Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chrysanthemum Cover

It's been a several month layoff, but we finally connected and got one of the flowers colored in.  Life definitely happens and it's not always possible or convenient to get tattooed every few weeks, but we were in a good stopping place and it's been easy to pick up where we left off.  
We went with subdued tones that wouldn't over power her.  She's got a lean frame and we're doing a fairly good sized tattoo that we both wanted to make sure didn't "wear her" if that makes sense.
She's had some very cool ideas to add on to it in the future and I'm very much looking forward to that...
Here's a before picture to show what we had to work with.  I'm pretty happy with what we were able to pull off considering that original piece...

Sleeve Extensions

If you've been following this blog for a while you might recognize this guy (or at least his tattoos).  It started as a half sleeve on one arm, then when he overcame his fear of upsetting his folks we dropped it down to a 3/4 sleeve.  Technically it really is called a 7/10 length, so I should start using the correct language from now on I guess.  After we finished it with various kitsune (fox) motifs, we went to the other side and started a matching sleeve of various tengu.  He had always expressed an interest in getting some tebori (traditional Japanese hand poke) work and said he would wait for that to bring it down to the wrist.  Last year when my friend ToshiHide came to visit he got a couple of chrysanthemums around his right wrist.  And recently when Horimasa was visiting, he got the other forearm done with the large orange chrysanthemum and a uchide no kozuchi (lucky hammer) pictured above.  
He then asked me to bring the background down behind the new work to a clean cut off around the wrist.  Sounds simple enough, but to hook up the the existing piece and navigate behind the new work and make it all look natural in such a tight space was a little trickier than it seems...
Luckily, I'd say it all worked out well.  I have to admit that it's a very cool pair of sleeves.  To get two sleeves by the same artist in a very close time period with matching motifs (aesthetically and symbolically) and then throwing in the twist of the hand poke work by two different members of the Horitoshi sweet is that?
Still a few more sessions to finish the tengu side, then extending them to the chest?
Here is the other arm...

Friday, December 23, 2011


Well I guess I'm a little late on posting this, oops.  But fear not, if you're interested in checking it out I think we're just going to leave it up through January.  
I was able to get one large new painting done in time for this one.  I'm so wrapped up in tattooing and researching/drawing those tattoos that I honestly never have free time to paint.  One main reason I wanted to do a show was to force myself to do another painting.  Seems like with the schedule these days I get about one a year done.  There were lots of very late nights and days off spent to get it together...
Painting for me is not something I can just relax with and have it all flow out naturally (although I am able to lose myself for hours in it and that can be pretty trippy and rewarding).  I seem to mentally treat it like a tattoo and go through great pains to make it happen.  I'm not really keen on putting myself out there artistically in the world, but if I do, I want to be proud of it and have it be a reflection of my mindset and work ethic.
I wanted to do a larger piece (the Arches watercolor paper I like to use is 22X30" or so I believe) but didn't really have time to do a big drawing to my satisfaction, so I thought it might be fun to re-imagine a large tattoo I'd done as a painting.  
I decided to do the Tennyo (Buddhist Angel), as I'd just been given a great book called "The 500 Arhats" (arhat is like a very high level spiritual practitioner) by Kazunobu Kano, from my friend Horimasa when he was in town.  It's a really amazing book of paintings and although what I did isn't really in that style, it served as a great inspiration.  In his series of the arhats, he uses lots of gold in the patterning and background.  A lot of Buddhist art utilizes gold, as it really does give a feeling of celestial divinity (come to think of it, lots of religions use gold in their art).  What I liked about Kano's style, was that the gold served as a highlight in clothing and to create atmosphere in the background.  The rest of the colors are great blend of earthy and vibrant.
It was difficult to try and photograph it and I only got one usable picture, crappy as it might be...

It's quite a bit cooler in real life, as it really comes to life and changes quite a lot depending on how the light hits it and picks up the gold.  It reflects well as all the gold including the patterning was done with gold acrylic paint and a brush, not metallic pens.
Also, Mike and Aaron did some new pieces for the show that are very cool and should be checked out. Not to mention Mr. Sonny Wong who tapped into his inner Asian and came up with some cool graffiti inspired large scale pieces...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Finally getting around to some updates.  The lack of posting certainly isn't a reflection of lack of working, just been fairly overloaded lately and have had to let a few things slip.
Really wanting to get more on the regular with these posts though, as it's been a very helpful mental exercise in self analysis/reflection/criticism over the past couple of years.  I recommend to anyone doing art (or anything that they are trying to be mindful or creative in really) to try and write about it to others.  It kind of holds you accountable in a way, and reminds you to really think about what you're doing and why.  Also, I think people like reading about all the parts of the process that go into this.  There is so much to try and consider when drawing and planning a tattoo, and then another whole mindset involved in applying it.  Not to mention the client/artist relationships and all the strange magic that can come from that.
Anyways, enough rambling and on the the naked guy pics...

