Results tagged “dotwork”

08:36 AM
xed le head.png
Xed LedHead backpiece.jpgXed LeHead tattoo on Nazareno Tubaro.jpgMandalas, Yantras, the interlocking swastikas of the Sayagata--they are some of the most referenced imagery found in dotwork tattooing. And the prevalence of their use and influence on so many tattooists worldwide can be traced to one man: Xed LeHead.

These artists, from the 90s Dunstable generation to today's Instagram #sacredgeometrytattoo stars, reverently refer to Xed as "The Dotfather," for the 3-needle dot configurations tattooed in richly textured patterns across massive swaths of skin. From the age of 13, Xed was handpoking friends, ten years before he chose to pursue tattooing around 1990. And from those very first tattoos, dots always dominated.

You'll be finding The Dotfather banner (above) popping up on social media feeds, in honor of all Xed's artistic contributions to tattooing, and the lives he has changed with his work. However, these tributes stem from very difficult circumstances and the desire to support a beloved friend, mentor, and inspirational figure in tattooing.

Recently, Xed suffered a severe medical condition, leaving him unable to use his arms and legs and forcing him to retire from tattooing. Xed faces a long road of rehabilitation and the need for specialist medical equipment and services that exceed both Xed and the UK's National Health Service budgets. To support Xed and give back all he has given to our community, a trust fund has been set up, spearheaded by tattooers Goldilox and Delphine Noiztoy, that will go directly to these medical costs.

** To be a part of this support, please donate to the Official Xed Le Head fund page. You can learn more about the fundraising efforts, share your Xed stories, and find out about his care on the Xed Le Head Facebook fundraising page. **

Also check @Xedleheadlove on Instagram and share the love with these hashtags #xedleheadlove #xedlehead #themaster.

There are additional individual fundraisers planned:  There will be an exhibition of Xed's work at the Norwich Tattoo Convention August 15-16th, and for the first time his prints will be for sale. FK Irons is auctioning off three dedicated Xed tattoo machines, and there are many more auctions of artists work planned.

I'll be setting up an auction for the original Black Tattoo Art, the cover of which is graced by Xed's work and has pages of his tattoos inside as does Black Tattoo Art II). More on that to come.

Xed_LeHead_love.jpegXed_LeHead_hand tattoo.jpegWhile there are have been a number of fundraisers for tattooers' medical expenses, this one is different for me. Not only does compassion move me to help someone who is forced to stop making a living and doing what he loves, I think it is also time to reciprocate Xed's gifts of an expanded tattoo vocabulary and spiritual approach to the art. And for anyone who has ever banked on the Master Pattern and his other designs, it seems to me like a debt owed (although, he probably would not approve of me saying so).

Xed is also known for his generosity of spirit, dedication to his clients, and passion for tattoos. In my last interview with him, he said some beautiful things, a part of which I want to share with you:
[T]he days in the studio, the time spent devoted to another human, not sexual and with or without payment being of no consequence, but for the betterment of them, for improving their journey through life, knowing and believing fully that what I attempt to do with them, for them, is to rewire their Planet Freakout Playsuit a little, to improve their vibration rate and deepen their connection with their selves.There is also the want to get into their heads, to know them, to watch their growth, to get involved with really complex pieces that take at least forever to complete, often much longer.

[...] The experience of unlocking yet another geometric puzzle on the skin, or applying sacred texts or other powerful totems, outweighs the awesome vistas that nature can provide..
Xed_LeHead_face tattoo.jpegXed rose up through the famed Into You Tattoo, the London studio of his mentor Alex Binnie, and then created his own space in North London, Divine Canvas, the premier studio for blackwork.

You can find more of Xed's work on the
Divine Canvas site and his personal site - which has a great interview section.

I also recommend you watching this Youtube video, in which he talks about his most renowned work on Lucky Diamond Rich, Guinness World Records Most Tattooed Man.

Once inspired, please
go to Official Xed Le Head fund page and be a part of supporting a tattoo icon.
Xed LeHead tattooing.jpg
07:54 AM
dotwork leg tattoo.jpg
dotwork leg tattoo 2.jpg
Just before my 30th birthday, around 12 years ago, I started thinking about tattooing my body in one complete overall look. Going beyond just some cool pieces that I already had, I began envisioning a body suit (one that could be covered under business suits for work) in ornamental blackwork patterns, like what you'd find on ancient Greek vases. I wanted something feminine and graceful and -- like those vases that remained intact over millennia -- powerful and timeless.

