Artist of the Month: Shige

Shige works out of Yellow Blaze Tattoo Studio in Yokohama, Japan.

350
Beautiful back piece that leads into a sleeve as well as legs.
592
Very bright sleeve.
1385
Full leg sleeve.
2977
Rib panel that attaches to a back piece.

He has been tattooing since 1995, after teaching himself the craft.

378
Brilliant bodysuit.
720
Full samurai back piece.
1409
3/4 sleeve with a Buddhist goddess, Benzaiten.
3246
Hannya torso piece.

He tattoos in the Japanese style, while adding some realism to his pieces, making a lot of his work neo-Japanese.

555
Full sleeve that also contains some coverups.
754
Hannya back piece.
1987
Hannya chest piece.
3620
Full body suit with lots of colour.

Shige does large pieces including full sleeves, leg sleeves, back pieces, chest, and body suits.

573
Half hannya torso piece mixed with tribal in a collaborative piece.
810
Almost full bodysuit with lots of natural imagery.
1992
Tiger on top of the head.
1993
Fudo Myoo on the back of the head.

Much of Shige’s work revolves around Buddhism, including demons and gods and goddesses.

576
Bright full sleeve.
1278
Sleeve topped with a raven.
2141
Bright red hand piece of Agyou.

Shige is a must see artist in Japan.

Geisha Tattoos:

The geisha, or, “person of accomplishment” date back to 1751 in the mid-Tokugawa period in Japan. Geisha’s were originally men, but eventually became women.

geisha Ami James
Deep in thought by Ami James.

Geisha’s were trained artists skilled in tea ceremony, flower arranging, and as singers, dancers, storytellers, servers, and conversationalists. These women were all literate and were familiar with poetry and tales of warriors in order to entertain their patrons. Geisha’s were not prostitutes, but worked in the pleasure districts, also called “the floating world” and while not they were not sex workers, some did become concubines or mistresses for men who would buy their contracts from their masters.

geisha Andrew Mcnally at Northside Private Rooms in Newcastle
Black and grey neo Japanese geisha with cherry blossoms by Andrew Mcnally at Northside Private Rooms in Newcastle, UK.
geisha Anna Yershova
Realistic side/stomach piece with cherry blossoms by Anna Yershova.
geisha Asakusa Horiyasu
Brilliant Japanese back piece by Horiyasu.

Geisha’s are known for their musical prowess, particularly with an instrument called samisen, which today is also used in kabuki plays and has an inherently “Japanese” sound. As for appearance, while working a geisha would wear a kimono tied from the back, which is another difference between a geisha and a prostitute as a prostitute would have her kimono tied in the front. A thick white foundation of makeup is applied to the face, neck, and upper chest, with a line around the hairline creating a mask like appearance. Other makeup includes black around the eyes and eyebrows with bright red lips.

geisha Daniel Gensch
Fantastic neo traditional neck piece also with cherry blossoms, by Daniel Gensch in Berlin, Germany.
geisha Emily Rose Murray
A more Westernized neo traditional geisha by Emily Rose Murray in Melbourne, Australia.
geisha Gakkin
Blackwork Japanese piece of a sly looking geisha by Gakkin in Amsterdam.
geisha Horihana in Brasil
Another traditional Japanese back piece with cherry blossoms, skeleton, and Buddhist imagery by Horihana in Brazil.
Geisha Jarrad Serafino at The Sweet Life Tattoo in Melbourne
Dark American traditional geisha and flower by Jarrad Serafino at The Sweet Life Tattoo in Melbourne, Australia.

Geisha’s still exist today, though due in part to the rigorous training in order to become one, are much less frequent. Today, geisha’s mainly entertain politicians at parties.

geisha Kevin Nocerino at Still Life Tattoo
Neo traditional namakubi or severed head geisha with peony by Kevin Nocerino at Still Life Tattoo.
geisha Mark Wosgerau
Realistic black and grey geisha by Mark Wosgerau at Sinners Inc in Denmark.
geisha Michael Litovkin
Bold mix of black and grey and colour in a realistic style by Michael Litovkin.
geisha Pavel Krim
Soft, colourful, realistic geisha by Pavel Krim in Stockholm.
Geisha Reuben Todd at Kapala tattoo in Winnipeg
American traditional black and red work by Reuben Todd at Kapala Tattoo in Winnipeg.

