Artist of the Month: Duncan X

Duncan X is a old school artist whose inspiration comes from early photographs of old school tattoos. These photographs are of course all in black and white, so the tattoos appear black even if they were colourful. This led to Duncan tattooing in only black.

Bold anchor and rope.
Lock and chain.

He is one of the most popular artists in London, and he works out of Old Habits Tattoo shop.

Filler rib piece.
Lines and lines on a portrait tattoo.

Duncan was born and raised in London in the 60’s and was introduced to tattoos through the punk scene. Artist Dennis Cockell taught him tattooing and helped him shape his unique style.

Black work castle.
Full sleeve done by Duncan X.

While Duncan uses mainly old school motifs for his source of inspiration, his style resembles medieval wood carvings and is distinctly working class.

Foxes on feet.
An evil and beautiful looking crow.

To learn more about Duncan and see his own tattoos watch David Penn’s short film here.

Another back done by Duncan X.
Torso in progress.

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Sun Dancer Tattoos:

The Sun Dancer tattoo is an easily recognizable American traditional design, first painted by Bert Grimm, a pioneer of American traditional tattooing who worked from around 1916-1970. An important part of Indigenous history and culture, the Sun Dance is a spiritual ceremony that was and is still very important to different groups, primarily to those of the plains cultures in America and Canada.

Sun Dancer with eagle and heads by Fabio Onorini.
Blackwork back done by Clemens Hahn.

The ceremony is a gruelling but important one, primarily (though not entirely) performed by males. The dancer fasts, going without both food and drink for days at a time, while dancing around a sacred fire and traditional pole meant to represent the sun. Others drum and sing prayers while the dancer dances until exhausted.

Sun Dancer true to Bert Grimm by Kim-Anh.
Backpiece true to Bert Grimm by Gustavo Silvano.

As part of the ceremony, piercing and suspension is also common. This involves a leader piercing rods into the chest or back of the dancer, while they drag a bison head until the skin rips. Other variations involve horses pulling at the rods, or the dancer being suspended from the pole by the rods in their skin. This inspired modern suspension.

Blackwork interpretation by Flurick Ruslan.
Cute foot Sun Dancer by Heath Arnolde.

Often times the dancer would become delirious and hallucinate both from the physical and mental exertion, topped with dehydration and extreme hunger. Unfortunately the ceremony was banned in Canada in 1885 under the Indian Act, but the ban was dropped in 1951, though Indigenous people continue(d) to be treated unfairly. Today the Sun Dance is still performed by some communities.

Sun Dancer with dragon in this piece by Florian Santus.
Big thigh Sun Dancer done by Nick Griffiths.

One of the first examples of this ceremony being painted is Bert Grimm’s Sun Dancer flash and tattoo. The original painting depicts a girl dancing with her left knee raised, right hand holding a spear, with a shield depicting a bald eagle in her left hand. A red sun and traditional roses make up the background.

Sun Dancer and dragon by Rich Hadley.
Skeletal Sun Dancer by Roger Oliveira.

As the design was first made by a pioneer of American traditional tattooing, it is mainly tattooed today in the same style. Though people do take artistic liberties, sometimes including animals or other flowers, and even changing the subject of the tattoo. It is often done as a back tattoo, but can also be seen on arms and legs, usually as still large pieces, though through adaptation artists have created smaller pieces as well.

Punk interpretation in a painting by Miguel Neils.
A more neo traditional animal version of the Sun Dance by Robson Nagata.

To read more about the Sun Dance please check out https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sun-dance

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Tattoo Artist Couple: 1

Couples who tattoo together stay together!

Demons and monsters by Osang
Three witches spinning the threads of human destiny done by Sojung

Osang and Sojung are a South Korean couple who tattoo at Hysteric Garden, Seoul, and also do guest spots around the world, including America, Canada, Australia, Europe, and Taiwan.

Burning candle, skull, and magic hand by Osang
A goat and its brides done by Sojung

Both artists specialize in black work that is heavy on detailed lines, and macabre subject matter. As Halloween is right around the corner, they are a perfect pair to get a couple of tattoos from!

Burning church set ablaze by a mischievous demon, done by Osang
A burning witch done by Sojung

You can bring in your own ideas or get an original piece from either of them.

Torture device and a big ole bug done by Osang
Guillotine by Sojung

The couple do lots of specifically occult pieces such as demons, devils, black goats, witches, etc. They are also happy to tattoo more traditional Korean designs such as tigers and ravens if that’s more your style.

