Artist of the Month: Rob Kelly

Rob Kelly is the owner of BLACKOUT Tattoo in Hong Kong. Rob has been tattooing since 2005, and has lived in Hong Kong since 1994. BLACKOUT Tattoo was founded in 2010 and features brilliant permanent artists as well as travelling guest artists.

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Realistic black and grey tiger.
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Realistic black and grey lion head.
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American traditional lady head butterfly.
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Black and grey Japanese Kitsune.

Rob tattoos in many styles including American traditional, Neo traditional, black work, Japanese, Chinese, black and grey, line work, realism, tribal, and more.

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American traditional butterfly.
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Water colour dragon.
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Tribal chest panel.

Rob has a book of flash you can choose from, or you can book a consultation with him and collaborate on something completely original for yourself.

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Blackwork half goat, half mermaid.
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Classic mom tattoo with a heart and dagger.
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Japanese lucky cat, Neko!

The shop abides by all health regulations, including using new ink and needles, so no need to worry about infections.

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Blackwork chrysanthemum.
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Chinese dragon in American traditional style.
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Bright red chrysanthemum.

Rob has incredible attention to detail and will make sure you leave the shop happy and with a badass tattoo! Check out his website and set up a consultation http://www.blackout-tattoo.com

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American traditional cherub and skull.
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Black and grey Harry Potter piece. Expecto patronum!
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Legend of Zelda sword.

Tattoo Bodysuits:

A bodysuit is the ultimate way for a tattoo collector to show their dedication to the craft. A bodysuit is most often done as one cohesive piece, usually in one style. But some people do start getting tattooed without the intention of having a bodysuit, then end up growing into it.

Adam Craft at The Tattooed Heart
Japanese bodysuit done by Adam Craft at The Tattooed Heart.
Frank Lewis Montreal
The late Rick Genest’s bodysuit done by Frank Lewis in Montreal Canada.
MATT JORDAN SHIP SHAPE TATTOO
Hyper realistic suit completed by Matt Jordan at Ship Shape Tattoo.
Samuel Christensen
Brilliant black work/tribal bodysuit done by Samuel Christensen.

Japanese is the most well known style for creating bodysuits. Done by one artist, tied together with background work such waves, clouds, and other nature themes.

back by Shige at Yellow Blaze in yokohama. Sleeves unknown
Back and legs done by Shige at Yellow Blaze in Yokohama.
Guy Le Tattooer
The recognizable line work of Guy Le Tattooer.
Nissaco
Black work and geometric bodysuit done by Nissaco in Osaka.
Tomas Tomas Seven Doors London
Black work/tribal bodysuit done by Tomas Tomas at Seven Doors Tattoo in London.

More recently black work is becoming more popular for full bodysuits. Either heavy black work or smaller pieces.

Collaboration piece between Gerhard Wiesbeck and Little Swastika
Heavy black work torso and arm piece. A collaboration between Gerhard Wiesbeck and Little Swastika.
Jason Butcher immortal ink tattoo studio
Beautiful black and grey bodysuit done by Jason Butcher at immortal ink tattoo studio.
Paco Dietz Tattoo Artist, Oil Painter, Sculptor. Santa Clara, Ca
Colourful bio mechanical bodysuit done by Paco Dietz in Santa Clara, Ca.
Valerio Cancellier
Heavy black work done by Valerio Cancellier.

Similarly people get bodysuits of American traditional pieces. Hundreds of small pieces filling up a body to make it look more or less like one huge suit.

Cory Ferguson Good Point Tattoo Ontatio Canada
Geometric and dotwork done by Cory Ferguson at Good Point Tattoo in Ontario Canada.
Julian Siebert Corpsepainter Tattoo Munich:Germany
Arm, Back, and leg done by Julian Siebert at Corpsepainter Tattoo Munich, Germany.
PIERLUIGI DELIPERI
Black/geometric bodysuit done by Pierluigi Deliperi.

Black and grey, neo traditional, and realism styles are also being used for bodysuits now, making for eye popping artwork.

Duncan X
Black work torso and shoulders done by Duncan X in the UK.
Koji Ichimaru
Full body Japanese suit with lots of black done by Koji Ichimaru.
Rich Hadley UK
American traditional bodysuit done by Rich Hadley in the UK.

The word bodysuit may make you think of really a full body covered in tattoos, but it also refers to torso pieces that lead onto the arms, and/or legs.

