11 Hours of Hand-Poked Scalp

Ferank Manseed, who has now been doing hand-poked tattoos for a decade (“I don’t play with that modern machine nonsense!”) just finished the second session on this amazing swastika/asanoha scalp piece, which now has eleven hours of hand poking in it. I like the 3D effect that makes it look like the design is cut right into the head, kind of a dotwork trompe l’oeil. As you may have guessed Ferank is pure hand-poked all the way, only having used a machine a few times (and that was a long time ago). He says, “the freedom of working by hand has allowed me to tattoo and travel and connect with other handwork tattooists, who are still rare — I like this…”

Like most hand tattooists, Ferank is largely self-taught, doing much of his learning by tattooing his own skin. I asked him what he uses for tools and while he points out that he “can make a tattoo with anything sharp” he usually uses pre-made needles (the same sort that would be put in a machine) strapped to a chopstick. When the tattoo is completed, he removes the needles from the bamboo chopstick, marks the date on it, blesses it with a swastika and an aum and gives it to the client as a souvenir of the experience.

Ferank is based at Northside Private Rooms (one of the rare studios that contains a dedicated hand area) in Newcastle Upone Tyne in England, and you can email him at [email protected] or visit him on Facebook.

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Sacred Undulations

I’ve always been a giant fan of all of the work of Freak Garcia / Garcia Leonam (of Ink Karma Nation, inkarma.wordpress.com or facebook.com/freakgarcia), but the stuff I especially love is his undulating “oil slick” patterns that dance across a person’s anatomy. The one he posted today really caught my eye because the design radiates out from an icosahedron — or as RPG fans like me, who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons, know it, a D20.


Geometric Couples Tattoo

I love this double design running across a couple, done by Montreal’s Maika Houde (maikatattooart.com, also on Facebook and Instagram). You may be reminded, as I was when I saw this, of some of the pieces done by Little Swastika, and Maika told me that she’s always found inspiration in his art, so when this couple came to her looking for a shared tattoo she jumped at the opportunity to adapt the style to her own portfolio. It’s still in progress in these pictures, but already stands on its own. I really like that each tattoo is great on its own, but when you bring them together they become so much more… this of course works as a great metaphor for love.

Zoom in for a closer look.


Maika is actually in Toronto right now, doing a guest spot at Exotix, although her week is already full. I actually had a chance — by complete surprise — to see some of her fresh work in person because we hosted Russ Foxx‘s suspension event at our studio yesterday. Here are two pieces she’s done in Toronto, the one on the left being the one I got to see. Hmmm… I think she likes hexagons?

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Suspension Scar + Tattoo Job Offer

I got a message from Mike Hill at Broad Street Studio (broadstreetstudio.co.uk) in Bath, Somerset, UK telling me that they’re looking for a new tattoo artist at their studio and asking me whether I’d be willing to post a job ad for him… I told him I couldn’t really do that, but if he could find something interesting for me to post, well, as they say, “one hand washes the other”… So he got me some pictures of a recent scar he did on Tam Smith. Unlike most skin removal scars over tattoos, this is over a Japanese sleeve, rather than over blackwork, and the negative-space it creates interacts with the tattoo rather than standing solo. At first I’d assumed this was a tattoo on a fishing enthusiast, but it’s actually a flesh hook as Tam is part of the suspension community.


If you’re a tattoo artist looking for work (or perhaps even a long-term working vacation in beautiful Bath), get in touch with Mike on Faceobook, or via their shop website. To give you an idea of the sort of shop you’d be stepping into, here’s some work done by Fil, another one of the tattooists that call Broad Street Studio home — that’s Mike’s head top-right (you may recognize it, because Rob featured it back in 2010). Click for a giant look.


BME Pubic Piece Update

I’ve posted on Mateo’s BME logo pubic scar previously, which has been getting augmented with a growing and glowing aura of dotwork ink geometry by Jodi Lyford of Chimera (chimeratattoo.com) in Santa Cruz. She’s recently done more work on it, and it’s absolutely stunning. And the best thing about it is that it has an extremely realistic beard! But seriously, along with Keff’s dotwork BME logo sleeve and Joeltron’s BME logo backpiece, Matteo’s easily earns a place in my shortlist of best BME-themed body art.

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On a barely related note, speaking of Mateo, that reminds me I’ve been meaning to post a picture of the great nostril jewelry that Pauly Unstoppable was wearing in his latest pictures (the connection is that Mateo has done many of Pauly’s piercings). It almost looks like the coils that the Kayan people wear around their necks, and to my surprise is a look that I rarely see even though it’s quite beautiful.


