Pharaoh’s Horses Tattoo:

The pharaoh’s horses are an American traditional design that dates back to the early 1900’s when it became a staple as a back and chest tattoo, along with other designs such as the Rock of Ages and The Last Supper.

Alexander Tyrrell in Melbourne Australia
Horses with horseshoe and eagle done by Alexander Tyrrell in Melbourne Australia.
Don Ritson Rebel Waltz Winnipeg
Brilliant mix of red and black in this traditional piece done by Don Ritson at Rebel Waltz in Winnipeg.
Hamish Clarke in Bisbane Australia
Traditional blackwork piece done by Hamish Clarke in Brisbane Australia.
Kirk Jones Melbourne Australia
In progress back piece done by Kirk Jones in Melbourne, Australia.
Rich Hadley at Inri Tattoo in Manchester
Very old school looking design by Rich Hadley at Inri Tattoo in Manchester, England.

One of the earliest examples of this design is by Gus Wagner who worked as a tattooer, and circus performer from the late 1800’s until his death in 1941.

Ben McQueen in Indianapolis
Horse, anchor, and roses done by Ben McQueen in Indianapolis.
Done at Wild Rose in Seoul
Full traditional sleeve topped by horses done at Wild Rose tattoo in Seoul, South Korea.
Herb Auerbach in Santa Cruz
Angry looking horses done by Herb Auerbach in Santa Cruz.
Matt Kerley in Ashville
Bold design on the back of a head done by Matt Kerley in Asheville.
Rich Hardy
Gorgeous stomach piece done by Rich Hardy.

The design of the pharaoh’s horses comes from biblical times, when horses were seen as a symbol of wealth, status, warfare, and power. Horses are specifically linked to pharaoh Ramses II who lived more than 3000 years ago. These horses of course portray a sense of power, but there is also an implied reference to Exodus 14 which reads thus. “The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horse-men the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.” This appears to be a warning of following a singular pursuit without regard to the consequences.

Collin McClain
Chest piece with some nice blue done by Colin McClain at Tide and Tattoo.
Duan Woo Sick Rose Tattoo Parlour in Shanghai
Smaller horse piece done by Duan Woo at Sick Rose Tattoo Parlour in Shanghai, China.
Jason Donahue at Liberty Tattoo in Seattle
Chest piece with classic flowers done by Jason Donahue at Liberty Tattoo in Seattle.
Nick Mayes at North Sea Tattoo in Scarborough, UK
Big stomach piece topped by an eagle done by Nick Mayes at North Sea Tattoo in Scarborough, UK.
Shon Lindauer in Hollywood CA
Heavy black design by Shon Lindauer in Hollywood, CA.

These tattoos are often done as large pieces on backs or chests, but can also be done as larger parts of a sleeve or leg piece. The horses are often accompanied by flowers, horseshoes, chains, and other traditional pieces such as eagles.

Dan Pemble Artist & Owner @ Sacred Tattoo Studio Marquette, MI
Brilliant full front torso as a piece of armour by Dan Pemble at Sacred Tattoo Studio Marquette, MI.
Frank William in Chicago, IL
Large stomach piece full of flowers done by Frank William in Chicago, IL.
Kai Soong at Sick Rose Tattoo Parlour in Shanghai
Chest piece by Kai Soong at Sick Rose Tattoo Parlour in Shanghai, China.
philip yarnell
Traditional blackwork piece done by Philip Yarnell at Skynyard tattoos, UK.
Tammy Kim at The Okey Doke Tattoo Shop
Fantastic back piece featuring an eagle, websm and flowers done by Tammy Kim at The Okey Doke Tattoo Shop in Toronto.

Which is your favourite tattoo?

Foo/Fu Dog Tattoos:

Foo, or Fu Dogs as they are known as in the West are Chinese lion guardians called Shi. These creatures are both guardians and good luck charms. When placed outside buildings they are meant to protect those inside from negative energy and to stop those with intent to harm from entering. These ancient symbols have been around since the Han Dynasty (206 BC- 220 AD).

foo Alex T. Frazer at Bravest Kids Tattoo, Manchester UK
American traditional Foo head by Alex T. Frazer at Bravest Kids Tattoo, Manchester UK.
foo Andy Pho at Skin Design Tattoos
Realistic Foo statue done by Andy Pho at Skin Designs Tattoos.
foo Danh Vu at Inkman Tattoo in Brooklyn NY
Huge rib piece with Foo and flowers by Danh Vu at Inkman Tattoo in Brooklyn, NY.

As a tattoo this creature is also meant to be protective. Keeping the wearer safe from harm. This creature is also tattooed to be a representation of the wearer’s strength, courage, and heroism.

foo David Hoang at Chronic Ink Tattoos, Toronto
Realistic stomach piece by David Hoang at Chronic Ink Tattoos in Toronto.
foo Tristen Zhang Chronic Ink Toronto
Back of neck foo by Tristen Zhang at Chronic Ink Tattoo in Toronto.
foo Hori Taka Kyoto, Japan
Brilliant Japanese backpiece by Hori Taka in Kyoto, Japan.