So on day three he got a break from the thigh and butt and we went over to the hip and outer thigh area.  It's can be a bit spongy around there, so it was a bit slower going than usual, but we got it all filled in and connected.  Getting more black around the tiger is really starting to help it lift off and pop more.

Day four is where it really comes together.  We did a lot of solid black in the rocks where the butt and lower back meet.  I say it really brings it together because that session effectively eliminated any skin showing anywhere from the shoulders to the thighs.  Having solid tattoo all around the butt and not seeing the crack really gives it that heavy Japanese look that I love (and to all those wondering and who ask, we do not go "inside" the butt.  It gets tattooed to the edge of where the cheeks meet, and when he stands up it is a solid wall of tattoo).  And some kudos to him for getting through all that work.  It is some seriously dense tattoo in very unpleasant areas .  I'm glad that his understanding and dedication to the aesthetic and tradition of this look kept it all in perspective for him.

Our fifth and last day for the visit was spent taking care of some random odds and ends.  There was a little touch up to do on his left waist line where pants had rubbed on it too hard during the initial healing.  Then it was filling in all the little red berries on the rocks, layering more color in Shoki's skin, and finally filling in his eyes.  I was tempted to start some flames, but as we didn't have much time left, I'd rather wait and do them all at once during our next visit.
Also, here's a couple of bonus shots of the cut offs down the sides (the blanks spaces near on the back near the armpits and shoulders are intentional, as we'll be doing his arms next and I wanted to leave a little room to flow into them nicely).  It's designed to be able to look good and finished like this, or very easy to hook up to if he decides to do his sides (munewari)...

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Mr. Shoki's back in town for another action packed week.  Last set of sessions got cut a bit short, but there are no distractions this time and we're in serious work mode.
The first session we shaded more rocks on the outer left thigh and outlined across the lower back and started to fill that as well.  
Now everything is officially outlined and its all shading and color from here...

Day two was dedicated to finishing the rocks on the inner thigh and butt...

...not a fun day.  All up under the butt cheek is really no fun to get tattooed (or even to do I guess), but we powered through with no breaks and got it done.  The no break thing was really for two reasons.  First, that area has a tendency to swell really bad and if we stopped for a chunk of time it wold be difficult to come back and tattoo an area that was raised a quarter inch off the skin.  Second is pain management.  Once your in there working, even though it sucks and is very painful, the best thing sometimes really is to just persevere and get it out of the way.  If you take a break the body begins to relax and recover, and it becomes much more difficult to get back in "the zone" once you restart.  
Three more sessions this week, might even get to some color...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tiger Day!

Same day, two very loyal and thoughtful clients, both getting cool tiger pieces.
First up is an older client of mine who's taken the last few years off and just now getting back into the swing.  Luckily the tiger (which is maybe 2 years old or more) was finished as well as most of the background.  Trying to match up years old color and shading can be near impossible.  
This session we colored in all the bamboo, and things are starting to pop...

Next up was the two tiger sleeve that was started recently.  The layout took a while and a lot of thinking and rethinking to get together, but it was well worth it, and now it's all shading and color.  As always it was a great session and we're both getting a lot out of the experience I think.  Really looking forward to making some serious progress with all our appointments over the next few months...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hagoromo Tennyo

100% officially done!
There was still a bit of cover up left to do in the top sash, and the swirl pattern we drew in did the trick.  To refresh your memory, here is what was she looked like before we started...

...quite the transformation since last year.
It is always nice for me to be able to step back when it's done and just take it all in.  When you're in the middle of all these sessions and figuring everything out, and working hard and concentrating, it can be very difficult to appreciate the tattoo as a whole.
Kudos to her for following through and being dedicated to getting it done the right way.  It's not an easy thing to get a tattoo of this scale, and she should be very proud (and happy too I hope).  These things can definitely be taxing physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially (taxing on the artist as well, but I won't complain), and I view it as a serious accomplishment to see it through.
I've got a friend with a photo studio, so hopefully this winter when everything is really nice and settled in we can get some arty professional shots...
P.S.  Thanks to all who have been very kind with your feedback and response to this tattoo.  It's all hers, but there is a bit of my soul in there, and it makes me happy that she loves it and others enjoy it as well.

