Oral histories are an important part of tattoo scholarship; honestly, though, I just love them because they transport me to a different place along the tattoo timeline, where good stories add to the richness of good tattoos. It's like I'm in a pub in some part of the world overhearing secrets and maybe a little gossip about people and events that would never make a Facebook newsfeed.
Watching The Paul Sayce Interviews made me feel just like that -- that I was privy to talks that cannot be found in the many films and books about our tattoo culture. The reason behind this, I believe, is Paul Sayce himself, who has lived many of the stories with the artists he's interviewed since his tattoo obsession began in the 1970s in Surrey, England.
Filmed over 2015-2016, The Paul Sayce Interviews series is Paul Sayce and Adam Beesley setting out to make films with a focus on tattoo history and featuring new interviews with Don Ed Hardy, Dennis Cockell, George Bone, Lal Hardy, Loretta Leu, Duncan X, Derek Campbell and others, along with 45 minutes of bonus features. Weaved into the footage are old photos, business cards and other artifacts that illustrate their talks.
There's three full hours of footage, broken down into segments, which can be viewed on demand on Vimeo or purchased here on DVD.
Check the trailer below for a taste:
For today's Proust Questionnaire for Tattoo Artists, our favorite guest blogger Serinde takes over, posing the Q&A to Tor Ola Svennevig, best known for his work celebrating traditional Scandinavian art.
BY SERINDE of SERINDE CORSETS:
On September 17, Tor Ola Svennevig, founder and owner of Ihuda Tattoo, in Fredrikstad, Norway, celebrated 15 years of tattooing in a jubilee party held in an old 17th century fortress. The celebration also marked his movement towards tattooing only by hand, putting aside his tattoo machines.
Over the years, Tor has developed his style using the dotwork technique and specializing in designs inspired by his own cultural heritage: ancient Scandinavian art and mythology. In this questionnaire, however, you can learn more about the man behind the tattoos.
What is your current state of mind? Inspired.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Balance and that my loves ones are doing well.
What is your greatest fear? To lose my loved ones and die with unfinished business.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Not one figure but the era of vikings.
Which living person do you most admire? My daughter.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My fears.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Their double moral.
What is your greatest extravagance? Tea and tobacco.
What is your favorite journey? Life.
What is your most treasured possession? The tools of my trade.
When and where were you happiest? With my loved ones and in nature.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Surviving life so far.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? hmm.. A broken nature.
What is your most marked characteristic? Caring and stamina.
How would you like to die? Finished.
What is your motto? Fucking never give up.
See more of Tor's work on Instagram and Facebook.
Paul Acker tattoo above.
Jason Butcher tattoo above.
Paul Booth tattoo above. More on this facial tattoo here.
On this Halloween, I'm highlighting horror and dark art tattoos by some masters of this genre. I've always been fascinated by how beautiful these works can be, even with sinister undercurrents.
In an old interview I did with the "Dark Lord of Tattooing," Paul Booth, explains the attraction to this style:
The general public tends to think that the people who come to me for work are a bunch of deviant, social misfits looking for shock value. But for my clients, underneath all the initial surface shock or negative tones, ultimately there's a positive...[A] lot of people leave here feeling empowered for many reasons, and I don't know how that could be negative.
Tony Mancia tattoo above.
Robert Hernandez tattoo above.
Josh Duffy and Jeremiah Barba collaboration tattoo above.
Portrait of Tim Kern by Tim Kern on Paul Laverty.
Photo of Yall Quinones at the Bucharest Tattoo Convention.
The recent headlines had an interesting mix of tattoo law, culture, convention coverage, and a lot more. Here are some of my top picks:
One controversial issue sparked some interesting debate among my fellow tattoo law nerds in this article: "Jury should see neo-Nazi tattoos in Las Vegas murder trial, judge rules." A 25-year-old White Supremacist is facing the death penalty for the alleged murder of a 75-year-old in her home. Bayzle Morgan is covered in tattoos, which you can see here, including "Baby Nazi" on his neck, Nazi "Skin Head" eyebrow ink, and "Most Wanted" across his forehead, among others. Morgan's defense attorney requested that a make-up artist cover his tattoos for the murder trial -- as was allowed in a separate robbery trial for Morgan -- because they could negatively impact a jury. But District Judge Michelle Leavitt denied the request, saying that jurors should be able to set any prejudice aside. It's also important to note that none of the evidence in the murder case relates to Morgan's tattoos -- it is not alleged that this is a racially motivated killing. But it is likely that jurors will have a negative reaction. Should Morgan's choice to mark himself in this way be hidden so that the focus is on the evidence and not appearance, or do the tattoos somehow reflect just who this man is (and at this moment)? Share your thoughts on the Needles & Sins FB group page under this post link.
See more posts on the topic: Tattoos at Trial and Tattoos as Evidence in Criminal Trials.
On a more artful note, a bunch of media outlets covered the International Tattoo Convention Bucharest, which hosted top talent from across the globe, including this AP slideshow. A photo of our friend Yall Quinones was also the Salon top photo pick, as shown above. Looks like a lot of fun!
