Tattoo Archives


Jan201429
09:28 AM

The Broken Circle Breakdown.jpg
In Slate's "The Woman Behind the Tattoos in Belgium's Sexy Oscar-Nominated Film", Brussels-based tattoo artist Emilie Guillaume is profiled for her work in the acclaimed Belgian film The Broken Circle Breakdown. The film is traveling around US theaters now, and will be available on demand on outlets like iTunes from February 4th.

I'm excited to see this film, not just because tattoos play heavily in this love story, but especially because the strong female lead is a tattoo artist. According to the film's site, the plot unfolds in the following way:

The Broken Circle Breakdown tells the love story between Elise and Didier. She has her own tattoo shop, he plays the banjo in a band. It is love at first sight, in spite of major differences. He talks, she listens. He is a dedicated atheist, although at the same time a naive romantic. She has a cross tattooed in her neck, even though she has both feet firmly on the ground. Their happiness is complete after their little girl Maybelle is born. Unfortunately, Maybelle, at six years old, becomes seriously ill. Didier and Elise respond in very different ways. But Maybelle does not leave them any choice. Didier and Elise will have to fight for her together.

While Emilie Guillaume was brought to the film to design the tattoos on the character of Elise, director Felix Van Groeningen also worked with Emilie on the development of the character -- learning about her life as a tattooer, seeking ideas for the tattoo studio in the film by visiting Emilie's studio, and even adapting some of Emilie's own tattoos for Elise. Emilie told Slate:

"Felix didn't know a lot about tattoos," Guillaume, 32, told me by phone. "It was a real discovery for him. He wanted to know about the life of a female tattoo artist so that the character didn't fall into becoming a cliche." [...] "He wanted the tattoos to tell the story of a life and not just be about imposing a style," Guillaume said of the director. "To create a credible character and make it seem natural that she would have those tattoos, I designed the motifs specifically adapted for her, as I would do for any person."

Emilie further explained to Slate the process of designing the tattoos and how they were tranfered to the body of Veerle Baetens, who plays Elise. Emilie's sketches of the tattoos are also highlighted in the article. What I found particularly interesting in the Slate interview is how some very real experiences of tattooed women are translated in the film, as noted below:

The first time Elise and Didier meet, she gives him a quick tattoo-based tour of her body, pointing out where she has covered up the names of former lovers. And when they undress for the first of many times in the film, her tattoos seem to serve as a gateway for him to discover her body.

"In reality that's also what happens," Guillaume said. "I'm very heavily tattooed, and when I meet someone in a romantic context they always want to look at them, read them, they think it's all written there and will explain everything. When a woman is strongly tattooed it makes a very strong impression on a man and he's always surprised and curious to see more, to know how far she will go with it."

Check the trailers and scenes from the film here.

[Thanks, Jesse from Diabolikdvd.com for the link.]

Jan201410
08:56 AM
Birdflower.jpg
It's really exciting to find artists with distinct styles who are able to take common themes and make them very much their own. One such artist is Cody Eich, currently at Studio 13 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I shot Cody a few questions about his work and he graciously took the time to offers thoughtful responses:

You're able to meld very different artistic influences together to great effect. What's your process like in putting it all together?

I've always loved contrast and balance.  Generally, I like to use one form or color to compliment the other in some way.  I also like breaking the rules.  I like putting objects or shapes in my artwork that aren't normally there.  Don't get me wrong, I think there are plenty of technical rules that need to be learned and followed by any tattoo artist, which are things that a fine artist or someone using another medium wouldn't necessarily have to worry about.  I always think about how a piece will last over time as it ages, my linework and saturation of a tattoo, but I've always loved that there is no real "right" answer to the artwork in tattooing or in other creative fields, so I feel free in my work when I get to break the rules. 

Where do you draw your inspiration and references?

I always say nature and the universe we live in are absolutely the most interesting art created by the most creative creator.  The seemingly chaotic but complete order of nature and the relationship between every living things is absolutely astounding to me.  Ordered chaos.  So, I love using natural things as reference for my tattoos, whether it be a person, animal, plant, rocks and geology, or anything else.  I find mechanical things or manmade things less interesting.  That being said, I also worked at an engineering firm for seven years prior to tattooing, and I find myself inadvertently and sometimes purposefully drawing inspiration from plan sheets and other civil engineering based imagery.  Things like topographic style lines, engineering linetypes from computer aided drawing programs will often pop up in my paintings and tattoos next to, or juxtaposed with, natural subject matter.  Lastly, I am continually inspired by other artists, fine and tattoo based, and being new to the industry I have so much to learn still from people who have been doing this much longer than I have.

Rooster.jpgWhat point in your tattoo career did you feel that your own particular style broke through -- or did you begin tattooing your own art from the outset?

