Artist of the Month: Galina

Galina is a vintage non-electric (hand poke) tattoo artist based out of Moscow (though she does guest spots world wide when she’s able to).

Inspired by vintage photos
Beautiful geometric and vintage Russian woman and Church

Her work is largely inspired by old school tattoos done in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, which includes lady heads, portraits, weapons, animals, etc.

Large hand poked tea party
Clown featuring rare hand poked colour

 Galina’s work is primarily inspired by both Russian and French prison tattoos, again mainly from the 18-1900’s. 

Well placed tower on the back of the head
A classic dagger and heart

Along with more old school work, Galina also does great geometric work, particularly on fingers for full hand pieces. Because the work is hand poked it allows her to do more detailed work then a machine could do, particularly in such a small space as a hand.

Lute player
Traditional Russian woman

Most of her work is done without colour, but if you’re wanting some red thrown into the mix she can do that for you. Many people think hand poked tattoos have to be small, with very little detail, but Galina is proof that hand poked pieces can still be big and bold. If you’re visiting Russia Galina is a must visit artist! And pay attention to her Instagram to find out her guest spot dates.

The perfect combo, wine and cheese, with geometric fingers
Inspired by vintage French art

Edited by Harrison. R.

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Black Out Tattoos:

Black out tattoos have been growing in popularity over the last few years, with some people even getting full body suits in this style.

Sleeve and chest piece by 3Kreuze at Ruin Your Life Tattoo in Germany
Negative space black out work by Hoode Tattoos at Black Vulture gallery in Philadelphia

Black out tattoos are exactly what they sound like, large amounts of black ink as the subject, sometimes covering older existing tattoos.

Heavy black out work by Dekalcomanu in Toulouse, France
Fresh black out sleeve by Lukasz Melcher at Stygmat Tattoo

Some black out tattoos also feature some geometric style work mixed in, or white ink over top of the black.

Geometric black out work by Guy Le Tattooer at Sigue Sigue Sputnik
Geometric black out work in progress by Kenji Alucky at Black Ink Power in Berlin

Many black out tattoo collectors do it in part for the experience of getting the tattoo, as a full blackout (especially as a coverup) can be very painful, creating an almost spiritual experience for the person getting tattooed.

Black out sleeve with white ink flower by Miguel Vanacore at Black Club Tattoo
Black out half sleeve by Xiao Lun at Hailin Tattoo studio in Los Angeles

Most artists who do black out tattoos specialize in it, as it’s not actually all that easy to make a full sleeve or torso look even in its blackness, especially when the piece is done in multiple sessions.

Full black out sleeve by Joe Larralde at Historic Tattoo in Portland, Oregon
Black out sleeve around some existing work, by Kalle Koo at Paradise Helsinki

What do you think of black out tattoos?

Sak Yant Tattoos:

Sak Yant tattoos are well known to tattoo lovers as a mainly Thai Buddhist form of tattooing. “Sak” means “to tap” or “to tattoo”, and “yant” comes from the Sanskrit word “yantra” which has many meanings. Usually referring to a “machine”, “instrument” or “apparatus”.

Bodysuit done by ajannookanpai.yant in Thailand
Ajannookanpai.yant blessing a finished tattoo in Thailand

Most people who have heard of Sak Yant tattoos are familiar with them because of their tie to Thai culture, but this specific form of tattoo actually comes from the Khmer people of Cambodia.

Healed work by ajannookanpai.yant in Thailand
Back Sak Yant done by Chai at Adikt Ink Lexembourg

Sak Yant tattoos are very closely tied to religion and spirituality, mainly Buddhism. Most Sak Yant tattoos are performed by Buddhist monks at a temple where they can bless the tattoo properly. But the Sak Yant designs are becoming so popular that tattoo artists are doing them, just without the blessing or spiritual connectedness that accompanies the tattoo when done by a monk.

Back Sak Yant done by Oj Jo at 113ink Tattoo in Thailand
Back Sak Yant done by Ken Tip at Yant Studio

Much of the script featured in Sak Yant designs come from Buddhism and are meant to be a chant or a mantra. This is why it’s important to research what kind of Sak Yant you would like, as they all carry different meanings.

Back Sak Yant done by Sebastian Lydford at Love and Light Tattoo
Back Sak Yant done by Arjarn Fluke in Thailand

While Sak Yant pieces can be for anyone to wear, it’s important to understand the religious and cultural significance of the piece, and make sure you are getting the tattoo in a respectful way, including the placement of the piece. Since Sak Yant’s are largely Buddhist, it can be seen as highly disrespectful to tattoo the design anywhere below your waist, particularly if it includes a design featuring Buddha.

