Dominating dotwork tattooing, Chaim Machlev's work, from mandalas to modern geometry, is ubiquitous on "Best Tattoos" lists and is one of the most reblogged/regrammed/"liked" artists of the blackwork genre in my social media feeds. And for good reason. His expert technique, combined with fresh perspective and interpretations of ancient art, results in incredibly beautiful work that commands a long look, rather than a quick glance at an image flashed on our phones.
For a more in-depth look into the artist himself, filmmakers Nikita Luennemann & Lukas Muganga created the documentary "Dots To Lines" (embedded below), which follows Chiam over the course of a year, filming various tattoo projects and telling his personal story. The filmmakers also note: "Carried by the narration of his unusual path that led him from a 'conventional' lifestyle in Tel-Aviv, Israel to a very distinct mind set and a cosmopolitan way of life, it underlines his unique style of tattooing, which puts the art in the focus, feeds of emotions and the shared experience."
The trailer is just a quick tease, and I look forward to seeing the whole film. Will follow-up when I have more info on it.
See more of Chiam's work on his site, Facebook, and Instagram.
Update: Black Tattoo Art Volume I is now sold out but the Black Tattoo Art II and Color Tattoo Art are still available (for now).
"Black Friday" is a term that represents gross commerce in the name of holiday cheer, so I figured I'd take over that name and add a bit of beauty by making it Black TATTOO Friday, and offer the few remaining author copies of some of my books at a significantly reduced rate. The books on sale are:Tattoo above by Vincent Hocquet (Black Tattoo Art I).
* Black Tattoo Art Volume 2 (my latest baby) on sale for $120 + shipping, and
* Color Tattoo Art (my new school/cartoon/comics monster) on sale for $99 + shipping.
Buy them online here.
Along with the books, I'll throw in Needlesandsins.com stickers and condoms for free! And a love note!
The book sale kicks off our holiday guide, so we'll be featuring lots of other products to knock off your shopping list without ever having to enter a Walmart.
Here are some sample pics from the books below. See more pics on Flickr: Black Tattoo Art I, Black Tattoo Art II, and Color Tattoo Art.
Tattoo above by Leon Lam (Black Tattoo Art II)
Tattoo above by Genko (Color Tattoo Art).
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.
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.
Using the stippling technique to beautiful effect, Karrie Arthurs of Blackbird Electric Tattoo in Alberta, Canada, creates detailed and refined blackwork tattoos, which could catch your eye from across the room. While she utilized her fine arts degree to build an extensive tattoo portfolio in different genres when she first began tattooing in 2000, in the past three to four years, dotwork has dominated her work. In 2007, Karrie opened Blackbird Electric Tattoo, which is not limited to custom tattooing, but also accommodates walk-ins.
I shot Karrie a few questions about her work and also some personal tidbits, and she graciously took the time to share her thoughts:
I'm partial to dotwork, being covered in it myself. When did you start working with the technique?
I started heavily experimenting with textures in my tattoo work, such as dotwork, between 3 and 4 years ago. Being inspired by tattooers who use it, and also making the transition to have my tattoo work mirror my art work, which was already a play on textures.
What are some of the challenges and also the highlights of working primarily in black using stippling?
The challenges for me are trying to achieve levels of contrast and dimension with textures. Its also easy to get pigeonholed into repeating a certain thing, but luckily I have I'm happy working in this medium now, and I am blessed with great clients. The great things about blackwork are it is timeless and dynamic, and ages so well on all skin. And I save money on ink. Haha!
Where do you look to for reference?
Reference is found in my daily life, music, a passage of words, antiques....it approaches me from anywhere; you just have to look.
What do you love to tattoo and what do you shy away from?
I love to tattoo work that inspires me, challenges me and that I wholeheartedly love to do. I typically stay away from anything that doesn't, or something that someone is better at. I work with great tattooers who I refer readily.
What are you currently ...
Reading? Eckhart Tolle
Listening? Black Angels
Watching? The Leftovers
Following? Too many cool artists to list. Literally following my kids.
Find more on Karrie's tattoo work on the Blackbird Custom Tattoo site, and Instagram. Also check her online store for some wonderful artwork, including an original drawing in ink on an 1895 US postmarked envelope -- 119 year old paper.
Some interesting tattoo news hit the headlines over the past few days, so I picked my favorites here:
First up, I was happy to see Metro (UK) feature the fantastic tattoo work of Chaim Machlev, Dots to Lines, based in Berlin. What I love about Chaim's work in particular (shown above), in addition to his unique compositions, is how he manages to take strong geometric forms and balance them to the body, really enhancing it. And I'm glad the mainstream media was able to pick up on that as well. See more of Dots to Lines on Chaim's site, Facebook and Instagram.