Gakkin
Beautiful and heavy black work nature themed bodysuit done by Gakkin.
Lupo Horiokami Italy at mushin studio
Heavy black Japanese done by Lupo Horiokami Italy at mushin studio.
Rich Hardy UK
American traditional mostly black work torso and arms done by Rich Hardy in the UK.

Which bodysuit is your favourite?

Pug Tattoos:

Along with being adorable little snuffle faces, pugs also used to be treated like royalty. Emperors of China used to keep them as pets and pampered them to the extreme; sometimes giving them their own pug sized palaces and guards.

ADRIANA MALUQUER
Cute neo traditional pug with flowers done by Adriana Maluquer at Seny Tattoos in Barcelona.
Debora Cherrys Tattoo Madrid
Devilish pug done by Debora Cherrys in Madrid.
Jacob Doney
Sailor pug! Done by Jacob Doney.
Michael Patrick Milestone Tattoo. Pittsburgh:Tattoolisious Honolulu.
Realistic pug portrait done by Michael Patrick at Milestone Tattoo.

Pugs are thought to have originated in China and their lineage is said to go back to before 400 BCE, being related to a similar breed called lo-sze. Before Emperors started keeping pugs, Buddhist monks kept them as pets in their monasteries.

Bob Geerts at Bunker Tattoo in the Netherlands
Two pugs in American traditional style done by Bob Geerts at Bunker Tattoo in the Netherlands.
Debora Cherrys
Pug on vacation! Another done by Debora Cherrys in Madrid.
kevinbecvar Tattoo Artist: Freelance:toy collector $150:hr $900 full day. Temecula, Ca to Portland
Pug in a teacup by Kevin Becvar in CA and Portland.
Sam Ol Warsaw, Poland
Hipster pug done by Sam Oi in Warsaw.

The name pug actually comes from a kind of monkey called marmoset, which were nicknamed pugs. The two share similar facial features, and both are very cute!

Bob Lewis Town hall Tattoo Wilkes-Barre Pa
Pug portrait with frame done by Bob Lewis at Town Hall Tattoo in Wilkes-Barre Pa.
Ellie Tattoo artist PerfectImageWaterloo
Watercolor style pug in a hat done by Ellie at Perfect Image in Waterloo.
Laura Murphy LITTLE JOHN'S TATTOO IN GREENSBORO, NC
Geometric pug done by Laura Murphy at Little John’s Tattoo in Greensboro, NC.
sasha unisex
Bright watercolor pug done by Sasha Unisex in Rome.

Pugs make excellent companions due to their fun loving personalities. They’re great for a cuddle (if you can put up with snoring) and they won’t say no to a romp in the park either!

Christina Hock • Studio City • California • The Dolorosa Tattoo Company
Black pug in a donut! Done by Christina Hock at The Dolorosa Tattoo Company in California.
Horitomo
Pug with his own Japanese irezumi done by Horitomo.
Ly Alesiter
Pug with fruit done by Ly Alesiter.
stefan sramko Slovakian artist 🇸🇰 Living and working in Ireland 🇨🇮 tattoo artist at skin city tattoo Dublin
Realistic black and grey pug portrait done by Stefan Sramko at skin city tattoo in Dublin.

Which one is your favourite?

Homer Simpson Tattoos:

Homer Jay Simpson, beloved fictional father of the Simpson family. He was created by Matt Groening and named after his own father, Homer Groening.

Alex Strangler
Homer and his love of donuts done by Alex Strangler done in Venice, CA.
Josh Herman Blackwood Tattoo, Denver
Hyper realistic Homer from Treehouse of Horror episode recreating Stephen King’s The Shining. Done by Josh Herman at Blackwood Tattoo, Denver.
Matthew Hockaday
Homer and Krusty! Done by Matthew Hockaday.
winston thw whale
Chromatic shift, trippy Homer done by Winston (the whale).

Homer was born in 1956, and has been making the world laugh with his wacky antics since his t.v. debut in 1989.

Anna Plienko
Homer and a nice frothy Duff beer. Done by Anna Plienko.
Jasmine Keats •23 year old Tattoo Artist at Shogun Tats tattoo and piercing studio
Homer as Santa Claus, strangling Bart. Done by Jasmine Keats done at Shogun Tats tattoo and piercing studio.
Michela Bottin
Creepy ghost Homer done by Michela Bottin.
Zane Donnellan
Picasso inspired Homer portrait done by Zane Donnellan at STR Tattoo and Art Studio, Wyong, NSW, Australia.

Homer can often be seen either at home with his family, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie; at work with Mr. Burns, and Smithers, or at Moe’s tavern with his pals Moe, Barney, Carl, and Lenny.