Back Sak Yant done by Arjarn Fluke in Thailand
Finger Sak Yant done by Kike in Barcelona

Edited by Harrison R.

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Tattoo History 18: Bert Grimm

Bert Grimm was one of the most influential American tattooers of the early 20th century, getting started in the tattoo business at the age of about 15. Grimm first started hanging out at tattoo shops in Portland, Oregon, but his first job was working at the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. After working and traveling with sideshows he secured his first apprenticeship in the early 1920’s with Sailor George Fosdick in Oregon, and later he completed a two year apprenticeship with Sailor Charlie Barrs in Los Angeles.

Astraea painting by Bert Grimm and posted by Bert Grimm Official
Leo Lipe tattooed by Bert Grimm. Posted by Vintage Tattoo Archive

Throughout his 70 plus years of tattooing Bert worked in Chicago, Honolulu, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Seattle, Los Angeles, Long beach, St Louis, Portland and Seaside Oregon, and even in China. He also worked with some of the other greats of the time such as Domingo Gulang, Charlie Barr, Tatts Thomas, Red Gibbons, Walter Torun, Bob Shaw, Percy Waters, William Grimshaw, Col Todd, Owen Jensen, and others. 

Bert Grimm tiger by Darren Quinn at Sang Bleu Tattoo in London
Ed Caldwell and Bert Grimm, posted by Vintage Tattoo Archive

Bert’s World Famous Tattoo was a historic shop that he ran in Nu Pike in Long Beach, CA from the 1950’s through the 60’s where hundreds of sailors were tattooed before shipping out. 

Bert Grimm’s Sundancer
Bert Grimm suns by Hans Blue Arms at Blue Arms Tattoo in Oslo

Bert was inducted into the Tattoo Hall of Fame which was located at Lyle Tuttle’s Tattoo Art Museum in San Francisco. He retired in Seaside, Oregon but continued to tattoo out of a small shop in his home, doing around 10 tattoos a week according to a letter written to Paul Rogers.

Ed Caldwell’s back tattooed by Bert Grimm and posted by Bert Grimm Official
Crucifixion back by Bert Grimm on Jack Flux and posted by Bert Grimm Official

Some of Bert’s most well known pieces include the Sun Dancer, the smiling sun, and Lyle Tuttle’s Duel in the Sun. Other popular designs from him include tiger heads, ships, and patriotic pieces for those in the military. 

Sailor Larry’s Homeward Bound back done by Bert Grimm posted by Bert Grimm Official
Lyle Tuttle’s Duel in the Sun by Bert Grimm

Do you have a Bert Grimm Tattoo?

Blog post edited by Harrison R.

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Hyottoko and Okame Tattoos:

Hyottoko and Okame are an endearing and comical pair of peasants that have been a part of Japanese folklore for centuries. They are two of Noh theatres most beloved characters and both are portrayed using very stylized masks.

Black and grey piece of them together by David Sáez
Okame by Owen Yu in Suzhou China

Hyottoko is a male character with an oddly shaped face, prominent cheeks that are red from drinking too much sake, with one eye larger than the other, pursed lips, and a white handkerchief with blue dots tied and knotted around his head and under his chin.

Hyottoko by Jeff Ma at Ukiyo Ink in Winnipeg
Hyottoko by Christos Serafeim in the UK

He is a kind peasant spirit who according to legend could remove gold from his navel and spit fire through a bamboo tube that he always brings with him. This tube is also why he is usually depicted with pursed lips as though perpetually ready to blow fire through his tube. He is also described as a drunkard who enjoys dancing and parties. The handkerchief around his head is also a nod towards him being a drunk as toothaches were common from drinking too much.

Hyottoko and flower half sleeve by Wootattoo_1 at Authentink Tattoo Studio in Australia
Okame and Hyottoko flash by Maiz Art

Okame is a female character (also sometimes called Otafuku) with a smiling face and large cheeks. She also has white makeup and red lips, in the style of a geisha. 

Okame by Rocky Burley at True Nature Tattoo Studio in Arcata, CA
Okame by Alec at Gastown Tattoo Parlour, Vancouver

She is meant to bring happiness and enjoyment, and also embodies the ideal of feminine beauty. Okame is also often associated with geishas because of her playful nature and more silent and secondary role in theatre and folklore. 

