Artist of the Month: Tony Torvis

Tony Torvis is the owner of Mortem Tattoo in Montréal, Canada. His work consists of traditional old school designs without colour, making his clients look like the brilliant black and white photographs of days long past.

Full sleeve with hand
Battle Royale on the stomach

Tony’s work is reminiscent of the great tattooers of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s but is still recognizable as a Tony Torvis piece. 

Full back featuring a dragon and ladies
Beautiful chest piece

Expect crisp clean lines and bold, powerful motifs such as dragons, snakes, lady heads, portraits, and flowers. There is original flash in the shop to choose from, or you can bring your own idea to him, or re-create an old piece of historical flash.

Pharaohs cats as part of a back piece
Angelic ladies

Tony’s Instagram page is full of both large and small scale work, from chest pieces to full backs, sleeves, and little filler pieces.

Full front torso, some healed some fresh
Bert Grimm sintered chest piece

You’ll also notice from his Instagram page that the majority of clients are repeat customers. Tony’s tattoos are kind of like chips, you just can’t stop at one! Mortem tattoo is a must visit shop if you’re in the area, and there are other brilliant artists working there as well.

Two sleeves in progress
Full back featuring ladies

Edited by Harrison R.

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Butterfly Lady Tattoos:

Combining classic old school portraits of ladies and the wings of butterflies has long been a staple in old school tattooing. Flash from such legends as Bert Grimm, Ben Corday, and others from the 1800’s and 1900’s featured variations of the designs below, and more.

Back design done by Kasper_ftw in Seoul South Korea
Black and grey chest piece done by Rich Hardy in the UK

Portraits of women are one of the most popular images in tattooing, as are butterflies. Combining the two beautiful designs makes sense, and can form an elegant tattoo that stands the test of time.

Black work back piece featuring a butterfly lady atop a skull, alongside two at the bottom done by Paul Dobleman at Black Heart Tattoo in California
Butterfly lady head done on the hand by Reuben Todd at Kapala Tattoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba

One of the most popular ways for this design to be tattooed is a woman’s head with butterfly wings sprouting from behind, to the left and right.

Stomach butterfly lady head done by Francesco Ferrara in Rome
Butterfly lady atop a heart done by Blair Maxine Mckenna in Perth Australia

These butterfly ladies can also be seen more like fairies, with the bodies of women and butterfly wings.

Butterfly lady with a hidden face done by Capilli Tupou at Sunset Tattoo in Auckland New Zealand
Black work butterfly lady head done by Kim-Anh Nguyen-Dinh at Seven Seas in the Netherlands

Old school American traditional is the most common style for this design, but black work, black and grey, and Neo-traditional are also popular.

Black and grey butterfly woman done by Jade Harper at House of the Rising Sun Tattoo in Winnipeg
Butterfly lady head on the chest done by naughtyjam_tattooer in Taipei, Taiwan

Do you have a butterfly lady on yourself?

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Artist of the Month: Roblake

Roblake is an artist specializing in black work designs with mainly old school motifs. Working out of Dead Slow in Brighton, Roblake also sells merchandise such as prints and clothing here.

Sweet filler head piece.
Matching hands

Roblake has a very distinctive style, taking inspiration from old school flash while adding his own flare that includes detailed line work and sometimes soft and delicate shading inside of tough looking pieces.

Beautiful nesting doll
Big one shot chest dragon

He is particularly well known for his knife designs, whether they be a sharp singular switchblade, a row of daggers, or a knife through a skull.

Healed row of knives
Devil and lady

Along with tattooing, Roblake has an extensive tattoo collection, and also does some clothing modelling.

Burning cop car and getaway car
Healed forearm pieces

If you’re in Brighton or passing through, Roblake is a must see artist, or, if you can’t visit, check out his online store.

Beautiful peonies
Big stomach piece

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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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Japanese Blackwork Tattoos:

Japanese is undeniably one of the most popular tattoo styles, but heavy black pieces are changing the game.

Blackwork wave sleeve mixed with geometric patterns by Raimundo Ramìrez.
Spirited Away’s Yubaba done by Stephen Doan.

Japanese tattoos traditionally use lots of red and black, but also feature some yellows, orange, and shades of grey. Basically the same colour palette as original American traditional.

Blackwork tiger back done by Takizomoro.
Samurai Hannya done by Daniel Ra.

Blackwork is becoming a more and more popular style all the time, and can be done in many styles.

Blackwork leg sleeves done by Guy Le Tatooer.
Blackwork cloud sleeves with geometric patterns done by Gakkin.

Japanese blackwork often makes great use of negative space, making the subject pop, particularly when done on lighter skin tones.

Blackwork Bodhidharma by HoriNami.
Blackwork peony and snake sleeves by Lupo Horiōkami.

Some artists also mix styles such as Neo-traditional and geometric with their Japanese work. Both of these styles are often done as all black pieces, so it mixes well.

Blackwork namakubi by Damien J. Thorn.
Blackwork fish by Horihiro.

Which tattoo is your favourite?

Blackwork negative space sleeve by Oscar Hove.
3/4 sleeves and chest panels by Gotch.

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10 Black Tattoo Artists to Support:

There is unfortunately still quite a bit of subtle (and not-so-subtle) racism in the tattoo industry. It’s often believed that customers with darker skin are harder to tattoo, but that’s certainly not the case. Especially as body modification is such an important part of all cultures and histories, not just white ones.