Cammy Stewart Interview


Cammy Stewart, whose work has been featured on ModBlog in the past, is a Dundee, Scotland based tattoo artist who started like most do — self-taught, tattooing anything they could on anyone they could find — but had an epiphany when he met neotribal, blackwork, and sacred geometry tattooing pioneer Xed LeHead at London’s Divine Canvas. He began merging this new style and philosophy of tattooing into his own, and became a part of what began with the idiosyncratic style of a small handful of outsider tattoo artists and has become a full-on art movement. Find Cammy at Metalurgey in Dundee, Scotland, online at facebook/cammystewart or instagram/cammytattoo, or email him at [email protected].


* How do you create the designs in your tattooing?

I design all pattern work I use for tattooing on Photoshop. Sometimes I draw sections by hand on paper, scan them, and then replicate or manipulate them using the computer until I’m happy with them. Any other drawing or layout for the tattoo is usually drawn directly on to the skin with a selection of pens until it is clean and easy to follow.

* Does the core of the design tend to come from you or from the client?

I like my clients to come in with a rough idea and let me do my own thing with it. The only time I like to have full creative control over a tattoo is when I either know the customer well and they trust me fully, or I get a vibe from them that they are open minded and genuinely don’t mind what I do.

People always say, “do whatever you want,” but I know deep down they don’t really mean it. If the client has existing tattoos that I have to work around or cover up this will also have a massive impact on the final design. I try to use this to my advantage and let it help with the shape, and the shape of the clients body can also influence what kind of design I use or how I place it.

In my opinion the body should be treated as a whole when possible. The un-tattooed space is as important as the tattooed space — how it fits, how it flows, how it becomes a part of the wearer and looks natural on them…

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* Do you have a library of artwork that you do in advance and then look for clients for, or is it all drawn for the specific person?

I design everything for the client, and most of the decisions for the final design are done on the day. I don’t like knowing exactly what I’m going to do in advance as I feel this isn’t really the most creative approach — I like to work in the moment, for my life on that day to influence how I go about coming up with the design. It feels raw, and that’s what I get a buzz from.

I do make patterns and designs and keep them in folders on the computer for possible future use, and I also collect things I find that look interesting from books or online that I feel might be helpful for ideas or for reworking in Photoshop at a later date.

* Maybe a silly question, but why do you use almost exclusively red and black? It seems a common palette for this style in general.

The reason I choose red and black is because it is a striking combination — bold and raw, and it works well on the skin. No other colours have the same power for me. I’m not sure why they are popular as a whole though. I imagine for the same reasons that I’ve just described…

* How do you introduce individuality into designs that by their nature are somewhat repetitive?

Every day is like reinventing the wheel. People see my work and all want similar things done, but I try to persuade them that they should look beyond my previous work and do their own thing to something that will suit them — obviously I have my favourite patterns and motifs but I try not to overuse them.

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* What do you draw influence from as an artist?

I draw influence from everything — my family, my friends, day to day life, emotions from within myself and people I respect within the tattoo industry. I don’t really look at tattoo magazines these days and I try not to look at too much tattoo work online as I don’t want to draw to much from other peoples work. I’d much rather look at books on graphics, street art, and so on to keep my work is as original as possible and not have it be a copy of other artists’ work…

* What would you say to the criticism that geometric tattoos are, while technically advanced, are devoid of a certain artistry?

Art to me is a raw expression of ones self, a tool to communicate with people without language… and mostly something that makes people talk, so whether you like something or hate something, as long as you want to discuss it and it makes you think, then it has much artistry as a portrait or any other kind of tattoo. And really, “what is art?”

* How did you learn and mature as an artist?

It’s been a very long drawn out process. My background was in graffiti art so that obviously has has a big influence on the tattooing I am currently doing. However, when I started tattooing I didn’t have a clue about anything. I am self taught, so the first few years I was just learning the technical aspects through trial and error — I was tattooing whatever came my way really, wanting as much skin as possible to get better.

The biggest turning point for me was meeting my now good friend Xed LeHead from Divine Canvas. As he tattooed my face and head, I remember him saying, “you wear the sacred geometry, so why not take this path and explore it for yourself?”

It just seemed like the right thing to do as I had so much respect and admiration for his work and his take on tattooing and life in general. I felt at home around him and all of the wonderful people working alongside each other at his studio. He shared everything with me –machine knowledge, patterns, tattooing techniques, Photoshop use… the lot! It got me started with this form of art, and gradually, as I got more confident I put my own twist on it and used my own art background to help me develop further… I don’t feel this process will ever stop, and if it does I’ll stop tattooing.

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* Is it frustrating being seen as specializing in a specific style, or does that help you push it further than you could if you were a more “general purpose” tattoo artist?

I much prefer working in only one or two styles. I don’t feel you can be really good at everything — it’s impossible to be great at every style. I’d rather concentrate my brain on one thing and be the best I can be at it than be OK at many styles while never really excelling at any of them. Being an all rounder was never really my thing.

