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?

Tattoo History 8: Myanmar’s Tattooed Chin Women

All pictures are by Eric Lafforgue, not myself.

There are 135 different ethnic groups in Myanmar. One of them is called Chin, after the Chin state that they live in. Each of these groups has rich cultural traditions. The Chin people are known for their remarkable face tattoos. The women of Chin state have been getting face tattoos since the eleventh century according to legend.

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The tradition of tattooing the faces of girls started when a Burmese king visited the area. Becoming enthralled with the young women he kidnapped one young girl to be his bride. The elders then decided to tattoo their young girls faces to dissuade other men from stealing them. It is also said to make them more beautiful, and to be able to tell them apart from the women in other tribes. The third legend of the beginning of face tattooing is that local pastors told them only those with face tattoos would get into heaven. This being after the area was colonized by British missionaries.

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There are different tattoo patterns for different groups within the Chin state. For example, the M’uun women have more sloping, curved shapes, the Yin Du have long vertical lines that cross the entire face, and the Uppriu have their entire face tattooed full of dots.

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As with most of these ancient tattoo traditions, it is extremely painful to get them done. The tattoos are made using leaves, grass, and soot. The leaves are used to make colour, the soot is sued as a disinfectant and binding agent, and the grass shoots are later used to wrap the tattoo, giving a natural bandage. The tattoo is given using long, sharp cane thorns. The face would stay swollen for 5-7 days, but it was all worth it for the beauty and tradition!

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The government banned getting these tattoos in the 60’s, but some women still practise this ancient tradition since they are so far from the capital.

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The women who still have their face tattoos love them and see them as a beautiful addition to their bodies. The younger generations don’t seem to like how they look for the most part, but the older women stick together and still admire each others art.

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Winnipeg Artist 11: J. Majury

J is the owner of First String Tattoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works in a number of styles including black and grey, Polynesian, black work, realism, Japanese, and neo traditional.

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Fantastic coverup with deer skull, flowers and a book!
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Massive peacock. Look at those details in the tail feathers!
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Realistic black and grey Japanese Kitsune and skull.
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Big sugar skull inspired rib panel.

He does both large and small pieces, from sleeves and back pieces to tiny one shot pieces!

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Creepy crawly head tarantula.
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Some feathers and an awareness ribbon.
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Healed black and grey lighthouse.
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Viking themed frost giant on a bloody rampage!

You can check out his flash on his Instagram or in person and choose something cool, or talk ideas with him!

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A lovely loon covering up some old script.
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Neo traditional lady head.
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Japanese koi fish as a chest panel to lead onto a half sleeve.

As well as working in Winnipeg, J also guest spots in Saskatoon at Rites of Passage Tattoo.

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Neat drawn on Polynesian inspired piece.
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Polynesian elephant.
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Bright neo traditional owl!

If you’re looking to have some ink removed he can also do that for you as he does laser tattoo removal right out of the shop. If you’d rather have a piece covered up he does lots of that too.

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Brilliant brightly coloured sleeve with some skulls and flowers.
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Healed Where the Wild Things Are themed piece.
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Realistic black and grey snow leopard.

He has an incredible attention to detail and is sure to make you happy with any style you choose.

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Huge flower for a coverup.
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Fresh and healed. Sugar skull and a more nature themed skull.
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Healed shots of an octopus sleeve.

J is a must visit artist in Winnipeg or Saskatoon!

Artist of the month: Samuel Christensen

Samuel is a German artist who has been tattooing since 2008. He has tattooed in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Thailand. New Zealand was where he cemented his interest in Maori/Polynesian tattooing, which is what he mainly does now.

Blackwork100
Full bodysuit, including hands and feet. Lots of blackwork is incorporated into this Polynesian style suit.
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A front angle of the same suit.
B23
Dotwork style forearm piece.
Dotwork1
Dotwork/mandala full back piece and 1/4 sleeves.
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Polynesian neck piece makes for a bold design.
Sudsee48
Half sleeve including the chest, with traditional Polynesian folklore faces.

Samuel is drawn to the thick bold lines and black work of Polynesian tattoos, and the possibility of creating full bodysuits in this style. Along with Polynesian work, Samuel also does dotwork and blackwork pieces, including lots of mandalas and henna inspired pieces.

B11
Bold hand designs with some blast over work above.
B29
Full sleeve, heavy on the black!
B30
3/4 sleeve, right up onto the shoulder.
Blackwork12
Polynesian sleeve with some dotwork mixed in.
Sudsee3
Full leg sleeve.

Most of Samuel’s work is large, half or full sleeves, back pieces, and even full bodysuits. Though he will do some smaller designs, mainly mandalas.

B20
3/4 sleeve in Polynesian style.
B41
Half sleeve with some dotwork up top and into the chest.
B48
Full leg sleeve, top fresh bottom healed.
Mandala9
Stand alone mandala.
Sudsee43
Incomplete 3/4 sleeve including the armpit.

Samuel works out of his studio in Ravensburg, Germany.

B21
Intricate finger designs.
B55
Mandala dotwork sleeve.
B57
Geometric back piece.
Mandala100
Mandala sleeve.
Sudsee46
Beautiful blackwork/dotwork back piece.

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?

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.