Foo dogs are firstly a Chinese tattoo, but are also associated with Japanese tattoo’s and can be incorporated into Japanese pieces. They are often also done as black and grey pieces, American traditional, and realism pieces.

foo Horiei Shinsu, Matsumoto City, Japan
Golden foo and daruma doll and flowers by Horiei Shinshu in Matsumoto City, Japan.
foo Jin Q Choi at Seoul INk Tattoo Studio
Foo and flower chest piece by Jin Q Choi at Seoul Ink Tattoo Studio.
Foo Kentzho Starbrade at Black Bamba Ink and Orc Tattoos
Black and grey foo by Kentzho Starbrade at Black Bamba Ink and Orc tattoos.
foo Steve Black at All of One Tattoo Studio
Forearm filler foo by Steve Black at All of One Tattoo Studio.
foo Sue Kidder Old Ironside Tattoo, Honolulu
Foo head chest piece by Sue Kidder at Old Ironside Tattoo, Honolulu.
foo Yan Jingdiao in China
Bright foo sleeve by Yan Jingdiao in China.

Foo dogs are often placed on hands, with the head fitting perfectly, lining up with the knuckles.

foo Anna Waychoff at Powerhouse Tattoo
Blue foo by Anna Waychoff at Powerhouse Tattoo.
foo Brian Donovan at Davidian Tattoo Studio
Red and blue foo head by Brian Donovan at Davidian Tattoo Studio.
Foo Nicolas Malagon Casas in Columbia
Black and grey foo with a third eye done by Nicolas Malagon Casas in Columbia.
foo @pandern8er at Main Street Tattoo Collective
Colourful hand foo by @pandern8er at Main Street Tattoo Collective in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Foo Dog’s make a brilliant and powerful tattoo for those seeking protection and good fortune.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Different arm tattoos for criminals. (taken from http://www.iromegane.com/japan/culture/history-of-japanese-tattoo/ )
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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.

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Full backs of Yakuza members.

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

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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.

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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.

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Fu dog hand piece.
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Brilliant Hanya with a bold placement.
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Colourful chrysanthemum.
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Ghost lantern.
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Koi and cherry blossom sleeve.
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Koi and cat piece.
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Matching foot namakubi.
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Beautiful, bloody namakubi.
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Bold red Oni.
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Traditional smoking frog.
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Beautifully detailed Japanese tiger.
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Angry dragon head.
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Dragon head and claw.
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Dragon chest piece coming off of a sleeve.
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Gorgeous dragon back piece with flowers.

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

Tattoo History 3: Native American Tattoo Traditions

Based on archaeological evidence found in plains all over North America, tattoos can be traced as far back as 1000-200 BCE.  Native American peoples were using tattoos for strength, religious and spiritual reasons, as well as combat and as a rite of passage.

As with many ancient cultures, supernatural being such as gods and deities in Native American mythology are adorned with body markings such as tattoos. The forms and styles of the tattoos done on people then function as a template that identifies the realm that these beings reside in.

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Tattooed chest.

Body modifications for ancient and modern Native American peoples can be put into three categories. The first is body decoration which is colorful paints used for rituals and war. The second, tattooing is permanent, which therefore marks that individual, linking them to a specific group, lineage, or kinship. Tattoos can also indicate honors and achievements in war or battle, as well as rituals and politics within the tribe. The third category is body piercing, which is used for hanging ornaments which is lineage or ritual specific. These piercings can also lead to scarification (also seen in many other cultures, particularly prominent in African culture), which can help identify which rituals occurred during the piercings.

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Earliest accounts of what these tattoos may have looked like come from drawings of Native American peoples done by European explorers from france and England. These artists were employed to draw the nature of the land, as well as the people, so we can assume that their depictions were fairly accurate.  Early settlers mainly noted the chiefs and their beautiful indigo, blueish ink, with their rich patterns of hieroglyphs representing animals, the sun, moon, and battle.

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To read more, read the book “Drawing with Great Needles: Ancient Tattoo Traditions of North America”.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Tattoos:

1993 Tim Burton classic stop motion clay film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, is a Halloween/Christmas movie that captures the imagination and hearts of everyone who watches. Jack Skellington is head honcho of Halloweentown, but wants something more. Something… Christmasy! Whether you get a Nightmare tattoo for Halloween or Christmas, it’s sure to be a bold one.

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A bold Jack with spooky house by Sean Wright.
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Jack with snowflake by Anrijs Straume at Bold as Brass Tattoo Company in Liverpool.
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A happy looking Jack in a pumpkin patch by Jose Villa at Lowrider Tattoo Studios in Fountain Valley CA.

