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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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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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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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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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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Artist of the Month: Roblake

Roblake is an artist specializing in black work designs with mainly old school motifs. Working out of Dead Slow in Brighton, Roblake also sells merchandise such as prints and clothing here.

Sweet filler head piece.
Matching hands

Roblake has a very distinctive style, taking inspiration from old school flash while adding his own flare that includes detailed line work and sometimes soft and delicate shading inside of tough looking pieces.

Beautiful nesting doll
Big one shot chest dragon

He is particularly well known for his knife designs, whether they be a sharp singular switchblade, a row of daggers, or a knife through a skull.

Healed row of knives
Devil and lady

Along with tattooing, Roblake has an extensive tattoo collection, and also does some clothing modelling.

Burning cop car and getaway car
Healed forearm pieces

If you’re in Brighton or passing through, Roblake is a must see artist, or, if you can’t visit, check out his online store.

Beautiful peonies
Big stomach piece

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Tattoos For Pluviophiles:

Pluviophile (n)- A lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.

Storm clouds by Shannon Mcfarlene at Iron Lotus in Winnipeg
Realistic black and grey storm clouds by Marcin Sonski

As a pluviophile myself, I love anything related to rain and storms. The sight, sound, and smell of rain all make me feel happy and at peace. Some of my favourite art is inspired by storms and rain, and that includes tattoos.

Storm clouds by Mel Mauthe at Iron Lotus in Winnipeg
Skeleton enjoying the rain by Madar Norbert at Knuckle Up Budapest

As a tattoo, some common rain themes include rain clouds, storm clouds with lightning, umbrellas, and people in the rain.

Dot and line work rain by Masi in Nürnberg
Umbrella and storm by La Maison Hantée

Common styles include black work, American traditional, realism, dot work, and black and grey.

Black work piece by Julaika at Vienna Tattoo
Rainy day window by Pixie Cat at Art Lab Tattoo Studio

What is your favourite thing about rainy days?

Dot and line work skull and umbrellas by Jay Baldwin
Angel and rain by Rat at Imperial Tattoo Toronto

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Japanese Blackwork Tattoos:

Japanese is undeniably one of the most popular tattoo styles, but heavy black pieces are changing the game.

Blackwork wave sleeve mixed with geometric patterns by Raimundo Ramìrez.
Spirited Away’s Yubaba done by Stephen Doan.

Japanese tattoos traditionally use lots of red and black, but also feature some yellows, orange, and shades of grey. Basically the same colour palette as original American traditional.

Blackwork tiger back done by Takizomoro.
Samurai Hannya done by Daniel Ra.

Blackwork is becoming a more and more popular style all the time, and can be done in many styles.

Blackwork leg sleeves done by Guy Le Tatooer.
Blackwork cloud sleeves with geometric patterns done by Gakkin.

Japanese blackwork often makes great use of negative space, making the subject pop, particularly when done on lighter skin tones.

Blackwork Bodhidharma by HoriNami.
Blackwork peony and snake sleeves by Lupo Horiōkami.

Some artists also mix styles such as Neo-traditional and geometric with their Japanese work. Both of these styles are often done as all black pieces, so it mixes well.

Blackwork namakubi by Damien J. Thorn.
Blackwork fish by Horihiro.

Which tattoo is your favourite?

Blackwork negative space sleeve by Oscar Hove.
3/4 sleeves and chest panels by Gotch.

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