Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing Tattoos:

The phrase “A wolf in sheep’s clothing” is a common one to English speakers, and its vivid imagery has led to some pretty amazing artwork, including tattoos. Regarding tattoo work, most people take it literally, having a wolf wearing a sheepskin, usually comprising of just the heads. Often these pieces are done in an American traditional or neo-traditional style, though black and grey and black work are not uncommon. 

American traditional back done by Pete Goerlitz at Greyhound tattoo
Some black trad by Medea Tattoo

Many people believe(d) that the Bible is where this phrase was first recorded, but Aesop’s Fables also explicitly mention wolves in sheep’s clothing, and are much older than any of the Biblical texts. 

Neo-traditional piece done by Marko at North Tattoo 3411 in Mexico
A neo-traditional back done by Jan Man at First String Tattoo in Winnipeg Manitoba

For those who don’t know, Aesop was a salve and a storyteller, believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. He created a collection of fables collectively called “Aesopica” which were passed down orally until they were written down about three centuries after his death. Fables are short stories that aim to illustrate a certain set of morals and provide a teachable lesson to children in particular. Often the stories are about animals or mythical creatures to better catch a child’s attention, such as the case of “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” 

American traditional piece with rose done by Nick Ackman at Wild Zero Tattoo in Morgantown, WV
American traditional piece by Róbert Erdösi in Budapest

The meaning of the phrase refers to a person who hides malicious and ill intent behind a facade of friendliness and innocence. George Fyler Townsend’s 1867 translation of Aesop’s Fable is one of the better known versions: “Once upon a time a Wolf resolved to disguise his appearance in order to secure food more easily. Encased in the skin of a sheep, he pastured with the flock deceiving the shepherd by his costume. In the evening he was shut up by the shepherd in the fold; the gate was closed, and the entrance made thoroughly secure. But the shepherd, returning to the fold during the night to obtain meat for the next day, mistakenly caught up the Wolf instead of a sheep, and killed him instantly.” 

American traditional chest piece by Matt Renner at White Lodge Tattoo in Glenwood Springs
Black trad rib tickler by Crimlay in Vienna, Austria

There are also various Biblical texts that mention wolves in sheep’s clothing such as the 1611 King James Version of the Bible, found in the gospel of Matthew, in verse 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

Black and grey piece by Kaitlin Rose Bryant at Cardinal Ink
American traditional piece by Lewis Parkin at Iron Hand Tattooing

Edited by Harrison R.

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Tattoos as a form of protest:

Tattoos have long been a symbol of youth and rebellion, but people also get tattoos as a form of protest. There have been many individuals, groups, and cultures who have done this, so today we will look at the people of Myanmar and Hong Kong and the tattoos they’ve been receiving in regards to recent protest events. 

Masked and helmeted protestors by Samantha Fung
Hong Kong revolutionary by Samantha Fung

Hong Kong still struggles today to hold onto its independence from mainland China, but in the summer of 2019 the main island looked more like a war zone than a shopping and business dis-trict. Hong Kong and mainland police met hundreds of thousands of protestors in the streets over a period of months and the clashes turned violent quickly thanks to the police. Having been there myself I can attest to the fear people had of the police, but also the resilience, particularly in young people who didn’t and still don’t want their home to change for the worse. People in Hong Kong are especially worried to lose their freedom of speech. If they do that would mean people could no longer openly criticize the government and may even face being arrested for social media posts, particularly if they try to make their thoughts public. Because of the escalation in events, many have even fled Hong Kong, often to Taiwan, to escape Beijing’s reach. 

Gas mask and umbrellas by Cathy
Hong Kong Molotov cocktail by Cathy

Sadly, clashes have in fact stayed violent for a long time now; and specific protestors are being targeted even now by police, nearly two years later. Some are still taking to the streets, and even more to social media, but others are also getting tattoos. Some specific designs include protestors with gas masks and/or helmets, the iconic umbrella-turned-weapon, “free Hong Kong”, “Fight for Freedom”, Hong Kong flags, etc. Three artists (though there are many more) that are doing these tattoos as a form of protest are Samantha Fung at 59 Tattoo, Cathy at Star Crossed Tattoo, and Mike Chan at Lov-inkit Tattoo. 

Gas mask and helmet by Mike Chan
“If we burn you burn with us” by Mike Chan

Myanmar has been facing a military coup since early February (2021), and a group of young people from the Intha ethnic minority organized an all-day tattoo event to raise money for the CDM or Civil Disobedience Movement. This military coup began when democratically elected members of the country’s ruling party were deposed by Myanmar’s military which has stated the results of the November 2020 general are invalid. The military has used tear gas, flash bang grenades, rubber bullets, and in some cases even live rounds against protestors. In the first couple weeks at least 54 people were killed, mainly young people and teenagers, and at least 2000 were arrested, charged, or sentenced by the military. 

Hunger Games tattoo, photo by Robert Bociaga for CNN
Aung San Suu Kyi tattoo, photo by Robert Bociaga for CNN

Eight tattoo artists worked on dozens of protestors during the all-day event. They kept designs small and from flash tattoos already pre-made. The small pieces were designed for speed and to convey a message of unity. The options given were: the face of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the words “Spring revolution,” the phrase “Kabar Ma Kyay Bu” (which references a protest song and means “we will not forget until the end of the world”) and the well known “three-finger salute,” from “The Hunger Games” movies which has been adopted in Myanmar and Thailand as a symbol of protest and rebellion. The finger salute is often used at protests as well, but the most popular tattoo design here is the outline of Suu Kyi’s face.

Aung San Suu Kyi tattoo, photo by Robert Bociaga for CNN
Aung San Suu Kyi tattoos, photo by Robert Bociaga for CNN

Edited by Harrison R.

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Artist of the Month: Ryan Cooper Thompson

Ryan Cooper Thompson is a well-known tattoo artist based in Portland, Oregon. His work is a highly recognizable take on classic American traditional, using only black, red, and green in his colour palette, and taking direct inspiration from greats such as Percy Waters, Bob Wicks, and George Burchett. 

A beautiful rose/butterfly lady
A bold back of the head lady head

Ryan’s lady portraits in particular are highly sought after, and his instagram feed is full of them for good reason; his ladies range from heads to full bodied nudes to butterfly ladies, and are wonderful to look at whether they’re palm sized or full backs. 

Dragon lady thigh piece
A bold knee design

If you’re getting your own RCT piece you can choose to have something custom designed, a piece of flash made by Ryan, or a flash piece based on older artists work that often date back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. 

A beautiful nude portrait and some butterflies
A gorgeous dragon lady back featuring butterflies

Along with ladies you’ll find lots of flowers, dragons, butterflies, and other animals in his portfolio and on the walls of his shop. 

A bright and bold peacock
A classic panther and rose

Ryan tattoos everything from hands to backs, large and small, one session to multiples. So whether you live nearby or are just passing through you’ll be able to get yourself a timeless piece. (Though he is only tattooing people in the Oregon and Washington area during pandemic times). If you can’t make the trip to get a tattoo you can also buy prints of his here.

Lady and the moon
A beautiful vase of flowers

Edited by Harrison R.

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