Friday, January 30, 2009

A Tropical Tattoo on a Cold Winter's Day

While making a quick pass through Penn Station at lunch, I spotted this sweet tattoo on a guy waiting for his train:

Steph is a student out on Long Island who designs and draws up his tattoos and then has them inked.

The piece featured above was the first one that I spotted on him (he has eight in all), and he was willing to share it here.

Perched on his left bicep, It depicts a tropical setting, with bamboo and a panther, the main element in the tattoo.

This particular design was inked about two years ago by Chris at Tattooing by Richie in Elmont, Long Island.

Previous work from the shop has appeared here.

Thanks to Steph for sharing his self-designed body art with us here on Tattoosday!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The EMC is the Only EMC

I met Eric in Penn Station as I was headed back to work during lunch.

His sole tattoo on his right forearm reads "THE EMC". The EMC refers to his initals, his full name being Eric Manuel Concepcion.

He prefaced his initials with the article "the" so he can set himself apart. It's an manifestation of his individuality.

He wants to have "great significance in life" and has a larger piece in mind to build around this tattoo.

"Only one person can be me," he says, and this exemplifies his conviction that he will be great at being who he is, and that "no one will copy" him.

I've invited Eric to submit more photos as the piece evolves.

The tattoo was inked at Funcity Tattoos in Manhattan. Other work from Funcity has previously appeared here.

Thanks to Eric for sharing his personal tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Renee's Expression of Hope and Joy In Ink: The Presidential Tattoo

Before I proceed with this tattoo, let me plaster a disclaimer on the wall. Although my politics are hardly a secret to people I know, I do my darnedest to keep them out of my blogs. People are passionate about politics, and I have seen rifts in friendships and other relationships turn into chasms of anger and resentment over a difference in politics.

By posting the following, I am neither endorsing nor espousing any cultural, political or religious views. The views expressed are those of the owner of this tattoo. I have made small edits to the statement that Renee sent along with her photos, but it remains, for the most part, in tact. My edits are marked by ellipsis (...). This photo and description represent a landmark moment in United States history. So without further ado, let the bars of "Hail to the Tattoo" begin.

Renee from Brooklyn e-mailed me this very new tattoo:

It was inked by Big Steve at Daredevil Tattoo in Manhattan.

Renee offers a lengthy explanation:

Why an Obama Tattoo?
"You don't even know if he will be a good President." "Why would you put a politician's name and face on your body?" "You are going to hell for all those tattoos." "Renee, have u lost your mind?" "Are u f*cking serious?" "Woooooow!" "This is on ULTRA!" "That is a bit much!" "That is HOT!" "Are you insane?" "OMG!" "Good shit!" "That's very nice!" "You're a dumb ass!" "How utterly stupid!" "I love you; U rock!"
Those are just some of the comments I read and heard. Some from closest friends; others from total strangers, but most were typical responses. I didn't expect a warm welcome to the idea. Yet, I am not second-guessing my decision because one of the precious gifts we have is freedom of choice. Additionally, it's a permanent tattoo so I better grill it up and eat it because it's here until death do us part.

However, I ... did not get this tattoo as a dare, as some proclaimed; or as a way to get press coverage for personal gain. Yet, I am thankful for that which I received because all publicity, whether negative or positive, is good publicity and keeps your name in the mix. I dig being in the mix; always have.

Unlike many people, I do exactly what I want to do. There are two kinds of people in this world; those who talk the talk and those who demonstrate the talk. Blame my mother, as this burning desire to walk to the beat of my own drum no matter how extreme to some, stems from her blood which runs free within me. Shout out to my mother (who doesn't have any tattoos, in case you are wondering).

For the last ten years, I have demonstrated the talk. Moved to New York as I said I would do at age 12, mingled with celebrities, did some broadcast and touched people with thought-provoking topics; wrote articles that changed perceptions and sparked controversy; been in love and failed with great stories to tell; had my name in magazines and even remain a staple on Internet search engines; been on television (Hey Amanda Lewis); was homeless, but flew out of it like a bat out of hell; held down some decent jobs and even got a better job during a...recession...performed twice in Time Square; had lunch with Secretary of State elect, Hillary Rodham Clinton; modeled when people laughed and said I was too short, too tatted; too fat, too boyish, too awkward; can’t walk in heels; too over the top; and this is only a fraction of the accomplishments.

