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?"
Celebrity portraits are common tattoo odes that pay tribute (whether seriously or ironically) to someone whom the wearer may not have met, but feels a connection to. What if the person being memorialized on one's body is not on the A-List, but instead, has been marginalized and often ignored by society? Tattooist Matt C. Ellis uses his particular skills in tattoo realism and offers clients a chance to make a connection with those who are forgotten, shedding light on the issues of poverty and homeless.
It's been a while since a profiled a black & grey tattoo specialist, so here is some stunning work from Miguel Bohigues of Aldaia (Valencia), Spain. Miguel has won numerous international awards for his soulful realism, and it's easy to understand why.
For more, you can check this video interview with Miguel (in Spanish) and also find his work on Facebook.
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.
One of the great things about tattooist Stefano Alcantara -- aside from his most excellent portfolio and super friendly personality -- is that he is on the road a great deal so you may actually score an appointment near you!
He's been at Last Rites tattooing these days, where he was a full time member of Paul Booth's family, but you can check his tour page and FB fan page to see where he'll be next.
Stefano's fine art work will be part of the "Zombie" exhibit, curated by Travis Louie, at Last Rites Gallery, which opens May 25th and runs until June 26th.
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.
The big highlight for me at the NYC Tattoo Convention has always been getting to watch excellent tattooers from around the world do their thing in person and up close. One artist whose work I really enjoyed checking as it came to life was Khan Tattoo, who has been on the road rocking color realism works, which he describes as "Neo-Fantasy."
Tattooing since 2001, the South Korean-born Khan wanted to follow in Guadi's footsteps and create architectural wonders. After meeting a beautifully tattooed Yakuza, however, his path changed and he set out to create art on the body -- a decision, he says, that he has never regretted.
Tattoo's path has taken him around the world, tirelessly working conventions and guest spots in different cities for long stretches of time away from his home in Japan. Right now he's in Massachusetts at ZaZa Ink, where he'll be working through June 9th. In July, Khan will be at Reinkarnation in Cologne, then 2nd Skin Tattoo in Zurich (July 24- Aug. 15t) and then the London Tattoo Convention in September ... check his full guest spot/convention schedule here.
You can view more of Khan's work on Facebook & Twitter as well.
Renowned tattooist Tom Renshaw of Eternal Tattoos in Clawson, Michigan has been recognized as one of the foremost wildlife, landscape and portrait artists, so it's no surprise that he's featured in a new pilot for the Animal Channel called "Tattooed in Detroit." The series premiers tonight at 9PM EST & then will be replayed at 11pm & 4am (11/20). It will also air several times this week.
Producers Intuitive Entertainment say of the show: "Each hour-long episode follows the stories behind animal tattoos--from prep to ink--and the people who pay permanent homage to fallen pets & life-changing encounters with animals. There's an intimate story behind every tattoo, and it's Tom's job to make sure those stories come to life."
Yes, I know. The reality TV format requires a death or "life changing encounter" for someone wanting to get tattooed; however, Tom is such a phenomenal artist, with over two decades of stellar work, that I'll tune in just to watch him work. The artist also explains to MLive.com why this type of tattooing is important to him:
If someone loses their pet and their pet meant a lot of them, representing that on their skin creates a sort of long lasting bond. It makes them feel like their pet is still with them. [...] It gives them the satisfaction of seeing them on the daily basis, and gives them comfort.The article adds:
Renshaw, one of the nation's most renowned wildlife and portraiture tattoo artists, is also a wildlife photographer and videographer. "I've been to Alaska 10 times photographing wildlife, predominately brown bears," says Renshaw, who often uses his adventures as research for his work. "I like wildlife tattooing. It encompasses the landscape, too. It's like creating a painting, it's the whole picture."Looking forward to checking it out and hope the shows gets picked up.
