Tattoo above by Mario Bernardi.
Tattoo above by Robert Pho.
Martin Luther King portrait above by Cecil Porter.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day, every year, I search social media to find beautiful tattoos dedicated to a man who is an icon for aspiring to peace, equality, and justice. And every year I find a few more, but not as many as I would like, considering how many portraits and other tattoo odes are dedicated to pop culture celebrities. Here are some new works I found, along with pieces I have posted before.
I'll be reading his "I have a Dream" speech again today to inspire me to work for something bigger than myself.
Tattoos (left to right) by Joshua Carlton, Mike DeMasi, and Logan Aguilar.
Tattoo and Photo by Steve Peace Tattoos.
There's a tattoo news story making international rounds that is so sweet, I couldn't wait to post until our next news review. It's a story about how Calgary-based tattoo artist Steve Peace lovingly transformed a portrait tattoo of one of his three children, Ace, on his wife to best capture Ace's identity (as shown above).
As Steve wrote on Facebook, "As our oldest child Ace is FTM transgender we need to update the tattoo to fully represent who he is in his happy new awesome life." The original portrait, which was tattooed before Ace had come out as trans, depicted a girl in pigtails and a pink dress with a purple bow. The revamped tattoo shows Ace in a tee and shorts, with the bow changed to a slingshot.
Ace told Global News about his mom, "It made me really happy, I didn't realize how much she believed me. It finally fits."
One of my favorite "realism" tattoo artists, David Corden, is profiled in STV Edinburgh this week in anticipation of his new tattoo studio and art gallery opening in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh this summer.
The profile shares what David has envisioned for his new space, particularly how he doesn't plan to have it branded as a tattoo shop outside, but a gallery. He says, "I want people to wander in not realising it's a tattoo studio, I want to make people realise it's not what they think. [...] I love the fact it surprises people that tattoos are art, whether you are choosing to wear it or not."
The studio is scheduled to debut in June, marking around 8 years that David has been tattooing. It's hard to believe that the 42-year-old artist has not been tattooing for decades with his level of expertise. While he is an art school grad, he spent 15 years as a Ventilation Engineer before learning to tattoo. Here's more from the article:
'My dad is ex-navy so I was around traditional tattoos and grew up around those styles of tattoos. At the time, I hadn't really seen any realism tattoos until those television shows began.'So, I guess reality tattoo TV has inspired something great in our community!
See more of David's work on his site, Facebook, and Instagram.
Today's fun Proust Questionnaire is with Tyler Malek, owner of Underworld Tattoo Company in Salem, New Hampshire, whose portfolio is filled with vibrant portrait color bombs as well as strong black and gray work. In our Q&A, Tyler talks about his rat tail, art love, and the fear of being pantsless (among other things).
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
It's the worst to not have my top 3 pairs of pants to wear if, for some reason, they are all in the wash at the same time. Instant bad day. haha
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Being able to just have any and everything you would want at any time without money being involved would be pretty solid. And if everything had to be the color green to make it earthly, I would be ok with that!
Your most marked characteristic?
I would say my rat tail is pretty is pretty known across the land! It's where I gather all my power.
What is your principle defect?
Spelling has never been a strength of mine, that's why I get paid to doodle! Lucky for spellcheck or else everyone I was typing to would assume they are speaking to a 4-year old! [Editor's note: I did correct some spelling.]
Your favorite painters?
I'm not sure if I have a favorite. I, more or less, just love art and all mediums. When I am not doing art, I am referencing and junking out on looking at all art!
Your favorite musicians?
I'm all over the board with music -- from rap to electronic to pop punk.
Who are your favorite writers?
RL Stein and the Goosebumps series is still the best of all time -- might also be because those are probably the only books I have ever read!
Your favorite virtue?
"Honesty is the best policy" is number one with me.
Who would you have liked to be?
I would have loved to be a good singer in all places aside from just in my car with no one else around me!
How would you like to die?
I would like to die when I say so!
What is your present state of mind?
Work work work work work...
What is your motto?
"If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?"
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.
Biggie portrait tattoo above by Nikko Hurtado
As I Brooklyn girl, I'd be remiss in not posting a few of the multitudinous odes to Christopher George Latore Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls / Biggie / Notorious B.I.G, on the iconic rapper's birthday. [Of course, I'd prefer if more people got portraits of Brooklyn's own Shirley Chisholm -- the first African-American woman elected to Congress AND the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States -- but I have hopes that those tattoos will come.]
Biggie's music had a profound impact beyond Brooklyn, especially evidenced on skin of fans around the world. Here are just a few pics of those tattoo tributes.
Biggie tattoo above on JJDTD by Australia's Mitch13.
Tattoo above by George Muecke of Ontario, Canada.
And Biggie as a zombie by Matt Helmer of Oddity Tattoo in Sarasota Florida.