As a tattoo a geisha will generally be done in Japanese traditional style, neo Japanese, American traditional, neo traditional, black and grey, or realism.

geisha Shon Lindauer in Hollywood
American traditional work by Shon Lindauer in Hollywood.
geisha Thomas Pineiro at Black Garden Tattoo in the UK
Fantastic Japanese piece by Thomas Pineiro at Black Garden Tattoo in the UK.
geisha Tony Nilsson in Norway
Bold American traditional piece by Tony Nilsson in Norway.
geisha Victor Octaviano
Modern watercolor piece by Victor Octaviano in Brazil.
Geisha William Roos in Stockholm
tiny blackwork geisha and hannya by William Roos in Stockholm.
Geisha Zak Partak in Toronto
Geisha head and fan by Zak Partak in Toronto.

Geisha’s are an important part of Japanese history and make a fantastic design!

Artist of the Month: Clemens Hahn

Clemens is an artist working out of Electric Circus Classic Tattooing in Mannheim, Germany. Clemens specializes in neo traditional, traditional, and blackwork, with some Japanese thrown into the mix. Clemens does fantastic work using timeless designs mixed with new techniques and styles. He doesn’t shy away from tough designs or locations including full sleeves, bellies, ribs, back pieces, and even hands and faces for those whose lifestyles can afford them.

16464955_406105759743805_1744599399054442496_n
Hardcore full frontal blackwork traditional panther head and webbing with matching black and grey sleeves.
16906756_1435906826440604_8035356771084140544_n
Matching chest heads, dagger through a heart, and angry bear head in rad neo trad.
17265355_386696588380276_644511897768427520_n
Elephant head inspired by deities.
17437856_401873473513427_7856487996139241472_n
American traditional classic of an eagle fighting a snake, sun and moon not by Clemens.
16906092_159125094599965_5919545053738434560_n
Japanese backpiece with oni and namakubi in a neo Japanese style.
16906865_1847602672120563_2985118127462809600_n
Full blackwork backpiece inspired by the beauty of death with crow and matching coffins.
17332837_1800639506923133_3594922003670237184_n
Half backpiece in Japanese black and grey featuring a tiger, peony, and cloud background. with a matching sleeve.
17265582_612205432313456_6319208790176563200_n
Whole bunch of job stoppers! Beautiful hand and neck pieces including traditional and blackwork.
13722218_203017723434421_1607142561_n
Crazy throat peony.
13731093_159831071087785_485173666_n
Neo Japanese tiger head neck tattoo.
17126168_260864880992185_2010975521315225600_n
American traditional eagle on the back of the neck/head.
16908208_1387476347986258_9103983082876174336_n
Crazy elephant inspired piece.
17126603_651930471670670_2614770776930254848_n
Brilliant neo traditional fox and bear in a tender spot.
17332707_406545909710485_8991794839137812480_n
Tasteful face piece. Blackwork nails in a bleeding heart.
17438172_1668688186493979_2446816475957166080_n
Blackwork traditional Native American lady head.
17596337_1657512004558783_3713284632263786496_n
Matching back of the knees traditional mandalas.
17817972_276893602751168_6371086368705085440_n
Neo traditional Little Red Riding Hood and the big bad wolf.

If you’re in Germany Clemens Hahn is a must see artist!

Tattoo History 5: Yakuza and Tattoos

The Yakuza are the main face of organized crime in Japan, and can be traced back to  two different groups samurai/ bandits as early as before the 1600’s. These outlaws were called Kabuki-mono, and wore fantastic costumes and carried long swords at their sides as they terrorized towns. These bandits had extreme loyalty to each other, as do the modern day Yakuza, swearing to protect each other even against their own parents, which was unheard of at this time. While the modern day Yakuza do identify with this aspect of the bandits, they really look back to these samurai’s enemies, the machi-yakko, or servants of the town. These townsmen formed groups to fight off these travelling samurai and defended their homes. These groups were made up of merchants, clerks, shopkeepers, homeless wanderers and stray samurai. These men quickly became folk heroes, seen as honourable outlaws.

ancient tattoo scene
Tattooed Tammeijirô Genshôgo, bare-chested, kneels on a fallen foe, a drawn sword in his hand.(from mid 1800’s)

These men were immortalized in stories and plays that are still popular today. These legends eventually passed down to another group of “chivalrous commoners and honourable outlaws”; Japan’s firemen, police detectives, leaders of labour gangs, sumo wrestlers, and members of Japan’s 18th century crime syndicates. These men formed the first groups of the Yakuza. Much like the Italian Mafia (as it is often compared to), the Yakuza formed families, with a father to child hierarchy.

yakuza family
Full Yakuza family portrait.

