Artist of the Month: Mike Roberts

Mike Roberts is a tattoo artist working out of Grizzly Tattoo in Portland, Oregon. His style is mainly old school with a tendency towards darker imagery such as horror movie icons, weapons, and the undead, but you can catch him making more Japanese inspired pieces such as flowers and dragons as well.

Wolf head and skull/drinking horn
Plague Doctor (fitting for the times)

Mike is the perfect artist to feature in October, as much of his work consists of the macabre; everything from wolves and spiders to medieval torture devices and undead warriors that give me strong Evil Dead and Army of Darkness vibes.

Gory devil stomach piece
Mouth of Sauron for all you Tolkien nerds

But don’t worry if you can’t make it to Mike in October, he’s tattooing spooky pieces all year round, doing both large scale pieces and one offs. Grizzly Tattoo is a must stop shop if you live in Portland or are passing through.

Crow and roses
Awesome medieval looking dragon on the ribs

What’s your favourite horror movie?

Bloody knight
Bloody guillotine
‘Tis but a scratch! Monty Python piece
centipede and spider both done by Mike

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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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Tattoos For Pluviophiles:

Pluviophile (n)- A lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.

Storm clouds by Shannon Mcfarlene at Iron Lotus in Winnipeg
Realistic black and grey storm clouds by Marcin Sonski

As a pluviophile myself, I love anything related to rain and storms. The sight, sound, and smell of rain all make me feel happy and at peace. Some of my favourite art is inspired by storms and rain, and that includes tattoos.

Storm clouds by Mel Mauthe at Iron Lotus in Winnipeg
Skeleton enjoying the rain by Madar Norbert at Knuckle Up Budapest

As a tattoo, some common rain themes include rain clouds, storm clouds with lightning, umbrellas, and people in the rain.

Dot and line work rain by Masi in Nürnberg
Umbrella and storm by La Maison Hantée

Common styles include black work, American traditional, realism, dot work, and black and grey.

Black work piece by Julaika at Vienna Tattoo
Rainy day window by Pixie Cat at Art Lab Tattoo Studio

What is your favourite thing about rainy days?

Dot and line work skull and umbrellas by Jay Baldwin
Angel and rain by Rat at Imperial Tattoo Toronto

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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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Anti-Police Tattoos:

June 2020 and the world (largely the Western world, particularly North America and England) has started to open to their eyes to the reality that the police are not “the good guys.” First some statistics from Canada and The United States before we get into the history of police.

Burning cop car by Caitlin Carter at Blackbrush Tattoo Studio.
ACAB cop skull by Matt E at World Tattoo Studio and Scrimshaw.

In the US, police kill more than 1000 people a year. Black people are 3 times more likely to be killed than white people, and are 1.4 times more likely to be UNARMED during these killings. In Canada the numbers are harder to find, though police have killed close to 500 people that we know of since the year 2000, and the number has been climbing yearly.

New School pig cop by Fatyna Tattoo.

Looking specifically at Toronto, an Indigenous person is 10 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than a white person. While Indigenous people are persecuted by police in Canada at a larger percentage than any other race, black people are also targets for police violence. Again looking at Toronto, 18 black men and one black boy were among the 52 people killed by police in Toronto alone from 2000-2017. Of those cases only 7 police officers faced charges and only 1 was found guilty.

ACAB tattoo done at The Black Drama in Toronto.

As of 2015 the US makes up only 5% of the worlds population, but 21% of the world’s prisoners. Land of the free? Not even close. Black people in the US are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of white people. Black women do twice the amount of time in prison than white women for the same crimes. Click here to learn more about incarceration in the US.

Cute protester by Vonmal21 in Toronto.

Meanwhile in Canada, Indigenous people make up only 4.5 precent of the population, but make up 25% of the male prison population, and 35% of the female prison population.

Sign language ACAB by worms.tattoo at Studio 344.

Now let’s look at where police actually come from. Spoiler alert, they have never been there to “protect and serve.”

1312 gap filler by Saskia Santa Sangre

In the US, the institution of slavery and the control of minorities and immigrants are the two biggest reasons why police exist in America today. Slave Patrols and Night Watches were both created to control BIPOC. These date back to 1636, and possibly earlier. These were groups of men who would search for escaped slaves, and were meant to protect colonizers from the Native Americans they were murdering at an alarming rate. These groups built on oppression and racism later became official police in the US during the 1830’s and were/are still extremely violent, particularly towards minorities, including BIPOC and people from the LGBTQ community.

