Gallows Tattoos:

Gallows as we think of them today usually consist of two upright posts and a crossbeam from which a rope with a noose at the end hangs, usually with a trapdoor that will open, or something for the hanged person to stand on that gets pushed or kicked out from under them. But this traditional version of the gallows was not documented until 1760 in England.

Cool gallows and coffin by Devon Rae in Orange County, LA
Medieval style gallows by Osang brutal in Seoul, South Korea.
Beautifully detailed gallows by Ilja Hummel in Essen, Germany.

Gallows throughout history also refer to crucifixion during the Romans rule, and in the Middle Ages in Paris a square structure with wooden columns from which people would hang in the elements before being dropped into a pit to die.

Gallows over a fire done by Maciek Walczyk at Zaraza Tattoo in Warsa, Poland.
Single gallows post by D. Cobb at Gold Irons Tattoo Club in Brighton, UK.

Gallows in their most notable form are meant to break the persons spine, killing them instantly, but often people died by strangulation or even beheading. Until 1832 in England many people were hanged by being drawn up from the platform by a heavy weight, causing death by strangulation which would have been very slow and painful.

Cheeky hanging skeleton by “tippingtattoo” at Township Tattoo.
Rectangular gallows by Ewa Lidtke.

Public hangings were very popular and were even treated as good old entertainment for the whole family. In fact, the last public hanging in the United States was only in 1936, with the last public hanging in the United Kingdom taking place in 1868.

Single noose and post by Amber Ida at Seven Tattoo Studio.
Gallows and crows on a cloudy day by Levi Polzin at Thunderbird Tattoo in Los Angeles.

As a tattoo, gallows are often done in heavy blackwork, pointillism or dotwork, American traditional, or black and grey. Gallows tattoos are popular with people interested in the more macabre side of life, and many artists who create darker imagery use gallows as a common theme.

Killer back piece with gallows and a badass demon done by Osang in Seoul.

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Guillotine Tattoos:

For those who are unfamiliar, the guillotine is a device made for execution by beheading. The structure consists of a tall wooden frame from which a razor sharp and heavy blade hangs ready to fall on its victim who is placed in a stock of sorts, leaving the neck exposed and ready to be separated from its body.

Bloody guillotine by Larry Coffins at Toronto Ink
Woodblock print style guillotine done by Baynez Graff at Pinecone Gallery Tattoo

The guillotine as we know it was allegedly invented by Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin as a more humane way to execute people. It was significantly quicker than even regular beheading by axe which could be easily botched and would often take two or more swings to finally kill the victim. This specific name “guillotine” dates back to 1789, France, but similar devices with different structural designs existed for centuries before; such as the “planke” in Germany and Flanders dating back to the Middle Ages, and the “Halifax Gibbet” in England which may have been used as far back as antiquity. But the French guillotine design was specifically based off of two other existing execution devices; the “mannaia” from Italy during the Renaissance, and the “Scottish Maiden” from Scotland which was used from the 16th to 18th centuries.

Bold heavy black and dark red guillotine done by Hudson at Lock and Key Tattoo in the UK
Bright and colourful American traditional guillotine on fire with skulls done by Chin at Common Ground Tattoo in Bangkok

Dr. Guillotin was apparently horrified when the device was named after him, and his family even tried (and failed) to have the name changed in the early 19th century. The French Guillotine claimed its first victim in April 1972, and its last use was in France in 1977 where it was still the main method of execution until capital punishment was stopped in 1981. While hundreds of thousands of people met their bloody end underneath the glinting blade of a guillotine, the most infamous time of its usage was during the French Revolution which took place from September 1793 – July 1794. During this relatively short time a shocking 16,594 people were executed by the guillotine in France, with 2,639 in Paris alone.

American traditional guillotine with demon and skulls done by Chris Spriggs at Iron and Gold Tattoo
Black and grey traditional guillotine with flower done by Lizzy Michelle at Pacific Tattoos in Eindhoven, Netherlands

Public beheadings existed from the beginning of the French Revolution until 1939 in France, but during the Revolution it was extremely popular for anyone, including families to check out an execution and even grab a bite to eat at the famous  “Cabaret de la Guillotine” before watching the bloodbath. There was even a well known trio of women called the “Tricoteuses,” who used to sit next to the guillotine and knitted in between executions. Theatrics even became popular for those being executed with some dancing on their way up the steps, and others offering jokes and sarcastic remarks before their heads rolled away.