When I started painting before I was tattooing, I felt free to paint whatever I wanted because it was mine, and it was for me in my head.  There were no consequences.  With tattoos, it took me a bit to really put "my" mark on someone else.  Because my clients didn't start off asking for geometric shapes and other design elements that I like using, my tattoos were very stunted until I was encouraged by the owners of Studio 13 in Fort Wayne to make the art I wanted rather than strictly what the client was asking for.  From the time I started working there in 2012, they encouraged me to redraw my tattoos for clients before I tattooed them if I hadn't added my touch to the line drawings.  Once I started getting some of these tattoos that were more my style out there, people seemed to like them, so it really encouraged me to push things a bit more and develop something unique that I wanted to do. 

In a number of your tattoos, I see forms that look like constellations -- what's your intention behind them?

People always assume the shapes that you're talking about in my tattoos are constellations, so I sometimes just make up a name for them as if they are actually out there in space.  I have only actually tattooed one real constellation ever.  They are really just design elements that I started playing with as a way to put geometric, angular shapes next to organic forms in my artwork.  Contrast.

BIRD HAND.jpg I read on your Tumblr page that you will be making the move to Southern Ontario. Is that still in the works? Where can people find you in the next few months?

I am from the States, but am immigrating to Canada as my wife, Alisha, is from Canada.  After we got married in December 2012, we filled out all the paperwork and jumped through all the hoops with that and were able to submit our paperwork in March 2013.  I believe the average processing time is about a year, so I'm hoping that March of 2014 will mean I will be okay to live and work in Canada as a permanent resident.  In the meantime I have been okayed to live in Canada while I'm waiting to work, so I live with my wife in Brantford, Ontario and return to the States every month for about a week and a half to work with the wonderful people at Studio 13 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  I'm hoping to be working full time in Canada sometime around March 2014 and am adding people to a wait list for once this happens, so I can start scheduling appointments as soon as my paperwork goes through.

For more on Cory, click:
Codyeichtattoo.com
Instagram: @codyeichtattoo
Facebook facebook.com/cody.eich
Tumblr codyeich.tumblr.com
Cheetah.jpg
Dec201323
08:59 AM

MattEllis_homeless portrait1.jpgCelebrity 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.

Matthew, who has been tattooing for 12 years, is working on a project that involves tattooing portraits of New York City homeless individuals on clients for free, and any money a client gives is donated to a homeless charity. I asked him about his project, which he graciously answered in this Q & A below:

What sparked this project and what keeps driving it? Is it a political statement or just a humanist act?

I started this project because I find the subject of homeless culture very intriguing. To have such a large percentage of our populace so overlooked; these persons are right outside our door but we continue to ignore the homeless. When I tattoo these portraits, I am trying to raise awareness for their plight and our culture's disregard and dehumanization of homeless individuals in our society. I tattoo these portraits for free, and 100% of any money that the client decides to give me is directly donated to a local NYC homeless charity.

When I was living in Miami, I developed friendships with many homeless persons, most of whom were war veterans. I became close to these people and developed a certain connection with them. One of the persons I particularly became close with was a local artist in the area, and through this friendship, I continued to make more friends that happened to be living homeless.

The experiences that I have had with some of these individuals is what I am trying to capture in my works of art. I am trying to portray a glimpse into the raw interaction between myself and these persons. Some of these personalities can be so beautiful and are overlooked in our culture, and I'm trying to look at this concept in a broader sense. This project is not just about homeless individuals, but how our culture lives -- the way that we take many of our comforts for granted. We place so much value on the material. We cherish material beauty and what we see on magazine covers and television. I find these homeless individuals to have more of a raw and powerful quality to themselves that is extremely intriguing.


MattEllis_homeless portrait2.jpgWho are these people whose portraits you are tattooing?

The faces that I create these portraits from vary from homeless people that I have a close friendship with, to homeless persons that I have randomly encountered and approached. Each of these persons I converse with and take photos of, which I use as reference and inspiration for my artwork. When I approach an individual, I will walk up to the person and straightforwardly ask if I can take a few photos of them. Some of these individuals are taken aback and are cautious of my intent. I try to explain to them more about my project and what I am trying to accomplish. I go on to tell them my views about how I see an unfiltered beauty within them that cannot be found on the cover of a fashion magazine. About half of the people don't agree with me but appreciate my ideas. Many of the people I speak to outright deny my claims and cannot see the beauty within themselves.

Once the person I am speaking to becomes more comfortable with the idea of my project, I begin to take photos randomly. I do not ask the person to pose and I do not look through the viewfinder. I hold the camera at different angles and push the shutter button randomly, attempting to capture a glimpse of that moment experienced between us. I do not interview these persons, but rather "hang out" with them and try to capture an unfiltered, raw experience with this other human being.

MattEllis_homeless portrait3.jpg

For those who wear these portraits, what are their thoughts about immortalizing people whom they may not have a personal connection with?