Also looking at the artistry of tattoos, but with a bent on tributes to pop culture icons, is Kelli Marshall's piece for The Week: "What tattoos can teach us about modern fandom." Kelli writes that, in the course of studying Hollywood legend Gene Kelley -- and the fandom associated with him -- she's found numerous people who have made their devotion to him permanent and public in the form of tattoos. She speaks with some of the fans, who explain why they got tattoos inspired by Gene Kelley, and also presents some tattoo images, thankfully crediting the artists, which is rare. I liked this article because it offered some insight into the motivations behind tattoos that many may question because pop culture, and not high art, is the basis for the work. I myself have lay awake at nights wondering why there are numerous people with Gwen Stefani portraits. This article was a check not to judge, and here's a round-up from Kelli why:
As diverse as these tattoos are, they're all rooted in the same thing: the powerful, deeply personal impact that mass culture can have on our private lives. Tattoos based on fandoms are rarely a simple tribute to the movies or TV shows we love; they're muses, reminders of a friend, acts of rebellion, testaments to survival. Tattoos may begin with a fandom -- but they end with the self.But ... if we're going to judge, there's this: "Tattooed muscians: the good, the bad and the very ugly."
On the more serious news tip, there's a discussion on medic alert tattoos and how the medical community responds to them. As noted in the article, there's debate over whether first responders will consider tattoos that note medical conditions, say "Diabetic, Type 1," instead of the standard bracelets that convey that information. One argument is the following:
"We're not going to stop to read a tattoo in an emergency situation," said Don Lundy, president of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. "They can be complicated and hard to read. Medical bracelets and necklaces are what stand out."On the flip side, tattoos are being taken more seriously to alert certain conditions, and the article notes that it could be useful for organizations, like the American Diabetes Association, to offer guidelines on the placement and general shape for tattoos.
Finally, the Washington Post reports on Baghdad tattoo parlors. There have actually been a number of articles written on the underground tattoo scene in Iraq, but this one is worth a read for the reporting on the surrounding culture that has led to shops opening up despite the danger in doing so.
While reading the wonderful Things & Ink blog, I came across the latest work of Delaine "Neo" Gilma of Stichfreudig Tattoo Studio in Zurich, Switzerland. Tattooing since 2000, Neo's portfolio is heavily influenced by geometry, illustration, and also indigenous tattooing, blending the traditional with the modern.
Inked magazine did a Q &A with Neo, and here's a bit from that talk:
How did you get into tattooing? I was always interested in Polynesian cultures and all those mysterious shaman and headhunter tattoos, so I designed some for myself and got them inked in the late 90s. I was studying industrial design during that time, which became pretty technically and economically orientated, so I needed something rude and archaic to bring me back to where I started, before I found myself designing light bulbs. So I was hanging around more in the tattoo studio of a good friend than at the university. One day Alex (who also did my first tattoos) asked me if I wanted to become his apprentice. It seemed obvious that industrial design wouldn't be my way for the future, so I quit and did tattoos.Check more of Neo's work on his site, Instagram and Facebook.
Thanks to Facebook, I was reminded that today is the birthday of one of my favorite blackwork artists: Roxx of 2Spirit Tattoo in San Francisco. Happy birthday, Roxx!
So when I went to the 2Spirit Facebook page, I found stunning new work that I had to share. Roxx is not only known for some of the boldest blackwork around (as shown below), but she is also able to create light and intricate sacred geometry patterns and, as evidenced by the very top photo, use the simplest forms to the greatest effect.
You can catch Roxx at the Bay Area Convention of the Tattoo Arts, Oct. 25-27. She'll also be in NYC working to transform mastectomy scars on P.Ink Day, October 21st at Saved Tattoo. [More on P.Ink Day here.]
I'm also honored that Roxx is one of the featured artists in Black Tattoo Art 2.
More of her work can be found on Instagram.
I'm a big fan of highly graphic, woodblock print-stylized tattoos for their bold effect and staying power. One artist who employs this style beautifully -- blending it with his fascination with the occult, symbolism, and dark aesthetics -- is Daniel Meyer of Kassel, Germany.
Daniel, whose background is in media design, quit his job on impulse one day and decided to devote his time to following his life-long passion of creating tattoos. Self-taught, he began by learning on his own skin. Daniel credits his friend David Rinklin for offering "hints" when he began to learn to tattoo, but says that he's a natural autodidact, and just put all his energy into this one goal: to achieve perfection in tattooing.
