Sunday, March 27, 2011

Body Suit

Finally made it back below the belt.  Kind of been holding off on this for a while, but I was feeling my oats that day so we broke out some pens and got a nice piece done.  
I usually try not to have a set plan for that days work on a larger project...just hop in on whatever I'm feeling right then.  Seems to work out well just going with your current mental state and not over plan or force ideas and work out that might not be ready yet...


Finished up the newest one on the back of the arm.  Not quite as wild as the spotted one on the inner arm, but consistent with the color scheme and they work well together.
Might add a bud in that open spot above it next time and then bring up all the water from the lower arm to go behind and around the flowers...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hagoromo Tennyo

Shortish session of tattooing.  Wanted to give her a preview of some of the future detail/pattern work.  Drew on this pattern on the outer border of the lower robe.  Still need to finish the color but I feel like it's already starting to add a cool new dimension...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mr. Natural

Got to start a piece by one of my favorite artists, Robert Crumb.  Mr. Natural is a character he created that is a hippie/monk like guy who has renounced the material world and wanders about filled with great nuggets of wisdom.  
Totally into the aesthetic and vibe of this piece.  The original is a loose pen drawing and we'll be filling in a lot of the double lines a more solid black.
Here is his other arm we just finished (I'm loving his image selections so far, very cohesive feeling and the tie dye really brings it all together...)


This is gonna be a big one...
He's been collecting tattoos on this leg from a few different folks over the years and in the past we've talked about doing a large phoenix on the whole leg that sort of ties everything together.
This first session we got the main body outlined (which he did very well with considering we visited the back of the knee, side of the knee and under the cheek).
Next session or two is all about adding on all the tail feathers.  We'll draw them on to fit well with the leg and other tattoos as they plume out of the "butt" area of the bird and cascade down the leg.
Pretty excited about the possibilities...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Suikoden Back Piece

Mostly a red day, but we did get to a little ochre at the end.  Lots of minute type stuff this session, but I loved it.  I think that my mind is well suited to tweaking out on all these small areas of detail.
  I'm really trying to treat this like the print and as they would when printing, use the same standard color palette throughout (same shade of red, dark green light green etc).  The detailed nature of the design is such that you don't really even notice when all is said and done, but there is a very cool uniformity to everything.
His enthusiasm level about the piece is very high and I dig how into the process he his, which gives me a bit of extra motivation...

Kingyo (Japanese Goldfish)

Finally finished up after a shorter third session.  She's been driving down several hours from Oregon, so I was really hoping to finish in two sessions but I couldn't quite do it.  We just had the bottom fish to color, but with all the little air spaces between the lines and color it ended up taking two or more hours. 
I'm very pleased with the results and it sounds like she is too.  Also mentioned the potential for future projects and I'm game.  
For this one she had a solid idea that was totally open to interpretation and sat like a rock (good recipe for success).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hagoromo Tennyo

No fancy photo shoot this time...
Finished the dorjes in the lower robe.  Still plenty of color and patterning to go.  Slow and steady wins the race.

Peonies, Rocks and Water

Finished up the outline and got to some shading.  It's always a fun challenge to hook up to older work and make it all look good.  I really try to find a balance between doing the best new work I can while still matching the look of the previous piece.  
Kind of going for a waterfall like motion to the water...keeping it all fairly vertical.  I've tried a variety of different pens to draw on the skin, and lately I've been trying to use only brush pens.  They wipe off a bit easier but really help achieve a flow to the drawing that can't be matched.  Also their impermanence on the skin forces me to work much more fluidly and focused...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Drew another one on this arm.  The magenta one above was there already by a previous artist, and we'll be bringing the water up through all of them to tie everything together.
I really enjoy doing these flowers and especially just drawing them on the skin.  My friend Shad from Belgium does beautiful chrysanthemums, and sometimes just tattoos them straight into the skin, with no stencil or drawing at all.  I know there are some Japanese artists that do this as well.
This approach really fascinates me, and I'd be really curious to try it out some time...
Here's the one next to it from a month or so ago...