Tattooing since 1988, Russia's George Bardadim has gone from hand-poking with a needle and thread to building tattoo machines and achieving international acclaim for his stellar realism as well as other genres in his expansive portfolio. When asked about his work, George says:
Black and grey tattoos were much more popular in Russia--then color through years--that's why I did a lot of them back then. Nowadays, the situation has completely changed. I also changed my mind a little and tried to learn how to work with colors in a way modern young artists do. I do my best to learn different styles, though sometimes it's not easy at all.George's studio is in St. Petersburg but he travels extensively throughout Europe, working conventions and guest spots. His next shows are Frankfurt and Milan as well as a few smaller conventions.
Good news for those in the US: George has just arrived for the first time in the States. He says, "I hope I will be able to find new friends and probably take part in local conventions. I really like to learn things through experience sharing, and I'm always open to new relations and guest spots."
From October 23rd to October 30th, George will be a guest artist at our Brooklyn homebase, Tattoo Culture, and he still has some appointments available! You can reach him via email at bardadim(at)gmail.com or through his contact page.
Check his online gallery and Facebook page to see more of his work.
Realism wunderkind Nikko Hurtado of Black Anchor Collective in Hesperia, CA has teamed up with Sullen Clothing for a pretty spectacular sweepstakes: up to five hours of free tattoo time with Nikko; $500 worth of Sullen Clothing; a hotel for one night; and a feature on Sullen TV.
All you have to do is go to Sullen's Facebook page, become a fan by clicking Like, and then click the sweepstakes link. That's it. Nothing crazy. They're not asking you to tattoo every Facebook friend on your arm.
The contest ends August 1st. More details here.
I'm generally not a fan of promotional tattoo giveaways but Nikko is an exceptional artist and this is an opportunity to book some of his limited time for free. And get some sweet swag! I'm a fan of Sullen's The Collective apparel line with its designs from top tattooists including Nikko.
Nikko has a very distinct flavor to his color realism, often exhibiting a cartoon and comic edge. And I particularly love the ethereal backgrounds that give his portraiture a flow with the body.
For more on Nikko's work, check his online portfolio and Facebook page.
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.
When Moscow tattoo artist Oleg Turyanskiy comes to the States as a visiting artist, collectors rush to schedule sessions for his color and black & grey realism work -- tattoos that not only capture a likeness but the energy of the subject.
The thirty-three-year-old describes himself as a "traveling tattoo artist" as he spends most his time on the road, although he does keep a home base in his native Moscow. Oleg says that he needs to travel to charge his creativity. In addition to guest spots at top shops around the world, you can find Oleg at a number of international tattoo conventions throughout the year. He says:
I adore attending tattoo conventions. I really love the atmosphere and spirit of such kind of events. I don't like working at the same place with the same people around for months in a row. I need to change my surroundings from time to time.
An art school graduate, Oleg has been tattooing since 2001, preferring realism, although he says his fine art work is largely fantasy driven. His trippy illustrations are like the Brothers Grimm on acid but he's quick to say that his work is not a product of drugs or alcohol--a question he gets a lot when people view his art. He's currently working on fairy tales himself in the form of a sketchbook, which will be available for purchase. [We'll update you on its release.]
Oleg's travel schedule is updated online here. His next US guest spot will be at Off The Map Tattoo in Easthampton, MA in August and September. During those months, he'll also be attending the Hell City Tattoo Fest and the Paradise Tattoo Gathering. Appointments with Oleg are made in advance. You can reach him via his contact page.
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.
The November issue of Skin & Ink magazine has Traveling Mick's coverage of the Moscow Tattoo Convention, which is a great read but also includes photos of some exciting tattoo work being done in Russia. A number of backpieces that particularly grabbed my attention in the article were done by 28-year-old artist Den Yakovlev, whose work is shown here.
See more in his online portfolio of exceptional photorealism in color and black & gray.
PS: That same issue of Skin & Ink has the second part of my column on blackwork tattooing. Check it out.
Just saw that Paul Booth's Last Rites has added another excellent tattoo artist and painter to their ranks: Timothy Boor, who does exceptional realism, is the new golden child (sorry, couldn't resist) of the tattoo atelier, leaving Indiana for NYC. Read more about Timothy and his artistic influences on his Last Rites' page. He's currently taking appointments.