Black Sabbath Tattoos:

For lovers of alternative music it’s pretty much common knowledge that Black Sabbath’s 1970 debut album “Black Sabbath” marked the beginning of heavy metal as we now know it. There were distinct differences from rock including references to the occult in the lyrics, Ozzy’s style of singing, the heavier sound of the guitars, and loud, fast thundering drums. Put together it all sounds quite dark and sinister, which is part of why we still love it so much today.

Black Sabbath cross done by wolfirish_tattoo
Black work Henry done by Riley Borne in Portland Oregon

The original members of the English metal band include guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, drummer Bill Ward, and most famously, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. Though the band has also seen many lineup changes, most notably vocalist Ronnie James Dio after Ozzy was kicked out of the band for substance abuse.

Cross piece done by Else Mau
A black work portrait of Ozzy done by Blake at Hot Stuff Tattoo

The band previously had other names, including “Earth.” The bands manager wanted them to change the name because it was too generic, so Butler suggested changing their name to Black Sabbath after the song they had written. He was big into both the occult and horror movies, as was Iommi, and they thought the name fit the sound of the band at the time. The name for both the song and band was thought up by Butler, and was inspired by Mario Bava’s 1963 Boris Karloff horror anthology.

A realistic portrait of Ozzy done by Shaks in Bexhill UK
A bright and bold Henry done by Aliki at Below Zero Tattoo in Florida

After hearing the riff of what became “Iron Man,” Ozzy said that it sounded “like a big iron bloke walking about.” Geezer Butler took that a step further and wrote the lyrics as the story of a man who time travels into the future, and witnesses the apocalypse. While returning to the present, a magnetic field turns him into steel. He is rendered mute, unable to verbally warn people of his time in the future and of the Earth’s impending destruction. Because his attempts to communicate are ignored and mocked, it causes Iron Man to become angry, and drives his revenge on mankind, causing the destruction seen in his vision. Another fun song fact is the coughing heard at the beginning of “Sweet Leaf,” is guitarist Tony Iommi. He had been smoking a joint in the studio given to him by Ozzy Osbourne. The title of the song was taken from a packet of Irish cigarettes which said “It’s the sweet leaf,” and refers to cannabis, which the band was using frequently.

Inverted cross done by Libby Guy at the Illustrated Man, Sydney Australia
Black and grey album art done by Edvin at Crooked Moon Tattoo

Some popular Black Sabbath tattoos include portraits of the band members (mostly Ozzy), album art, crosses, and “Henry” the bands devilish logo. Mostly done in black and grey, black work, or old school styles. Though realism, neo-traditional, and pointillism also make for awesome pieces!

Black work heart by Rodrigo Burnout in São Paulo
Ozzy’s head with a vampire bat done by Kalo at Spider Web Tattoo in Berlin

What’s your favourite Black Sabbath song? Do you have any Sabbath tattoos?

Butterfly Lady Tattoos:

Combining classic old school portraits of ladies and the wings of butterflies has long been a staple in old school tattooing. Flash from such legends as Bert Grimm, Ben Corday, and others from the 1800’s and 1900’s featured variations of the designs below, and more.

Back design done by Kasper_ftw in Seoul South Korea
Black and grey chest piece done by Rich Hardy in the UK

Portraits of women are one of the most popular images in tattooing, as are butterflies. Combining the two beautiful designs makes sense, and can form an elegant tattoo that stands the test of time.

Black work back piece featuring a butterfly lady atop a skull, alongside two at the bottom done by Paul Dobleman at Black Heart Tattoo in California
Butterfly lady head done on the hand by Reuben Todd at Kapala Tattoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba

One of the most popular ways for this design to be tattooed is a woman’s head with butterfly wings sprouting from behind, to the left and right.

Stomach butterfly lady head done by Francesco Ferrara in Rome
Butterfly lady atop a heart done by Blair Maxine Mckenna in Perth Australia

These butterfly ladies can also be seen more like fairies, with the bodies of women and butterfly wings.

Butterfly lady with a hidden face done by Capilli Tupou at Sunset Tattoo in Auckland New Zealand
Black work butterfly lady head done by Kim-Anh Nguyen-Dinh at Seven Seas in the Netherlands

Old school American traditional is the most common style for this design, but black work, black and grey, and Neo-traditional are also popular.

Black and grey butterfly woman done by Jade Harper at House of the Rising Sun Tattoo in Winnipeg
Butterfly lady head on the chest done by naughtyjam_tattooer in Taipei, Taiwan

Do you have a butterfly lady on yourself?

