyoshi and asked about the current mix. He gave the following estimate by profession:

  • * 60% Craftsmen and tradesmen. I found that many of these clients were themselves tattooists.

  • * 10% Yakuza.; Horiyoshi added that there are other tattoo artists whose clientele is almost entirely Yakuza.

  • * 30% Other.  "You're in this category, John-san," he told me with a grin.

As for nationality, 30-50% are non-Japanese. "In fact, today all appointments are with foreigners," Horiyoshi commented one Saturday in 2009.

Rather than the mark of the Yakuza, these days a traditional Japanese bodysuit just might be the mark of a "foreigner."

Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos. As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.
08:21 AM
horiyoshi backpiece.jpgJohn Mack is back with another story about his experience getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III over the course of nine years. The image above was taken after one of his earlier sessions. Check out his previous posts:  Part IPart II, Part III, and Part IV.

As I mention at the end of every post, Horiyoshi III's practice is now limited to finishing existing tattoos. Once it became apparent that the master will be retiring, his clients have come out of the woodwork.

Every time I go to Japan, one or two people show up and display an incomplete tattoo, asking to get on the schedule to have it finished. Most stopped at completion of sujibori, the outline.  I have never seen any of them refused, as long as they make their appointments three to four months in advance.

"They just keep on coming," said Horiyoshi when I asked about it.  "I've tattooed about 7000 people, and there would have not been time to start so many had everyone completed their tattoos." There are lots of unfinished Horiyoshi III tattoos out there.

I nervously asked whether I would be able to finish. "You're fine, John-san,"  he reassured me.  He and I both know what finished means, and I'm going for it.

Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos.  As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.
12:08 PM
Here's another great tattoo anecdote by guest blogger John Mack, an American who has been getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III for nine years. Check out his previous posts:  Part IPart II,
and Part III.

Before sharing these stories here, I first related them to Horiyoshi III to make sure he felt they were accurate and appropriate for blogging. I also suggested topics that would be off limits, but he waived these restrictions and encouraged me to share all my experiences.

Horiyoshi had forgotten, or simply didn't notice, many of the events I found memorable. Telling my Horiyoshi stories to Horiyoshi himself was fun for both of us. Today's anecdote is the one that seemed to amuse him the most.

Around 2006, a foreigner was getting tattooed by Horiyoshi. In the West, it's customary for the client to receive detailed aftercare instructions, and so after his session, the foreigner looked puzzled when Horiyoshi finished without saying anything. Realizing it wasn't going to be offered, the client specifically requested instructions on how to take care of his new tattoo.

Horiyoshi replied in English, "Don't touch." 

It seems the Master (like our Editrix) subscribes to the LITFA school of tattoo aftercare.

Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos.  As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.
12:39 AM
Last week, we introduced you to John Mack, an American who has been getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III for nine years and is sharing some of those tattoo experiences in a series of guest blogs here. That first post caused some controversy in the comments section, and we continue to welcome your thoughts on this series (and all N+S posts). The photos in each post show a progression of the tattoo work as the stories go on. Here's Part 2.

johnmack02_earlyback.jpgBy John Mack

Having decided on Horiyoshi III to tattoo my back, I made plans to return to Japan in 2001 for my first sessions.

I vividly remember walking up the slope from the train station to the Isecho studio. These would be my last moments without an enormous tattoo in my skin. I waited in front of the bank as instructed, where Horiyoshi's son Kazu, then a teenager, came on a bicycle to meet me. He guided me to the famously obscure studio.

Once we arrived, I restated my specifications:  a dragon with black scales, red belly and yellow dorsal fins, full size with background. This was all the direction Horiyoshi needed. He rummaged around in a drawer labeled "Dragons" and pulled out a sketch of a dragon's head.

I lay down on the floor and he sketched something on me with a brush. He then prepared to tattoo whatever it was into my skin. I asked to first have a look. Horiyoshi seemed slightly taken aback, but motioned toward the sticker-encrusted mirror. I saw a dragon's face with a disturbingly huge claw next to it. I commented on the psychedelic proportions. 

"It looks cooler that way," he calmly assured me.

I assented.

You don't engage someone like Horiyoshi III and then second guess his artistic judgment. Especially if you are as artistically impaired as me.

When he started to outline my backpiece, I crossed that line, a line that over subsequent years would inexorably progress toward my extremities.

In my next guest post, I'll tell you about my encounter with a Yakuza boss there.

Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos.  As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.

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