Tattoo history 14: Percy Waters

Percy Waters was a well-known American tattoo artist from the early 1900’s. Born in 1888, in Anniston, Alabama, he was (allegedly) first introduced to tattooing through the sideshows of traveling circuses that passed through his hometown. At the time he was learning the trade of molder, and tattooing locals became a hobby on the side. 

Man tattooed by Percy Waters from Docks Weird Years
Percy Waters at work, featuring Pharaohs Horses. From Gabriele Donnini

He’s known to many as a Michigan artist, and not from a small town in Alabama, due to the fact that in 1917 he tattooed someone he shouldn’t have and got in trouble. He left Anniston and moved to Detroit, Michigan. He built up a successful tattoo business where he also sold supplies to other tattoo artists. In 1929 he even got a license for his tattoo machine design, which was an adjustable two-coil electromagnetic machine that hasn’t changed too much in modern tattoo machines. It had also taken almost 55 years (from 1875) for the tattoo machine to be adjusted after Edison’s machine. In 1939 he moved back to Anniston and ran what was most likely the biggest tattoo supply company in the world at the time until his death in 1952. 

Two men tattooed by Percy Waters
Man tattooed by Percy Waters in 1921

Percy was very modest and was known to call himself “just a good tattooer”; However, he was quite well known regardless of his humility, particularly in the sideshow world where he tattooed “tattoo attractions” such as; Bobby Smith, Red Van, Detroit Dutch, Shelley Kemp, Clyde Williams, and Mrs. Ted Hamilton among others. 

Percy Waters flash from 1923 from Docks Weird Years
Battle Royale painted by Percy Waters from Docks Weird Years

His style stays true to early 20th century old school designs. With classics such as portraits of women, dragons, eagles, snakes, panthers, good luck symbols, ships, and more. His original designs are still redrawn often today, and many contemporary artists are heavily inspired by him in their own styles. 

Percy Waters design by Ryan Cooper Thompson
Percy Waters flash from Docks Weird Years

Some of the most well-known tattoos he did were Pharaohs’ Horses as a back piece, an image of a woman riding an eagle, and whole-body suits made up of patriotic American pieces coupled with images such as butterflies, flowers, dragons, snakes, and ladies. 

Percy Waters business card from Celluloid Dreams
Percy Waters business card from Celluloid Dreams

Do you have a Percy Waters tattoo?

Edited by Harrison R.

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Artist of the Month: Francesco Ferrara

Francesco Ferarra works out of Fronte del Porto Roma in Rome, Italy, and also sells prints here.

Gorgeous flowers and ornamental vase
Pinup lady and eagle
Healed Rock of Ages front piece with angels

Francesco does classic old school tattoos that are bright and vibrant in colour, with bold black lines. Looking at Francesco’s work, you’ll only see black, red, and yellow/gold making up these beautiful pieces.

Battle back piece and nautical back piece
Devil head and butterfly for the feet
Rock of Ages back piece

His portfolio includes both one shot smaller pieces, and large full back or front pieces. Among these gorgeous designs you’ll find classics such as the Rock of Ages, Sun Dance, devils and angels, lady heads, and animals such as snakes, eagles, and butterfly’s.

Queen of hearts and a feisty snake
Classic eagle

Whether you live in Rome or are passing through, Francesco is another must see artist.

Snake and flowers
Big ole’ stomach snake

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Andres Inkman

Andres is a tattooer working out of Black Ship in Barcelona. He tattoos old school designs with a much more realistic look. Expect to see lots of ladies, devils, and nautical designs.

Rose of no man’s land
Snake and lady head

Andres’ colour palette follows the old school style of mainly black and red, and he really makes those colours pop.

Devil in disguise
Queen of hearts and a sneaky devil

Andres has managed to mix old school and realism flawlessly, with eyes that appear to be really looking at you, and lines that will stand the test of time.

Devil and woman in love
Nautical sailor lady head and ship

In addition to tattooing, Andres has an online store where you can buy prints.

Lady head and dragon
Lady and devil head

If you live in Barcelona or plan on passing through (when we can all travel safely again) make sure Andres is on your list of artists to be tattooed by.

Split lady and devil head
Classic tattooed pinup

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Poseidon Tattoos:

Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, storms, earthquakes, and horses. Also considered one of the most temperamental and vengeful gods (hence the existence of storms).

