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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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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Artist of the month: 더니들스 (redlip tattooer)

더니들스 (redlip tattooer) is an artist working out of The Needles in Seoul, South Korea. 

Classic Death Before Dishonor
Willy Wonka

She tattoos in a hybrid style of old school and new school. Her old school techniques consist of thick bold lines and the classic colour scheme, with an added almost cartoon-ish look.

Mickey and Minnie meets Ice Cream
Maui, Hei Hei, and Pua

Lots of her work features cartoon characters from popular Disney movies and shows like Mickey and Minnie, Moana, Mulan, and more. Her Instagram is also full of old school classics like swallows, reapers, skulls, pinups, and lady heads.

Mulan, Mushu, and Cri-Kee
Grim Reaper on holiday

Much of the work she does can be done as smaller pieces if you’re a tourist in the area, and she also puts together fantastic larger pieces such as full sleeves.

Party shark
A beautiful red cardinal

If you’re traveling in the area be sure to send her an email and get yourself an appointment, or if you live nearby add a few new pieces to your collection.

A classic swallow and rose on the neck
Daria’s Jane Lane

Edited by Harrison R.

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Artist of the Month: Joel Soos

Joel Soos is a tattooer working out of Sanctum Tattoo in Stockholm, Sweden. 

Classic Pharaohs Horses
Cool mythical/folklore piece

Joel tattoos mainly in classic old school American traditional style, with dark and muted colours. He also does work with no colour, as well as work in the Japanese style. 

Skeleton from Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre and traditional building
Gnarly palm skull

Much of Joel’s work features dark imagery such as skulls, demons, snakes, and reapers. When he does work in the Japanese style, he mainly focuses on Oni and Yurei (demons and ghosts). 

A very full back with a lady head, skull, snake and flowers
Matching hands of a swallow and rose

Joel does a lot of smaller work that can be done in one session if you’re just visiting the area, but he also does a lot of beautiful large-scale work such as full sleeves and back pieces. 

Sacred Heart with roses
A devilish bleeding goat head

Joel’s work is just what you look for in an old school artist, with dark bold lines and perfectly shaded colours, particularly in various shades of red, yellow, and green.

A different depiction of the Grim Reaper
A sacred heart and severed heads

Be sure to get some work done by him if you’re traveling in Sweden or if you live in the area.

Edited by Harrison R.

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Scorpion Tattoos:

Scorpions have been popular in tattooing for a long time, and have been tattooed in many different styles, including old school American traditional, black work, black and grey, realism, neo-traditional, and more. 

Classic black work/old school scorpion done by Frank William at Smith Street Tattoo Parlour in New York
Creepy one done by Dan Gagné at Mortem Tattoo in Montreal

Scorpions make for a popular design largely because of their tough look. The animal is deadly with a tough exterior, and can reflect this upon the tattoo wearer as well. 

Perfectly placed black/old school one by Tony at Blue Arms Tattoo
An old school scorpion done by Jade Harper at House of the Rising Sun Tattoo in Winnipeg

Because it is a creature that can take care of itself, it can also represent strength and protection. 

Scorpion and blood done by Reuben Todd at Kapala Tattoo in Winnipeg
A more neo-traditional scorpion with some eye popping colours done by Matt Andersson in Gothenburg

Another obvious reason for people to get a scorpion tattoo, is if their zodiac sign happens to be ‘scorpio.’ Scorpios (October 23rd-November 21st) are described as being calculating and striking; able to know what they want and do what it takes to get it.

A hyper realistic scorpion done by Gara at Lighthouse Tattoo in Seoul
A cute scorpion with hearts done by Kara Noel at Folklore Trading Co

Which piece is your favourite?

Scorpions make great hand tattoos. Done by Richie J Howes at Electric Lounge Tattoo in South Africa
Matching buns by Darren Quinn at Sang Bleu Tattoo in London

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Tattoo History 13: Doc Forbes

Doc Forbes is one of the most famous early tattoo artists in Canadian history, having learned the craft from Frederick Baldwin, the first tattoo artist in Canada to use an electric tattoo machine, in the 1920’s. 

Doc Forbes showing his sleeves off, from Classic Tattoo Appreciation
1966 heart by Curly Allen on Hasting street .. and 1967 swallow and rose by Doc Forbes at Ace Tattoo on Davies Street

Doc Forbes trained under numerous brilliant artists including Pat Martynuik from San Francisco. Much of Doc’s work can be found in Lyle Tuttle’s collection, although unfortunately Doc suffered a stroke in the early 70’s which led to severe depression, which in turn led to him destroying a lot of his work. 

Doc Forbes tattooing a sailor around 1965 while his buddies look on. From vintage tattoo photo archive
Doc Forbes with a young man from the Navy that he tattooed. Picture from New York Tattoo History

Doc Forbes tattooed in the classic old school American traditional style, and most notably worked near the navy base in Victoria, and then on Davies Street right in Vancouver from the 1960’s through to the 1970’s. He died in 1977 on Lyle Tuttle’s birthday; October 10th. Though Doc was a pioneer of old school tattooing in Canada, he also performed medical tattoos on burn victims, and cosmetic tattooing on women’s lips and eyebrows. 

1960’s pink panther by Doc Forbes
Doc working on a woman’s back from Classic Tattoo Appreciation

Doc tattooed everyone, but his main clientele was young men in the Navy who often got classic military and navy designs such as eagles, skulls, roses, ships, and lover’s names. 

Doc tattooing a young woman’s chest, from Docks Weird Years
Leg sleeves in progress by Doc, from New York Tattoo History

A brilliant documentary about Doc can be seen here on CBC’s website. Made in 1964, and entitled “The Diary of a Tattooist,” the short documentary and interview features CBC host Harry Mannis visiting Doc in his shop in Victoria. Numerous people are tattooed in the short film including a mother of four, a man in his 80’s, a close friend of Doc’s, and two sailors. Throughout the documentary Doc talks about hygiene and safety in tattooing, how he makes his colours, the technicality of running the machine, who his clientele are, and much more.

$18 for the pair on a man before he joined the navy
Doc tattooing Lyle Tuttle

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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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