Ariana Tormenta
Homer and Plopper sharing a carrot. Done by Ariana Tormenta.
Jed Squire Desbrow Vintage Inx
Young Homer in his grunge band, Sadgasm. Done by Jed Squire Desbrow at Vintage Inx.
Rodrigo Bittencourt de Azeredo
Super creepy Duff beer/Homer portrait done by Rodrigo Bittencourt de Azeredo.

Along with Moe’s tavern, some of Homer’s hangouts include Apu’s Kwik-E Mart, and Krusty Burger.

Atena Bazofia
Tattooed Homer and Marge done by Atena Bazofia.
JON SPROUL ネオン黒 NEON BLACK ➕ LA, CA - Clandestine Rabbit Tattoo
Neon Homer as Mr. Sparkle, his Japanese soap mascot. Done by Jon Sproul at Clandestine Rabbit Tattoo in LA, CA.
sassybury
Snuggly Homer in bed done by Chanel (sassybury).

Homer is most well known for his love of beer and donuts, and his job at the powerplant. BUT, Homer has also been a musician, an astronaut, a truck driver, actor, mobster, carny, coach, farmer, and so much more!

black bones custom tattoos UK
Fancy Homer portrait done at Black Bones Custom Tattoos in the UK.
Joshua Davis at Wicked Inklination
A Flanderised Homer from another Treehouse of Horror, done by Joshua Davis at Wicked Inklination.
Sebastion Camargo
Dot/linework zombie Homer done by Sebastian Camargo at Chronic Ink in Toronto.

As a tattoo, Homer is mainly done in a new school design, as he is a cartoon character. He can also be seen in neo traditional, American traditional, realistic, linework, hyper realistic, and blackwork.

Erin Davies La Belle Tattoo Studio Melbourne, Australia
Homer and his pink donut done by Erin Davies at La Belle Tattoo Studio in Melbourne, Australia.
Kelly Doty ▪️BOOKS CURRENTLY CLOSED▪️Ink Master Angels . Owner of Helheim Gallery. 28 Norman st, SALEM MA
New school giant headed Homer done by Kelly Doty at Helheim Gallery, in Salem MA.
Thomas Bates
Matching Marge and Homer linework portraits done by Thomas Bates at Five Keys Tattoo Studio, Norwich.

What’s your favorite Homer moment?

The Lord of the Rings Tattoos:

The Lord of the Rings, written by J.R.R Tolkien is one of (if not the) most iconic fantasy stories ever written. The story was written as a sequel to another novel of his, The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings was written in stages between 1937 and 1949.

Jesse Rix
Magnificent realistic back piece featuring Gandalf, Gollum, the ring, and the eye of Sauron. Done by Jesse Rix in Keene, NH.
Ben Kaye Tattooer & part owner of Ship Shape tattoo, New Zealand
Hyper realistic portrait of Gimli done by Ben Kaye at Ship Shape Tattoo in New Zealand.
Heath Clifford
Solid neo traditional hobbit hole done by Heath Clifford at Fat Ink Tattoo.
Kristian Kimonides Tattooist | Leviathan Tattoo Gallery | Melbourne | Australia
Elrond portrait done by Kristian Kimonides at Leviathan Tattoo Gallery in Melbourne, Australia.
Onnie O'Leary
American traditional Witch King done by Onnie O’Leary.

Tolkien fought in WW1, and this was extremely influential in his shaping of Middle Earth. As an example, WW1 was fought not by heroes, but by civilians. This reflects the hobbits who are quite literally the “little people”, who then step up to fight a war that they had not asked to be a part of.

Fong Vang Tattoo Artist @Inkarnate Tattoos 2211 11th ave E, #120, north Saint Paul, Mn
Black and grey portrait of Aragorn, featuring Gimli and Legolas. Done by Fong Vang at Inkarnate Tattoos in North Saint Paul, Mn.
Carles Bonafe
Terrifying portrait of Gollum and his precious. Done by Carles Bonafe.
Iliya Astafiev Tattoo Artist. N.Chelny city, Russia
Terrifying and realistic portrait of a nazgul. Done by Iliya Astafiev Chelny city, Russia.
Lauren Gibler Tattooer & Permanent makeup artist at Inkeeper_s in canton OH
Broken shards of Narsil. Done by Lauren Gibler done in Canton OH.
Róbert A Borbás
Graphic black and grey sleeve featuring Gandalf fighting the balrog on the bridge of Kazan Dum. Done by Róbert A Borbás done at Rooklet Ink, Hungary.

