Coming at you like a frieght train!

Could there possibly be a better tattoo to celebrate ModBlog’s new superfast servers that Jon set up for us last night? I know how happy it makes me as someone who used to have to wait minutes for edits to my entries to be accepted, so I hope it makes you happy as a reader as well.

I’m also really happy to see that tattoo artists have been posting more healed work lately, showing the public what they’re really capable of. If this trend continues, it will really separate the great tattoo artists from people who are simply great artists. Just because someone can paint doesn’t mean they can lay in a tattoo that will look good for your lifetime (as you may recall from the controversial entry on tattoo fading and a couple followup entries). I’m very happy to point out that California-based tattoo artist Cory Norris (corynorrisart.com) is more than capable of doing both. Even though this photo of Ricky’s chest that he did looks like it was taken the day it was done, it’s actually fully healed in this picture, even though the blacks are deep, the red flames are incredibly vibrant, the shading in the clouds is still rich and you can make out the ghostly seething skulls inside, but the touch I really like is the deep red glow inside the eyes of the skull in the train’s engine, as if it has hellish glowing coal embers for brains.

Thanks again to Cory Norris — let’s hope top artists keep on posting healed work, really letting the world know who can be trusted to implant art that will last a lifetime — not just win you a “best of show” tattoo convention plaque and then fade out a month later. Let’s put the emphasis back on real tattoos. Click to see it a bit bigger of course.

Flesh Art by Liam Sparkes

I just discovered the beautiful archaic work of tattoo artist Liam Sparkes of Shangri-La Tattoo Parlour (shangrilaparlour.com) in London, England. Wonderful work that I’ve got a raging mod-on for, tattoos able to transport my mind to another place and time. Not just works of beauty but works that exude a certain power I think. The lines feel somehow scraped into the wearer’s essence, not just casually inked on the surface. Here is a small selection of some of my favorite pieces. Click to zoom.

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Bright Color by Dominick McIntosh

Long-time BME readers and IAM members will remember tattoo artist Dominick Allen McIntosh of Dead Gods Tattoo (deadgodstattoo.com) in Oregon from the MASH-themed tattoos back in 2006. An amazing Alex Grey inspired tattoo (the one you see below) of his creation was recently featured on Juxtapoz and wowing the online world.

Because in the tattoo world we see so many bright tattoos that look amazing the day they were done, and then look like faded “meh” when healed, I wanted to ask Dominick for healed pictures before posting. I was both pleased and surprised that this is a healed tattoo, taken two and a half months after the tattoo was first done. To get a better picture, he shaved the client and moisturized the skin — something I’d recommend to anyone who wants to show off their tattoos. You’d be amazed how much even a light covering of hair can obscure a tattoo, and moisturizer makes the upper layers of skin slightly more translucent, allowing the colors glow at their brightest. Anyway, what an amazing tattoo this piece is, and I’ve also included a small collection of other tattoos from a photoshoot at Dominick’s shop earlier this year. Unlike what you see in many magazines and portfolios, all of them are healed, and truly representative of the wonderful tattoos these clients will carry for life.

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A Piercer’s Tattoo

Eric Mezzanotte, owner of Living Canvas in Columbia, MO, has been piercing since 2006, and is also a huge fan of the Steven King opus The Dark Tower. He wanted to get a Dark Tower tattoo, and when Adya Crawford was working on it, she suggested combining his love for piercing with the story of the gunslinger, and thus the tip of the castle became the tip of a needle, creating an iconic tattoo for both piercing fans and Steven King fans — “and those are the reasons why I love artists”, he says!

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Look, ma, no hands!

As I’m talking about microdermals added to tattoos (like the googly eyes by Joeltron) in ways that actually make sense and add to the preexisting tattoo rather than just making it the laughing stock of your body’s ink neighborhood, I wanted to share a piece that jumped out of James Rajewski’s portfolio at me. James works at Infamous Ink (infamousinknc.com) in Charlotte, NC by the way. When I first saw this little project, I wondered what I was looking at because even though it’s just a normal microdermal with a decorative flat bead, the color choice almost makes it look like a tunnel going down into the body (bringing to mind Lukas Zpira’s inset transdermals). Too bad it’s not, you’d only have to make it about twice that size to create a holder for miniature watch components. Either way, this is another one of those nice but deliriously rare examples of a microdermal-tattoo combo that works well, in my opinion.

