Gap filler tattoos are exactly what they sound like, small tattoos that fill the gap between other pieces to make a sleeve or torso look more fluid.
Generally when someone says gap filler they’re referring to a more old school style, as the custom with old school tattoos is to collect lots of smaller tattoos that then form a larger piece when it’s all put together.
Some common gap fillers include centipedes, flowers, butterflies, spider webs, nails, snakes, frogs, etc. Almost anything can be a gap filler if it can be made small enough and can have some diversity in placement to fit those odd angles.
If you’re going for that bodysuit look you’ll probably end up with some gap fillers unless you pre-planned your whole body before you started getting tattoos, or worked with a style like Japanese where gap fillers are less common (though not unheard of).
The Battle Royale is an old school design that consists of an eagle, a snake, and a dragon, all battling it out to be number one (sometimes it is depicted as an eagle vs a snake, or even other animals fighting).
This design has been passed down for generations through tattooers and tattoo collectors, usually as quite a large design like a full back piece, chest, or stomach, but also as smaller work on arms and legs.
This most famous design was tattooed on D.C (Dave) Paul by Huck Spaulding and Paul Rogers, though there are a few older designs that are bit different. One was tattooed by George Burchett when he was working with Japanese artist Hori Uno in his shop in London, and the other by Percy Waters in Detroit. Ben Corday’s version is also quite popular.
The Battle Royale is an American traditional design that has clear roots in Japanese tattooing as well as American. It was designed to represent the eternal struggle of keeping balance, particularly between the East and West, but life in general as well. Everything in life requires balance and hardship. This is a battle that will never be won.
Most people choose to get this piece in full colour as the first wearers of the tattoo would have, but it also looks great without colour, or as a more neo-traditional piece.
Kintaro (literally translated as “golden boy”) is Japanese mythology’s equivalent to Hercules.
Despite being called golden boy he’s usually depicted as red-skinned. He is also always seen as quite a young boy, very muscular, squat, and usually either naked or covered by only a loincloth type material.
According to legend Kintaro was raised by an ogre in the mountains, and his feats of strength are just as well known in Japan as Hercules’ are in most Western countries. Kintaro defeated a bear and an eagle at the same time, uprooted a massive tree to form a bridge over a river, and most famously wrestled a giant koi fish into submission.
It is this last image of Kintaro wrestling the giant koi that is most often seen in tattoos. Utagawa Kuniyoshi most famously painted that specific image and made it popular for tattoo collectors.
Though Kintaro is a famous legendary figure, scholars believe he is at the very least based on a real person. The real Kintaro was most likely the son of Sakata Kurando, one of Emperor Suzaku’s bodyguards in the tenth century. Sakata’s wife Yaegiri was apparently a very beautiful woman, but when Sakata committed suicide after losing the Emperor’s favour, she took her son Kintaro to remote Mount Ashigara to raise him among animals, spirits, and mythological creatures. Here he gained powers of strength and was able to communicate with and control animals, and Yaegiri became a sorceress. Kintaro also eventually gained a powerful weapon, the very axe the god of thunder Raijin used.
Information found in the book “Japanese Tattoos: Meanings, Shapes and Motifs” by Yori Moriarty.
Owen Jensen and “Dainty Dotty” were artists who married sometime in the mid 1900’s. Owen was a tattoo artist with a number of cities and shops under his belt, and Dotty was initially a circus performer working as a “fat lady” before she started tattooing.
According to a letter written in 1972 to Steve Rogers, Owen Jensen was introduced to tattoos in 1911 in Utah after walking some 12 miles to see the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, which featured James Malcolm as a performer, who had been tattooed by Charlie Wagner. A few years later Owen got his first tattoo from Bob Hodge.
It’s unknown who taught Owen to tattoo, but during WW1 he served overseas and tattooed other military folks while abroad. When he returned to the US he never stayed in one place too long, working in cities such as Michigan, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, Norfolk, and finally Long Beach, just to name a few. He eventually met Dotty and the two married and settled in Long Beach, working near Bert Grimm. Around the early 1970’s Owen had a disagreement over flash with Bert who then apparently “ran him off.” Owen then worked with Lee Roy Minugh until he was stabbed in the back and beaten on July 5th 1976. Owen never fully recovered from the attack and died July 24th 1977.