Be it right or wrong, I've seized the moment to aspire to great heights despite the whispers from those who thought they knew what was best for me. If I lived my life based on their theories of what is just and unjust, how would I be able to call myself an individual? Along with that I am passionate on a lot of things; one of which is the state of our country.

...I have eight tattoos, with the President Obama caricature tribute being the ninth. I made the decision to get this tattoo a while ago but never acted on it. I toyed with the idea in my head and dismissed it as something I wouldn't do. When the inauguration came, I got that feeling again. The same feeling I got when Obama won the democratic nomination. The same feeling I got when Obama won the presidential election. It was a feeling of VICTORY!

President Obama didn't win alone; WE WON! We, being our ancestors who endured the brunt of slavery; our youth who have witnessed what was once said to be impossible; people everywhere of all shades of pigmentation who believed in the dream of equality and democracy; Rosa Parks who sat down and refused to comply; the joy in my grandmother's voice; and the gleam in the eyes of many. Now that I think of it, I can't remember a time I have been so in awe, so proud to stand up and support a movement; because President Barack Obama is a movement. Whether you acknowledge it or not, it is evident.

From the chants of "Obama" all across Washington, D.C. to they dirt roads of Kenya, people believed! I believe! We believe! And though my mother, father, and sister attended the inauguration, as I watched on a television at my job in New York, my feet stuck in one place, mouth open in amazement; I've never seen anything so beautiful and powerful. Something gripped my soul and hollered, "YES WE DID!"

When we got cast our ballots on Election Day, you could feel the power then. It was in some ways indescribable. I felt like I was voting for family. The interactions with President Obama and his family; Michelle's glow of intelligence and nurturing to her children; the innocence and curiosity of Sasha and Malia...

I was moved; simple and plain. I remained moved and encouraged. Others would agree with me but still say, "Did you really have to get a tattoo?" Yes! Every tattoo I've gotten has meaning and a greater significance. Some people express themselves through conversation, the arts, clothing, etc. I chose to document history by inking it on my arm as a constant reminder that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE! Of course I knew this before President Obama was elected but his perseverance and the drive of the American people made it full circle for me. When I think back to my childhood and an incident that occurred in Florida, when my aunt and I went fishing, I know the dream has been fulfilled.
We were traveling to the 7 mile bridge that leads to Key West to go fishing. We stopped at a small convenience store because we both needed to go to the bathroom. As a Caucasian man left the single stall bathroom he carried a key and handed it to the older Caucasian woman behind the counter. When my aunt asked to retrieve the key so we could use the restroom, she informed her that they didn’t have a bathroom. When my aunt pointed to where the sign read, "rest room,” the lady then said it was out of order. But we just saw a man leave from it who even said "thank you" upon exiting the store. This was the first time in my life I felt so insecure about my skin color. I never want ANYONE to feel that way. I never want to feel as though I would be denied anything because I am a brown. This happened in 1992, which isn’t that far back, so it shows us that some people still hold on to those discriminatory practices.

Will the world be changed overnight because Obama is in office? No. Will racism end based on his win? No. Will we still endure hardships? Absolutely. Yet, we have made SIGNIFICANT progress thus far, which only lets me know we are able to make so much more. President Obama didn't start the movement; he answered the call of the movement. He answered the call of the dream so that the children I will have someday will really be able to say, "I want to be president," and no one will see it as far-fetched. We are a million steps closer.

He is the first politician who said things I actually felt in my soul. This isn’t some cult or impulsive craze; this is HISTORY. If it’s not something you would do, I understand but in the words of Jay-Z, “Can’t Knock the Hustle.” President Obama is MOTIVATION! And if I am a fool for believing in someone who acknowledges we need change in our schools, economy, government, lifestyles, and so much more but has the power to work for that, than so be it. I'm guilty, standing tall, standing proud, boldly drenched in ink for our 44th President of the United States.

Sho Nuff!
I want to thank Renee for considering sending her tattoo photo and accompanying statement to us here at Tattoosday. Regardless of one's politics, it is difficult to convincingly argue that the election of Barack Obama was not an historic moment. I was happy to share Renee's joy here on Tattoosday.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Weird Day

Here’s a new one for you. A straight narrative, speckled with ink references, which eventually resembled a “traditional” Tattoosday post. It certainly takes the cake as one of the most unusual encounters. I’ve significantly edited it down for space considerations.