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Excellent use of color

It’s possible that you’ve already seen this remarkable tattoo by Portland, Maine’s Chris Dingwell (chrisdingwell.com) because it’s been doing the viral rounds, and deservedly so. This is one of the most powerful uses of solid color that I’ve seen in a tattoo, and is graphically as strong as anything one could do. I also think that unlike many tattoos that rely on color as a design element, this piece should stand the test of time, because the colors are strong and solid rather than complex fades that don’t always stand up. This really is a brilliantly unique tattoo, one of those pieces that you have to look twice at to realize that it even is a tattoo, not body paint or a design printed on fabric. The wearer is very lucky.

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Colourful Calligraphic Tree Tattoo

Before I go on with my exciting plans for the rest of the day, which as those who know me are aware, mostly involve cocaine and hookers while Caitlin is off at work, I wanted to share with you this charming trash tattoo by André Cruz (andrecruztattoo.com.br). I’ve had this piece open in a window for a week or two now, and smile every time I look at it. There’s something just really happy about it, and I think it’s the perfect picture to use as my bow before leaving the stage for now.

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Healed Tattoos Are What You Live With

There’s been an incredible amount of debate about tattoo healing after my post two days ago — with a disturbing amount of denialism, and an especially deranged argument on Facebook — but the fact is, when you get a tattoo, you have to live with the healed version, not the fresh version. The tattoo artist on the other hand, thanks to their handy camera, may forever live with the fresh version. Photos don’t need to heal.

A fresh tattoo looks different because it’s not covered by an ink-free layer of surface skin — it is, in fact, covered by a layer of tattooed dead skin that may or may not have the same ink in it as the deeper skin — plus the ink particles haven’t had time to settle into their permanent locations. For starters this means that a healed tattoo will almost always have less intense colors and less deep blacks, and there will be some flattening and blending of tones. The degree of these changes depends on factors including the types and colors of ink and, the nature of the wearer’s skin, and the tattooist’s technique — and of course a client can destroy a tattoo with bad aftercare but that’s not what this entry is about. Also, the order the ink was put in won’t matter as much in a healed tattoo — in a fresh tattoo, the visually dominant color will be the last one put in, temporarily hiding what’s beneath it, but in a healed tattoo it will be more of an “average”. In a flat oldschool tattoo this doesn’t make much difference, but in a tattoo with a lot of shading and color nuance it can make a huge difference. And of course all this is assuming a best case scenario — if the tattoo artist has a light hand or otherwise didn’t put in the ink properly, there can also be fading, sometimes dramatic.

A reputable tattoo artist will always aim for the healed tattoo to look as good as possible, not for the fresh tattoo to look as good as possible. In many cases they may even need to create a fresh tattoo that doesn’t look as good as the healed one, and as a result, some unethical artists who are looking to win a convention tattoo award (and often do) that’s being judged that day, make decisions that don’t do the client any favors as discussed to death previously.

I’m very happy to say that the best thing to come about from this discussion is a number of artists vowing to make sure that their portfolios contain as many healed photos as possible. Healed photos are the only way a client can truly know what they are paying for, and are essential. Any tattoo artist that doesn’t have plenty of healed tattoos in their portfolio is one I’d be very nervous about.

On that note — and sorry for taking so long to get here — I’d like to share with you two tattoos, fresh and healed, from Mike Shultz at Altered Image Tattoo & Piercing in Indianapolis (alteredimagetattooindy.com). Compare the tattoos fresh and healed ones. Look at them closely — see how the colors and levels change — and you’ll get some insight into healing, and the decisions that Mike made to give his clients a tattoo that they should be happy with forever, not just something that will win him a Best of Show. Thank you to all the tattoo artists out there who have pledged to give the world an honest impression of what they’re capable of and including plenty of healed and unedited photos (or better yet, both, spreading an understanding to the public of how tattoos heal) in their portfolio.