In 2013, Daniel started to work under the pseudonym "LEITBILD", which can be roughly translated as "guiding principle", but it can also be spelled in German with a double meaning (leit = guiding, bild = picture).
When I asked Daniel where he finds reference and ideas for his work, he said:
I find reference everywhere. If I see something in a book, I keep the page. If I see something in the nature, I do a picture. If I see something in the Internet, I do a screenshot. Most of my ideas are just happening during a process. When I'm making the design, it's like every element tells me where it should be placed and how it should be combined, that's why I require much flexibility from my customers.Daniel is currently moving his workspace and is looking to do more guest spots in 2014.
To see more of Daniel's work, check the LEITBILD site, Facebook page, and Instagram.
UPDATED POST: Limited author copies are still available. You can order via Paypal here or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get a sneak peak inside the book here.
We live in a time when images of tattoos are in a constant stream online. Your eyes may light up at the artistry, as you scroll through your Instagram and Facebook feeds, click "Like," maybe even "Share" ... and then on to the next one. For me, when I want to really find inspiration, to spend time with a work of art, I want a book in my hands. That's why I continue to give birth to these monster tomes that are great big love letters to various genres of tattoos -- books that are meticulously crafted and published by Edition Reuss.
Black Tattoo Art II: Modern Expressions of the Tribal is my latest book; it's the second volume to my very first baby.
At the time, when we published the first volume in 2009, I had no idea that we would have such an incredible response. I just thought that there wasn't really any comprehensive books on works created only with black ink, such as neotribal, ornamental and abstract work, and so Edition Reuss and I made one. What came out of it was a community. Artists and collectors from the book contacted each other, shared ideas, and had a few drinks. It was the greatest gift I ever received from a project. So when asked if I'd do a second volume, I said, "Hell yeah!"
Within this hardcover are 448-pages containing over 600 images, in addition to text, featuring the works of over 75 artists from around the globe. That texture of the paper, the weight of it in your hands, the details that can be enjoyed from such a large format book ... it adds to the experience of marveling at fine tattoo art.
Here's more info on Black Tattoo Art II: Modern Expressions of the Tribal:
Black Tattoo Art II: Modern Expressions of the Tribal, the second incarnation of what has been deemed the "Bible of Blackwork Tattoos," continues the first volume's photographic journey across the globe, showcasing the absolute best of tattoos that capture the magic of the ancient art form in exciting contemporary interpretations on the body. Within the 448-pages of this massive tattoo tome, readers will explore particular movements in tattoo art that, much like most indigenous tattooing, are more decorative and less literal; elaborate patterns predominate; harmony and flow with the body is paramount; and the color palette is primarily black--hence, the name Black Tattoo Art. This second volume follows the direction of the first, but takes it even farther.
The most important addition to Black Tattoo Art II is the greater roster of international artists: 75 top tattooists from Saint Petersburg to Sao Paolo, Austin to Aotearoa, Barcelona to Brooklyn and beyond. They share their creativity, innovation, and spirit in presenting images of their tattoo and fine art work for this book. There are also more hand poked and tapped tattoos represented, and an entirely new chapter has been added celebrating Nordic and Celtic-inspired art. Along with the "Celtic/Nordic" works are those that fall under the chapters of "Dotwork," "Ornamental/Neotribal," "Abstract/Art Brut," and "Traditional Revival." Together, these works convey the endless possibilities of art that can be created with needles and black ink--although readers will find a splash of color in many of the tattoos on these pages.
The "Ornamental/Neotribal" chapter encompasses works that enhance the body through motifs that fit so organically with the collectors, they appear as if they were born with the art on their bodies. Within the "Neotribal" genre, patterns from various cultures are melded and often infused with a modern, even punk rock, aesthetic. In this volume, with the addition of the more expansive "Ornamental" label, the chapter also includes art featuring geometric elements, some representational forms, and big, bold swaths of black ink.
The "Dotwork" chapter displays excellence in tattooing that utilizes the stippling technique in a painstaking process, creating sophisticated works out of small points to huge effect. From Sacred Geometry and Eastern Iconography to pop culture portraiture and folk art imagery, the tattoos presented in this chapter depict a large range of subject matter created from a small mode of articulation: dots.