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Kewpie Tattoos:

Kewpie dolls have been seen on old school flash sheets since the early 1900’s, and have gone through fazes of popularity. The original creator of these cuties was Rose O’Neill, an American poet and artist who was famous for being the best-known and highest paid female commercial illustrator in the US at the time. The original designs were made for Ladies Home Journal in 1909 as cupid dolls, with “Kewpie” being a fun variation of the word “Cupid.” They were then put into comic strips also written and Illustrated by Rose O’Neill, and were also used in multiple advertisements such as Jell-O and Kellogg’s corn flakes, among others.

Huck Finn Kewpie by Adri O at Tatouage Chatte Noire
Hobo Kewpie done by Paul Dobleman at Black Heart Tattoo in SF,CA

Some notable tattoo artists that first started putting Kewpies in tattoo flash were Percy Waters, Milton Zeis, and Bill Moore. They were very popular designs in the early 1900’s, but faded in popularity in the 1950’s.

Armed and dangerous Kewpie by Gianni Orlandini
Three Kewpies by Jarret Crosson in Austin Texas

It was tattooer Mike “Rollo” Malone that brought Kewpie tattoos back into popularity, drawing many variations of the Kewpie to suit all sorts of tattoo collectors.

Grim Reaper Kewpie by Sylvain Proulx
Happy and Sad Kewpie heads by Jon Harper at Black Friars Tattoo

Kewpies were also made into the famous dolls we know now, also originally designed by Rose O’Neill. Some notable features of Kewpies as dolls, drawings, and tattoos include a (usually) nude Cupid-like child with a chubby belly, a kind of topknot hairdo, and originally, a red heart and blue wings painted on the chest and back. Rosie cheeks and a mischievous smile were/are also key elements. These dolls were made of many materials including hard plastic, vinyl, cloth, and more. The original dolls are still recognizable with Rose O’Neills name on the bottom of their feet, and are often worth quite a lot.

Punk Kewpie by Miss Marla at The Office Tattoo
Kewpie in a rose by Sara Bi at La Cantina Dell’Inchiostro

While most Kewpies were nude, in the 1920’s they started being made with clothing and uniforms such as firemen, cowboys, soldiers, musicians, and more. Today, as tattoos these impish characters are usually still done in an old school American traditional style, and feature most of the same original features previously listed. Many artists get creative and turn famous celebrities or characters into Kewpies, or make them a bit darker by giving them weapons or even making them into horror icons.

Ramen loving Kewpie by Gabe Goyner at Wayward Tattoo
Ghost Face Kewpie by Alex Bach in Colchester, Essex

Do you have a Kewpie tattoo?

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Palm Tattoos:

Palm tattoos have been growing in popularity over the last few years, but people are still divided on the longevity of the pieces (as well as how much they have to hurt).

Two healed palms by Mark Walker at The Grand Reaper in San Diego
Healed flowers by Luke Ashley at South City Market

Palms are of course a high touch part of your body, and go through a lot of wear and tear. So putting a tattoo on it might seem pointless to some if it’s just going to fade immediately.

Ornamental black work by Brody Polinksy in Berlin
Japanese mask by LAPA at Artwork Tattoo Studio

I have seen a fair number of healed palm pieces that haven’t required touch ups, even after years of wear.

Black work eyes by James Lau at The Company Tattoo, Hong Kong
Matching hearts by Alena Chun at Icon Tattoo in Portland

A long lasting palm tattoo seems to require two things; Solid black lines, and proper aftercare. If you’re able to more or less not use that hand during the majority of the healing process, your tattoo shouldn’t scab much, and should settle in nicely. Obviously that’s not doable for everyone, but it definitely plays a part.

Matching spider webs by Berthe Tattoos at lucky Town Tattoo in Regensburg, Germany
Barbed wire by David Mottier in Switzerland

Do you have or want a palm tattoo?

Medieval flail by Milky Tattoos in Toronto
Bert Grimm’s crying heart by Joe Destefano Electric Park Tattoo, Detroit MI

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Artist of the Month: Francesco Ferrara

Francesco Ferarra works out of Fronte del Porto Roma in Rome, Italy, and also sells prints here.

Gorgeous flowers and ornamental vase
Pinup lady and eagle
Healed Rock of Ages front piece with angels

Francesco does classic old school tattoos that are bright and vibrant in colour, with bold black lines. Looking at Francesco’s work, you’ll only see black, red, and yellow/gold making up these beautiful pieces.

Battle back piece and nautical back piece
Devil head and butterfly for the feet
Rock of Ages back piece

His portfolio includes both one shot smaller pieces, and large full back or front pieces. Among these gorgeous designs you’ll find classics such as the Rock of Ages, Sun Dance, devils and angels, lady heads, and animals such as snakes, eagles, and butterfly’s.

Queen of hearts and a feisty snake
Classic eagle

Whether you live in Rome or are passing through, Francesco is another must see artist.