Black and grey guillotine on fire done by Mike Marion at Grizzly Tattoo in Port’s End, OR
Broken blackwork guillotine done by @phil_bomb_ in Seoul

As tattoos, guillotines are popular with those interested in the darker side of life and history buffs alike. They are easily recognizable and can be done in many styles including American traditional, neo-traditional, black and grey, blackwork, and woodblock print styles. They are often accompanied by decapitated heads, skulls, flowers, flames, and blood.

Blackwork guillotine and head done by Laura Alice Westover
“Keep your head up” and guillotine done by Luke Nicou at Lucky Luke’s Traditional Tattooing, Port Elizabeth/Gqeberha, South Africa

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Tanuki Tattoos:

The tanuki is an animal found mainly in Japan, as well as other parts of Asia. It’s sometimes called a raccoon dog in English, and is related to wolves, foxes, and domestic dogs, and has a vaguely raccoon-like appearance. 

Tanuki and flowers by Josh Wright at Moonlight Tattoo in Seattle
Black and grey tanuki by Joshua Burd

While the tanuki is a real animal, it is usually depicted as a creature with magical powers in Japanese folklore. It’s usually seen wearing a straw hat, holding a bottle of sake, with a large belly, happy or mischievous facial expression, and extremely large testicles (which, according to legend can stretch large enough to create sails for a boat).

A very happy tanuki face by vale.rip in Italy
A more mischievous tanuki riding a carp done by dang0__ at The Alchemist Tattoo

Tanuki’s are mischievous creatures and enjoy playing pranks on humans and tormenting them. One way they do this is by transforming themselves into happy looking Buddhist monks, then mocking and imitating the humans during ceremonies to both confuse and delight. 

A more neo-traditional tanuki done by Macy Tattoos at Kaya Garden Tattoo
Tanuki and its lantern done by Byron Barker at The Body Architects in Cape Town, SA

They also enjoy transforming into tax collectors or police officers and showing up at peoples homes at odd times, accusing them of made-up crimes or pressuring them into paying additional or fraudulent taxes.

A chubby tanuki and a bottle of saké done by kelu in Stuttgart, Germany
A happy looking tanuki done by Matthew Crimson at Crimson Tattoo

As a tattoo tanuki are usually done in a traditional Japanese style, sometimes accompanied by flowers or other creatures. Neo-traditional and black and grey are also popular styles for tanuki, and are sometimes only shown as a happy face instead of the full body.

Tanuki and his large testicles and a drink, done by Lance Vilbro at Little Tokyo in Sydney, Australia
Another more Neo-traditional tanuki, with his saké done by Megon Shoreclay at Hidden Hand Tattoo

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Grinch Tattoos:

The Grinch; one of Christmases most beloved fictional characters is also a popular choice for holiday themed tattoos. 

A neo-traditional Grinch done by Iris Lys at The Foundry Leeds
Realistic cartoon Grinch done by Sol Aguiar at Suka Tattoo Studio in Madrid, Spain

The Grinch was created in 1957 by Dr. Seuss for his book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” This was followed by the animated adaptation in 1966, starring Boris Karloff as the voice of The Grinch and the narrator. While there were a number of other adaptations created, the next most well-known version was the live-action musical film from 2000, starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch.

Jim Carrey’s Grinch done by Will Woods at Peppermint Hippo Tattoo in Lethbridge, Alberta
The original cartoon Grinch done in a simple black and grey style by Kay A, Bowman at Freedom Tattoo in Ipswich

The Grinch is a popular character for many, and for different reasons. For some it’s the heart warming ending in which The Grinch rights his wrongs and becomes a part of the Who community, but for others its his earlier persona that makes him so popular. His Christmas hating, gift stealing, Who scaring personality makes him both amusing and sometimes relatable, as Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many.