Photo by Edgar Hoil. Tattoo by Josh Lin.
Despite being covered in ornamental blackwork tattoos, I love all genres of the art, which is why it has been fun exploring them all in my books when I can't have them all on my bod.
One of the volumes from the Black & Grey Tattoo box set, focused on photo realism in tattooing, and on its pages were lush renderings of images, from pop culture portraits to wild animals to family tributes, and much more. There are so many ways to explore photorealism in tattooing, which makes it an exciting art form.
And when something is exciting, well, it usually ends up on TV.
The folks at Oxygen's tattoo competition show, Best Ink, have asked me to do a post on photorealism in light of tonight's episode, which pits the tattoo artist contestants against each other as they vie to create the best realistic drawings, and tattoos on clients who expect an artistic miracle in five hours. You can catch a preview of the episode here.
Insect tattoo by Tim Kern, Tribulation Tattoo.
Realistic tattooing has not merely developed in in the past decade--it has mutated, leaping far beyond normal progression in its artistry and execution. There has been explosion of photographic representations tattooed with great precision and depth. It has invigorated the tattoo community with the possibilities of mastering a difficult art on a difficult canvas.
Both new and experienced artists face a number of challenges in realistic tattooing; the most obvious one is making it look real--capturing the look, and even the soul, of the subject. Many portrait tattoos, for example, commemorate the loves of the wearer: family, pets, cars and even fictional characters. The personal significance prescribed to these tattoos adds to the great responsibility of the artist. Another challenge concerns the longevity of the tattoo. A skilled tattooist may choose not to render certain details in the tattoo exactly as they appear in the photo because, as skin ages, lines blur and ink fades, which could leave a portrait of Marilyn Monroe looking more like Marilyn Manson. Realism specialists also find ways to create a harmony with the body so that the tattoos don't look "slapped on" but appear organic to the wearer. It's particularly difficult to have this balance and stay true to the image but stellar artists find the right mix.
Beyonce portrait tattoo on Karolina by Andre Tenorio.
Keeping all this in mind, it will be interesting to see if the contestants on Best Ink do justice to the genre and come up with work that demonstrates the true artistry and exciting possibilities of photorealistic tattooing. The show airs at 10 PM EST ... and yes, we'll be drinking.
The last decade has seen an evolution of portrait tattoos -- whether they be hyper-realistic or conveyed through a surrealistic lens. Artists throughout the world have dedicated their craft to mastering this difficult tattoo style with explosive results.
In Germany, one such artist specializing in this genre is Randy Engelhard of Heaven of Colours studio. Tattooing since 2001, Randy began working in all styles until he came to color portraiture about five years ago, inspired by his mentor Boris Zalaszam and other realism wunderkinds including Mike De Vries and Roman Abrego. Film and animation characters make up a great deal Randy's portfolio as well as personal portrait tributes of his clients.
Now clients need not travel to Zwickau, Germany for work. Randy will be doing his first guest spot in NYC at Sacred Tattoo from August 13th to the 18th. [His rate is $250/hour.]
If you're interested in an appointment, email Kevin@SacredTattoo.com.
Last month, we posted on Sullen's sweepstakes to win a free tattoo from Nikko Hurtado. That contest ends August 1st and all you have to do is go to Sullen's Facebook page, become a fan by clicking Like, and then click the sweepstakes link.
Today, we're having a Sullen-sponsored giveaway of our own: two tees designed by Nikko (in Men's Large) that are part of the The Collective apparel line.
Here's how to play along: Click the Contact link above and put in the subject line "Sullen Contest" by noon (Eastern time) on Friday. Then, I'll put all the names in Randomized.com, which will pick two winners. Easy.
For a look at Nikko's art on skin, see his site and the Black Anchor Collector FB page.
Illustrating just how artful and interesting a family tribute tattoo can be is this sleeve (in progress) by the wonderful Stefano Alcantara of Paul Booth's Last Rites Tattoo Theater.
The work is on native New Yorker Cesar who began the sleeve -- his very first tattoo -- with a reflection of himself being put together by demons (shown below) on the top portion of his arm. The work then moves down to his forearm with a portrait of his 6-year-old son (above), to be followed by another portrait of his other son. Cesar will also add a work commemorating his French bulldog that passed.
Looking forward to seeing how Stefano brings it all together.
This Oscar worthy Black Swan tribute above was tattooed by Kyle Cotterman of Smart Bomb Tattoo in Dayton, Ohio.
I found it thanks to Jacob Walsh (Jakezilla) and Nathan Green who steered me to the work after I linked to Refinery29's post on a less-than-stellar rendition of the portrait (on a guy who was using his Swan tattoo to attract "like-minded friends" on Grindr). Yup, this is what I Tweet about on Friday nights.
