Sunday, September 30, 2007
The weather was beautiful and there was a plethora of tattoos, as I had anticipated. I had kids in tow, however, and despite their appreciation of body art, I have found myself less inclined to approach people when they are around.
Nonetheless, as people familiar with New York street fairs know, the kids love the big, inflatable bouncy rides. You know, when they jump around with a bunch of other kids on a huge inflatable pad, surrounded by netting and inflatable walls.
Thanks to their love of such attractions and the leniency of the operator, the kids had unlimited fun in the hour or two we spent at the festival, and I got to talk tattoo.
I am proud to report that I met and spoke with seven different folks who agreed to let me photograph their ink and get a little history of the work gracing their flesh.
In fact, until post-street fair, when I asked a guy in Foodtown about his shoulder piece, and was rebuffed, I was batting a thousand, 7 for 7.
So, thanks to all my inked volunteers. Due to space constraints and time as well, I'm going to roll them out gradually, a day at a time. Unless, I find more cool tattoos this week and start to further backlog. Oh, to have such problems!
Enough of the talk, here we go.....
The first piece is a classic koi tattoo, done on the front of the calf. There is a dragon on the back of the leg but it is not finished yet, as color still needs to be added.
The host, John, is from the Bay Ridge area and had his koi inked at Body Art Studios on 3rd Avenue. We know the artist, Peter Cavorsi, who also runs the shop, because he is responsible for one of mine and three of my wife's pieces. I strongly recommend his shop if you live in southwest Brooklyn. His shop is clean and he does very nice work, as you can see from John's koi.
Koi are a traditional part of Japanese tattoo, and are very common subjects n body art because they represent good fortune. Despite their being regular subjects, they seldom are ever one in the same. Like snowflakes, they tend to differ from body to body, and unlike tribal pieces, I don't think I could ever get bored of koi tattoos.
John estimated that this large leg piece, including the dragon on the back of the leg, not pictured and not yet colored, took 13 hours so far. A lot of people don't realize how much time goes into elaborate pieces like these. On shows like Miami Ink, a ten-hour project can be compressed to five minutes of screen time.
Thanks to John for getting me off to a great start at the Third Avenue Festival! Tune back throughout the week to see the tattoos on Tracy, another guy named John, Jaimie, Helen, Chris and Lolita Ford.
Friday, September 28, 2007
However, when something spectacular presents itself, all bets are off.
Friday morning, around 11:30 am, I was facing North on the southwest corner of 34th Street and 6th Avenue, on the outskirts of Herald Square, when I saw a heavily-tattooed woman across the street, walking with a guy, heading West. When the light changed, I had already decided to go take a closer look.
About half-way down the block, in front of Macy's, I caught up and without hesitation, tapped her on the shoulder and interupted her discussion with her companion. What inspired me to such boldness? Why this, dear readers:
Although not a completely finished back piece, it was breathtaking, especially if one admires quality ink. Click on the photo to enlarge. She also had tattoos running on both arms as well, neither of which I photographed.
I did my basic introduction and she was immediately receptive. Her name was Jill and she hailed from Nebraska.
After agreeing to participate, I asked her to offer me a piece that she felt most sentimental about. She had a hard time answering. I elaborated, "What one do you have the best memories about?" She selected the one I would least likely have chosen, but I was thankful that she was letting me add her to Tattoosday.
At the top of her right foot, at the bottom of the leg, she had the word "Rad" tattooed.
Jill explained that she and five friends had gone out together and each had a word inscribed on them permanently. The memory of the event clearly had an impact on her. When I asked "Why RAD?" She shrugged, "It's just a word I liked. One of my other friends had gnarly tattooed on her neck."
The tattoo was done in Omaha, Nebraska at Liquid Courage Tattoo and Piercing by the artist Jason Brown.
She said technically she only had 6 tattoos in all. She counted her 2 sleeves as one apiece. And I'm guessing she counted the back as one whole as well, despite the many components.
Well, I didn't want to take up too much of her time, standing in the sidewalk. In fact, while chatting with her, a couple stopped and the woman complimented her on her tattoos. With art like this, I'd imagine she gets that a ton!