People will get tattoo portraits of celebrities who they do not know personally and will not think twice about it. They may do this because they find the imagery beautiful or they admire the person. When a client is interested in getting one of my homeless portrait tattoos, they are usually drawn to the idea of the project, and they like the fact that there is a strong meaning behind the tattoo. It is a piece of art with a purpose and is also raising awareness. My clients like that they have something more than just an image on their skin. Art is about ideas and making people think. I am trying to help push my tattooing into a direction that is more fine art rather than solely illustration.

**
For more on Matt and his work, check his website and follow him on Instagram.

MattEllis_homeless portrait4.jpg
MattEllis.jpg
Dec201313
12:56 PM

In The Guardian today is feature called "Painted Ladies: Why women get tattoos." Normally, I find these types of articles banal, or even cringe worthy, for perpetuating cliches or not offering a broad spectrum of experience from our community. And so I was happily surprised to find many different voices of tattooed women in this article.

While there need not be any great miraculous reason to get tattooed, tattoos do come with a story, from an impulse to get a quick piece of historic flash to a full body project. I found the profiles of these women to be really interesting, and they made me think on the commonaIities and differences of our experiences with tattoos.

I particularly loved reading about Juanita Carberry, a merchant navy steward, who died in July at age 88. Here's a bit from her story:

The daughter of a renegade Irish peer, Carberry lived an extraordinarily full life. Her childhood in Kenya was difficult: her mother, a well-known aviator, died when she was three, and Carberry was often beaten by her governess. As a teenager, she was a key witness in a celebrated murder case, the 1941 shooting of the 22nd Earl of Erroll, and at 17 she joined the first aid nursing yeomanry in the Women's Territorials during the second world war. In 1946, Carberry became one of a handful of women to join the merchant navy, remaining for 17 years. It was during this period, says photographer Christina Theisen, that she started acquiring tattoos. Her first was a small spider on the sole of her foot; it didn't hurt, Theisen recalls Carberry saying, because the skin on her feet was so tough from walking barefoot as a child.

Read more here.

It is the work of Christina Theisen and Eleni Stefanou that really makes this piece so engaging. Theisen and Stefanou are behind womenwithtattoos.co.uk, a photo and film endeavor that pays respect to all tattooed women. They offer this on their work: "Our project seeks to capture the personal and the individual, embracing each woman and her tattoos as one, rather than isolating or magnifying the inked parts of her body. At the same time, by using natural environments and the context of urban Western culture, we intentionally move away from the sexualised glamour model aesthetic that dominates tattoo magazines and popular culture."

Two words: Hell. Yeah. 

My regret is that I wasn't aware of the project when it first rolled out. I will continue to follow Theisen and Stefanou's work, and I hope that more media outlets also follow their lead in telling compelling stories without the usual pop culture hype and flash so prevalent today.

Apr201304
03:35 PM

TONIGHT is the nation-wide premiere of one of the more important documentaries in our community: "Tattoo Nation." While I've already written about it extensively here, I just wanted to send a reminder to those of you near the over 100+ theaters showing the film.

Check the full list of cities and locations on www.Dandeentertainment.com. As I noted earlier, this is a limited two-day engagement in most cities, so try and get there tonight.

I'll be at the AMC Empire 25 theater at 234 West 42nd St. by Times Square at 8pm. It seems that the theater won't be handing me a mic for any Q&A as planned, but look for the tattooed redhead afterward for post-theater drinks at a local dive to discuss the film.

If you can't make it to the film tonight, check the trailer above and additional videos and photos on the Tattoo Nation Facebook page. You can also follow them on Twitter @TheTattooNation and me on @Needlesandsins.

Hope to see ya there!

Mar201329
04:30 PM

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Last night, the much-anticipated "Tattoo Nation," a documentary on the history and evolution of black & grey tattooing, premiered in Los Angeles, complete with a red carpet laid out for tattooing's own A List, including Don Ed Hardy, Jack Rudy, Freddy Negrete, Good Time Charlie Cartwright, Tim Hendricks, and Cory Miller (who narrated the film), among many others. 

Danny Trejo was also in attendance, as his own experience getting needled in prison plays heavily into the narrative of the film. There's even footage of him taking his daughter to get tattooed (in a studio, not a cell). 

Check the Tattoo Nation Facebook page for photos from last night.

As noted in my last post on the film, the nationwide release is next Thursday, April 4th.  In some cities, like LA and Modesto, the film will play for a week, but in most others, it is an initial two-day limited engagement. There are over a hundred cities and locations for the screening, which are largely listed on www.Dandeentertainment.com.