I also feel its easier for people to remember you and your work if you work within only one or two styles — it makes your work instantly recognizable. You could compare it to marketing a brand of anything. When I was still doing other styles, but was already changing from doing a bit of everything to specializing in one style, I felt it a good idea only to display in my portfolio the work I wanted people to come to me for rather than everything I’d done, so that in time people would know and accept that this is what I do.

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* How do you see you style evolving from where it is now?

The work will evolve as the customers evolve. Without people I am nothing. What I’ve been starting to find is, as more people see my work they are keener to give me larger spaces to work on and I have more freedom with design. Everything I do inside and outside tattooing helps me grow and evolve. Also, as equipment gets better it can make tattooing more fluid and allow me to cover more area more efficiently. Long term I would like to work on larger projects rather than small tattoos, but this will only happen when the time is right.

I think geometric/blackwork/abstract work will continue to grow as new artists enter this world and do their own take on it — the possibilities of it are endless with people who are prepared to take risks and push the boundaries of modern tattooing, ignoring all the conventional rules and thinking outside the box…

I just like to tattoo and want my customers to be happy with the final outcome… I want to make images that people remember and that fit the body well.

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Fabric-design-esque Backpiece

Most of the tattoo artists specializing in geometric designs seem to draw heavily from math and sacred geometry (often centered around swastika mysticism), and as much as I consistently enjoy that, I’m always very excited to see the boundaries of modern blackwork and neotribal being expanded with other influences. I don’t want to put words in his mouth — and I am planning on updating it soon, but much earlier in Vincent’s career we did an interview which you can read here — but in this gorgeous backpiece by Beautiful Freak‘s (beautifulfreaktattoo.com) Vincent Hocquet I’m seeing fabric design playing a role as well, and the textures and level work in the faces makes me think of printmaking as well. There’s more as well, maybe in the general layout, that I can’t quite put my finger on but very much sets it apart from similar “texture collage” tattoos. Great work as always. Zoom in for a closer look.

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Update: Vincent just showed me some of the source artwork, a Mayan “Mask of Death and Rebirth” from Tikal, 900 AD. I love the way he’s adapted it for the tattoo.

This Maya mask shows the different stages of life as part of a never ending cicle of human evolution through life and the afterlife as it was understood by the mayas. The mask has three layered faces, each representing one particular stage of life. The inner face represents the beginning of life at birth. The middle face is the most important one since it represents the adult stage when the person comes into his full potential and most of his life experiences happened. The outer or third face represents the end of earthly life. This sacred time was viewed by the Maya as the end of one cycle and the beginning of another one. Death was followed by lavish preparations for the next life.


Geometric Butterfly Backpiece

I was looking at this backpiece — still in progress I should mention — by Cameron Sterwart (facebook.com/cammystewart) and the way that a lot of artists adept in geometric work are starting to explore mixing different fields of geometry, often but not always in identifiable shapes like these butterflies and got to thinking that there’s a lot of kinship between the art of tattooing and the art of quiltmaking. Not just on a surface level either — you can also see it even more profoundly when you look at the history of quiltmaking and the way that artform evolved and changed over time. Although perhaps that is true for all artforms — it’s just more obvious in these cases because some of the technical restrictions make it more visually obvious. In anycase, more amazing work by Cammy.


Marc’s Third Double-Canvas

I have mentioned Marc (Little Swastika) and his multi-person tattoos before — you can click here to see the first two (four?) that he did. Over four presumably epic sessions he’s completed his third double-canvas tattoo, which you can see below. It’s not uncommon for someone to get a tattoo of their partner’s name, or to get little matching tattoos with their best friend, but this takes it to a whole new level… It resculpts the body into something that doesn’t make sense on its own any more… It creates a world in which you are forever — like it or not — unified with another person. The bond is so extreme it’s almost mindboggling to think about… And heartbreaking to imagine what it would be like if the two were separated, be it by death or be it by the foibles of love. If things don’t work out, one is forever broken in half. And while you’re thinking about this, look carefully at the tattoo — it’s not just a tattoo that runs across the beast with two backs. The tattoo is designed to look it’s best only when the one is holding the other.


King of All Black

Gerhard Wiesbeck (timetravellingtattoo.com) has really blown me away with this tattoo megaproject on Punctum Kay so epic and huge that I swear the Discovery Channel is going to do a show on its construction. You don’t get to see tattoos like this often as there aren’t many people willing to commit to something so immense yet also so simple — simple with the exception of the psychedelic geometric dotwork chest detail. Absolutely incredible. Zoom in for a better look — if you even need it, since this is the sort of tattoo that looks great from two feet or two miles away.

Edit/Update: I wanted to clarify that Kay (prozedurkultur.at) designed the main heavy blackwork (the chest portion was designed by Gerhard).