And as luck would have it, I happened to be married to a renowned blackwork tattooer, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo in Belgium. Moving toward the blackwork bodysuit I wanted, Dan created (during our marriage and afterward as good friends) beautiful works for my sleeves and backpiece, ribs and stomach, my snake hips, thigh, shin, and even a fancy foot. And there's more planned with Dan for the future.

With lots of room on my legs, however, I thought it would be a great opportunity to collect work from another artist, but whose style could harmonize with my existing tattoos. I had a particular artist in mind, one whose work I had been admiring since I first saw it around 2003 online: Nazareno Tubaro in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Nazareno, Naza for short, has a portfolio that spans from strong heavy black to refined and delicate dots. Naza masters how those designs fit with the shape of the body, so that they beautifully complement the wearer. I had featured Naza'a work on my old blog, as well as Needles & Sins, and he has been a part of both of my Black Tattoo Art books, and in Tattoo World.  In working together on these projects, we became friends, and I knew that if he tattooed me, I would not only have gorgeous tattoos, but also a lot of fun. I was absolutely right.

Finding the opportunity to take a week off from work, I booked my tattoo vacation to Buenos Aires, leaving May 1st, and arriving back to NYC yesterday. Naza suggested that we start on one leg, my left one, which had existing work from Dan, so that I would have one complete piece first, before moving on to my right leg, which didn't have any work other than my snake. We'd tattoo for three days, spacing out the sessions for rest and healing. I also didn't want to immediately jump on a 10 1/2 hour plane ride after our last session. I worked out the details with Naza's assistant Ander, and the schedule was all set in advance.

Prior to my arrival, I had sent Naza some photos of my leg, and also indicated which tattoos he had done in the past on others that I really liked, so he had some idea of what I was looking for. [Naturally, this was only for reference, and never to copy an original custom tattoo.] I didn't even think to ask in advance of our first session for any sketch or preview of the design because I trusted that Naza would come up with something that I would love. That trust is key for me.

tattoo freehand.jpgThe day I arrived in Argentina, Naza and his girlfriend Xoanna picked me up from my hotel, just a few blocks from Naza's private tattoo studio in the hip Palermo Hollywood area of Buenos Aires. They took me for the yummy steaks the country is known for, some sightseeing, and I also got to hang out and watch the practice for his band Ruda, in which Naza plays a mean bass.

[Obvious note on tattoo vacations: You want to load up on the sightseeing prior to any major work because of swelling and just general fatigue after long painful sessions. Save the post-tattoo days for book reading and flooding your friends' social media feeds, as I did.]

On the day of our first appointment, Naza showed me what he had sketched out -- and it was perfect. Floral ornamental designs, of varying shapes, to be lined and filled with dots. We then took some time to find the proper placement, to fit my body and existing tattoos. Naza also drew freehand along with the design stencil so that there was a seamless flow.

With all that done, it was time to tattoo. Prior to the session, I had taken about 5 droppers of Pamela Shaw's Quaternity Holistics "Pain-Free Tincture", which is an all-natural tincture to help pain sensitivity, and it chills you out. I also had a bottle of Advil in my bag, in case I was really in pain.

Tattoos hurt. We all know this. And tattoos on the knee and in the knee ditch are a particular bitch. Gratefully, however, Naza works super-fast, as well as meticulously, and he's also a "light-touch," in that you don't feel that he's drilling into you. He asked me what my favorite music was, and played Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, some of our mutual favorites. He cracked jokes, and engaged in conversation, so that my focus wasn't on any discomfort. The sessions were actually ... enjoyable. You don't hear many people say that when a tattooer is running a thick black line from your ankle, up your knee, and across your thighs.

nazareno tubaro tattoo.jpgThe outline was done in one session, for what we would get done in this trip. [Some more spaces on my left leg will be filled in my next trip.] The following day I rested, keeping my leg iced and elevated. For a spaz like me, keeping still is the greatest challenge of all, but I forced myself to do something I never do: relax. [Ok, ok. I did sneak away for a bit to see some old friends from the body modification and performance scene. How could I pass up a chance to have La Negra Modified Goddess make me panquques con dulche du leche?!]

The remaining two appointments were all dotwork and some fine line fill-in. The dots were tiny and layered expertly for some buttery shading. It's a painstaking process, although, actually, less painful and easy on the skin. Naza also used fine lines as the veins of the leaves in the design for added texture. In total, just counting the time the needles were in my skin (outside of design, coffee and cookie breaks) Naza did all that work in only 6 hours!