Like most cultures, criminals were often tattooed to distinguish them from proper citizens, but tattoos can be traced in Japan as far back as the 3rd century . In Japan, criminals started being tattooed in 1720 in order to identify, punish, and humiliate them. These tattoos were sometimes small lines on the arm,  or a black ring around the arm for each crime, or the more prominent forehead tattoo that was either the Chinese character for “dog” or the character for “evil”. After being tattooed, these criminals would be held for three days so that the tattoos would form properly under the skin and would be unable to pick them out of their skin. These people formed groups, and eventually created a subculture of tattooing, adding to their criminal tattoos, making their own art of defiant pride.

tattoo-local-209x300
Different arm tattoos for criminals. (taken from http://www.iromegane.com/japan/culture/history-of-japanese-tattoo/ )
tattoo-face-200x300
Criminal head tattoos (from http://www.iromegane.com/japan/culture/history-of-japanese-tattoo/ ) Top left: Inu (犬/ dog) Top right:lines each time they committed a crime Middle:lines on the forehead and the arm Bottom left:tattooed dots Bottom right: tattooed “x” meaning “bad”

Today when someone says Yakuza, people automatically think tattoo. By the late 17th century these tattoos moved away from simple lines or characters, to fluid pieces of flowers, gods, heroes, and animals, often creating full body pieces. Modern day full body pieces can take years to finish, and can cost upward of $50,000. Traditionally these tattoos or “irezumi” would be done with a bone or wood rod that has a cluster of tiny needles at the end. The rod would then be dipped in ink and jabbed repeatedly into the skin, which was very painful, and very slow. This method is still done today in Japan and other parts of the world, but most artists now use machines. Inks would be made by hand, mainly consisting of black, grey, red, and green. Though modern day Japanese tattoos are more colorful. Early red ink was actually toxic, so it would be a mark of strength and resilience to see how much they could endure.

yakuza backs
Full backs of Yakuza members.

Yakuza designs often feature flowers, dragons, tigers, namakubi, and folklore legends such as Chōbei Banzuiin and other warriors.

utagawa kuniyoshi
Chōbei Banzuiin woodblock print done by the famous Utagawa Kuniyoshi from 1845 in the Edo period.

A way to identify former Yakuza members other than their tattoos is if they are missing part of their pinkies. Members would have part of their pinky cut off if they did something wrong during their time, and many had it cut off if they wanted to leave the gang, though some ended off much worse.

kusters odo yakuza tokyo
Tattooed hands with part of a pinky cut off.

Today in Japan tattoos are becoming much more common and less associated with the Yakuza, with new members often even foregoing getting tattoos.

For more information on the Yakuza and on crime and punishment in Japan, read the books “Yakuza : Japan’s Criminal Underworld (1)” by Kaplan, David E., Dubro, Alec, and “Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan” by Botsman, Daniel V.

Artist of the Month: Dust “Horitsuki” Wu

Horitsuki is a tattoo artist and owner of Galaxy Tattoo 3 in Hong Kong. He studied under Nicckuhori, the god son of the brilliant Horiyoshi III, in Singapore before finding his own style within Japanese traditional art, despite working in China.

He has gained recognition throughout Asia and Europe, travelling as a guest artist. He does all the classic Japanese designs such as hanya masks, snakes, koi fish, fu dogs, and flowers. However it is dragons that he is most famous for. He is nicknamed the Dragon King in Europe.

horitsuki-2
Fu dog hand piece.
horitsuki-3
Brilliant Hanya with a bold placement.
horitsuki-4
Colourful chrysanthemum.
horitsuki-6
Ghost lantern.
horitsuki-1
Koi and cherry blossom sleeve.
horitsuki-9
Koi and cat piece.
horitsuki-5
Matching foot namakubi.
horitsuki-8
Beautiful, bloody namakubi.
horitsuki-7
Bold red Oni.
horitsuki-10
Traditional smoking frog.
horitsuki-11
Beautifully detailed Japanese tiger.
horitsuki-13
Angry dragon head.
horitsuki-14
Dragon head and claw.
horitsuki-15
Dragon chest piece coming off of a sleeve.
16
Gorgeous dragon back piece with flowers.

Horitsuki is the guy to see if you’re in Hong Kong.