The films were directed by Peter Jackson, starting with The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. They were filmed back to back on location in New Zealand, making for fantastic landscapes and scenery.

Alex Rattray Owner:Artist at Empire Ink EDINBURGH
Hyper realistic colour portraits of Sam, Frodo, and the ring. Done by Alex Rattray at Empire Ink in Edinburgh.
Cody Young Emerald Tattoo
A very green ent done by Cody Young at Emerald Tattoo.
Izhar Rott Owner of Manifacto Amsterdam Tattoos
Black and grey Gandalf amidst a geometric background done by Izhar Rott Owner of Manifacto Amsterdam Tattoos.
Lauren Melina
Blackwork Barad Dur (dark tower) done by Lauren Melina done in Perth, Australia.
Samantha I Love Mom Tattoo Studio in Dovercourt Village, Toronto
There and back again, inspiration taken from The Hobbit book cover. Done by Samantha at I love Mom Tattoo Studio in Dovercourt Village, Toronto.

Some of the most popular characters include Gandalf, Frodo, Gimli, Legolas, Gollum (Smeagol), Sam, Aragorn, Elrond, Saruman, Witch king, and Sauron. Fantastic creatures include the ents, the balrog, and the nazgul. Popular items include the swords sting, and the shards of Narsil, as well as the Witch King’s flail, and quaint hobbit holes. Of course we also can’t forget the ring itself, which makes a stellar tattoo, especially when paired with a portrait.

Alexandra Skarsgård
Sting and flowers done by Alexandra Skarsgård in London.
Dan Mawdsley Pop Culture Tattoos in Melbourne✖️The Black Mark Tattoo Northcote
Black and grey Gandalf portrait done by Dan Mawdsley at Pop Culture Tattoos in Melbourne, Australia.
Jerome Chapman
Linework version of an ent. Done by Jerome Chapman.
Maksims Zotovs
Hyper realistic Gollum done by Maksims Zotovs.
Tony Sklepic Pop culture inspired tattoos and artwork. EDMONTON ALBERTA
Hyper realistic matching portraits of Saruman (and the eye of Sauron) and Gandalf. Done by Tony Sklepic done in Edmonton, Alberta.

Lord of the Rings tattoos are often done in a photo realistic or hyper realistic style, as well as black and grey, dotwork, linework, American traditional, and neo traditional.

artist--khail-tattooer--legolas-tattoo_17190113824
Black and grey Legolas done by Khail Tattooer at Young bloods Tattoo in Perth, Australia.
Dave Swambo
Witch King hand and Morgul blade done by Dave Swambo at Stronghold Tattoo in Cardiff, Wales.
Jess White
Bright and bold hobbit hole done by Jess White in Sacramento, CA.
Nick imms Fumbling through life. Owner of @thechurchtattoo ☦️
Gorgeous portrait of Frodo and the ring done by Nick Imms at the Church Tattoo.
Travis Stanley Ink City Tattoo Bonney Lake, WA Capitol City
American traditional Witch King and flail. Done by Travis Stanley at Ink City Tattoo in Bonney Lake, WA Capitol City.

Which do you prefer, the books, or the films?

Artist of the month: Gakkin

Gakkin is a (mainly) blackwork and freehand artist working out of Amsterdam after first working in Kyoto.

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Blackwork raven across the back of the neck.
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Large octopus sleeve and chest piece.
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Bodysuit featuring birds, flowers, wind, and clouds.
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Huge snake torso piece.

His pieces are all large scale. Full sleeves, large torso pieces, back pieces, and bodysuits.

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Gruesome namakubi (severed head), with hair that flows into an almost cloudlike state.
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Massive crane back piece with clouds, waves, and koi.
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Negative space stomach hannya as part of a full bodysuit of mainly solid black.
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Red flowers on heavy black leg sleeve, with white spider web.

He collaborates often now with another Japanese blackwork artist, Nissaco. The two work well together, and their pieces flow seamlessly into each other.

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Bright flowers within a dark backdrop.
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Chrysanthemum with Japanese noh mask.
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Back of a bodysuit featuring negative space geometric designs.
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Beautiful blackwork moon and cloud back piece.

His work is largely inspired by nature. Everything from wind, water, flowers, mountains, the sun, and the moon, and animals.

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Large brushstroke style.
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Geometric, blackwork sleeve.
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Large chrysanthemum as part of a sleeve.

Gakkin also takes direct inspiration from ancient Japanese painters, adding his own interpretations.