Nevertheless, after that third and last session, I was beat. The next morning, after 9 hours of sleep, I was feeling great and took a couple of hours to sightsee. But before I did, I had wrapped my leg the night before with Saniderm aftercare medical bandages. Tattooer Jess Yen was swearing by it at the last NYC Tattoo Convention for faster healing, and to keep it safe and clean. I kept the bandages on for the next day as well, until right before I got on the plane (as I didn't want too much compression when taking the long trip). [See more on how Saniderm works here.] The final night before I left, I partied with Naza and Xoana, and made plans for my next trip back to finish the leg and then start the next one.

I am grateful, not only for the beautiful tattoo, but for the kindness and the wonderful experience I had getting tattooed. Creating that kind of experience is what distinguishes good artists from truly great ones -- ones worth flying to another continent, even with so many greatt artists in your backyard. I look forward to further tattoos and giggles soon.

For more photos, check my quick Flickr album of my sessions at Naza's studio. You can find more of Naza's work on Instagram.

nazareno tubaro tattoo2.jpg
08:45 AM

Back in January, I posted the trailer to a film that features the life and work Chaim Machlev -- world renowned for his ornamental dot and line work, and sacred geometry. I'm happy to report that the entire documentary short "Dots to Lines - Chaim Maclev" can now be viewed online here (and is embedded below).

Filmmakers Nikita Luennemann & Lukas Muganga capture the personal and professional of Chaim's life, from the artist's "conventional" lifestyle in Tel-Aviv to his buzzing studio in Berlin. There are great shots of clients, close-ups of him working and creating his distinct tattoo pieces -- but most interesting is hearing Chaim speak of the whole process of how he came to be where his is now. I highly recommend it.

See more of Chiam's work on his site, Facebook, and Instagram.

chaim maclev.jpg
chaim maclev 2.jpg
07:58 AM
paul acker tattoo.jpgTattoo above by Paul Acker.

The recent tattoo news featured some fun stuff from Stan Lee's tattoo approval to Denver's best studios to pretty temp tattoos:

First up, Movieplot featured Paul Acker, particularly his horror realism. I'm a long time fan of Paul's work and some of great works of his can be found in this article. You can also find Paul's portfolio on his site, Facebook, and Instagram.

The OC Weekly has another tattoo artist feature -- this time on Tim Shelton of Still Life Tattoo. The focus of the article is on "how art transitions into tattooing." Here's a bit from Tim on that:
There are similarities in my drawing style to how I tattoo, but you usually have full control over your drawings [...] That's the time to make your own weird shit. I do a lot of loose, texture stuff when I'm drawing, but it's pretty rare that I try tattooing like that. They're more like brother and sister than twins, although I'm constantly changing both, and parts of both go back and forth with each other.
The article also has a short but interesting Q&A with Tim.

Colorado's Westword has a feature on the Ten Best Tattoo Shop Names in Denver. The piece shows a lot of tattoo talent in the city. I was happy to see Alicia Cardenas and Sol Tribe on the list. I had the great pleasure of hanging out with Alicia and watching her work at the Brighton Tattoo Convention in February. Alicia is part tattooer-part earth mother-part shaman. I hope to have an interview with her soon. Here's a piece she did at the convention below.

Another cool story was how one man got his backpiece approved by Stan Lee at MegaCon in Florida. Tattooer Kelly Rogers created a piece with Spider-Man, the Hulk, Carnage, Venom, Batman, The Joker and Spawn on John Engle's back. Stan Lee signed John's back at the convention and Kelly tattooed that as well. A dream come true for the comic fan.

Finally, while not a true tattoo piece, I loved this Bustle How-To on making temporary tattoos with dried flowers. So pretty! I'm going to find some free space and try it this weekend. 

dotwork crab tattoo.pngTattoo above by Alicia Cardenas.
06:03 PM
geometric tattoo dotstolines.jpg
geometric knee tattoo dotstolines.jpg
underboob tattoo dotstolines.jpg
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.

Dots To Lines (Official Trailer) from Nikita Lunnemann on Vimeo.