The new "Celtic/Nordic" chapter will inspire readers, not just with its stunning ancient designs, but also through the fantastic stories of the myths and lore behind much of the imagery, as conveyed by tattooist Colin Dale, who wrote the chapter's introduction and assembled the finest practitioners of Celtic and Nordic tattooing today for Black Tattoo Art II.
A newer tattoo movement that has defied easy classification is exhibited in the pages of the "Abstract/Art Brut" chapter. "Art Brut," or "raw art," evokes the intensity, feverishness, and freedom of creation when not bound by strict artistic formulas and conventions. This section has been further opened to include "Abstract" tattoos that possess the same flow and feeling but stylized in different ways.
The "Traditional Revival" section of this book is just a glimpse into the work of those carrying on the techniques, ceremony, and spirit of ancestral tattoo practices. While the focus of this book may be the "modern expressions of the tribal," respect must be paid to the origins from which these works flowered. In this chapter, readers will find Iban hand-tapped works of Borneo, Mentawai tattooing of Indonesia, Ta Moko of the Maori, Tatau of Samoa, magic-infused Thai tattoos, and Kalinga tattoo practices being revived in the Philippines.
One of the greatest successes of the first volume of Black Tattoo Art was that it helped forge bonds among artists and collectors who find particular allure in blackwork tattooing. The goal of Black Tattoo Art II is to expand this community and further inspire those seeking to carry forth the beautiful and powerful traditions of the art form.
Tattoo credits from top to bottom: Cover tattoo by Tomas Tomas; Leon Lam; Roxx 2 Spirit; Thomas Hooper; Celtic/Nordic chapter by Colin Dale; Buena Vista Tattoo Club; Filipino tattoo revival by Elle Festin/ Mark of the Four Waves (Photos by Joe Ash).
It's been a while since I featured work from my own tattoo artist, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo in Liege, Belgium; however, I'm also posting because it's a rare opportunity to grab the limited available appointments he has when working outside of his studio.
Next week, from September 23rd to the 26th, Dan will be working at London Tattoo, and has a couple of session times available. To make an appointment, email email@example.com or call 02078335996 in the UK. There may also be a session free on Friday, September 27th during the London Tattoo Convention. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Check the Calypso Tattoo site for more of Dan's signature dotwork and blackwork. He is also featured in Black Tattoo Art 2: Modern Expressions of the Tribal.
The possibilities of dotwork tattooing are incredibly exciting, and you can see just how far the stippling effect is taking artists' compositions to new levels. One artist who brings a unique perspective to this tattoo genre is Delphine Noiztoy, who owns the The Lacemakers Sweatshop, a Victorian and Steampunk-inspired tattoo studio in London.
Formerly of the renowned Divine Canvas studio and mentored under dotwork guru Xed Le Hed, Delphine has a particularly interesting portfolio: she doesn't just use the stippling effect for beautiful fluid ornamental tattoo designs, but she is able to use only dots to shape fantastic realism. She can also switch gears and rock some heavy blackwork tattooing.
While Delphine's home base is London's arty Hackney wick, she does frequent guest spots at shops around the world, including at one of my favorites: 2Spirit Tattoo in San Francisco.
Check more of Delphine's work on Facebook, and Instagram @delphine noiztoy. Delphine is also a featured artist in my latest book Black Tattoo Art 2.
My friends at the Greek tattoo magazine Heartbeat Ink have a fantastic in-depth Q&A with Mike The Athens, in English and in Greek. Tattooing for 24 years, Mike The Athens is not only one of Greece's preeminent tattooers, but has garnered international acclaim for his work, which is largely inspired by Tibetan and Himalayan Art, Sak Yant, and mantras, but also moving towards Japanese-influenced tattooing.
Today, Mike The Athens splits his time between Athens, Greece, and Goa, India. In the Heartbeat Ink interview, he explains what living and tattooing on two continents is like, how tattooers must have a conscience, and even the fun way he got his name. Here's a taste:
Where are you now in 2013?Read more, and view some wonderful photos, here. Also check Mike The Athens' site and blog.
Mike is also one of the featured artists in Black Tattoo Art 2, which is currently available for pre-order.
Here's a spotlight on another artist featured in my upcoming Black Tattoo Art II book: blackwork legend Andreas Curly Moore, who works in Oxford at the Tattoo Club of Great Britain.Curly was raised in the City of Oxford, close to the Pitt Rivers Museum -- a place that houses one of the most comprehensive ethnographic collections in the world, including Maori art, which has had a strong influence on Curly's tattoo work. He began tattooing in 1993, after drawing several designs that he wanted tattooed upon himself, and soon, several of his friends were asking him to tattoo them as well. Curly then met Alex Binnie of Into You Tattoo in London, and for six years, was part of the most renowned contemporary blackwork specialist crews in the world.