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Waves and wind in these nature sleeves.
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Part of a bodysuit featuring wind and waves.
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Bright red flowers on heavy black.

Though he mainly works with black, he does also add splashes of red to draw the eye. In an interview with Tattoo Life, he said about working with black “I believe that black is the most important color in tattooing. Every ancient tattooing culture – Maori, Japanese, and Polynesian – considers it as such. It just works better than any other color on the skin.” (www.tattoolife.com)

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kuchisake-onna ghost, from stories dating back to the Edo period.
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Tsuchigumo, the Japanese spider demon.
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Collaboration piece done with Nissaco at the London tattoo convention 2017.

Which piece is your favourite?

Snowflake Tattoos:

It’s the most, wonderful time…. Of the year!! Some people hate winter, some people love it. What we can all agree on though, is snow can be beautiful!

Niki Norberg Gothenburg, Sweden
Gorgeous hyper realistic black and grey/white hand snowflake and moose done by Niki Norberg in Gothenburg, Sweden.
B I C E M • S I N I K •• Tattoo Artist •• Istanbul.Turkey
Dotwork/geometric snowflake done by Bicem Sinik in Istanbul, Turkey.
Emil Supertramp
Dotwork head mandala/snowflake done by Emil Supertramp.
Karl Marks
Lots of pink in this one. Snowflake landing on a flower done by Karl Marks.
Maksims Zotovs
Realistic Jack Frost portrait tattoo and snowflake done by Maksims Zotovs.
Mattia Mambo
Newschool snowflake design by Mattia Mambo.
Sasha Unisex
Watercolour snowflake with mountains done by Sasha Unisex.

Snowflake tattoos are often done in a realistic, dotwork, black and grey, or bright/new school style.

Alexandra Baksza
A painful palm snowflake in dotwork style by Alexandra Baksza.
Banul seoul south korea
Elegant micro tattoos done by Banul in Seoul, South Korea.
Georgina Ostheimer Munich, Germany
Tiny finger snowflake done by Georgina Ostheimer in Munich, Germany.
Lucky Bella
Blue foot done at Lucky Bella tattoo shop.
Marilyn Studio Curitiba
Hand mandala and snowflake done by Marilyn at Studio Curitiba.
Olaf Botel
Dark blackwork snowflake done by Olaf Botel.
Shanna Keyes
Dotwork/linework wrist snowflake done by Shanna Keyes.

Each snowflake tattoo here is unique, just like the real deal!

August Thompson
Bright blue and white snowflake leg piece done by August Thompson.
Caro Walch
Dotwork penguin and snowflake background done by Caro Walch.
Kevin Koskela
Dotwork negative space snowflake done by Kevin Koskela.
Madrid Pablo Torre
Micro tattoo snowflake done by Pablo Torre in Madrid.
Martin Wilkström
Fantastic hyper realistic locket and snowflakes done by Martin Wilkström.
Sára Reichardt, Wonderland Tattoo, Budapest, Hungary
Snowflake and leaves on the sternum done by Sára Reichardt, at Wonderland Tattoo, in Budapest, Hungary.
Simona Blanar
Bright and colourful snowflakes done by Simona Blanar.

Which is your favourite?

Frida Kahlo Tattoos:

Frida Kahlo was a painter born in Mexico in 1907. She mainly painted self portraits, but many were heavily stylized, and some based on current pop culture.

Alix Ge
American traditional portrait done by Alix Ge in France.
Victor Montaghini
Sketchwork style done by Victor Montaghini.
Amanda Troy
Portrait in a heart done by Amanda Toy in Milan, Italy.

Her art explored questions of gender, identity, class, race, and postcolonialism in Mexican society.

Bob Mosquito
Geometric, dotwork deer piece by Bob Mosquito.
Sue Jeiven
Blackwork style done by Sue Jeiven.
Christophe Bonardi
Neo traditional portrait with roses done by Christophe Bonardi.

Frida’s art has been called surrealist, and magic realist. Her paintings are praised today by feminists for their depictions of the female experience and form.

Dennis Gutierrez
American traditional portrait done by Dennis Gutierrez in Barcelona.
Susanne König
Blackwork/dotwork portrait done by Susanne König.
Eric Moreno
New school skeletal portrait done by Eric Moreno at Birdhouse tattoo in Madrid.

Frida became an artist during recovery after she was injured in an accident when she was eighteen.