A meeting with a demon done by Osang
A dance with the devil by Sojung

If you want a one of a kind, detail oriented black work piece, look no further.

A witchy hanging done by Osang

Anatomical human by Sojung
Traditional Korean tiger done by Osang

Medieval torture by Sojung
Beheading done by Osang
Demonic Angel by Sojung
Gallows and face done by Osang
Vision of the valley of dry bones by Sojung
Gallows in Hell done by Osang
Three eyed goat by Sojung

Keep an eye out on their Instagrams for their travelling guest spots, or pop in while you’re in South Korea. @osangbrutal @goatblackeyed you can find their emails for bookings on their individual Instagram accounts

Getting Tattooed in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is probably the most interesting city I’ve ever been to. It’s by far the most multicultural, and it’s full of rich and interesting history.

Hong Kong also has a fantastic art scene with artists from around the world finding their style and inspiration in and among Hong Kong’s towering skyscrapers and narrow, winding streets filled with irreplaceable noodle shops, the all-important umbrella repair store, and a thriving tattoo scene.

Arguably some of the best artists in the world reside in Hong Kong, at some of the best and most interesting tattoo shops I have been to yet. This past month I received three different tattoos from two different artists at two different shops in Hong Kong.

Star Crossed tattoo

If you’re getting a tattoo in Hong Kong there’s a good chance you don’t live there and are either just passing through or visiting for a short time. I currently live in mainland China and though it’s only a short train ride into Hong Kong, it is a hassle, and it’s not called the world’s most expensive city for nothing. These two factors combined mean I have only spent around a total of eight days or so in the city, even though I’m so close.

If you are a visitor to the city like myself, then you’ll want to find your artist and get ahold of them well before your visit. I mainly use Instagram to find artists I want to go to, and a quick search on the old gram of “hktattoo” will yield seemingly endless results.

The Company tattoo

Alternatively you can google tattoo artists or shops in Hong Kong and you’ll have similar results. There are a number of artists and shops that will appear first in your searches such as Star Crossed, The Company, Freedom Tattoo, MoFo Tattoo, and Blackout, to name a few. For my own tattoos I chose Star Crossed and The Company.

If you prefer to find your shop one of the old school ways you can also wander through the streets and find ones to walk into, but there’s no guarantee artists will be available as Hong Kong is a bustling place. If you want to find yours by walking then your best bet is taking the metro into Kowloon or Central and starting from there.

The Company tattoo

Once you find your shop and artist send them an Instagram message or email if they prefer and find out if you need a consultation or if you can start talking designs and prices straight away. If you are coming from outside of Hong Kong there is a good chance you’ll have to pay your deposit through PayPal, and this is common practice. I did so for my tattoo on Japan and Hong Kong, both.

Tattoo day has come finally and you’re excited, and possibly nervous if it’s your first tattoo. If you are getting your first tattoo and it’s in Hong Kong I have a few tips for you. 1. If you are like myself and not used to blistering heat then you’re going to want to drink a fair amount of water before your tattoo, and bring a cold drink with you as even with AC some places in Hong Kong can be pretty hot. 2. Sanitation in parts of Asia, including Hong Kong, are a little different compared to Western cities, so you’ll want to make sure the shop has hygienic practices, and afterwards you’ll want to do a good job washing your tattoo with soap and hot water. 3. This one is again to do with the heat. If you’re a sweater then you’ll really want to make sure you clean your tattoo twice a day to make sure it’s not getting caked in sweat while it’s trying to heal.

Myself and Cathy from Star Crossed

At Star Crossed Tattoo I was tattooed by their resident apprentice and local Hong Konger, Cathy (as of July 2019). Cathy tattoos in an American traditional style with an HK twist. I got some script and a good luck piece from Sailor Jerry’s Hong Kong flash that Cathy updated a bit and made her own. If you’re going to get a Chinese character tattoo, make sure you can read it, or get it from an artist who fluently reads and writes the language (that goes for getting a tattoo in any language you don’t actually speak). And this goes both ways, I have also seen people in China with English words tattooed on them that make absolutely no sense. Don’t be that person. The script I got reads jiāyóu, which literally means “add oil”, but is used to say “you got this” or, “keep fighting”. Cathy’s work is often inspired by punk music, and she has many punk rock pin-up ladies you can choose from to get tattooed on you. She mixes old school motifs with a bit of a Neo-traditional colour scheme. Meaning my Sailor Jerry piece has some popping blue and green in there in addition to the black, red, and yellow. Cathy is extremely friendly and Star Crossed has an open and inviting atmosphere. I highly recommend checking it out.