** For those in NYC, I'll be hosting one of the Manhattan premiers: The April 4th showing at AMC Empire 25 at 234 West 42nd St. in Times Square at 8pm. I'll be handing out N+S stickers and buttons and also selling copies of my Black & Grey Tattoo box set in the lobby. The screening may sell out, so it's best to buy your tickets in advance. ** 

I've given this film a thumbs up already, but it's also been given shout-outs from outlets like the Hollywood Reporter, LA Weekly and a mention in Variety. And as a number of reviews have noted, this isn't just a movie for tattoo collectors, but anyone interested in art, culture, or just a shirtless Trejo. Director Eric Schwartz may not have any tattoos, but he really does our community justice, reflecting the true reality of tattoo culture.  

While black & grey is the central theme, the film examines tattooing in contemporary US history overall.  It's strength lies in the oral histories of those who created history, like Hardy, Rudy, Cartwright, Negrete, Mark Mahoney, Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand and the other greats featured. Check the preview below to get a taste, but I highly recommend you going out to see it.

And for those in New York, I hope you'll see it with me on Thursday.      


Oct201231
12:11 PM
ns_booga.jpegHurricane Sandy made a mess of the transit system here in NYC and reports are informing me that New Jersey has actually cancelled Halloween (can they do that?!).  Fortunately, Marisa and I already managed to get in our Hallows Eve festivities last weekend with a rousing evening of karaoke with tattooist Tim Kern (who was dressed as a very convincing Gene Simmons) and Friends.  In honor of our "Tank Girl and Booga" couples-costume (and the fact that I'm a Hewlett & Martin junkie), I wanted to post these two great Tank Girl tattoos.

tankgirl_tattoo.jpeg[Tank Girl tattoo by Bryan Hall of Cherry Hill Tattoo in Naples, FL]

tankgirl_joe.jpeg[Tank Girl tattoo by Joe Capobianco of Hope Gallery in New Haven, CT]

Happy Halloween, everyone!
Oct201212
06:28 PM
thomas Hooper singularities.jpg
facial tattoo hooper.jpgOne of the most sought-after artists for blackword ornamental and sacred geometry tattoos is Thomas Hooper of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn. [In fact, he's currently not booking new clients.] Thomas is also a prolific painter and has worked on numerous design projects.

Thomas recently discussed tattoos, fine art and fatherhood with the designers at 3sixteen for their Singularities project, in which they highlight creative people in various industries.

You can read the full Singularities interview here, but I'll give you a taste:

Tell us about your first tattoo apprenticeship. What's something you learned that still rings true for you today?

I was taught how to tattoo by Jim Macairt; he gave me the foundations to begin learning about tattooing. Something he said to me that still rings true today is a question he asked me when he found out I wanted to learn (you have to realise also that I was a frightened and insecure boy so this blew my mind). He said: "What will YOU do for tattooing? You will get so much from it but what will YOU give back?" This is always in my head - how can I give back, how can I make something new and expand on what is already such an expansive wealth of inspiration and creativity.
[...]
In looking at your body of work, it's clear that you find beauty in repetition. Why is this, and where did you draw inspiration from as you developed your personal style?

I love repetition, and I realised its beauty in looking at traditional Japanese tattoos. Everything is the same but slightly different. I found inspiration in nature and I then started looking at the work of William Morris, Christopher Dresser and Ernst Haeckel - the former of which lead to my interest in textile design and repetitive patterns.
Check more work from Thomas on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
.


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Oct201211
07:55 AM
craig_burton_photography.jpg craig_burton.jpg craig_burton_photography2.jpgOne of my favorite photographers who works heavily with those in the tattoo and music worlds -- and is a walking work of art himself -- is London-based badass Craig Burton. Craig has shot me and numerous other collectors for my own books and contributes to Total Tattoo, Tattoo Life and Inked Magazine, among many others.

To check his work online, the best place for a daily pic fix is his newish blog, which I'm loving. There's a diversity of editorial and fashion -- from portraits of beautiful men & women, often covered in beautiful tattoo work, to convention coverage.
 
He also posts fun videos. Here's one below on the London Convention.
 

To contact Craig to shoot your model portfolio, live gig, art show, corporate function, or 20-lb tattoo tome, hit him up at info [at] craigburtonphotography.com.
Oct201210
08:29 PM

Today, Part 1 of the Tattoo Age feature on Mutsuo of Three Tides Tattoo was released on Vice.com, and as anticipated from the trailer we posted last week, it provides viewers with a very real portrayal of one of Osaka's finest tattooers, artistically and on a personal level.

It opens with a great quote from Chris Garver (which was also in the trailer), about Mutsuo receiving a "90s style tattoo education" -- that is, taking every request that walked in the door and learning the skills to master the different tattoo styles requested by clients. The fact that he was mentored by all the shop's artists and guest artists played a big role in developing these skills as well. As Garver says, "He's a maverick." The footage is also a great peak into the daily life at Three Tides Tattoo.

To see more of Mutsuo's work, also check his Facebook page and Tumblr.
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