Thursday, September 29, 2011


I'm very pleased to announce that Horimasa from the Horitoshi tattoo family in Tokyo will be visiting and working with us October 6th-19th.  He is one of the senior members of the family that I've known for over 10 years now, and does amazing work as well as being a terrific person.
This is real traditional Japanese tattooing from one of the most respected families in Japan.  Outling is done with machine, and the shading and color is hand poked (tebori).
He is already booked up for most of his visit, but there is one or potentially two time slots available if anyone is interested.
You can contact the studio at 707-826-0456 or email

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tiger Sleeve

Drew on another big chunk of the background and got to it.  This was not one of those magic, the drawing just comes flying out of the tip of the brush pen situations.  It took quite a while to get it figured out, but I'm happy with how it went (and really, it's not a race or anything).
I suppose I feel an extra push and pressure on myself to really make this one shine, as he has been an outstanding client to work with.  
After we finish this side, we've got plans to go straight to the other side and do the matching sleeve.  It is a very cool opportunity to do two sleeves on blank arms, within the same time period (keeping the style very consistent), of cool subject matter that the client has thought out well and given you ample freedom with.  Really want to seize this opportunity and make the most of it...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chrysanthemums and Rocks

Got another chunk drawn on and outlined.  It was one of those rare and wonderful times when the pen touches the skin and kind of does all the work for you.  This was just pretty much one pass and we were happy with it.  Sometimes there is a lot of erasing and re figuring, but sometimes if your mind is clear and you're not forcing it, it just happens.
I mentioned before, that this section would be just chrysanthemums and rocks, and here is the quick overview of why:
He has two matching half sleeves that we did years ago.  One side is a young Musashi (the most famous swordsman in Japanese history, who's philosophical writings are some of the most influential musings on the warrior's way ever printed.  Google "Dokkodo" for a good introduction...) and the other side is an old Musashi.
As a young man, Musashi was a brash and gifted swordsman who went undefeated in countless duels and gained great notoriety.  As an older man, he lived as a hermit, and in his final years he retreated to a cave to write and paint, reflecting on his life's journey. 
I think the upper half sleeves represent a personal journey, and the pursuit of a higher state of mind (especially through art for this dude).  When he decided to bring the arms down to 3/4 length we decided not to complicate it thematically and compete with the images of Musashi, so we went floral.  
On the young Musashi side, we did all peonies with rocks and water.  The peony is associated with spring, which in turn represents youth and vigor.  Also this great line lifted from Wikipedia says it well: "The peony became a masculine motif, associated with a devil-may-care attitude and disregard for consequence.
 Also, the water gives a feeling of mental looseness and flow.  Here's an old quote from Bruce Lee that kind of sums it up: "Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend."
On the old Musashi side we did chrysanthemums as they are associated with the fall, representing the twilight of life in this case.  Spring to fall, the cycle of life and all that jazz...
And the rocks are solid and immovable, as his mindset had evolved over the years.
So that is a little glimpse into the thought process behind this set of arms.  It is always nice when you can give somebody a nice set of tattoos and really be able to tell a story with them.
Here are some pictures of the lower portion of the "young" arm that we're almost done with:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Peacock and Blossoms

I'm not going to lie...I really like this tattoo.  She came to me a year or two ago needing a big cover up.  The peacock on her arm was born out of wanting to get rid of this...

I was a bit hesitant at first, but the peacock seemed like it might work so we went for it.  Got most of it done, then she moved to Portland.  She came down to get tattooed the other week, and we finished the wings and some inner arm feathers of the bird.
Then the next couple days, we added all the blossoms.  I really liked her idea of adding them as it creates a really nice "frame", and the color contrast reads very well I believe.
Also, I like the gentle scattering across the front.  It gives a heavily tattooed look without all the thick density that seems to be on a lot of chest pieces.
Still might want to tweak on the bird a little more and really dial the cover up, but from what we were having to work with, I'd say it's worked out quite well...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Durga and Flowers

The saga continues...
Thought we were almost there, but we've decided to do some fine tuning, and she really wants to make it more dense.  She's been digging the really busy, layered sections, so the plan is to make it as jungle like as possible from the wrist to the elbow.  Then we're thinking about adding more flowers on top and possibly some stylized clouds.
Sometimes the concept of a piece can evolve during the process.  Being open to let this happen is very important in my opinion.  The difference between a drawing on paper and the skin can be pretty dramatic, and sometimes you have to live with the tattoo on the skin for a little while to really see where it needs to go and dial it in...