A Sailor Jerry re work done by Cathy
Chinese characters from Cathy

The next shop I visited was The Company. I was tattooed by black work artist James Lau, another Hong Konger, born and raised. James tattoos in a heavy black work style, using thick, bold lines and dark shading to create stunning original pieces. James is known for tattooing finger and palm pieces that really last. James is also a very friendly guy, joking and inviting as soon as the door of the shop opens. The Company has a similar open-floor plan to Star Crossed, so the whole place is very free and open feeling. The Company is also a must visit shop in Hong Kong.

James and the finished product on me!
Heavy black work piece on the back of my neck done by James

Krampus Christmas Tattoos:

You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry… Krampus is coming and he’s much less forgiving than jolly old St. Nicholas.

Done byA dam Hathorn at Big Troube Tattoo in North Park San Diego.
Done by Erin Mealing at Golden Rule Tattoo in Arizona.
Done by Moira Ramone, at 25 To Life Tattoo in the Netherlands.

Krampus is the demonic, German counterpart to St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas is the original Santa Claus; the patron saint of children. European cultures did (and to some degree still do) celebrate(d) St. Nicholas early in December every year. But equally fear(ed) Krampus; the Christmas demon who punishes children. He is usually seen as a massive beast, similar to a Greek satyr or faun, but much more menacing.

Done by Adam Rosenthal in Littleton CO.
Done by Mark Heggie
Done by Morg Armeni Lacrimanera Tattoo Saloon in Firenze.

Krampus stands anywhere from six to eight feet tall, has dark fur with matching long dark hair, huge sharp horns, a long forked tongue, and large hooves.

Done by Ally Liddle Tattoos Newcastle.
Done by Matthew R. Macri

Similar to Santa, Krampus also carries bells, lulling children into a false sense of security. He also carries a bundle of long birch sticks so he can beat children.

Done by Chong Tramontana
Done by Rodney Davis at Westside Tattoo Company.

He saves the worst punishment for the naughtiest children though. Children who are particularly bad get dragged down into the underworld in his large sack to be tortured. Just a bit worse than a lump of coal!

Done by Cody Reed at High Caliber Custom Tattoos in NC.
Done by Rylee West Anderson at Neon Dragon Tattoo in Cedar Rapids.

Krampus arrives on December fifth, which is also known as Krampusnacht. The next day is when St. Nicholas arrives and rewards all the good children.

Done by Debora Cherrys.
Done by Elliot Wells

Krampus is becoming more and more popular thanks to movies and tv episodes dedicated to the beastly Christmas character. People are always looking for a new way to celebrate Christmas, and for those who like the darker side of life, Krampus has become their own Santa Claus.

Done by Anthony Burkhead
Done by Jack Quadri

As a tattoo, Krampus is often done in blackwork style to emphasize how dark and menacing he is. Though American and Neo traditional styles are also quite popular. Krampus is also usually just depicted as a head, but is sometimes seen full-bodied and carrying children in his sack.

Done by Beebo at Rick Walter’s World Famous Tattoo.
Done by Matt Nemeth in Richmond VA.

Who will you be hoping to see this Christmas season; Santa, or Krampus?

Getting a Tattoo in China:

So you’re travelling to China, or maybe living there short term like myself, and you want to get a tattoo. This might be a more different experience than you’re used to in Western countries, and it’s good to do your research.

Some flash on the walls of Sick Rose

I’m living in Shenzhen, but travelled to Shanghai for a week, where I was tattooed by Kai at Sick Rose Tattoo.

Kai drawing up my dragon head.

Before getting to Shanghai, I found Sick Rose on Instagram so I could check their quality of work, and I was very happy with what I saw. All of the artists there are professional and do quality work! The shop mainly deals with old school style pieces. Strong bold lines and bright colours that will last a lifetime.

Cute shop cat

I messaged the shop before arriving and talked to Kai to make sure I could do a walk in. Sometimes you may want to actually schedule an appointment if you have a specific day in mind, but if like me you need to keep your schedule open, then make sure the shop takes walk ins. 

Dragon head hand drawn by Kai.

If you don’t speak Chinese then it’s also important that the artist you go to can speak some English. Everyone at Sick Rose speaks English and they are all very friendly. Kai was very professional and a soft spoken guy. 