Esther de Miguel in Berlin
American traditional portrait by Esther de Miguel in Berlin.
Wina Brasil
Black and grey portrait done by Wina Brasil.
Fredão Oliveira
Blackwork geometric, dotwork portrait done by Fredão Oliveira in Brazil.

She became interested in politics in 1927, and joined the Mexican Communist Party where she met her husband. The two divorced in 1939 but did re marry.

J Swan
Mostly black and grey portrait done by J Swan.
Jessica Damasceno
Trash polka portrait done by Jessica Damasceno.

Frida traveled Mexico and the United States, and was given a solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1938, which was a massive success. This was quickly followed by another exhibition in Paris the following year.

kirsten wonderland tattoo Portland Oregon
Frida as a deer done by Kirsten in Wonderland Tattoo in Portland Oregon.
Logan Aguilar
Realistic day of the dead sugar skull version of Frida done by Logan Aguilar.

Frida had her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953.

Mariusz Trubisz
Beautiful surrealist portrait done by Mariusz Trubisz.
Megan Massacre
Unfinished realistic portrait done by Megan Massacre.

She died the following year at the age of 47 due to bronchopneumonia.

Mike Grant
Skeletal portrait done by Mike Grant.
Paul Aherne
Blackwork portrait done by Paul Aherne.

Though she was relatively well known in certain circles during her lifetime, her work wasn’t appreciated the way it is now until the 1990’s, when her paintings became icons for feminists, Chicanos, and the LGBTQ community.

Sebastian Brade
Bright and colorful portrait done by Sebastian Brade.
Steph Hanlon
Colorful geometric piece done by Steph Hanlon.

Which is your favourite?

Tattoo History 7: China’s Hainan Province’s Tattooed Li Women

The Li people live in Hainan Province, China’s most southern point. Tattoos in Hainan can be traced as far back as 3000 years ago. Hainan is often referred to as “The Tail of the Dragon”, as it is the most southern point of China, though also used to be called one of the eyeballs of China (along with Taiwan when it was a part of China) as it is an island province.

Li face tattoo 1980
Li woman’s face tattoo, taken in the 1980’s.

According to one German ethnologist (branch of anthropology that compares and analyzes the characteristics of different peoples and the relationship between them), Hans Stübel, the origin of their tattooing came from a story about a descendant of the original Li. This descendant of Li had a daughter whose mother died early in the child’s life. When this happened, a colourful native bird called the hoopoe fed the child with grains to keep her alive. In remembrance of this, the Li women tattoo themselves to look more like the birds, both in their colour and the patterns of their wings.

Li geometric tattoos of a Basaadung Li woman from 1930
More geometric face tattoos, specifically of a Basaadung Li woman from the 1930’s.

Others still believe that the women tattooed themselves in order to be recognized in the afterlife.

A more practical reason that these women tattooed themselves, particularly on their faces, is the fact that their villages would be attacked often by many of their neighbors. In order to appear unattractive to the invading men, the Li women tattooed quite intricate designs on their faces and down their necks. Making themselves appear less attractive protected them from violence and rape.

Li married and un married women with leg and hand tattoos from 1930
Married and unmarried women, all with leg tattoos, and some with hand tattoos. Taken in the 1930’s.

Later on in history though, these women saw the tattoos as an enhancement to their beauty. When a girl turned 13 or 14, an older woman would tattoo her, first on the nape of her neck, then her face and throat over the course of 5-7 days. Then, over the next 3 years, she would continue to be tattooed along her arms and legs. The only thing that interrupted this would be the death of a family member. Once a woman married, her hand would also be tattooed, marking her as a married woman.

Li old woman
More beautiful geometric face tattoos, taken in the 1980’s.

Like many ancient cultures, the Li used a bamboo rod, with rattan needles to hand tap the designs into the skin. The patterns used did vary from tribe to tribe, but all used motifs taken from nature, such as plants, animals, and totemic symbols passed down through generations.

Li progress tattoo
Geometric face tattoo in progress. The old tattooing the young.

Information taken from:

-Carrie E. Reed. “Tattoo in Early China.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 120, no. 3, 2000, pp. 360–376.Liu, H. (1939).

-“Hainan: The Island and the People.” The China Journal 29(5-6): 236-246; 302-314.

-McCabe, M. [and Q.Y. Wang] (2008). “Tattooed Women of Yunnan, China.” Skin and Ink Magazine (11): 64-74.

-Stϋbel, H. (1937). Die Li Stämme der Insel Hainan: Ein Betrag zur Volkskunde Sϋdchinas. Berlin: Klinkhardt & Bierman.