Elbow Tattoos:

Elbows are one of the more painful spots to get tattooed, but if you’re wanting that full sleeve it’s something you’ve got to tough out. 

Horseshoe and Flower by Caige Baker at the Brindle Room in Calgary, Alberta
Spiderweb by Tony Torvis at Mortem Tattoo in Montréal, Quebec

There are lots of designs that fit the shape of the elbow well, such as spiderwebs, flowers, mandalas, geometric shapes, and other “gap filler” type pieces. 

Mandala by Hans Joen Heggum at Blue Arms Tattoo in Oslo, Norway
Heart web done by Tasha Terror at Three of Swords Tattoo in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Elbow tattoos also often take a bit longer to heal than many other locations on the body just because it’s a joint that most of us use all day every day. All that movement irritates the area so you can expect prolonged swelling, and maybe more scabbing than other tattoos you have.

Spiderweb done by Gabriel Buison
Bright flower piece done by Jasmine Worth at Remington Tattoo in San Diego

Because the bone lies directly under the skin with virtually no “padding” on your elbow, it’s going to hurt more than the rest of your sleeve, which is why many people choose to save it for last, or choose a design that doesn’t fully cover the area such as a spiderweb or a horseshoe.

Geometric dot work piece by Tommy Birch
Bright and bold flower piece by Capa Tattoo at Tattoo Circus in Italy

While spiderweb tattoos are arguably one of the most popular elbow designs among old school collectors, you should be aware that originally this design was meant for people in prison, often signifying how much time a person has done. Nowadays most people won’t assume that you’ve been to prison if you have this tattoo, but it’s important to be aware of. 

Black work butterfly by Alin in Seoul, Korea
Colourful spiderweb by Dave at Trophy Tattoo in Hamilton, Ontario

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Artist of the month: Gakkin

Gakkin is a (mainly) blackwork and freehand artist working out of Amsterdam after first working in Kyoto.

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Blackwork raven across the back of the neck.
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Large octopus sleeve and chest piece.
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Bodysuit featuring birds, flowers, wind, and clouds.
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Huge snake torso piece.

His pieces are all large scale. Full sleeves, large torso pieces, back pieces, and bodysuits.

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Gruesome namakubi (severed head), with hair that flows into an almost cloudlike state.
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Massive crane back piece with clouds, waves, and koi.
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Negative space stomach hannya as part of a full bodysuit of mainly solid black.
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Red flowers on heavy black leg sleeve, with white spider web.

He collaborates often now with another Japanese blackwork artist, Nissaco. The two work well together, and their pieces flow seamlessly into each other.

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Bright flowers within a dark backdrop.
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Chrysanthemum with Japanese noh mask.
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Back of a bodysuit featuring negative space geometric designs.
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Beautiful blackwork moon and cloud back piece.

His work is largely inspired by nature. Everything from wind, water, flowers, mountains, the sun, and the moon, and animals.

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Large brushstroke style.
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Geometric, blackwork sleeve.
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Large chrysanthemum as part of a sleeve.

Gakkin also takes direct inspiration from ancient Japanese painters, adding his own interpretations.

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Waves and wind in these nature sleeves.
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Part of a bodysuit featuring wind and waves.
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Bright red flowers on heavy black.

Though he mainly works with black, he does also add splashes of red to draw the eye. In an interview with Tattoo Life, he said about working with black “I believe that black is the most important color in tattooing. Every ancient tattooing culture – Maori, Japanese, and Polynesian – considers it as such. It just works better than any other color on the skin.” (www.tattoolife.com)

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kuchisake-onna ghost, from stories dating back to the Edo period.
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Tsuchigumo, the Japanese spider demon.
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Collaboration piece done with Nissaco at the London tattoo convention 2017.

Which 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

Artist of the Month: James Mckenna

James Mckenna is an artist at Foothills Tattoo Byford – Western Australia. James is a painter as well as a tattoo artist, with a focus on surreal and horror themed pieces, mixing American traditional and neo traditional styles.

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Multiple skulls as a gap filler.
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Elbow ditch surrealist skull hidden within spider webs.
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Vicious demon above a skull and snake piece.
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Leopard within a leopard within a leopard.
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Traditional elbow mandala.

The majority of James’ work features skulls, often hidden within designs. Other work includes lady heads, animals, and demons.

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Neo traditional lady head.
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Leg sleeve castle with secret passages and a snake mixed in.
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Big ole’ jaguar, scorpion, and flower. Heavy on the black!
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Skull added to the stomach piece!
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Neo traditional bear and skull in a tender spot!
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Healed blackwork snake within a snake!
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Leg snake!
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Evil looking demon under the armpit.
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Butterfly lady head!
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New twist on a classic skull and snake.
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Jaguar and lady head.
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Knee big cat and butterfly.

James is a must see artist if you’re travelling through Western Australia.

Artist of the Month: Sergey Vaskevich

Sergey Vaskevich is a tattoo artist from Minsk, working out of Good Sign Tattoo. His work is dark traditional and neo-traditional. His work is dark both in colour, and in imagery. Often featuring devils, demons, ghosts,and occult designs, along with the occasional fetish piece.

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Horrifying bat head.

He has a fantastic imagination, combining often mundane designs with a fantastic mix of death and horror.

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Devil head and mountain range.
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Vampiric looking ladyhead with her own great snake tattoo.
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Knee mandala
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Wicked throat piece of a fiery candle.
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Beautiful harp.
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NSFW fetish/torture piece.
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Spooky occult piece featuring a demon hand making shadows.
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Classic wolf head.
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Fiery bold torch.
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Well and ghost.
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Classic bear head.
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Banging elbow spider.
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Fantastic demon head eating a naked woman.
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Severed ladyhead with moon and crow.

Which piece is your favorite?