I asked if I could take a shot of her back, she agreed. I thanked her and ambled off. I did notice when I uploaded the photo to the home computer later that the back piece still needs a little coloring which might be why she didn't offer it up right away as the tattoo I should photograph.
Of course, I want to dwell on the back a little longer. The script states "Traveler to the Grave".
I will take a stab at interpretation and attribute it as a reference to the lyrics of "How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?", a song from Morrissey's 2004 album You Are the Quarry:
But even I, As sick as I am, I would never be you
Even I, As sick as I am, I would never be you
Even I, Sick and depraved, A traveler to the grave
I would never be you, I would never be you
I also love the image on the neck, which is traditionally known as a calavera, attributed to the Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead in Latin American cultures.
The heart on the left side of the back is, I am surmising, a tribute to her grandfather. The strap of Jill's top covers up the first date partially, but I am leaning toward 1927-2004 as the span at the bottom of the heart.
Thanks to Jill for so kindly sharing her art with me! If you're reading this, Jill, and feel like sending me any shots of your sleeves, feel free to e-mail me. I hope you had a wonderful trip to New York City. Thanks for brightening my day!
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
but she was traveling with two friends. I have a harder time approaching people in pairs or groups, for some reason, perhaps because I fear not the rejection of one person but of two or more. Imagine: I approach a person and ask them about their tattoo. Their friend shoots them a "Who is this dork?" look and the tattooed is less likely to be forthcoming about their art. I also don't like to intrude on conversations and/or stop people who are moving. It's a courtesy thing, I guess. Although, if someone is sporting an incredible tattoo, I may suspend these "rules" for a shot of an amazing piece of body art.
So there I was, walking uptown, thinking it will likely not be the day for the Black Flag ankle tattoo, when I spotted a guy leaning up under a scaffolding. He had ear buds in and was reading, but his tattoo was interesting enough that it was worth disregarding those two deterrents.
This is the piece that was on his upper right arm:
Now, wouldn't you say that's fairly unusual? I just had to get to the bottom of this one. Before you continue, click the photo to see it in greater detail. It blurs a little, but you get a better idea of the full piece.
This tattoo resides on a guy named Losie, a resident of New Jersey. I introduced myself and he was very receptive, removing his ear buds and speaking very openly about his tattoo. This was his second tattoo (more on #1 later). It originated from his finding the art of Greg Simkins online at his website IMSCARED.com. The tattoo was then inked by Damion Ross at New York Adorned in the East Village.
So why did he choose this artwork for himself? "It reminded me of having nightmares when I was a kid," Losie related, "The kid is me."
Greg Simkins seems like a perfect match, then, for Losie's nightmare motif. If you look at his site, you can peruse dozens of his paintings, sketches, and drawings and they all resonate with a sense of the macabre, depicting spectacular, colorful visions of an imaginary world in which rabbits are terrifying and inanimate objects come to life.
Losie definitely has a fascination along the same lines, and indicated that he would eventually like to have an entire sleeve dedicated to the horror genre.
The kid in the tattoo is having a nightmare, he is on his bed. The headboard appears as rows of teeth, things are crawling in through the window and from under the bed. Even his pillow is terrifying:
I asked him about the tattoo on his other arm, he indicated it was done at a shop in Burbank, California, where he had lived for a couple of years.
The tattoo is the logo for the band Coheed and Cambria.
Interesting, I was following a Black Flag tattoo and found a Coheed & Cambria one instead. Losie explained the bats around the logo as a reference to an ex-girlfriend. He elaborated, "Her name was Jamie, so I added five bats, because Jamie has five letters in her name."
He then directed me back to the first tattoo:
"See the purple skull coming out from under the bed?"
"That's for my ex-girlfriend Violet."
Do note, all quotes are approximate and may not be 100% accurate. I took notes but did not write down exact statements. The messages, however, are accurate.
Losie did allude to a third tattoo, on his stomach, but we didn't discuss the exact location, or what the piece consisted of.