Looking at how tattooing can be a healing art, the Seattle Times' "Leading tattoo artists help wounded Israelis with scars" is a fascinating read about Artists 4 Israel's Healing Ink project that connected 11 international tattoo artists with Israelis "maimed by war and violence which left them with daily remainders of their ordeals -- either in the form of physical scars or deep emotional ones." Tattooers drew inspiration from works at the Israel Museum, which hosted the event. The article includes a beautiful slideshow. Worth a look.
Artists 4 Israel is founded by Craig Dershowitz, one of the early contributors of this site. One of my favorite posts of Craig's is "Tattoo Jew: The Definitive Guide to Jewish Thought and Law Regarding the Practice of Tattooing." It's a great interview with Henry Harris, an Orthodox Rabbi, which covers some interesting ground, including that common question, "If you are tattooed, can you be buried in a Jewish cemetery?"
Exploring tattoos as tributes and memorials, The Atlantic's "A Tattoo for the King" writes about how Thais are turning to tattoos to mark the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed on October 13th. The BBC also highlights a number of those tattoos, photographed by Wasawat Lukharang at two Bangkok tattoo studios.
Another recent piece in The Atlantic is also worth a read: "Watching Tattoos Go From Rebellious to Mainstream," in which our friend Michelle Myles of Daredevil Tattoo talks about how attitudes toward body art have changed over her 25-year career. Here's a taste from that Q&A:
What was it like to try to hone your skills while it was still illegal in New York City?
Read more here.
So those are the headlines, folks. I'll keep reviewing them for you and picking my faves, that is, until my baby comes, when I'll be taking a bit of a blog break. She's due next week, but I should have more tattoo goodness for you before then.
Tattoo above by Roxx 2Spirit.
Tattoo above by Nikko Hurtado.
Tattoo above by Grez of Kings Avenue Tattoo.
The Bay Area Tattoo Convention of the Arts, which runs from October 21-23 at the SFO Hyatt Regency, was at the top of my tattoo convention schedule this year...that is, until I learned that I'm due to have a baby just a couple of weeks afterward...so I guess I'll just live vicariously through all of y'all heading over -- and the hashtag #bayareatattooconvention.
What makes this convention special for me is that this a tattoo artist-run event that is singularly focused on people getting good tattoos from about 250 renowned artists (including those featured in this post). There will also traditional tattooing, such as tebori by Horihachi and Horikiku, and Samoan tatau by Sulu'ape Si'i Liufau.
There are no performers, no contests, and minimal vendors. Presented by title sponsor Black Claw, the convention is also supported by small business tattoo people, something which organizer Takahiro Kitamura of State of Grace says he is particularly proud of. What this all adds up to is a gathering stripped down to just tattoos and fine art of tattooers, without the strippers and nonsense.
And of course there are parties: The opening party is on Thursday, October 20th at Minna Gallery, hosted by Seventh Son Tattoo. Analog hosts the closing party on October 23, featuring an art show by Timothy Hoyer, Edu Cerro and Phil Holt. There's also the official book release and painting exhibition of The Cat Book by LLL Books.
This week, you have a chance to win a FREE tattoo from traditional master Chad Koeplinger. If you buy a weekend pass online for $65 until October 14th, you will automatically be entered to win the tattoo, to be selected from a handful of designs. Admission can also be purchased at the door for $30 per day (cash).
The SFO Hyatt Regency is located at 1333 Old Bayshore Hwy, Burlingame, CA, 94010.
Post your pics from the show online. I'll be looking for them!
Tattoo above by Luke Stewart of Seventh Son.
Tattoo above by Samoan Mike.
Update: Black Tattoo Art Volume I is now sold out but the Black Tattoo Art II and Color Tattoo Art are still available (for now).
"Black Friday" is a term that represents gross commerce in the name of holiday cheer, so I figured I'd take over that name and add a bit of beauty by making it Black TATTOO Friday, and offer the few remaining author copies of some of my books at a significantly reduced rate. The books on sale are:Tattoo above by Vincent Hocquet (Black Tattoo Art I).
* Black Tattoo Art Volume 2 (my latest baby) on sale for $120 + shipping, and
* Color Tattoo Art (my new school/cartoon/comics monster) on sale for $99 + shipping.
Buy them online here.
Along with the books, I'll throw in Needlesandsins.com stickers and condoms for free! And a love note!
The book sale kicks off our holiday guide, so we'll be featuring lots of other products to knock off your shopping list without ever having to enter a Walmart.
Here are some sample pics from the books below. See more pics on Flickr: Black Tattoo Art I, Black Tattoo Art II, and Color Tattoo Art.
Tattoo above by Leon Lam (Black Tattoo Art II)
Tattoo above by Genko (Color Tattoo Art).
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:
Check the trailers and scenes from the film here.
[Thanks, Jesse from Diabolikdvd.com for the link.]
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.
What 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.
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:
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.
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.