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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Hamsa Tattoos:

The Hamsa has gone by many other names including the eye of Fatima, the hand of Fatima, and the hand of Miriam to name a few. In terms of visual appearance the Hamsa is an open hand with an eye in the middle. The Hamsa is usually worn as protection, specifically against the Evil Eye.

Floral Hamsa flash by Joey Ramona at Under My Thumb Tattoo in Toronto
Micro Hamsa by EQ Tattoo in Seoul, Korea

Today this design is mainly seen as an important Jewish symbol but it has been interpreted by many scholars as Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and even as a pagan symbol of fertility.

Neo-traditional Hamsa by Ceci at Trenton Point Tattoo
Micro Hamsa by Camilo Leal Tattoo in Bogotá Columbia

Two of the Hamsa’s other names (referencing Fatima or Miriam) link this ancient symbol closely to Judaism and Islam. Fatima is the daughter of Mohammed, and Miriam is the sister of Moses.

Geometric Hamsa by Jutta Carter at Martins Custom Tattooing
Geometric/dot work Hamsa by Meg Evans in Shrewsbury UK

One of the oldest depictions of the Hamsa comes from a 14th-century Islamic fortress in southern Spain, on the Puerta Judiciaria, or, “Gate of Judgement.” There are also those who believe the Hamsa has its roots in Christianity through the virgin Mary whose hands are often seen in a “fig” pose. Then there are historians and professors who believe the Hamsa doesn’t come from religion at all, because there are Palaeolithic caves in France, Spain, Argentina, Algeria, and Australia with paintings of the hand.

Hamsa, flowers, and gems by Sarah Thirteen at Black Lodge Tattoo Studio in Bournemouth, UK
A more old school Hamsa by Cari at True Blue Electric Tattoo in Knoxville, TN

As a tattoo the Hamsa is often done in a black and grey or fine line, but neo-traditional and geometric patters thrown into the mix are also popular. Many people wonder if it’s ok for them to wear a Hamsa, whether it’s a tattoo, on a necklace, or a t-shirt, and the short answer is yes. It can be culturally insensitive to wear it without understanding what it means, but as so many religions and cultures have ties to it, it really can be for anyone, as protection is a universal theme.

Micro Hamsa and other work by Marjolein Evens at Garden of Eden Studios in Hasselt, Belgium
Geometric/dot work Hamsa by Ozz Tat in Mexico

Do you have a Hamsa tattoo?

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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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Centipede Tattoos:

Centipedes make great tattoos because of the versatility in their shape. They can be long and straight or wrap around other existing tattoos.

Creepy one done by Filosh Tattoo at Pink Machine Tattoo
Black and grey centipede with eyes done by Rafel Delalande at Seven Doors Tattoo in London

Centipedes are creepy enough on their own but they can be made even more terrifying by using skulls or heads to make up the body.

Centipede made with heads done by Ganji at Capital Tattoo in Australia
Old school centipede done by Ashley Thorne at Tattoo Bug Studio

People get centipedes tattooed on them in a number of styles; mainly old school, black work, Japanese, or neo-traditional.

Centipede and flowers done by Jessica Paula at Kelz Ink Kingdom in Yorkshire UK
Lady head centipede done by James Mckenna at Golden Panther Tattoo

Many people choose centipedes as a gap filler due to their shape, and they can also be done quite small or as a huge statement piece.

Chain and skull centipede done by Marlee Natale at Modern Moose Studios
Old school centipede done by Eli Fakes at Brass Monkey Tattoo in Ohio

Do you have your own centipede tattoo?

Skull centipede done by Johan Navarro in Guadalajara Mexico
Heavy black work centipede done by Gara Tattooer at Lighthouse tattoo in South Korea

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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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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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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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