Thanks again to Losie for his participation!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
The first piece that Lindsay proudly showed me was this one, called "Maggie":
What struck me about this was its color. You see a lot of skulls in tattoo art, but they're seldom this shade, a pink that illuminates off of the skin. This was inked by Spiro at Superchango Tattoo Studio, just north of Houston in The Woodlands, Texas. Spiro is not listed on the shop's site currently, but his home page on Inked Nation here still shows an affiliation.
One of the things I ask people with multiple artwork when I meet them on the street, since I can't very well photograph everything on them, is what piece means the most to them. In Lindsay's case, it was a chest piece that was still a work in progress, so she offered up "Maggie," as she called her. Lindsay explained that Maggie was an original piece created by Spiro based on a painting he had done for a tattoo convention. Maggie is unusual because most of Lindsay's work she designed herself.
Maggie is an anti-drug tattoo, Lindsay explained. It's not visible in the tattoo but, off to the left, there is some additional work that she had Spiro add, like pills, a syringe, and other drug-related designs. Maggie represents what a life of drugs could produce. Lindsay wears Maggie as an anchor, a reminder of what could result from unhealthy choices.
Maggie sits on Lindsay's right shoulder. Her left arm, I noticed had this extremely interesting piece:
When I asked about it, Lindsay explained that she is creating a series of tattoos dedicated to her five senses, which she feels extremely connected to. Each sense is artistically represented with a different type of wings. This blue and yellow hand, on the outer left forearm, was barely visible in my attempt to photograph it, and represents the sense of Touch. This one is credited to Dave Boseman at Superchango.
She has the additional sense of sight on her inner left forearm:
Lindsay explained that "Sight" was done at a tattoo convention in Rhode Island.
When Lindsay so kindly responded to my request for some do-over photos, she sent me this one as well:
And I took the chance to add another one of mine...that I didn't think to show you. It is the chorus to my all time favorite song. Also done by Spiro at Superchango.
Made to Heal by Our Lady Peace
The chorus is:
The song "Made to Heal" appears on Our Lady Peace's album Spiritual Machines.
I'm a thief, a liar
An angel in the fire
I'm a king, a drug
The push that comes to shove
I'm a freak, a star
I'm everything you are
I'm your jesus, I'm your pride
The photo file name is entitled "Ribs," so I will assume that is why I didn't see this tattoo. I'll see if Lindsay can clarify that for me.
Thanks to Lindsay for her cooperation on this post and her willingness to share.
Yesterday I ran into Robin, a young woman walking up 8th Avenue, lugging a couple of garment bags, near Penn Station. She had a tattoo on her forearm that was extremely interesting:
Robin is in New York City working an internship as a Costume Designer on Broadway. She had attended the Art Institute of Chicago and obtained this tattoo there in the Windy City.
"I was tired of constantly looking for rulers," she mused, so she had one inked on. "It's to scale," she beamed, "My tat-tool". Definitely one of the most practical tattoos I have ever seen.
I particularly like the detailed flourishes at the ends of the ruler:
This piece was created by Allie at Tatu Tattoo in Chicago.
I initially noticed Robin's first tattoo, on the back of her neck, as she walked briskly by me. She has short hair, with a bare neck, so this small piece really pops off the skin. When I asked her about this:
she indicated that she has a twin sister with the exact same symbol on her neck. She was tentative about where, exactly this was done. Originally hailing from Eugene, Oregon, she thought it might have been done at High Priestess in her home town. She threw in a disclaimer that High Priestess might be only a piercing shop (it apparently is), so we're not sure exactly of the name of the shop where this interesting piece was tattooed.
Nonetheless, Robin was an interesting person to meet, very friendly, and the possessor of a very cool tattoo that serves as a measuring implement as well.
Thanks to Robin for her willingness to participate in Tattoosday!
Monday, September 24, 2007
“As tattoos become more popular,” reads a headline in The International Herald Tribune over an article by Natasha Singer of The New York Times, “so does ‘tattoo regret.’ ”
On the other side of the world, in Brisbane, Australia, The Sunday Mail warned last year: “Think before you ink. That’s the message skin experts are preaching as ‘tattoo regret’ booms.” It reported that a Queensland athlete — embarrassed about a smiling devil’s face etched on his back — complained in rhyme of suffering “severe tattoo-rue.”