Jack and Sally, a love for the ages. For all the romantics out there.

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Jack and Sally looking as cute as ever by London Reese in California.
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A Nightmare sleeve featuring Jack and Sally, the Mayor, Oogie Boogie, and Shock, Lock, and Barrel by Martin Garza.

Oogie Boogie is the baddest villain in Halloweentown; he’s sure visit you in your nightmares, especially if he’s permanently on your skin.

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Bright Oogie Boogie with Jack by Bumer at Mantra Tattoo in Australia.

And faithful Zero for all the dog lovers!

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Jack looking frightfully festive with his faithful Zero by John Barrett at Cornerstone Tattoo Gallery in Senoia GA.
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Happy little Zero by Brian Adams at Phantom 8 Tattoo in Englewood Colorado.

For some little Halloween miscreants, Shock, Lock, and Barrel are little hellraisers.

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Shock, Lock, and Barrel by Jon Tran.

And of course, good ole Santy-Clause!

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A kidnapped Santa Claus by Jeanne Racine.

Which one is your favorite?

Tattoo History 2: Micronesian Tattooing

Micronesian tattoos date back as far as 2000 BCE. Clothing and jewelry acted as a secondary body adornment to tattoos. Tattoos were an extremely important part of growing up on the islands. For men it signified manhood, and attracting women, showing how much pain he can endure. For women it was a sign of beauty.

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Man and woman tattooed.

Tattoos were sanctioned by the gods; they would be called upon the night before to see if the tattoo should be undertaken. A tattooer’s inspiration was seen as a gift from the gods, and the initial drawing of a preliminary design would be done in complete silence.

micronesian-woman-tattoo
Tattooed woman.

Tattooing began with the chiefs and their wives before moving onto the common people. The chiefs would have large tattoos, including on their faces to hide wrinkles. The size and design of the tattoos depended on offerings made to the gods and payments made to the tattoo artist in food and mats. Tattoos on men would be placed on their chest, back, arms, shoulders, thighs, neck, face, and genitals, depending on the wearer’s status. For women, tattoo’s would be placed on shoulders, arms, and hands.

micronesian-tattooed-man
Tattooed man.

Tattoos now can be very painful, but back then they were extremely painful. The tattoo was done by hand and took a very long time to complete. The tattoo itself would be made with chisels made of bird or fish bones. They would then be dipped in dye made of burned coconut sheathes mixed with water.  A chest or back tattoo would take approximately one month to complete. The skin would swell and medicine made from coconut juice and healing leaves would be placed on the open wounds. When the line work was completed songs with clapping and drumming would be played to help the wearer overcome the pain.

Information taken from Oxford History of Art : Pacific Arts of Polynesia and Micronesia, and larskrutak.com

Spider web Tattoos:

Spider web tattoos are most commonly associated with criminals. Usually showing that the wearer has done time behind bars, the number of lines leading out of the web signifying the years of time spent. Now though it is less associated with crime, and more commonly used as a great filler tattoo for American traditional sleeves. Not all spider web tattoos are done in American traditional though. They can be black and grey or even realistic. They are often now paired with something Halloween related, and can also have spiders in them or hanging off of them.

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Classic elbow spider web by Josh Stephens at Hold It Down Tattoo in Richmond Virginia.
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Spider, web, and skull by Matty Darienzo at Into You Tattoo, London England.
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Crazy head tattoo by Philip Yarnell at Skynyard Tattoos, UK.
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Another web, done by Justin Dion at Sovereign Tattoo, Portland Oregon.
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Web, skull, and snake also by Philip Yarnell.
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Two shoulder webs by Nick Oaks at Bait and Schlang tattoo in Montreal.
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Creepy realistic spider and web by Tyler Allen Kolvenbach at Hudson Valley Tattoo.

Artist of the Month: Ichi Hatano

Ichi Hatano is an artist working out of Tokyo, Japan. He has been tattooing since 1998 and has tattooed around the world in the United States, England, and Germany.

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Backpiece featuring a samurai.
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Japanese woman backpiece.
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3/4 sleeve with a fantastic dragon.

His specialty is the traditional Japanese style of irezumi. His work is bold and precise. Ichi has brilliant attention to detail, and his work is full of the Japanese culture and tradition that people go to him for, from around the world.

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Brilliant koi backpiece.
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3/4 sleeve with beautiful clouds as the background.
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Half sleeve of cherry blossoms, clouds, and wind.
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Colourful Oni looking ready for a fight.
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Samurai and a dragon in a delicate embrace.
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Gruesome Namakubi.
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Beautiful, tiny peony flower.
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Great contrast in this sleeve between the bright and dark.

Ichi Hatano is a must see artist if you’re in Tokyo.