According to Curly, "at the dawn of the New Millennium, it was time for a change," and so he returned to Oxford and is now working at the Tattoo Club of Great Britain's studio in the Cowley Road, Oxford. Curly says that the change has given him an opportunity to do more varied styles of work, including more traditional tattoos, but he's still rockin the NeoTribal and Abstract work for which he has been long admired.
Check more of Curly's work on Facebook, and in Black Tattoo Art II when it drops in September.
I'm super stoked to announce that Black Tattoo Art II, the second incarnation of my very first book, Black Tattoo Art, will be released September 15, 2013, and will have its convention debut at the London Tattoo Convention, September 27-29, 2013. So, to give y'all a taste of what I'm been working on the past year and a half, I'll be doing spotlights on some of the artists featured in the book.
Today's feature is on the fabulous Amanda Ruby of The Jewel in the Lotus, her private studio in Folkestone, Kent, UK. Amanda has an unique style in combining realism with pattern work to a beautiful effect. It has earned her accolades including "Best Female UK Artist 2012" and various profiles in international magazines.
What I particularly love is how her florid, ornamental approach has the power of blackwork without needing big bold swaths of ink. She incorporates intricate detail and dotwork, but constructed in a way that's built to last.
Amanda works by appointment only. She recently opened up her diary for January - March 2014, and appointments book up quickly, but fine art tattoos are worth waiting for.
Check more of Amanda's work on Facebook.
I just secured my next tattoo appointment with Daniel DiMattia, of Calypso Tattoo when he comes into New York for the NYC Tattoo Convention, May 17-19, so I'm excited, especially considering that I only get tattooed once a year now. But it's interesting to watch how my body suit is slowly coming together, piece by piece. Last May, he tattooed my ribs -- which wasn't fun -- but this time it should be easier with small calf work. I'll be posting photos in two weeks of my new work when it's done.
Dan is booked out for the time, but consider taking a trip to Liege, Belgium, the home of Calypso Tattoo. Dan will also be working the London Tattoo Convention in September. Oh, and we'll be there too!
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.
One of my favorite blackwork tattooers -- actually one of my favorite artists in general -- is Nazareno Tubaro of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He's no stranger to this blog, but I had to share this photo he posted on his Facebook page of work he did on a client because it is truly exemplary of how beautiful hand tattoos can be.
Check more of Naza's work here.
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
In a city teeming with many of the world's stellar tattooists, David Sena has consistently stood out as one of NYC's finest for his exceptionally strong and vivid Japanese tattoos as well as bold and beautiful blackwork -- some of the best in the US.
I met David over a decade ago at a tattoo convention in New Jersey. Actually, I first met his client with a blackwork aquatic-themed bodysuit, whom I accosted to find out who did the work. He then took me to David, who seemed a bit confused by this short redhead spewing all kinds of questions at him in the usual hyper state I'm in when I excited by exceptional tattoos. Thankfully, I didn't scare him off and we became friends.
As his friend, I've gotten a front row seat to watch the transformation of his large-scale tattoo projects as well as his fire art; however, David describes his work best:
My fine artwork is created with a technique of drawing by burning marks on paper with fireworks and other volatile materials. These techniques are rooted in one of humankind's earliest technologies: fire, and as such they speak to something elemental in the human condition. Inspired by cosmology and the interconnection between terrestrial and celestial fires, my drawings become a record of their creation, a map pointing to the reason for human existence, or rather the outer limits, the infinite, the space not yet grasped. These two means of creating - tattooing and burning-- have a unique synergy, as they both entail physical and ritualistic processes of mark-making while transforming matter/people.David now has a new space to create his tattoos and fine art: Senaspace in NYC's Little Italy. And he's inviting all of you to its grand opening on 12.12.12, from 6-10pm (afterparty to follow). At the opening, there will be an exhibition of his latest works and live fire drawing demo.
David says of the space: "This gallery and tattoo studio is a reflection of my lifelong interest in diverse modes of artistic expression, and my conviction that art is not a luxury but a sublime human need. I hope this space speaks to you on an aesthetic, visceral, and personal level."
I've already visited the studio and it's a gorgeous space. He plans to regularly feature expositions, projects and guest spots by local and international artists in all mediums. So you'll be hearing more from David here.
SENASPACE, 229 Centre St. NY NY 10013, 212-966-5151, senaspace.com