Kyle's work is not just a testament to finding the right artist for the right job, but also the right tattoo placement. I kinda like the idea of punching someone with Natalie Portman's face.
See more of Kyle's portfolio here.
For my Columbus, Ohio homies: On March 5th, Cap City Tattoo will present Revolutionary Revelations by resident artist Andy Johnson. At the opening, Andy will be showing nine tattoo portraits of revolutionary figures in the flesh and in photos. Cap City offers more:
The name Revolutionary Revelations grew out of Andy's learning process while working on the portraits for his friends and family. They were literally revelations about these amazing people, many of them not featured in history books. On the gallery wall you will see a photograph of each piece and story of how each subject influenced the clients. The opening reception will give you a chance to talk to each client and see the work live and in person. You can learn why they picked their history maker, enjoy refreshments and meet the artist.The portraits--chosen by the clients and not Andy himself--include Emma Goldman, Albert Einstein, Johannes Gutenberg, Ammon Hennacy, John Brown, Eddy Merckx, Ted Roosevelt, Rosalin Franklin, and Emiliano Zapata.
The show will run from March 5th to March 31st at Cap City Tattoo, 61 Parsons Ave, Columbus, OH (Old Towne East).
For more on Andy's work, head to his portfolio on Facebook. Also check the work of Cap City Tattoo's owner and tattooist Alli Macgregor.
Portrait tattoo of Eddy Merckx
Portrait tattoo or Emiliano Zapata
In honor of Black History Month (sadly, the shortest month of the year), we're featuring this backpiece of Huey P. Newton, founder of the Afro-American Association and co-founder the Black Panther Party, tattooed on hip hop artist Freddie Gibbs by LA's Jun Cha. Jun says of the work:
It's a reflection of youth and independent thought. It's a symbol for the freedom of ideas and expression. The Panthers were a group that thought for themselves. It goes hand-in-hand with the young hustlers' generation today. Most art culture--whether it's hip-hop, art and design, or tattooing--has had its struggle to be accepted into the larger context of society. And this tattoo is the liberation of that.A great video by Clement & Co. documenting the work is shown below. In it, Freddie discusses why he chose to honor the activist with this tattoo. It's a welcome change from recent stories of rappers with ice cream cone facial ink and Facebook tributes.
For more on Jun Cha's work, particularly black & grey, see his online portfolio and follow him on Twitter. For more on Freddie Gibbs, check his last album, Str8 Killa, on iTunes.
I've been a long time fan of Italian tattoo artist Alex de Pase and his realism and surreal tattoos. I just received images of his recent work for my next book project and couldn't wait to share some with you.
Alex is a self-taught tattooist who has had a passion for the art for over twenty years. Today, he has his own studio in Grado, a small island in northeast Italy, not far from Venice. He says of his early start in tattooing:
At age fourteen, I met a guy who had many tattoos all over his body, which meant one thing only twenty years ago: prison. In fact, this fellow learned how to tattoo in jail, and when he told me that he knew how to do them, I begged him to teach me everything he knew. He taught me the basic skills for tattooing by hand with a Bic pen melted with needles. It made quite on impression on me because, ever since, I have not stopped tattooing.Eventually, Alex learned to work a tattoo machine, and studied everything he could get his hands on. After some years of doing every type of tattoo, he started focusing on realism and portraits.
This kind of style has the artistic expression that I prefer. It has no limits on technical improvement, although one of the most fascinating aspects of realism is not technique. It is more than a mere reproduction of something already existing. It also encompasses the artist's sensibility, personal interpretation, perception of colors, and so on. Each artist brings to the tattoo their own experience, imprinting a bit of themselves in the work.
Check his site to view more more work as well as his Facebook page for updates on his convention and guest spot schedule. He'll be in the US at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering, September 15-18.
Special thanks to Marco for his help with the images and biography.
Portrait tattoo of Billy Eason by Phillip Spearman.
The tattoo community has lost another one of its original badasses. Billy Eason, owner of Capital Tattoo and B.I.R.D. Productions, who put on the Richmond Tattoo Arts Festival in Virginia, just passed away. He was 72 years old. This past weekend, at the 18th annual Richmond show, Billy's tattoo family got to see him one last time. He was loved by many and even immortalized in this portrait tattoo above by Phillip Spearman. You can read tributes to Billy and see photos on his Facebook page.
Today's post is inspired by the numerous emails I've been getting from agents looking for fresh cast members to join LA Ink and a new show, NY Ink (it was only a matter of time).
This Kat Von D tribute was tattooed by the fabulous Erin Chance in Auckland, New Zealand, who is a resident artist at Sacred Tattoo. When I asked Erin what the backstory was behind the tattoo, she said, "The kid just really loves Kat Von D." A tattoo without a grand story and deep meaning? In what reality is this?