08:37 AM
kakoulas books.jpg
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:

   * Black Tattoo Art Volume 1 (my first baby) on sale for $120 + shipping, SOLD OUT
   * 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 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.

blackwork tattoo Vincent.jpgTattoo above by Vincent Hocquet (Black Tattoo Art I).

leon lam black tattoo.jpgTattoo above by Leon Lam (Black Tattoo Art II)

comic tattoo.jpgTattoo above by Genko (Color Tattoo Art).
07:05 AM
zac scheinbaum tattoo 4.jpgzac scheinbaum tattoo snake.jpgI 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.

zac scheinbaum tattoo1.jpgI'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.

zac scheinbaum 2.jpgzac scheinbaum tattoo 3.jpg
07:23 AM
Karrie Arthurs tattoo 3.jpgKarrie Arthurs tattoo.jpgUsing 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, 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.
Finding?  Crystals

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.  

Karrie Arthurs tattoo 2.jpg
09:32 AM
daniel dimattia tattoo.jpg
dimattia dotwork tattoo.jpg
In honor of my tattooist's birthday today, I'm posting some of his latest dotwork pieces.

Happy birthday, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo!

07:12 AM
dotwork face and head tattoo.jpg
This weekend, I received a succession of excellent text messages:  they began with a video of an Argentinian tattooer dancing in his underwear...followed by photos of that same tattooer creating a dotwork masterpiece on another talented artist and friend. These are the very reasons smart phones were created.

Nazareno Tubaro of Buenos Aires, in his signature stippling style, adorned the face of his Brazilian blackwork brethren, Garcia Leonam. The tattoos meld with existing work on the top of Garcia's head, then flow in beautiful symmetry down along his face and scalp. You can get a glimpse of the painstaking technique of building a bold composition out of small dots by this close-up below (before Naza tattooed the second line along the ear).

Naza and Garcia created a short video from their session, which you can find on Naza's Instagram. You can find Garcia on Instagram as well. You won't, however, find the half-naked dancing video online. Not yet.

ear tattoo.jpg
07:04 AM
dan dimattia tattoo.jpg
On Friday, I added another piece to the full leg tattoo I'm slowly working on with Dan DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo in Liege, Belgium. Building on the existing dotwork ornamentation, bit by bit, is a lesson in patience. I just want it to be done, but with the full composition done in the stippling method, the sessions take longer, even for smallish pieces. When it all comes together, however, it'll be worth it all. Dan will be back in NYC in March for my next session, when we'll start tying all the pieces together. Can't wait!

If you haven't already seen them blasted shamelessly all over the internet, here are some tattoos Dan has already done on me below.

dan dimattia tattoo2.jpg
07:05 AM
Black Tattoo Art II.jpgUPDATED POST:  Limited author copies are still available. You can order via Paypal here or contact me at 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.     

leon lam spread small.png    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.

Roxx 2spirit spread small.png
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.

thomas hooper spread small.pngThe "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.

celtic text spread small.png
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.

buena vista spread small.pngThe "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.

filipino tattoo small.png

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).
09:02 AM
dots skull tattoo.jpg
Calypso Tattoo dotwork.jpg
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 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 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.

dotwork tattoo dimattia.jpg
08:43 AM
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.
09:26 AM
Patrick Huttlinger, tattoo.jpg
Patrick Huttlinger, Sven Walliser.jpgTattoo by Patrick Hüttlinger. Photo by Sven Walliser.

As promised, I'm sharing the work of another fantastic artist featured in my upcoming Black Tattoo Art II, which will be released in September. I'm thrilled to have Patrick Hüttlinger be a part of this project.  Here's how Patrick describes his work:

When I started tattooing just before the turn of the millennium, I solely concentrated on the color black and I am still fascinated with the limitation which using this one colour offers, opening doors for new graphical challenges and at the same time giving justice to the medium of skin, through it's bold simplicity. Nevertheless, to be able to satisfy my inner-drive, the desire to create and change, I need to make use of a variety of artistic media. In the world of art, with its unlimited variety and infinite possibilities, I feel most at home.
Another art form Patrick has engaged in is the creation of exceptionally beautiful rotary machines, which you can learn about here.

Check more of Patrick's tattoo portfolio on his site, Facebook, and Instagram.

Patrick_Huttlinger 3.jpg
08:52 AM
Amanda Ruby tattoo.jpg
Amanda Ruby tattoo 3.jpg
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.

Amanda Ruby tattoo 2.jpg
12:11 PM
dotwork calf tattoo.jpg
Last night, I was reminded just how much tattoos hurt. It hurt in a way that I wanted to travel back in time and slap my 20-year-old self who would proclaim, "Oh, it's just like scratching a sunburn" because, back then, I had never sat for hours while needles drilled into my bony shin [or 5 hours of line work on the ribs like last year.]