San Francisco

Just got back from one of many visits I make to SF every year.  I went down to interview my good friend Kahlil Rintye from Ed Hardy's Tattoo City.  It was an honor to document some conversations with such a thoughtful and serious tattooer, and to do it for what I consider the finest English language tattoo publication around, Tattoo Artist Magazine (a very high end quarterly trade journal not available on regular news stands).  Kahlil's style and work ethic have been a great influence to me and you can see why at
Here's an example:

It was great to get away and recharge the creative batteries.  I also had a chance to do this... I'd say it was a perfect trip (yes, that's Toshiro Mifune eating ramen...and true, it doesn't really get cooler that that).

Friday, September 16, 2011


Here's some better pics of the dragon from last week.  She's healed super fast and smooth so I'm happy about that.  Now on to her next, bigger, more complicated tattoo she's been after...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hagoromo Tennyo

We've actually done more since this session, but I've been forgetting my camera at home lately.
Pretty much down to the details these days.  This session was finishing the feather colors and doing the white tips in that waist sash.  There will be color going into the white, but she has to pick up the kiddo from school at a certain time, so we had to stop a little short.
This last session we started the eyes of the feathers, and it looks pretty cool.  Also, the spotty texture in the feathers is starting to show through nicely on the healed sections.  Here's a close up of a settled in part...

Getting very excited to see this one finished.  Just a couple more sessions or so...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Yes, another chrysanthemum, and unfortunately some not so great photos.  His arm was shaved so smooth that it was reflecting any slight bit of light and had some serious shine going on.  Someday I will take the photography part of this more seriously, but I've got my hands full for now just trying to get all these tattoos on folks.
We recently finished a 3/4 sleeve on his other arm (forgot to get pics of course) and this is the start of the other side.  There will be more chrysanthemums and we're thinking just rocks for the background.  There is some pretty specific reasoning for these choices that I'll get into some other time.
Had fun drawing it on and trying out something a little different.  Nothing crazy, but I tried to get a little fancier on the petal ends.  He's a great dude and cool artist, so I had to give him a little something special...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Body Suit

A lot of times I meet or interact with people that know I'm a tattooer, but not really familiar with the actual studio or work.  Then at some point they'll tell me they've checked out the blog.  Usually they are super nice and complimentary, say something about how impressed they are with all the big involved tattoos, then most will make a comment about how many butts I tattoo.
I guess I do have quite a few projects in the works that go south of the border.
First off...I really admire all the folks getting these big pieces that have no trepidation or self consciousness about tattooing below the belt.  It hurts a lot, you never really see it, but it really adds so much scale and dimension to a piece to not just stop at the pant line.  So many people only think in terms of having clothes on, that it can really limit their tattoo.  A really solid back piece that stops at the waist can feel very square and squat.  Kind of cuts off the flow and doesn't really make use of the body.  
I'd also like to thank all my clients getting this work to allow themselves to be photographed all the time.  It's a small area, and a lot of folks know them (and their rear ends well by now), but their dedication to the work is very deep and they embrace it.  
A small amount of nudity is just a part of these big back tattoos, and actually it really is hard to feel naked when you're this covered...

Cherry Blossom Cover Up

Got all the branches shaded in.  So far so good as far as covering the existing tree (by the way, covering a tree tattoo with another tree, trying to match up the branches and quite the challenge).  
Still sorting out the options for covering the glob of lily/fairy mess underneath, but it will happen.  
With a cover up of this scale, I feel it's best to have a loose idea and not get to fixated on one exact design.  The existing work does really dictate the shape and color of the new tattoo, you've got to work with its flow and not try to force some new image over it.
And a reminder of how it all started...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Since she didn't come back the next day as promised for a proper photo and to get appointments for her next big piece, all I got is this low quality cell phone pic for now.
After lots of "debate" over proper dragon aesthetics and color, this one is finally done.  This was her first big tattoo, and she's kind of learning the process as we go.  I'm happy with the finished look, and she really loves how it fits on her frame, which is quite long in real life (giraffe like as she says).
Looking forward to some better pics from different angles.  Sometimes when doing a tattoo, you get so focused on the task at hand and are just concentrating on one small area at a time, that it's hard to really take the whole thing in.  I spend a lot of time just looking at the pictures of the piece later to be able to  analyze and critique it.  I also really enjoy seeing them in real life after a few months to a year, when the've been lived in for a while.  To me a tattoo with some age on it is much more enjoyable than something shiny and new.  I think I feel that way about most things...

Even More Mucha

Just when I thought I was free of these highly detailed and super technical (though very beautiful) women, I had one more to fit on this arm.  The others are elsewhere on this blog from the past few weeks.
It's been cool to do a few in succession on one person in a short amount of time.  The more we do, the more I feel like I pick up more subtle nuances and start to understand the flow and formula.
We've decided that before we start any background we'll do the color in them.  Think really soft and "watercolorey"...