Old school Grinch done by Alex Duquette at Tatouage Royal
Old school baby Grinch done by Kyle Gonzales at Faithful Tattoo in Bellingham, WA

As a tattoo, The Grinch is often created in a more realistic style, but neo-traditional, new school, black and grey, and old school are also options for the wearer. 

An adorable baby Grinch done by Megan Fell in the UK
New school Grinch done by Joshua Wilson

Did you know that Jim Carrey had to spend 92 days in his Grinch costume and make-up? It took about three hours every day to get ready in make-up, and he had to get special training from a CIA trainer (who teaches CIA operatives how to endure torture) to be able to manage the oppressive costume and make-up which was reportedly “literally like being buried alive everyday.” The actors and extras who played Whos had to go to a special Who-School to learn how to properly behave and act as a Who, mainly through choreography. Actor and singer Taylor Momsen (Gossip Girl and The Pretty Reckless) got her start playing Cindy Lou Who, where she did a great job both acting and singing. 

Jim Carrey’s Grinch hand and ornament done by Jessica Wallace at Avon Tattoo Collective
A new school version of Jim Carrey’s Grinch done by Marlen Mckey at Betobeto Tattoos

What’s your favourite version of the Grinch?

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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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Artist of the Month: Hattie Rich

Hattie Rich is an artist working out of Rose of Mercy in London, England. Her work is mainly filed with old school traditional work, but she also does great ornamental pieces. 

classic swallow and rose
Bold crab lady on the neck

Hattie has lots of flash to choose from, both old school and ornamental, or you can also bring your own idea!

Elbow spider-web
Black and grey swallows and flowers

Whether you like bright and colourful, or black and bold, you can be sure Hattie will have something you’ll love. In her flash you’ll find lots of lady heads, flowers, dragons, animals, and more. 

Sleeping kewpie and rose
Hand of glory

The ornamental work currently on Hattie’s Instagram will remind you of delicate lace patterns, and can be made to fit most parts of the body.

Ornamental hand piece
Geisha and dragon

If you can’t make it all the way to London from outside of the UK you can also purchase merchandise and flash from Hattie here. But if you’re in the area or live nearby be sure to get a cool piece from Hattie at Rose of Mercy.

Black and grey Coleman lady
Classic lady and spider-web

Edited by Harrison. R.

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Witch Tattoos:

Witches have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, and span across all cultures in various forms and with different names, but we’re all familiar with them, and they’re more popular than ever (in Western culture at least).

A witch being burned at the stake done by Uncle Phil at Wolf and Dagger tattoo, UK
A witch and her staff done by Moira Ramone Rotterdam, Netherlands

Witches and witchcraft have had many different meanings over the years, but traditionally it refers to women (often portrayed as old crones) practicing some kind of dark magic that often involves spirits and/or satan himself. Throw in some cannibalism, a pet familiar, and other ghosts and ghouls and you’ve got yourself a party.

A neo-traditonal witch being burned at the stake done by Renae Haak at Diabolik Tattoo in Newcastle, Australia
A witch being burned at the stake by Bex Priest Tattoos

Wicca is a predominantly western movement whose followers “worship” nature, and base the religion upon pre-Christian traditions of mainly Northern and Eastern Europe. Some important celebrations for Wiccans include Halloween, the summer solstice, winter solstice, and vernal equinox.

A witchy woman done by Ryan Murray at Black Veil Tattoo in Salem MA
A witchy woman done by Matthew Murray at Black Veil Tattoo in Salem MA

Witchcraft and witches have become so mainstream today that even businesses such as Sephora, Urban Outfitters, and others sell products like tarot cards, witch-themed makeup, Ouija boards, crystals, and more.

A witch being burned done by Nikos Tsakiris at the Golden Goat Tattoo
A more American traditional witch done by Alice Burke at Highwater Gallery in Swansea, UK

As a tattoo, many people choose the more “classic” witch look; pointy hat and all. Blackwork, American traditional and black and grey are some of the more popular styles for witches, and many folks choose to get witch burning tattoos, witches haunting places, or witches with their broomsticks or familiars.

An adorable witch head done by Amanda LaForest at Momentum Tattoo Florida
Black and grey witch/plague doctor done by Julianna Menna at Gristle Tattoo in Brooklen, NY

Do you have a witch tattoo?