Hyper realistic Poseidon and tiger by Bora Mesut Palas at Freak Tattoo Studio in Istanbul
Black and grey Poseidon by Sal Elias

According to mythology, Poseidon was the son of Cronus and Rhea, and (some believe) was swallowed by Cronus along with Hades, Demeter, Hestia, and Hera. Though others believe Poseidon, along with Zeus, were not swallowed but were hidden by their mother Rhea instead.

Linework Poseidon and trident by Tatuador Nunes
Line and dot work Poseidon by Daniela X Garcia at Sinistra Tattoo

When the gods defeated the Titans, the three brothers, Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon played a game of chance to decide who would rule where; Zeus got the sky, Hades the underworld, and Poseidon the sea.

Hyper realistic Poseidon and lightning by Jotapee Tattoo in Sao Paulo
Poseidon head by Chai Ketsiam in Thailand

Poseidon is also the reason Medusa was turned into a monster, as he raped her in the house of Athena, who then turned her into the monster we know. Poseidon also famously wields a trident which, when banged on the ground was said to create earthquakes.

Black and grey Poseidon back piece by Arthur James Blow at Inkredible Kreations
Poseidon and octopus leg piece by Break Neck Brad

As a tattoo, Poseidon is most often tattooed in black and grey/realism. He is often depicted as only a head, or with his trident, sometimes along with storms, the sea, ships, or horses.

Hyper realistic black and grey piece by Mirko Ponti Tattooer
Healed Poseidon sleeve by Zhuo Dan Ting Shanghai Tattoo

Which Poseidon piece is your favourite?

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Artist of the month: Josh Sutterby

Banjo frog playing a tune.
Geisha and umbrella.

Josh is an artist specializing in American traditional style tattoos, working out of Love Tattoo Parlour in Melbourne Australia.

Classic dragon
Spiderweb belly button filler.

Josh bases his designs on classic old school art, with a focus on American traditional work. He also creates tattoos with a Japanese influence, done in American traditional style.

Battle Royale back piece.
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Based on Japanese classic, Kintarō wrestling the carp.

Currently (April 2020) Josh (and the rest of the world) is not tattooing, but you can commission paintings by him by sending a DM on Instagram

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American traditional flowers done up in a vase.
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A classic chest ship.

If you’re a fan of old school classics and want your own piece from Josh, whether you live in the Melbourne area or are stopping in on a trip, make sure to set up an appointment with Josh.

A sad hobo clown.
Sweet heart love tattoo.

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Artist of the Month: Jacob Doney

Jacob Doney is the owner of Envision Tattoo Studio in Grand Terrace, California.

bold dagger and rose with popping reds and yellow against a strong black
painful scorpion on the noggin

Jacob tattoos in American traditional style with popping colours and lines that are bold as hell.

pin-up girl
two way burning candle

Though his main style is American traditional, he will make tattoos with a more Neo-traditional look as well. That being said, his themes are strongly American traditional, taking inspiration from old school motifs and keeping the true spirit of a traditional tattoo alive.

brilliant back piece featuring Jesus Christ

Jacob does both large and small pieces; everything from gap fillers to massive back pieces.

classic American eagle

His line work is crisp and clean and his colours are mainly classic traditional, black, red, green, and yellow.

mean looking snake head

If you want to reach Jacob you can find his instagram @jacobdoneytattoo

black and grey nautical chest piece

Make sure to reach out well in advance if you’re going to be in California and get yourself something cool!

bold anchor on the hand

Winnipeg Artist 7: Jan Veldman

Jan Veldman works at First String Tattoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Matching Russian nesting dolls with totem designs.
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Blackwork death’s head moth.
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Big ole’ werewolf and red moon.
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Badass cobra with witchy hands.
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We all float down here… Pennywise and balloon.
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A Salvador Dali inspired piece.
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Traditional ship with flowers.
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He’s late! Black and grey white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.
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Terrifying snake lady with barbed wire.

Jan’s style can be characterized as neo traditional and new school, with a hint of American traditional thrown into the mix. He tattoos everything from classic roses to characters from shows and movies.

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Ghost sheet tattoo with some classic flowers.
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Devilish baphomet in black and grey.
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American traditional style Jesus Christ and cross.
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Hobo cat doing his thing!
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Japanese good fortune Maneki Neko cat.
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A drunk Speedy Gonzales.
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Road Runner and Wile E Coyote.
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Creepy new school spider with eyeball.

Most of Jan’s work is bright and bold, but he doesn’t shy away from some brilliant black and grey work either!