“The regret combining form is found in a lot of current writing,” notes Ann Rubin Wort, a former Times colleague. “Nowadays people are acting more impulsively; thus, regrets aplenty and the resulting need to nullify capricious choices.”
Regret about the permanence of skin illustration is rising. The Washington Post reported that a Harris Poll a few years ago indicated that nearly half the young women between 18 and 29 surveyed had at least one tattoo, and that 17 percent of all tattooed Americans who had tattoos regretted getting them. It seems that many of the aging former teenagers have had a skinful.
Etymology of the dermatology: Earliest use I can find of nostalgia for an unmarked epidermis is a headline above a 1989 Times column by Lawrence K. Altman, M.D.: “For Those With Tattoo Regret, Here’s Hope.” Back in that day, laser treatment was the great hope; now it seems that a new tattooing ink has been developed that, it is claimed, may make removal of tattoos by laser more practical.
This column’s interest, as Wort notes, is in the collocation combining form — the way a new phrase is made by substituting one element of a familiar phrase. (A generation ago, the lexical response to backlash was frontlash; applying that replacement technique to a phrase, a moderate critic of our present war policy suggested that the answer to the charge of “cut and run” should be a centrist approach of “cut and walk.”)
Tattoo regret is formed on the analogy of buyer’s regret, more vividly and widely expressed as buyer’s remorse. Until this collocation was formed, the idea took longer to express, as in this 1891 citation from a San Antonio paper: “They who bought winter hats . . . early in the fall are now repenting their rashness at leisure.” The same anguished repentance happened this year to early buyers of Apple’s hotly touted iPhone, who plunked down $600 only to find the item reduced to $400 a couple of months later, lowering the puissance of the status symbol.
Buyer’s remorse is a phrase probably coined in the auto industry a half-century ago. Grant Barrett, editor of the online Double-Tongued Dictionary, has a citation from The Los Angeles Times in 1946 reporting a customer’s complaint that her auto dealer “told her she had ‘buyer’s remorse’ and since she had signed the contract she had to stick to it.”
In 1957, Leon Festinger came up with a theory of “cognitive dissonance,” in which he posited the opposite of buyer’s remorse: Most of us tend to embrace the choice we make, so as to reduce the self-critical dissonance in our minds. When we buy a Ford, we read Ford ads and shy away from reading the ads of Toyota.
The regret or remorse combining form has an immediate future in politics. As the states play backward leapfrog with their primaries, we face a stretch of nine months of campaigning leading up to the national parties’ conventions next summer. As the political winds blow hot and cold, as candidates’ poll ratings rise and fall after each statewide election, primary voters and contributors will experience a kicking-oneself feeling when their candidate fades and they wish they had chosen the victor to oppose the other party’s choice.
And what will we call that sinking sensation felt by all the primary voters who failed to back the winning candidate of their party? Those afflicted with tattoo regret will have company: as we plod through the primaries, watch for voter’s remorse.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The first of Janet's tattoos was inked in Buffalo, New York when she was 19 or 20, approximately 20 years ago:
This pachyderm has been touched up twice in the twenty years or so since first decorating Janet's right shoulder blade (aka the posterior scapula). It was the first tattoo I saw on Janet, back in 1997 when tattoos were not as common as they are today. Janet has always loved elephants, and has a few collected, the first of which was given to her as a child by her much-beloved Aunt Claire, for whom her daughter is named.
Janet's love of elephants (and hence her tattoo) stems from their being majestic creatures that are matriarchal and intelligent. They are social beings that even mourn for their dead.
Janet's second tattoo was inked four or five years back at her friend Michelle's bachelorette party:
This simple yin and yang symbol, inscribed on the left side of her lower back, was added in the East Village, we're guessing at Andromeda Tattoos Studios. It is a symbol, for Janet, of her striving for balance in her life.