Okame by Jeff Ma at Ukiyo Ink in Winnipeg
Hyottoko and Okame by Baku Zumi in South Korea

Do you have a Hyottoko or Okame tattoo?

Edited by Harrison R.

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Tattoo History 17: Shanghai Kate

Kate Hellenbrand AKA “Shanghai Kate” AKA “America’s Tattoo Godmother” got started as one of America’s most well known female tattooers in the early 1970’s, and still tattoos now (though she is semi retired). She works out of Holy Work Tattoo in Austin, Texas, and works tattoo conventions with her husband.

Classic rattlesnake
1970’s flash

Kate has worked alongside some of the greatest American tattoo icons of the 1900’s including Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, Jack Rudy, and Ed hardy, and was also good friends with the late Lyle Tuttle. 

Classic pinup
Black cat and 13 for Friday the 13th

Kate has a background in art and became interested in tattooing when she lived in New York with her partner Michael Malone at a time when tattooing was actually illegal in the city. The two worked out of an apartment and would hand out business cards to anyone they came across who had a visible tattoo. Tattooing was difficult at the time, and they even had to make machines using parts bought at bike shops, or pretend to be nursing students to acquire medical equipment.

Crossed pistols and desert themed florals
1970 Jack Grice, Kate, Thom Devita, Sailor Sid

In 1972 Kate was invited to be one of the seven tattooers at what was the first international tattoo convention in Hawaii that was hosted by Sailor Jerry. This group was called “The Council of the Seven.” This lasted around one week, but when the other tattooers left, Kate stayed behind to work with Jerry for a number of weeks. Sailor Jerry was notoriously protective of tattoo culture and disliked most newcomers to the industry particularly women, but Kate seemed to be an exception and was welcomed wholeheartedly and taught a lot.

Bright and bold dragon
Fortune Teller

As well as still occasionally tattooing, Kate also sells tattoo memorabilia including old flash from the greats, tattoo books, and also gives talks at tattoo conventions around the US. 

Kate’s signature added to an old back piece by Sailor Jerry
Kate tattooing that same signature

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Battle Royale Tattoos:

The Battle Royale is an old school design that consists of an eagle, a snake, and a dragon, all battling it out to be number one (sometimes it is depicted as an eagle vs a snake, or even other animals fighting).

A more neo-traditional take on the Battle Royale by Sergio Latorre at Octopus Tattoo
Classic colours in this Battle Royale by Tim Pausinger at Pearl Harbor Gift Shop

This design has been passed down for generations through tattooers and tattoo collectors, usually as quite a large design like a full back piece, chest, or stomach, but also as smaller work on arms and legs. 

Black work Battle Royale by Nico at El Furgón Tattoo Parlour
Colour Battle Royale by Rudi Ridgewell in Worthing, England

This most famous design was tattooed on D.C (Dave) Paul by Huck Spaulding and Paul Rogers, though there are a few older designs that are bit different. One was tattooed by George Burchett when he was working with Japanese artist Hori Uno in his shop in London, and the other by Percy Waters in Detroit. Ben Corday’s version is also quite popular.

Black work Battle Royale by Gil Guerra at Heart of Oak Tattoo in Belgium
A more neo-traditional Battle Royale by Erich XXX in Buffalo, NY

The Battle Royale is an American traditional design that has clear roots in Japanese tattooing as well as American. It was designed to represent the eternal struggle of keeping balance, particularly between the East and West, but life in general as well. Everything in life requires balance and hardship. This is a battle that will never be won.

Bold and colourful Battle Royale by JF Bourbon
Spaulding and Rogers version by Leonardo Maria Cardinali at Fat Cat Studio in Viterbo Italy

Most people choose to get this piece in full colour as the first wearers of the tattoo would have, but it also looks great without colour, or as a more neo-traditional piece. 

Black work Battle Royale by Alban at Lig Neverte Tattoo in Montréal
A very bright Battle Royale done by Alfy Iglesias at Old Ironside Tattoo in Honolulu, Hawaii
Ben Corday’s Battle Royale by Rich Hardy

Edited by Harrison R.

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Tattoo History 15: Myanmar

Tattoos have long been an important part of Myanmar (Burmese) culture. Legend has it that tattoos were first introduced to what was then called Burma around 200 BCE by ethnic minorities that migrated to the area from southwest China. 