Tony at West 4 Tattoos in NYC. Specializing in fine line and micro tattoos.https://www.instagram.com/anthologytattoos/?hl=en
Another by Tony. From A Tribe Called Red album cover.
Kandace Layne in Atlanta. Specializing in line and dot work https://www.instagram.com/kandacelayne/
Chest done by Kandace.

Black ink is also not the only ink that has to be used on dark skin, contrary to what many believe. Darker skin can still feature bright and colourful pieces. you just have to know what you’re doing with that tattoo machine.

Jaz Paulino with a piece inspired by Frida Kahlo. https://www.instagram.com/gentle_jaz/
Berry’s by Jaz.
Coverup by Kat in California who does lots of realism and gothic work. https://www.instagram.com/kattatgirl/?hl=en
Unfinished black history leg piece by Kat. Featuring Rosa Parks and Malcolm X.

More tattoo artists should push themselves to learn how to tattoo different skin types, including darker skin, as the subculture of tattooing isn’t so “sub” anymore. It can be disheartening for black or tanned customers walking into a tattoo shop when all they see is flash painted on white paper, and portfolios filled with white skin, or only very dark tattoos on darker skin.

Dark Mark by Brittany in Toronto. Specializing in line work. https://www.instagram.com/humblebeetattoo/
Delicate fingers by Brittany.
Miryam Lumpini in LA with a neo traditional scar coverup. https://www.instagram.com/miryamlumpini/
Cute neo traditional red panda by Miryam.

(June 2020) With the world finally rallying beside our black brothers and sisters it’s more important than ever to support black businesses, including tattoo artists.

Craig Foster at Skinwerks. Specializing in new school. https://www.instagram.com/skinwerks/?hl=en
New school pizza coming at you from Craig.
Tee J Poole. Specializing in surrealistic tattoos.https://www.instagram.com/teejpoole/?hl=en
J. Cole portrait by Tee J.

Feel free to leave more links to black tattoo artists below!

Healed plants by Doreen Garner in NYC Specializing in black work and fine line tattoos. https://www.instagram.com/flesh_and_fluid/?hl=en
Tiger by Doreen.
Melody Mitchell who does lots of black and grey and water colour pieces.https://www.instagram.com/melodytattoos/?hl=en
Mandala by Melody.

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Artist of the Month: Bert Krak

Bert Krak is a tattoo artist working out of Smith Street Tattoo in New York City.

Full back done on model Cat Mcneil.
An Ed Hardy inspired full front piece.

Bert is a highly sought after tattooer for collectors of classic American traditional tattoos.

Panther and stars by Bert. Butterfly and dice by Chad Koeplinger.
Full dragon back piece.

In addition to tattooing, Bert also makes finely crafted tattoo machines.

Back of the head banger.

He has been collecting antique tattoo flash since he started tattooing, and uses these pieces of history to influence his own designs.

Healed chest and fresh butterfly.
Classic battle Royale back piece.

While sticking close to traditional iconography, Bert still has a distinct style in terms of colour palette and heavy lines.

Tiger head on the hand.
Matching peacock calf pieces.

If you’re passing through New York, or live nearby, be sure to set up an appointment with him. You can check out his work at his Instagram here.

Healed eagle, wolf, and panther. With a fresh Polito cowboy.

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Boost Your Immune System With Tattoos

Full back done by Joel Soon at Sanctum Tattoo.

Over the last few years there have been numerous studies looking at tattoos and their effect on the immune system.

And for all you fellow tattoo collectors I have good news. Tattoos do in fact have a positive impact on your immune system!

Are they going to keep COVID-19 away from you? Unfortunately, no, but people who have more than one tattoo generally have a stronger and healthier immune system than those who do not.

Full back done by Don Ritson at Rebel Waltz Tattoo.

In one test, a group of 29 people were tested before and after visiting a tattoo shop in Alabama. The researchers tested levels of cortisol, which is one of the body’s indicators of stress levels, as well as Immunoglobin A, which is in simple terms is an antibody that helps our bodies fight infections . This study showed that those going in with no tattoos yet showed a greater strain on their immune system with a dip in their Immunoglobin A levels, while those going in for their second, third, or even tenth or more tattoo, actually experienced a large boost in their Immunoglobin A levels immediately following the tattoo. The full test can be read here “Tattoos to Toughen Up.”

Big Hannya mask done by Hide Ichibay at Three Tides Tattoo.

Another test done in American Samoa by the same researcher took 25 saliva samples at the start and end of tattoo sessions on both tourists and locals getting tattooed. They also measured the tattoo recipients height, weight, and fat density to account for general health. Again, both cortisol and Immonoglobin A were extracted and tested, as well as an inflammatory marker C-reactive protein. A similar finding was concluded here, with Immonoglobin A staying remaining higher in the bloodstream even after tattoos had healed. As well, people with more and larger tattoos tested higher Immonoglobin A levels than those with less or no tattoos prior to the start of getting tattooed. This effect also appears to be dependent on getting multiple tattoos and not just having some time pass after getting tattooed once.

Full front torso done by Rich Hardy.

Of course having lots of tattoos won’t guarantee your health, but based on testing it can be beneficial for general immune health, and in particular skin injuries and health.

Both studies were done by Dr. Christopher Lynn.

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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