Her third and last (but not final) tattoo was also done at Andromeda, and is on the right side of Janet's lower back:
Janet is particularly proud of this one and thinks it has the best story of her three tattoos. I would agree. She had this done in 2004 when she had been traveling a lot on business between New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. She began dating a guy in L.A. and was seeing him whenever she flew into town for work. As her California work projects came to a close, their relationship reached a crossroads, and there was discussion and soul-searching over the matter of relocation. He didn't want to leave L.A. Janet was born and raised in Buffalo and is a New Yorker through and through. I can't imagine her living in L.A. And neither could she.
As one might guess, her decision was solidified when she went and had this tattoo done which, "sealed the deal not to move to L.A." Once branded, she mused, there was no way she was leaving New York.
The rest is history.
Thanks to Janet for sharing her tattoos and accompanying stories! You know a friend is true when they'll let you blog about their tattoos!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
After he successfully completed chemotherapy and radiation, and survived this scare (I still sport a yellow "LIVESTRONG" wristband in honor of him, despite the fact that they are "out of style"), he felt that the metaphor of the comedy and tragedy masks best represented his struggle.
To him, the tattoo represents life. It is a badge of survival, and a reminder of the importance of humor in the face of the most dire of circumstances. I was only on the sidelines when David struggled. But through it all, he managed to maintain a strong sense of comedy. His sense of humor took a beating, but it never gave up, and it sustained him and let him remain positive. He acknowledges that that attitude had a place in the battle for his life.
The tattoo is discreetly located on his left calf. I say discreetly, because David is not one to wear shorts. I have always seen him in slacks or jeans, but never shorts.
He doesn't recall specifically where he had this inked, other than a shop in SoHo.
Thanks, David, for sharing your tattoo!
Pearl Jam is releasing a DVD of concert footage from last year's tour as it passed through Italy. Their fan site has a clip from the video, in which guitarist Mike McCready discusses his tattoos. Check it out here.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
So on Wednesday night, when I realized I had until midnight to return a video to Blockbuster (Rescue Me, Season 2, Discs 1-3, all unwatched) or face stiff penalties, I dragged my stuff with me, just in case. At that time of night (11:30 PM), I figured opportunities would be slim to none.
Let me clarify, I saw some cool tattoos, but figured it would not necessarily be the best idea to ask bar patrons out of the blue on the street to participate.
Anyway, video returned, happy with just a shot of a new look from The Loneliest Lamp Post in Bay Ridge, I walked past, near the stroke of midnight, a harmless looking gentleman unchaining his bicycle . At first glance, he looked like he had a bicycle tattoo on his right forearm.
Not quite. Instead he had this:
Well, obviously, he agreed to participate in Tattoosday. So, what is this?
Well, the host, named Matt, offered up the following explanation (loosely paraphrased here). The tattoos is based on the cover art for Spit on a Stranger, a 1999 EP by the indie rock band Pavement. Take a look:
Matt is a resident of Williamsburg, but works in Bay Ridge. In retrospect I marvel at his midnight bike commute, although I hope he just rides to the nearest train station. Matt's tattoo was adapted from the Pavement EP, which was one of the band's final records. He says he gets a lot of comments and questions about it, and that people interpret it differently, yet all seem to be in the right ballpark when coming to their own understanding of it. Matt studied political philosophy in school and appreciates the vagueness of the piece, and the fact that it is able to be so widely interpreted by others.
This work was inked at Cherry Bomb Tattoo in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Thanks to Matt for talking to me and letting me take a picture so late in the evening.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
This is the sole tattoo of my friend and co-worker, Tom Wacker.
Tom designed and drew the art upon which this tattoo was based.
The Reaper is posed on Tom's biceps/deltoid and has resided there since 1984, when its host was a young lad of eighteen.
This is Tom's only tattoo and he has no plans to get more. He is proud of the fact that, because he designed it and because he then tore up the original design, it is a one-of-a-kind piece. He said that it was very painful because of the amount of black ink that went into it.
The tattoo was inked by Dean at Lola's Tattoos, then in Cliffside Park, but now in Bogota, New Jersey. Tom got this tattoo "because it was cool," although the tattooer tried to convince him not to get it because it was "too mean" for him. Twenty-three years later, Tom says he has no regrets about his ink.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Like Ozzfest, the best I can do is offer candids, although I did get a great shot of one of my favorite's from the show.