Monday, November 28, 2011


What a perfect tattoo for the season.  All the geese have been taking flight here in Humboldt and heading wherever they do this time of year, so there's a very cool environmental tie in going on.
This tattoo technically isn't done yet though, the plan being that we wait until the grey shading heals on the big goose and then layer in some browns and other natural goosey colors, giving a rich stylized realism (think Audubon).
Also wish I had a better picture of the front.  She's a dancer and pilates instructor and the curve of the goose's neck fits her very well and really moves great with the hip.

Durga Weapons and Flowers

I think that we've finally agreed that it is a finished tattoo.  I thought we might be done a session or two ago, but she had some areas that she wanted to fill and tweak, and ultimately it really did help strengthen the piece and bring it all together.
From the get go, we were trying to balance something that would be super dense opening up to reveal more skin toward the top.  How much is too much is very subjective (you don't know where the edge is until you've gone over it as they say), but I feel like we got it just right.  Sometimes the person living with the tattoo really has an opportunity to absorb it and see it so much more than I can, and is able to notice things I might not have.  Especially in a piece like this that has so many different elements all working together.  She's got a really unique look with this one and it suits her very well.  
I think this is a good example of the client really knowing what they want while still giving the artist enough freedom, and the tattooer really trying to tap into the client's vibe and style while mixing it with their own (and knowing when to listen to and respect their input, and knowing when to put their foot down and do what's best for the piece...)
In summary...I think it's a cool and original sleeve, and I'm proud of it.

Body Suit

These are a couple of quick pics we took after a really short session a few weeks ago.  We've actually done a more extensive session since then, but as it was all an inch away from the crotch and the inner part of a butt cheek, so I figured I'd spare the graphic close ups and let you use your imagination for now...
I'm actually supposed to tattoo him tomorrow, but I've been bed ridden with a really nasty flu for the past several days, and it isn't looking good.  We've got appointments through next year, but it's always a shame to have to miss any of them and upset the rhythm.
Now that the dragons are completely outlined and the background is down the thighs, I've got some serious decisions to make.  Do I start coloring them in, or start outlining from the ankle up till we meet the dragons, then color everything at once?
Need to decide soon...

P.S.  Here's an old shot I found from our first consultation about this project.  Hard to believe that this turned into that...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Finished up all the color and now it's a wrap.  Took three sessions to do, but it's s pretty good sized flower (that I was instructed to make as busy and gnarled as possible).  
I really dig the way it fits on her and I think she wears it well.  That day after we finished there was even some serious discussion of a matching one on the other shoulder.  We've got lots of different projects in mind for the future, but another one of these is certainly a welcome addition to the queue...


This is actually the start to a phoenix/dragon sleeve.  And lucky me, those happen to be two of the more complicated images in terms of line work and design in the bank of Japanese tattoo imagery to try and fit on one arm.  Since he already had the big shamrock (and even if he didn't it would be pretty tight) eating up some valuable real estate, I'm trying something slightly different.  
Next session I'll be adding the tail feathers going around the shamrock and cascading down the arm.  My plan is to let them fall where they will flow well and look good on the arm, not worrying to much about the dragon.  The phoenix will be in full color, and the dragon will be black and grey sort of blending in with the misty background.
It wouldn't really work to try and show the entire thing, so there will just be a head and neck with bits of body and claw and what not peeking through behind the bird throughout the arm...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tiger Sleeve

Been going through an extra busy patch of life lately and haven't been able to keep up on everything.  The site here has seen a little neglect as of late, but it certainly isn't because of any lack of cool tattoos.
The other week I got to finish the rest of the line work and start shading the background.  We got to log a bit more time than usual and it was a great session.
It's rare that I only have one person in a day, and this one one of those times.  I really got to draw and tattoo at a relaxed pace (mentally), and was really able to just zone out in the piece.  It really is a treat to just direct you energies toward one task a day and have the recipient stoked on it as well.
I'm really digging this one, and am excited to start covering some serious ground soon...