Snake and flowers
Big ole’ stomach snake

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Tattoo History 12: Hong Kong

Hong Kong, a fascinating city with an equally fascinating history and culture. Tattoos are becoming more and more popular as they enter into the mainstream, making it hard to walk around the downtown area without spotting a tattoo either on a tourist or a local. But for a long time tattoos were seen as something only for criminals, mainly the triads (the Chinese mafia that also operates in Hong Kong and Taiwan among other places).

Tattooist James Ho, Hong Kong, 1961. Photo by Burt Glinn from vintage tattoo archive.
U.S. Navy officer getting a dragon tattoo at Ho Gee tattoo shop near Fenwick Pier, Hong Kong, September, 1957. Photo by Hank Walker from vintage tattoo archive.

While tattoos of course existed in the area long before the 1940’s, the first official tattoo shop wasn’t opened until 1946 by the famous James Ho (father of Jimmy Ho). James Ho was a Shanghainese marine engineer in the navy in 1940 and was sailing on a ship in the Indian Ocean when it was hit by a Japanese torpedo. James was lucky and survived by clinging to wreckage and was picked up by an American warship and brought to Calcutta where he first came in contact with tattoos; hand poked tattoos to be specific. James brought his new passion home to Shanghai where he made a machine from bike chains and other spare parts. He fled Shanghai towards the end of WW11 because of political conflict and went to Hong Kong, where he opened the first shop; Rose Tattoo Studio. James had seen mainly old school tattoos on sailors, so that’s what he brought back both to Shanghai and Hong Kong, and why old school Hong Kong tattoos follow similar tropes of hearts, flags, pin-ups and more, all with thick bold lines and vibrant colours. The shop did very well, mainly working on those in the Navy during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Along with these American designs, tattooers in Asia were adding imagery such as dragons, koi, and tigers, among other culturally significant iconography.

A full back piece done by Jimmy Ho.
Jimmy Ho still tattooing, from 2016.

To keep up with the high demand, James took on four apprentices; Ricky Lo, Pinky Yun, Benny Tsoi, and Swallow, and later eventually his own son, Jimmy. Jimmy started officially working for his father at the age of 14 after already tattooing clients after hours from around the age of 12. His mother didn’t want him working there but he insisted, and when he showed his father James the earnings, he was finally gifted two tattoo machines of his own. Pinky eventually moved to the US in the 70’s and became very popular after first working with Ricky at “Ricky and Pinky Tattoo”, Benny has a shop still in Hong Kong run by an apprentice (his daughter also tattoos and runs her own shop), and Jimmy’s shop is also still being run by an apprentice in Hong Kong.

Marcus Yuen dragon on the left, based on Ricky’s design on the right.
A Ricky chest piece from the 1970’s. Photo from Marcus Yuen.

When business declined for all tattooers in Hong Kong after the Korean and Vietnam wars, tattooers were working more and more with triads. Only a “大佬” or, “boss” could get tattooed then, and some of the main designs included dragons on the arms or back, or eagles on the chest. Now triads are tattooed less and less, similar to the yakuza in Japan. But when they do opt to get tattoos they are more likely to get them in mainland China where they are significantly cheaper.

Unfinished eagle around 1975 Ricky and Pinky’s shop, picture from Marcus Yuen.
An old sign from Rose Tattoo. Photo from Marcus Yuen.

Apart from gangsters, the most common people getting tattooed from the 70’s-90’s were construction workers and truck drivers. These developed their own kind of style which consisted of only an outline without any shading, often because they would run out of money. As long as you could tell what the design was supposed to be, it was good enough.

A Hong Kong protestor piece done by Samantha Fung.
Rose Tattoo that unfortunately no longer exists. The area is now all shopping malls. photo from Marcus Yuen.

Hong Kong style is also compared to Japanese, particularly for full bodied work with backgrounds such as waves and clouds. This is largely due to Japanese tattooers visiting Hong Kong, and vice versa. For example, James’ son, Jimmy Ho was visited numerous times by Horiyoshi in the 1990’s. Jimmy then borrowed Japanese ideas of tattooing but made them his own.

A dragon by Dave Ryo Lau.
A dragon done by Samantha Fung.

Today, artists such as Marcus Yuen and Samantha Fung, both working out of 59 tattoo alongside other great artists, and Dave Ryo Lau working out of The Company Tattoo, are all keeping Hong Kong style tattoos alive by continuing to tattoo in the unique style. Marcus in particular works hard to keep Hong Kong style tattoos alive by also sharing information about the old legends, and many historic pictures on his Instagram account.

An eagle by Dave Ryo Lau.
A tiger done by Marcus Yuen.

Have you been tattooed in Hong Kong yet?

To read more about Hong Kong’s tattoo history check out https://zolimacitymag.com/not-just-for-triads-hong-kongs-unique-style-of-tattoos/ and https://www.the4thwall.net/blog/2016/8/13/hong-kong, where a lot of my information came from. Special thanks also to Marcus Yuen for sharing information and photos and to Samantha Fung for pointing me in his direction.