Yaw Shen, who got her tattoos at the age of 15, entertains visitors by playing the nose flute, also a vanishing art. (Credit- Dave Stamboulis)

Tattooing was/is a very important part of belonging to Myanmar, and everyone from the kings to commoners would get work done, and continue to do so even today. Early on tattoos were a way of showing off masculine strength as well as feminine beauty, on top of cultural identity and aesthetic appeal. Lots of tattooed people also believed (like many ancient cultures) that tattoos would serve as a protection from evil and that they (tattoos) could protect the wearer from harm. Being largely a Buddhist country (90% of the population is Buddhist), Buddhist tattoos have also been important in the area. Tattoos related to Buddhism would often be created at temples by monks, thus ensuring that the wearer would be protected from harm. 

M’kaan woman (Credit- Dave Stamboulis)

Early on in Myanmar’s history it was mainly the Shan, A Ta’I ethnic group that were getting tattooed the most frequently. The Shan States still dominate Northeast Myanmar today. Men would mainly get their waists down towards their knees tattooed as a sign of virility. Early on it’s believed that both men and women were tattooed frequently, but by the mid 1600’s only women were mainly receiving facial tattoos, particularly women of the Chin State in Western Myanmar. The women of the M’uun tribe are easily recognizable with the looping “P” or “D” shaped tattoos on their faces, along with the “Y” on their foreheads. The M’kaan women have lines on both their foreheads and chins. There are six tribes in total in the area where facial tattoos were popular for women, though sadly in the 1960’s this practice was outlawed and when these women pass away a piece of history will die with them. 

M’uun woman (Credit- Dave Stamboulis)

Below are a few charts that show what kind of person was getting what kind of tattoo, and where on the body, with regards to military action. 

Other common motifs for tattooing in Myanmar include cats of various sizes from house cats to tigers, dragons, geometric patterns, and figures from Myanmar’s and Buddhism’s history and culture. 

Information from “Tattoo Art in Myanmar Culture: Special Reference with State Bondsmen of Cavalry Corps 2016” written by Moe Moe Oo from the Ministry of Education, Myanmar, and 

Tattoo Art in Burmese Cultures: History, Technique, Design, and Symbolic Functions of Tattooing in Burma/Myanmar 

9/1/11 to 11/20/11 Northern Illinois University School of Art DeKalb IL

Edited by Harrison R.

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Tattoo history 14: Percy Waters

Percy Waters was a well-known American tattoo artist from the early 1900’s. Born in 1888, in Anniston, Alabama, he was (allegedly) first introduced to tattooing through the sideshows of traveling circuses that passed through his hometown. At the time he was learning the trade of molder, and tattooing locals became a hobby on the side. 

Man tattooed by Percy Waters from Docks Weird Years
Percy Waters at work, featuring Pharaohs Horses. From Gabriele Donnini

He’s known to many as a Michigan artist, and not from a small town in Alabama, due to the fact that in 1917 he tattooed someone he shouldn’t have and got in trouble. He left Anniston and moved to Detroit, Michigan. He built up a successful tattoo business where he also sold supplies to other tattoo artists. In 1929 he even got a license for his tattoo machine design, which was an adjustable two-coil electromagnetic machine that hasn’t changed too much in modern tattoo machines. It had also taken almost 55 years (from 1875) for the tattoo machine to be adjusted after Edison’s machine. In 1939 he moved back to Anniston and ran what was most likely the biggest tattoo supply company in the world at the time until his death in 1952. 

Two men tattooed by Percy Waters
Man tattooed by Percy Waters in 1921

Percy was very modest and was known to call himself “just a good tattooer”; However, he was quite well known regardless of his humility, particularly in the sideshow world where he tattooed “tattoo attractions” such as; Bobby Smith, Red Van, Detroit Dutch, Shelley Kemp, Clyde Williams, and Mrs. Ted Hamilton among others. 

Percy Waters flash from 1923 from Docks Weird Years
Battle Royale painted by Percy Waters from Docks Weird Years

His style stays true to early 20th century old school designs. With classics such as portraits of women, dragons, eagles, snakes, panthers, good luck symbols, ships, and more. His original designs are still redrawn often today, and many contemporary artists are heavily inspired by him in their own styles. 

Percy Waters design by Ryan Cooper Thompson
Percy Waters flash from Docks Weird Years

Some of the most well-known tattoos he did were Pharaohs’ Horses as a back piece, an image of a woman riding an eagle, and whole-body suits made up of patriotic American pieces coupled with images such as butterflies, flowers, dragons, snakes, and ladies. 

Percy Waters business card from Celluloid Dreams
Percy Waters business card from Celluloid Dreams

Do you have a Percy Waters tattoo?

Edited by Harrison R.

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