Here's a flaming skull on the forearm of an Alice Cooper fan:
I wish I could have got this one, front and back, but no such luck:
Here's a bit of a blurry sleeve:
Although I couldn't read the words during the show, I loved the symmetry of this piece:
I like the script and the hourglass shape that molds perfectly between the shoulder blades. Even better, when I got home and used my photo editor, I was able to isolate the text and read what was so inspiring as to get someone to ink into their back:
Ah, the bard! Not every day dost thou espy a Shakespearean tattoo:
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing." --From Macbeth (V, v, 19)
Basically, that's all I was able to get at the show. However, the Macbeth tattoo made it all worth it. I have no other concerts on the horizon, so that may be it for a while from the live music venues.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
I have copied my six Tatttoosday posts from BillyBlog over to this site for continuity purposes. My reasons for doing this are hazy. Primarily, I thought it would be easier to explain to people with tattoos that I had a blog called Tattoosday that featured them, as opposed to a blog called BillyBlog that had a weekly feature called Tattoosday. Simpler explanation, I think, if the blog is devoted solely to tattoos.
There's also less pressure, I think, to find people. Instead of needing them by a certain day, I'll post them as I find them. I can also post other tattoo-related items here, if I see fit.
So even if you see posts dated prior to September 8, 2007, they are dated to correspond to the "Tattoosdays" when they appeared in July and August.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
On Tattoosday Eve, Labor Day, I still had nothing for the post. I stopped someone in front of my building yesterday with a really cool Hellboy tattoo. He seemed receptive but wanted to check out the blog first.
I found myself with many opportunities but passed, not necessarily out of lack of nerve, but because the tattoos were not so nice, old, faded, or blurred by too much sun. I
have seen a handful of dolphin tattoos like the one the Ancient One sent me.
Today was the kids' first day of school, so I took off from work. Around 11 AM, I decided to ride my bike, eventually making it to Coney Island, where I guessed I could find some good ink. Yet it was still sparse, I had ridden down the Boardwalk and had circled back when I found my first subject.
I approached two young ladies who were taking pictures. One of them had a tattoo on the back of her neck:
The Japanese characters spell out the woman's name, Fernanda. Unlike on the recently-aired episode of VH1's "Rock of Love," in which one of the contestant's gets Bret Michaels' name tattooed on the back of her neck, as a show of devotion, Fernanda has inked her own name. I see a lot of people that do their own names on their arms or legs (I work with many who have done so), and have never really understood the phenomenon.
But in Fernanda's case, I get the artistic expression a little more. These are Japanese letters that have a greater aesthetic impact than Roman letters. When I asked Fernanda why she tattooed her name, she merely expressed that she loved Japanese letters and Japanese culture. She was born and raised in Brazil and has only been living in New York for a year. She did not remember the name of the shop where she had the tattoo done, but narrowed it down to the Astoria section of Queens for me.
I have to agree, it's a pretty cool tattoo.
I made another pass and headed back home. Once I made my way to the Shore Road promenade, where I do the majority of my cycling. I have several spots along the several-mile route from which I can head home. I decided to go down to the 92nd Street footbridge. Standing on the bridge was a gentleman who seemed to be cooling off from running. He had earbuds in and a large biceps piece. He also had an ankle piece and another tattoo on his triceps.
I passed him while walking my bike and then headed back and said loudly, "Excuse me!" He removed his earbuds and I explained my mission. He was game. His name was Mike and he had 6 tattoos in all and didn't mind which one I photographed. I asked him which one was the most special and he held up his arm and pointed to the piece on his triceps. This one:
He explained it a tribal Native American designed mixed with the American flag which he got as a tribute after 9/11. The piece was done by Craig Cooley at Abstract Tribal Tattooing in Brooklyn. I asked him if he was a fireman, and he said, "No, a police officer." I thought, with the 6th anniversary of September 11 just a week away, it was a perfect punctuation mark to end a week of tattoo-spotting, and begin a week of reflection on this somber anniversary.
Thanks to Fernanda and Mike for their participation in this edition of Tattoosday!