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Andres Inkman

Andres is a tattooer working out of Black Ship in Barcelona. He tattoos old school designs with a much more realistic look. Expect to see lots of ladies, devils, and nautical designs.

Rose of no man’s land
Snake and lady head

Andres’ colour palette follows the old school style of mainly black and red, and he really makes those colours pop.

Devil in disguise
Queen of hearts and a sneaky devil

Andres has managed to mix old school and realism flawlessly, with eyes that appear to be really looking at you, and lines that will stand the test of time.

Devil and woman in love
Nautical sailor lady head and ship

In addition to tattooing, Andres has an online store where you can buy prints.

Lady head and dragon
Lady and devil head

If you live in Barcelona or plan on passing through (when we can all travel safely again) make sure Andres is on your list of artists to be tattooed by.

Split lady and devil head
Classic tattooed pinup

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Pumpkin Tattoos:

It’s that time of year again, so here are 10 pumpkin tattoos to satisfy your halloween tattoo needs. So why do we carve Jack’O’Lanterns anyway? You can thank the Irish! This practice originates with a legend called “Stingy Jack.”

Charlie Brown’s Halloween Special done by Mandy Snyder at Lucky Monkey Tattoo
Black and grey pumpkin done by Margaret Arinne

According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. 

Full haunted house complete with pumpkins done by Tiffany Garcia at Black Raven Tattoo
Black and grey pumpkin and bats done by Matthew Murray at Black Veil Tattoo in Salem Mass.

Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Pumpkin and bloody knife by Katelynn Rhea at Iron Age Tattoo
Trick R’ Treat pumpkin done by Steve Black at All of One Tattoo

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”

Creepy pumpkin done by Mark W. Richards at Pino Bros Ink
Happy pumpkin done by Shannon Mcfarlene at Iron Lotus

As tattoos, most pumpkin pieces are bright and colourful, with a trend to old school or neo traditional styles, though black work and black and grey can also make for nice pieces. Often paired with other spooky things like bats, knives, haunted houses, etc. Pumpkins are a perfect piece for those who love halloween.

Cute bright piece done by Kori Millhimes
An evil looking piece using black and orange done by Angelo Parente at Black Casket Tattoo

What are you carving into your pumpkin this year?

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The Exorcist Tattoos:

The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin in 1973 is one of the most well known horror movies to date. In part because of the supposed curse, and the fact that it was the first horror movie to be nominated for a best picture Oscar.

Reagan and the iconic lamppost scene done by Paul Acker at Seance Tattoo
Another Reagan and lamppost scene, in black and grey done by Séb Otis in Paris

The Exorcist is based off of the book written by William Blatty, which is in turn based off of a real event involving the exorcism of a boy known through the pseudonym “Roland Doe.” Catholic priests performed an exorcism on the boy but had to stop when he broke free of his restraints, pulled a spring out of the bed, and cut one of the priests with it.

Black and grey lamppost scene done by Oliver Palacios at Magnetic Tattoo Studio
Reagan covered in vomit and lamppost scene done by Michael Kelly in Ireland

Many people believe the film to be cursed, including people who worked on the set. Many accidents happened, including a fire that destroyed what was supposed to be the MacNeil’s home before shooting started (Reagan’s room was untouched by the fire); Ellen Burstyn (Reagan’s mother) was injured in a scene when possessed Reagan throws her, and the scene was used in the film; the actors Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros both died while the film was in post production (both of their characters also die in the film); other actors also had family members die while the movie was being made; Linda Blair injured her back when the rigging broke during a possession scene, and she also received so many death threats from people who hated or were afraid of the movie that she needed hired body guards; the son of actress Mercedes McCambridge (the voice of Pazuzu) killed his wife and children before killing himself, and finally, many people believed the actual film itself was cursed and that playing it would invite demonic possession.

Old school Pazuzu and heart done by Katy Bisby
Reagan in a ouija board planchette done by Calvin Von Crush at Lucky Soul Tattoo

That classic scene where Father Merrin stands under the streetlamp was based on a series of René Magritte paintings, and was so well shot that it was made the movie poster (and is tattooed by many fans).

Black and grey Reagan and lamppost scene done by Estock Ruiz Tattoo in Mexico
Pazuzu portrait done by Scully in Belfast

Other popular tattoos people get from the film include Reagan in her possessed form, Pazuzu, or a combination of any of these. Many people decide to get these tattoos in a realistic style, or old school or black work.

Creepy piece that incorporates Reagan, Pazuzu, and the lamppost done by Sherlane White at Sleepy Bones Tattoo
Pazuzu inside of a ouija board planchette done by Joel Dylan at Animalistic Bodyart

What is your favourite scene from the film?

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