Over the past 4+ years, since I've moved back to my native Brooklyn, I've only been getting tattooed once or twice a year, when my artist, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo travels to NYC or when I make a trip back to Liege, Belgium -- home to Calypso Tattoo and where I lived for almost 8 years.

As I work on a unified body suit, a year can feel even longer because I'm excited to see my body continue to transform and to become the person I envision myself to be. At times, when working piece-by-piece on the design, it can feel like I'm in a state of flux. That "I'm not done." But the pace is important for a number of reasons.

In an age of instant gratification, there's something special about having to wait for what you want. It offers a greater sense of gravity and even ritual to the tattoo process. On a practical level, it also allows for more time to research patterns and gather ideas on how to bring all these motifs on my body together. Dan is really a master at creating that harmony and flow and taking a holistic approach to how the tattoos look on the body overall.

And then there's the fact that I have enough time to forget the pain.

The new tattoo on my calf and shin, is comprised of all dots. No lines this time. When it heals, I'll post better pictures so you can really see how Dan worked the density of the dots to create some beautiful light effects. Using a rotary machine, which doesn't have the harsh buzz of the coil, Dan worked tirelessly for over four hours to make every point perfect. And as always, I'm thrilled -- although my happy dance will have to wait until the swelling goes down.
09:17 AM
dan dimattia tattoo dots.jpg
dotwork skull.jpg
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!
02:44 PM
Pat Fish Celtic Tattoo.jpg
shamrock tattoo pat fish.jpg
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I naturally had to feature work from The Celtic Tattoo Queen herself, Pat Fish.

Collectors from around the world travel to Pat's Santa Barbara studio for her intricate knot and dot work tattoos. Last year, I posted an excerpt from my Inked mag profile on Pat, and I figure it's fitting today to post a bit more from our Q&A, where we talk about how she earned her royal title:

You're called the "Queen of Knots" in the tattoo community. How did that get started?

Lyle Tuttle gave me the name "Queen of Knots, and the title "Celtic Queen of the West Coast" came from a Skin & Ink magazine article. When I started [to tattoo], I was thirty years old. You can really do what you want till you turn thirty, but at that point, you better specialize and chose a profession, something that you are. I put myself through college doing research interviewing, and then I got hired by the local weekly newspaper to interview people. I did it for over a decade. But after a while, I got to where I didn't want to be edited anymore, where they'd brutally cut my work to make room for more advertising. I finally just decided that I wanted to do art full time. At that point, I thought that tattooing seemed to be the most legit way to do art. That's when I went on my quest to find who I should learn from and the rest is history. Now it's almost 28 years. Simultaneously, I decided something else I really needed was to find out my true identity because I was an orphan and lived all my life with a chip on my shoulder that somewhere, in some office, was the truth of about where I came from. I put a private eye on to find out who I was, and it turns out that I'm Scottish. It just made sense to me that everyone else in the world has ethnic pride--has an identity--and here I was finding it out and at the same time learning to do this new skill. So I decided to specialize in Celtic art, bringing back that tattoo tradition of the Europeans.

Like what traditions?

People think that the Europeans started getting tattooed when Captain Cook came back from Tahiti with tattooed sailors, who had gotten souvenirs when they went and explored. That isn't true. The Pictish people were known for their tattoos. It turns out that I'm a Campbell and the clan Campbell are Picts. It's an extremely small ethnic group. I thought it was something I should explore and one of the ways to do that would be to bring back alive this tradition of the heavily tattooed Pictish people--to bring these designs back to life in skin. One of the better choices of my life was to learn to tattoo and then to specialize in this.

See more of Pat's work on  Slainte!
10:29 PM

dotwork tattoo russian doll.jpg
russian doll tattoo.jpg
As my next volume of Black Tattoo Art is in its final stages, set to launch later this Spring, I wanted to offer you a preview of some of the work that will be featured. And considering it's the birthday of my tattoo artist today -- Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo in Belgium -- I figured I'd post one of his more recent works that will be in the book:  this adorable dotwork Matryoshka dolls (or Russian nesting dolls) tattoo . I love the background dot patterns with the henna-inspired line work as well.

Check more of Dan's work here. You can also read about my last couple of sessions with him as we continue my body suit here and here.

More previews to come!
connect with us

Marisa Kakoulas
Miguel Collins
Craig Dershowitz
Brian Grosz
Sean Risley
Patrick Sullivan
Needles and Sins powered by Moveable Type.

Site designed and programmed by Striplab.

NS logo designed by Viktor Koen.