Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Big peony to balance the big chrysanthemum we did on the other shoulder.
She wanted something a bit fancier, so that's where we're going with it.  Only "constraint" was matching the overall silhouette of the chrysanthemum.  
I really love these flowers and could honestly be happy doing one a day for the rest of my career.  There are so many endless tweaks and folds you can play with, overall shape variations, leaf style etc.
For something that can seem so simple, you'd be surprised at how much it can take to wrap your head around it...

Tiger Sleeve

Finally on to the color!
This seems to be a pretty exciting milestone for folks getting larger Japanese style work.  They patiently endure all those sessions of nothing but black and grey for what seems like forever and eventually get rewarded with some color.
I love doing the solid dark background (honestly probably more than color), but its relationship with some bright color is really what makes this stuff work...
I'm really glad he reminded me that he wanted the white tips at the last minute.  I don't always do it, but I love the look (100% inspired by and derived from Horitoshi 1).  It takes a little more time to get all those white streaks cut into the color just so, but I feel that it's a perfect balance of strength and finesse.
Two more flowers to go, then bamboo and tigers...

Monday, February 27, 2012


I think we're pretty much done on this one.
Did a little skin tone shading and layered in a little more grey here and there, icing on the cake kind of session.
It was fun to do something fairly different (stylistically) and be much more free in my approach.
Next up for him we'll be dropping down to the leg and doing something pretty large and involved that I'm very much looking forward to.  He's an artist himself and his vibe blends right in at the studio, so bi monthly appointments for the rest of the year should be enjoyable and very productive.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dragon Backpiece

For some reason, the most common question I've been getting a lot of lately is "so, doing a bunch of dragon tattoos this year"?
I know it's year of the dragon and all, but I didn't really think too much about it until recently.  When asked that question I'd say there was no correlation between the Chinese zodiac and tattoo trends, but I might be wrong about this year.  Seems like I've actually had quite a few dragon projects in the pipeline (although I guess they were really scheduled in the year of the rabbit)...
This one I'm pretty excited about and feeling good after the first session.  He's been talking about covering up the old tattoo on his shoulder for a long time and when he finally made some appointments he said he just wanted to go with a huge dragon...perfect.
Immediately my feeling was to do a looser drawing style and misty dark shading, kind of inspired by this look:

I feel like this has the potential to be a very strong piece, and done in a way that I've always wanted to do.  The next session we'll outline the rest of the body, swooping down through the lower back and down the left buttock and thigh...


Finished up the scales and started the shading this session.  All of the scales were outlined in a light grey, with the idea being that when they're shaded in you won't really notice the line work, just the scales.  I think it emphasizes the patterning effect and just gives them a cool slightly more dimensional feel.  
It's amazing how long this modest little section took, but all those little scales and spaces take time.  I could have just done larger scales and cut down on some time, but this was the proper proportion in my opinion.  He's into as much time as we need to make it look as good as possible, and I really appreciate that.  It's always nice to work with someone who really values your time and understands what it takes to make a really good tattoo...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Body Suit

Looks like we're back in outline mode for a while.  Although it can be a bit more intense for both of us, I think it's a healthy change of pace.  After just shading for so long it took me a minute to clear out the cobwebs and start creating some new images and figure out where this is all headed (I've got a pretty good idea, so it's really about putting in the time at the drawing table and lots of hours drawing on him with markers).
Not many pleasant areas got tattooed this session.  Lots of upper and inner thigh, mixed with some back of the knee action.  I know it's some rough territory for him, but he's so dedicated to this project and excited at seeing the progress, that he's soldiering through (not to mention all that he's already been through and gotten done, this is just another day at the office).
Think I'll be outlining the rest of this leg next time, then over to the other one to line it all out.  Fish, rocks, lotus, dragonflies, and who knows what else might pop up...

Karashishi and Peonies

It's been a few days since we did this second session, but I've been going non stop and not really able to slow down and sort out my thoughts and look through pictures.
The second day we drew on and outlined all the background (I love that he wanted all clouds and was really connecting with the very dense, black heavy look) and were able to shade a pretty sizable chunk.  At one point I thought I might be able to shade it all in one sitting, but that was a bit of a misinterpretation on my part.  Once you really get into all those tight spaces the time really adds up.  The strength and beauty of this style background is how rich and dark it is, with all those clean little strips of negative space in between.  You need to take great care in making them perfect and even and it certainly isn't something to be rushed.
For his first tattoo he did fantastic.  That is a lot of work for anyone to get in two back to back sessions, but to have never been through it before, but know what you want and go for it is truly admirable.
I believe he's back in a month for two more days and I'm feeling pretty good that we'll be making some serious headway...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Karashishi and Peonies