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Neo trad woman and wolf head.
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Classic and deadly scorpion with red background.
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A ghostly Bart Simpson with some script and trad flowers.
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Cute little cactus with budding flowers.
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Bender!
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Bright red chameleon.
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Adorable Michelangelo with his favourite food.
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Super cute new school cupcake.

Bring in your own design or pick one of his. Whatever you choose, Jan is a must see artist in Winnipeg!

American Traditional Head Tattoos:

Head tattoos are a bold statement to say the least. Whether you decide to let your hair grow out again, or rock the tattooed head 24/7. For such a bold placement, one needs a bold design.

American traditional tattoos are known for being bold as hell. Check out these trad head tattoos and get inspired!

Alex Snelgrove
Trad blackwork with some classic dice, reaper’s scythe, and chains. Done by Alex Snelgrove.
Bertz at Skingdom Tattoo
Snakey done by Bertz at Skingdom Tattoo.
Chris Anthon at Grand River Tattoo Company in St. Elora Ontario
Snake popping out the back of the neck done by Chris Anthon at Grand River Tattoo Company in St. Elora in Ontario.
Dane Soos 1
Snake and yellow roses done by Dane Soos.
Dane Soos
Blackwork mandala also done by Dane Soos.
David Bruehl in Tampa Florida
Rose and claw done by David Bruehl in Tampa, Florida.
Eugene at Chapel Tattoo
Pristine scorpion done by Eugene at Chapel Tattoo.
Franz Stefanik at The Okey Doke Tattoo Shop
Classic eagle and snake done by Franz Stefanik at The Okey Doke Tattoo Shop in Toronto.
Gonzalo Muñiz at Last port Tattoo
Pharaoh’s horses and web background done by Gonzalo Muñiz at Last Port Tattoo.
Gordon Combs Til Death in Denver and Art Work Rebels in Portland
Eagle head done by Gordon Combs at Til Death Tattoo in Denver and Art Work Rebels in Portland.
Han Shinko in Essen
Blackwork skeleton hand and leaves done by Han Shinko in Essen, Germany.
Jaca in Hossegor, France.
Blackwork eagle and skull done by Jaca in Hossegor, France.
Joshua Marks in Los Angeles
Lil’ butterfly done by Joshua Marks in Los Angeles.
Mando Islas in California
Some trad filler done by Mando Islas in California.
Martina at Pretty Electric Tattoo
Cute bird and flowers in some nice bright colours done by Martina at Pretty Electric Tattoo.
Matt Andersson in Gothenburg
Bold ship design done by Matt Andersson in Gothenburg.
Nate Kemr
Blackwork church and webs by Nate Kemr.
Nick Mayes at North Sea Tattoo, Scarborough, UK
Panther head done by Nick Mayes at North Sea Tattoo, Scarborough, UK.
Paulo da Butcher at Impact Custom Tattoo
Eagle and skull done by Paulo da Butcher at Impact Custom Tattoo.
Zach Nelligan at Mainstay Tattoo in Austin TX
Cross, snake, skull, and flowers done by Zach Nelligan at Mainstay Tattoo in Austin Texas.

Which head piece is your favourite?

Artist of the month: Gara tattooer

Gara is a South Korean artist working out of Lighthouse Tattoo in Seoul. His work is black and grey, dark in both composition and subject matter, often featuring skulls and skeletons, beasts, and weapons. Much of his work is surreal, creating tattoos that look 3D, and some very realistic looking pieces. He also draws influence from both Korean and Japanese art and style.

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Full macabre chest piece with some Japanese influence in the flowers.
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Realistic tiger head piece.
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Grim looking Jesus Christ with crown of thorns.
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Greek/Roman figure in statuesque format.
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Skull king and snake in a regal pose.
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Surreal skeleton figure trapped in a hand.
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Skull with broken jaw and rose.
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Praying Mary in robes with rose.
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Skeletal praying hands.

Gara has clients from all over the world and is a highly sought after artist thanks in part to his ever growing Instagram following.

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Knights armoured hand with beautiful detail.
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Surreal skeleton bent to create a skull.
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Webby knee and a big ol’ spider.
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Surreal sea captain with his ship.
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Realistic portrait in profile and black rose.
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Plague doctor mask and skulls.

(Beautiful set of hands with skulls, webs, flowers, and snakes.)

If you are in South Korea, Gara is a must see artist.

Check out his work on Instagram at gara_tattooer