Stencil ready to go on my ribs

I had my ribs tattooed, which took around three hours, and he made it as good an experience as possible, considering the painful placement. I also had one of the shop cats sleeping on me for most of my experience, which was a good distraction. Back in the West cats wouldn’t be allowed into shops, but here in China you come to expect the unexpected. The shop did follow all other health protocols, such as using new needles and ink, and wearing gloves the whole time. This is important to check as I know many shops in China don’t follow Western health standards as closely. Since Sick Rose followed everything else by the book I was able to overlook the shop cats since I had followed them for so long and seen the healed results, with no issues. On day four now and my own piece is healing nicely. 

Finished product next to my stomach piece.

I highly recommend Sick Rose and Kai if you are in Shanghai! Always be sure to thoroughly research a shop before going, especially when visiting another country. Happy tattoo collecting!

Close up of the finished piece!
One more shop cat sleeping on another client getting her elbow tattooed.
Check out Kai’s Instagram at  https://www.instagram.com/kai.tattooer/

Artist of the Month: Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith works out of Cry Baby Tattoo in Sheffield, England. Kelly mainly does American traditional pieces, but also works in black work and Japanese styles.

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Bloody panther head and a deadly looking snake.
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Some gorgeous pink peony’s paired with solid black filler in a forearm half sleeve.
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Some old school flowers for a bold neck piece.
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Badass scorpion ready to sting for this side neck piece.
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Japanese kitsune, or fox spirit.

Kelly’s work is bright and bold as hell, mixing the traditional themes of Americana and Japan with the bright colours of a Neo-traditional style.

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Some classic clasped hands and trad flowers on the collar bone.
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Traditional geisha wearing a beautiful kimono.
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Anchor featuring Neck Deep lyrics.
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Good luck horseshoe and some mountains done in blackwork style.
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Badass Sailor Jerry inspired piece.

If you’re looking for a banging one off then Kelly is the one to see, but don’t be shy about getting a big piece! A back or torso design will be a brilliant addition to your collection.

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Toad getting that zen life.
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Lots of green in this gorgeous back piece featuring Eve and Lucifer with that dratted apple.
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A painful spot for a mean looking eagle.
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Wicked snake head with some bright colours.
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Very painful looking old school piece featuring a tiger and a snake battling it out.

If you happen to find yourself in the Sheffield area Kelly is one to visit. I know I will!

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Blackwork lady and rose.
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Namakubi hand banger. Gorgeous blue tones in that bloody head.
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Another peony, featuring a cute old school butterfly.
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More pink peony’s and solid black. These pieces are great for some heavy contrast.
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Sick traditional dragon looking ready to get into some mischief.

You can find Kelly on Instagram at @kellysmithtattoos

Vlad the Impaler Tattoos:

Bram Stoker based his fictional character, Dracula, on the real person with a taste for blood, Vlad the Impaler. Vlad III, the Prince of Wallachia, was born in 1431 in what is now Transylvania.

ryan murray Salem Ma. identical twin. co-owner of @blackveiltattoo
Terrifying portrait in heavy blackwork style done by Ryan Murray at Black Veil Tattoo in Salem Ma.
Melissa Vargas in Costa Rica
A bloody Vlad with impaled skeletons done by Melissa Vargas in Costa Rica.

Now to his gruesome nickname. Vlad invited hundreds of people to a banquet, people who were questioning his leadership, and had them stabbed, then impaled on spikes. According to legend he then continued to eat while watching his guests twitch as they slowly and painfully died on large spikes.

Done at Black Book Tattoo Romania
Vlad and the castle done at Black Book Tattoo in Romania.
VT at The Amber Rose Tattoo
Zombified Vlad head in American traditional style done by VT at The Amber Rose Tattoo.

Vlad is also credited with impaling dozens of Saxons in 1456, as well as a group of Ottoman men. The latter refused to remove their turbans for Vlad, and Vlad commended them on their belief, saying they would never be apart from their turbans again, reportedly nailing their turbans to their skulls.

Jason Herring at Inkaholics art Studio
Realistic black and grey portrait with some red background done by Jason Herring at Inkaholics Art Studio.

Though there is much uncertainty surrounding Vlad, it is confirmed that he did die, unlike the numerous Dracula stories. Vlad was killed during a raid, but there is much debate as to where his tomb is.

Jelle Jansen at The Office Tattoo
American traditional Vlad portrait done by Jelle Jansen at The Office Tattoo.

Many lovers of horror choose to get tattoos of Vlad, the “original” Dracula. Most tattoos are portraits, often blackwork or American/neo traditional.

Lisa Orth
Beautiful line work piece with Vlad and impales bodies, made to look like the old wood carvings. Done by Lisa Orth.
vlad impaler
Wood carving of Vlad eating while watching his guests being impaled.

Which tattoo is your favourite?

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?