And here's our work from day one.
As I mentioned before, we'd only been communicating by email, and this was our first meeting, but it all worked out great.  The drawing I had done fit on his arm perfectly in one shot (and even the actual size I had drawn it...sort of a meant to be scenario).  Not bad for having never seen his arm before.  One fact I had totally forgotten until we were just about to start was that this is his first tattoo ever.  
I have to say I really love the fact that he's been thinking about getting tattooed for a long time, did his homework as to what image/style he would like, researched it's meaning and what artist could do the style he was interested in, patiently waited and saved up for a year, woke up in the morning drove four hours and then went for it.  I constantly reflect on how lucky I am to have clients like this...
He turned out to be a super nice guy and he sat really great for so much outline at once.  The plan for today is to draw on and outline the background and get as much of it shaded as possible. 
 Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Karashishi and Peonies

Just a quick sneak peek at a rough sketch of a piece I'm starting today.
I've dialed the drawing since this, but you get the idea.
We've been communicating via email for over a year (never actually met in person) and he's coming in from out of town for a couple days in a row.  Although my regular appointments are in the 2-3 hour zone every few weeks, it's fun once in a while to focus all your attention and energy to one piece all day.  No one before or after, just a singular purpose...

Tiger Sleeve

And all the black work is done (well almost, still some stripes left on the lower tail)!  We've been working very diligently at such a steady pace that it sort of snuck up on me.  There's still plenty left to do but we are certainly getting there.  All of the more technical and "hard" parts of the tattoo are done and now it's color selection and trying to stay inside the lines.
He's really going about this in the best way possible.  A half day appointment every three weeks (and coming in occasionally if there's a cancellation) really keeps the momentum going very strongly in a forwards direction.
I feel fortunate that he's willing and able to do it like this, and if this is the theme for our future projects I expect some very solid results.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Blossoms and Peonies

Well I think this all worked out very nicely.  We finished the peacock cover up some time ago, and on her last visit we did blossoms around it and floating across her chest.  This visit (she lives 7 hours away so we do a few sessions over a few days usually) was all about doing the other arm.  We did three fairly mellow sessions back to back.  Day one we drew on and completed the purple peony.  Day two we did the yellow one, and day three was the bud and blossoms.
We had discussed some ideas over email, and had a basic idea of where we were heading, but when we met up in person it sort of morphed into this, and i think it was absolutely the best way to go. 
In almost every older Japanese peacock print I saw, they are shown with peonies, a very classic pairing.  And as it is associated with spring, it matched the blossoms as well.  One of her first ideas for this arm was an octopus, although I felt it wouldn't fit thematically or visually.  As we discussed it a little further there was an element of sexuality that the octopus represents that the peony can represent as well.
I really couldn't be happier with how the arms work as a pair.  I think it really looks like one image split over two arms.  I also like the restraint shown on the chest.  Lately it seems like you see a lot of large, dense chest pieces (which is totally fine) but this is a very subtle way to have that area covered in tattoo.
There was talk of water background that we've decided to work with lower on the body, but she really does like the look of darker grey shading contrasting with the color, so there will most likely be some cloudy mist behind the bird and flowers in the future...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Chrysanthemum, Skull, Koi Leg

It's been almost a couple years in the making, but we're just about there...
We still have some background to fill in on the inner thigh, and some flames around the toad, then it's time to call it until we have to hook it up to whatever back/side work he'll probably get to in the future.
It's been a very enjoyable ride the whole way through.  Since the beginning he's had a very clear vision of what he wanted, and as it went along his suggestions and input were always spot on.  A color tweak here and there, or suggestion of how a certain part might flow, it was always helpful but not over bearing...
I feel no sense of ownership over the tattoos I do, and firmly believe that it is the client's piece to wear, not mine as the artist.  There sometimes can be a conflict between fulfilling the client's wishes and doing what's "best" for the tattoo (in terms of composition, content, color etc).  Each situation and person is different, so I have no real set system of how I go about things.  I just take it as it comes and really listen to and try to understand the client, then do my best to make a nice drawing and be very present and focused while applying it.
Often times the client is 100% open to letting me do the tattoo as I see best and leaves everything in my hands.  I really appreciate the freedom and trust, but it's a lot of responsibility and I don't mind having a little direction (as long as it's thoughtful and constructive).  Luckily on this project his input was always constructive and really did help make it a better piece.
(And his ideas for the sleeve we'll be starting after this are pretty cool and unique as well)...

Chrysanthemums and Rocks

Another poor quality phone pic, but it gives you the general idea.  
These flowers are an extension of a half sleeve done several years ago (that I wrote about somewhere a few months ago).  This session was finishing up the blue and gold one (although I just realized I forgot the center) and starting the red one.  I'll still be doing a bit more than just that red to the upper one but we ran out of time.
On his other arm he has a few peonies that are very graceful and classic.  The idea on this side was to go a bit wilder.  I drew the whole thing on to try and keep it a bit looser and free feeling, and when it came time the color we wanted to crank up the excitement meter just a little.
There is a fine line however between something that is colorful and high energy, and something that is just gaudy and loud...
It's great that he's open to whatever, and it's fun for me to play around a little more with color combinations.  It's not really that crazy or over the top at all, but a definitely a little push ahead of where I normally go with it...