Dainty Dotty was initially a circus performer as mentioned above. She first worked as a “fat lady” in the Ringling Brothers circus in the 1930’s and 40’s. Dotty learned how to tattoo after meeting Owen, and he supposedly tattooed her, but there are no known photos of Dotty with tattoos, though there are photos of her tattooing people, and her flash is still floating around!
Dotty is famous for being the world’s largest female tattoo artist, though she is in fact not the largest woman on record. Both Dotty and Owen tattooed classic old school designs such as eagles, skulls, roses, snakes, and patriotic pieces such as the statue of Liberty, American flags, and military designs.
Who doesn’t enjoy a nice cold beer at the end of a hard week or day, being able to sit out on a patio with friends or in a nice homey pub? Some people like beer so much that they’ve even chosen to immortalize their favourite drink on their skin as a tattoo!
Many people go for a realistic depiction of their drink of choice, but neo-traditional, American traditional, new school, and black and grey are also popular.
Now for some cool facts; Did you know that beer is actually the oldest recorded recipe in the world? Ancient Egyptians first recorded their recipes on scrolls that date back to around 5000 BCE, and was brewed with ingredients such as dates, pomegranate, and other local fruits and herbs. This early form of beer was used mainly in religious ceremonies, and was controlled directly by the Pharaoh of the time.
While beer recipes were written down around 5000 BCE, it is believed that the ancient Mesopotamians were also brewing beer, around 10,000 BCE based on the malted barley and bowls with a beer-like residue that have been found by archaeologists. This beer eventually made its way over to Europe from the Middle East, and became an important part of life for nearly everyone. Northern Europe in particular brewed a lot of beer, in large part due to the crops like barley that they were able to grow. Beer even became a popular alternative to water because it was often cleaner to drink (lots of water at that time was pretty badly contaminated by human and animal waste).
Beer that is more similar to what you and I drink today was made in the early Middle Ages, combining hops and other herbs and spices to the barley that had already been used for a few hundred years. Around the year 1150, monks from Germany started using wild hops in beer and it caught on quick. It also acted as a natural preservative, allowing beer to last longer before needing to be drunk. While Pharaohs were the main brewers in Egypt thousands of years ago, monks were the main brewers in the Middle Ages, with almost all monasteries having an onsite brewery. Even today a number of Belgian monasteries still produce beer and rank as some of the best in the world.
Tony Torvis is the owner of Mortem Tattoo in Montréal, Canada. His work consists of traditional old school designs without colour, making his clients look like the brilliant black and white photographs of days long past.
Tony’s work is reminiscent of the great tattooers of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s but is still recognizable as a Tony Torvis piece.
Expect crisp clean lines and bold, powerful motifs such as dragons, snakes, lady heads, portraits, and flowers. There is original flash in the shop to choose from, or you can bring your own idea to him, or re-create an old piece of historical flash.
Tony’s Instagram page is full of both large and small scale work, from chest pieces to full backs, sleeves, and little filler pieces.
You’ll also notice from his Instagram page that the majority of clients are repeat customers. Tony’s tattoos are kind of like chips, you just can’t stop at one! Mortem tattoo is a must visit shop if you’re in the area, and there are other brilliant artists working there as well.
Religious tattoos are still very popular with many collectors today, and one of the most recognizable images that has been made popular in the tattoo community is found in that of the Christian community with the Sacred Heart (aka The Sacred Heart of Jesus).
This is an image that is particularly important in the Roman Catholic Church, and it represents Jesus Christ’s heart as his love for all humans. The earliest known devotions to the Sacred Heart occurred around the eleventh century and was brought about by Saint Bernard. In the 14th century Pope Innocent VI declared that the Sacred Heart should be idolized and worshipped. From there on it became a symbol of love and devotion.
There are three common depictions of the heart in its original form: the Heart with a crown of thorns like the crown that Jesus was forced to wear, the heart with a cross on top to represent the crucifixion, and finally, flame surrounding or coming out of it which represents divine light of love.
As a tattoo many people choose one of these three versions, or get it custom made with added flowers, decorative pieces, faces, colours, etc. The most common styles are American traditional, black and grey, and neo-traditional.
There is another version of the Sacred Heart that represents the Immaculate Heart of Mary (mother of Jesus), but this version is usually seen being pierced by a sword instead of a crown of thorns.