Be sure you zoom in to really appreciate both my comments and Mike’s artistry.

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If you’re undead, and you know it, clap your hands

There comes a time in every horror movie fan’s life that some of the details of certain movies blend together.  Unless it’s a really iconic scene, it’s easy to get confused when looking at a photo of a zombie and trying to place what film it’s from (or even if it is from a film).  I want to say this is a Fulchi zombie, but having seen so many over the years, I can’t place this particular member of the walking dead.

Tattoo by Grzegorz Latoch from Street Tattoo in Warsaw, Poland.

Fraud in Tattooing

I’ve been talking to an old friend that’s a tattoo artist who’s pretty straight-shooting and no-bullshit in his attitudes about some of the trends we see among top artists these days. The one that I whole-heartedly agree with is this tendency to fill portfolios with pieces that couldn’t possibly heal well, but look great fresh. Tattoos that look incredible the day they’re done — bright color realism with almost no black-shading is a good example of stuff that often turns into a faded out nothing in time — but looks like garbage when it’s healed. I’ll quote some of what he said, keeping things anonymous because I’m not looking to point fingers here.

There is a very ugly tendancy today in tattoo business of taking pictures of fresh tattoos, doing realism that will look like shit in twenty years — or in four months even — and going from convention to convention, making 100% black money, with no touch-ups, no follow-up of clientele. Those are the most famous artists in the world. I have no problem doing tribal [edit: he is referring to an image I posted of a "less than inspired" tattoo that I spoke ill of] for people who ask. If I can’t change their mind, I’ll do it. It allows me to keep cool pricing for everybody, to keep tattoo art something it SHOULD remain, that is, a POPULAR art form.

You can build up a realistic tattoo that is stable — P*** A*** and J*** G*** can do it, so it’s possible, but when you see older tattoos from D*** or S*** [edit: he's naming top artists here and I don't need another lawsuit], it’s nowhere that impressive. As a matter of fact, the “convention” tattoo artists don’t give a fuck, at least, a solid majority of them don’t. When you work mostly in your shop, you see people again, and therefore you can’t afford to mess up that bad. I would even say that *** *** Inks, as a whole concept, are just done for that — put in a single-pass easy color that will look cool till you’re paid, took your photo, and took part in the “Best of Day” competition… but it’s just the worst shit I’ve ever used. It’s a whole culture that is taking over, and it’s a shame, because everybody feels forced to adapt to it.

I agree whole-heartedly. Although I can’t say whether “convention artists” doing these pieces that fail once they heal are willfully committing fraud when they fill their portfolio with fresh pieces that look nothing like the healed examples, but that is what it amounts to, intended or not. I want to show the example that my friend shared with me. This is a fresh tattoo on the left from a well-respected artist, and on the right, the same tattoo not long afterwards. And to be honest, this example isn’t even that bad. I’ve seen loads of tattoos that fresh look world-class — I mean, the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen — from “name brand” tattoo masters, that look like scratcher garbage when healed.

If a tattoo artist’s portfolio contains nothing but fresh photos, consider it a warning sign — to say nothing of being paranoid about Photoshopping to pump up saturation and levels. And if your tattoo artist can not show you well-healed examples of their work, they are not someone you should be going to. You do not have the luxury of wearing a photograph of the fresh tattoo. You will be spending your life with the healed version, and if it doesn’t stand up to what you were expecting, it is you that will suffer. Insist on seeing healed photos!

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Click to see that picture a little larger of course.

Edit/Update: Because I am sick and tired of people STILL claiming this is deception on my part, here are screencaps from Facebook showing both images in the tattoo artist’s gallery, full unedited versions, including the name of the artist. They may well have pulled the images by now, but these screen caps are accurate. Damn all the haters for dragging the artist’s name into this, because that was never the point of this.

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