And here's one from last week.  Small and simple with plenty of white.  
It was going to be a peony, but after some research on her part, she opted for the chrysanthemum instead...

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Kind of a shorter last minute appointment.
Really took my time though, as I really wanted to make sure that white was in there (and it is smack dab centered in the "ditch", or elbow pit, which makes it a little more unpleasant).
The white should really pop even more after it heals and the green goes in the leaves around it.  Generally with most tattooing you put the darker colors in first and work your way progressively lighter (so that you don't smear a dark color into a lighter one and muddy it up forever).  For this look though, I really try and follow the Horitoshi way of doing it by putting the white in first.  It's more stressful and difficult, but ultimately the best way to achieve that look of the white really popping that intensely...

Shoki Body Suit Day 6-10

He's baaaaack.  We actually did this work a couple of weeks ago, but I've been so busy having a guest artist in town, traveling back and forth between SF, a full tattooing schedule, drawing, family etc. I haven't had a ton of extra time or energy to keep this blog updated.
This visit was a little more mellow than last time.  We only really pushed it one day, and he was in a very relaxed head space the whole time (he was reading a book most of the time he was getting tattooed).
Day 1...

Did that patch behind the armpit area.  It's super stretchy and not very easy to tattoo (or get tattooed) so I thought it best to knock it out first.

Day 2...

A nice chunk around the hip and waistline.
Here is what that side is looking like now...

Day 3...

Switched it up to the other side.  Outlined some background up the side and started shading it in.

Day 4...

Went "downtown" and got quite a bit of work done on the thigh and butt (I spared you the full rear shot for now, but it's really up in there).  It took a while to figure out and draw on, but the line work went super quick and we even got a nice amount of shading done.  He could have gone longer, but I was feeling a little mentally fatigued by then.

Day 5...

A break from all the rib/thigh action to finish the week.  He had to be getting on the road and I was pretty worked, so we agreed on a mellow session for the last one.  Shaded some clouds up the side of the shoulder and sent him on his way.
Everything has been going well so far and I'm looking forward to the next visit.  It was a little nerve wracking having a traditional Japanese tattooer in the shop while free handing a large section of a body suit, but he had some great suggestions and helped me see a few things in a new light...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fudo Sword

Well, the sword of wisdom is finally complete.  Added the shading behind the flames and I feel like it really pops of the skin now and that extra dimension really gives it more oomph.
The shading is a homage to the style you find on the old prints of tattooed men by the likes of Kuniyoshi.  Instead of the stylized clouds and wind bars its more of a misty stippling (using individual dots to create the fade).
This tattoo has a pretty heavy and intense look, matching the whole meaning behind it.
A phoenix covering most of his leg is next (next week in fact)...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


It would seem like dragons would get easier over time, but if feels like the opposite is true.  They can be very complex and confusing images to draw well, and require quite a bit of concentration when tattooing.
She was born in 1976, year of the fire dragon (hence the flames).  Only one small tattoo before this, but she did great during the outline.  Very relaxed and super into it.  I'm pretty sure she's not finished after this one either.
Still plenty to do though (couldn't even get all the scales in), as installing this type of image on the ribs is very difficult and a bit more time consuming...  

Tengu Sleeve

Took a break from the robe patterning up top and started some background.  He wanted bamboo, but since there was none on the other arm (of foxes that we are trying to match) and there are already two staffs in the piece witch are very vertical and similar size to bamboo, I decided against it.  Instead I put some bamboo leaves hanging over the rocks and maple leaves and clouds.  
He has a fox statue (from the Inari shrine in Kyoto) under the other arm and I've been unsure how to match that on this arm.  It finally came to me and I'm going with a torii gate.  They are found in the mountains (where the Tengu live) and signify entrance to a sacred place (many of the tengu are monks called yamabushi...)

Body Suit

Still chipping away...
It's pretty cool to see the front border lines coming all the way down to the waist (the Japanese word for this style with the split front is munewari).  Still have to blend the old work up top into the new stuff more, but we've got plenty to keep us busy for a few more years so no rush...