Cute FTP and ACAB matching tattoos by Gem.tattoos

In Canada, the story is almost exactly the same. Canadians might like to think our country has less racism than the US but both our countries were built on it, and both are still suffering because of it. Like the US, Canadian police came from groups of people much like the Night Watches and Slave Patrols in the US. At the time Canada also had slaves, and was also in the middle of the mass genocide of Indigenous peoples. By the 1830’s these groups turned into official police forces, and though slavery was abolished in 1834 in Canada, black and Indigenous people were already associated with crime in the white eye. Meaning simply existing as a BIPOC put you at risk of police and white brutality in Canada just as much as the US.

Burning cop car by Natasha at All Sacred Edgewater

Tattoos have long been an underground art form, being made illegal numerous times throughout history, and is still illegal in some countries today. While in the West and North America in particular, tattoos are becoming more and more mainstream, they are still most popular in alternative scenes, and particularly with people who generally lean farther left politically (of course there are exceptions). Therefore anti-establishment and anti-police tattoos have existed for a long time, and will continue to exist.

Cop beatings by Vasiliy Stadler.

Anti-police tattoos are most often done in American traditional style, black work, or ignorant style.

Ignorant style anti-police tattoo by Janky Doodlez

To read more about the history of police oppression and violence in North American please click here, here, or here.

Love Mom Hate Cops by Kim Bendig

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Feel free to link any other readings below.

Artist of the Month: Nick Oaks

Nick Oaks is a tattooer working out of Bait & Schlang Tattoo in Montreal. His work is as classic as it gets. Filled with big bold dragons, lady heads, roses and skulls.

Classic Sailor Jerry monkey.
Bright and bold back piece featuring a dragon and classic lady.

He takes inspiration from greats such as Sailor Jerry, Tony Polito, E.C. Kidd, and more.

Tony Polito cowboy skull.
Black traditional E.C. Kidd dragon.

Whether you’re looking for black traditional or bright and colourful, Nick can take care of it for you.

Bright geisha head.
Pharaoh’s horses on the stomach.

His Instagram is full of both small one off designs, and large scale work such as back pieces.

Classic lady head.
Panther and snake in battle.

Nick has lots of flash to choose from, and lots of paintings for sale as well.If you’re in Montreal, or going to be, click the link above and check out his Instagram where he has his contact information.

A beautiful tiger, ready for a scrap.
Healed lady head and tiger on the ribs.

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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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Tsuchigumo Tattoos:

Tsuchigumo is a Japanese yōkai, or demon. It’s a creepy crawly beast that according to legend can grow to a monstrous size, big enough to eat a person with no problems.

Tsuchigumo as a NSFW shunga piece by Carlos Guerrero.
More American traditional style Tsuchigumo piece by Isaac Bushkin.

Tsuchigumo literally means “ground spider”, and is found in mountains, forests, and caves.

Traditional Japanese Tsuchigumo by Harriet Street.
Crazy neo-traditonal head piece by Alex Rusty.

In legends, these beasts live in silk tubes in trees and caves, from which they trap their human or animal prey. Think Aragog from Harry Potter or Shelob in the Lord of the Rings.

Tsuchigumo sleeve topper with a Hannya mask, done by Lukas Speich.
Bright and bold Tsuchigumo by Dani Ardila Escobar.

Like a lot of Japanese yōkai, particularly snake and spider ones, Tsuchigumo relies on tricks and deceit to catch their smarter prey.

Tsuchigumo with a traditional Japanese skull done by Rocky Burly.

For example, one legend tells of a Tsuchigumo using an illusion to torun itself into a beautiful woman, with an army behind her, to attach Japan. Warrior Yorimitsu met army on the battlefield with his own force, and first attacked the woman general. When she was struck by a sword she transformed back into a creature, while her army disappeared as it had all been an illusion. she ran away back to her cave where she was sliced open. This led to thousands of babies spilling from her swollen abdomen, but each one was killed by the Japanese warriors.

Black and yellow Tsuchigumo done by Nero Morte.

Many more tales feature Tsuchigumo using illusions to trick their prey, leading to many people being eaten by the giant spider-beast.

Traditional Japanese Tsuchigumo as part of a sleeve by Jason Lambert.

As a tattoo, Tsuchigumo is usually done in a traditional Japanese style, as it comes from Japanese folklore. Though it can also be done with a more American traditional twist, Neo-traditional, or realistic style. It pairs well with Japanese warriors, or as fillers with webs, skulls, or flowers.

Big thigh Tsuchigumo by Ricardo Araya Con.

Which piece is your favourite?

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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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