I've also waited a week (this is back-dated) to see how it would play out.

Today was a gloomy, sleety, cold New York City day and I decided to go out at lunch, despite the rain.

After an unsuccessful circuit through the Chelsea Whole Foods, I hit the Muhlenberg branch of the New York Public Library and pick up a few CDs (The Black Parade is Dead! by My Chemical Romance, Lost Highway by Bon Jovi, and Rock My World by Bret Michaels) and some books What Is This Thing Called Love by inked poet Kim Addonizio,

Sailor Jerry Collins: American Tattoo Master

and Tattoo Nation: Portraits of Celebrity Body Art.

I head back toward work and stop under the overhang outside of Fashion Institute of Technology to take a break from the freezing rain.

I decide to talk to two students who are talking outside, smoking. I introduce myself and explain the blog and one of them is un-inked and has agreed to participate in the Unin(k)itiated survey. I’m about to talk to ask the first question when a guy comes up to us to ask a question.

Here’s where the abridging of the conversation begins.

Initially, he is looking to get directions to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue. He is visiting from San Francisco and needs to pick up a PC from there. He speaks very fast. He has been a web designer since the early 90’s. He rattles off several websites he has built for various companies. He refers to himself as “Apple Pirate,” and he mentions an Apple tattoo.

My interest is piqued. “You have tattoos?” “Four,” he replies. But he is covered in clothing and is visibly cold in the non-San Francisco weather. I don’t expect him to show me anything. I mention the blog, but he is dismissive. He makes a comment about not having time for websites that are small. I am not offended, though I could take issue with what could be perceived as a sleight. But Tattoosday is still a little baby blog, and I’m a small fish in a big blogospheric ocean, despite the occasional delusion of grandeur.

The conversation is all over the place, with Chris leading most of the discussion. Among the topics: where the nearest bike shop is, how he’s been crashing on the floor at The Hotel Chelsea because he doesn’t have the credit card he used to make the reservation at the W Hotel (he was mugged in Baltimore), the quality of F.I.T. as a school, and why the Baltimore School for the Arts is losing students to F.I.T. Also discussed is the weather, some SF vs. NYC banter, technology, design, and more on tattoos.

We drift back to his ink and he has decided that he will show me one of his pieces. Here is where this starts looking like a normal Tattoosday post. This is the tattoo on Chris’ left elbow:

That’s the Apple Pirate logo.

Chris kept talking and I continued standing with the two F.I.T. students, whose names I never got. My lunch was over and I needed to get back to work. However, both women have my card, and will hopefully contact me so I can finish the story.

They never did. Nor did Martin.

It was a truly bizarre little encounter, one which may still be unfolding in the days and weeks to come.

There was actually more to this post. Chris credited his tattoo to a well-known tattoo artist in another state. The original post discussed this artist, along with his shop, and the fact that I tracked down the artist to verify if this tattoo could be attributed to him. Ultimately, the tattooist has no recollection of the piece or the individual.

Another day in the life of the tattoo blogger!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Five Questions for the Unin(k)itiated: Nate's Hobbesian Dilemma

It was another cold day, so I cut through Penn Station on my way to the bank. It appeared as if it was going to be another tattoo-less sub-30-degree day in the Big City, so I stopped and chatted with a nice couple from Washington D.C. about their lack of tattoos.

So begins another chapter of “Five Questions for the Unin(k)itiated.” Today’s installment was better than the premiere one on the previous day.

Name: Nate

Q: Do you have any tattoos?

A: No

Q: Why not?

A: They’re expensive and I can never decide what to get.

Q: So you have considered getting a tattoo?

A: Yes, off and on for about four to five years.

Q: If yes, what would you have inked, where, and why?

A: Hobbes [The comic strip stuffed tiger from Calvin & Hobbes] on my right shoulder. I love Calvin & Hobbes, and Hobbes is the best comic strip character.

Q: If you could be a tattoo on any famous person, what would you be, on whom would you be, and why?

A: I’d be a Hobbes tattoo on Angelina Jolie’s lower back because she’s hot.

On an interesting side note, check out a photo of Angelina Jolie’s back, for real:

She already has a tiger tattoo there! Is it me, or was Nate’s response, uninformed by what Jolie has inked already, incredibly funny, considering?

Thanks to Nate for chatting with us here on Tattoosday!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Introducing: The Unin(k)itiated

What’s a tattoo blogger to do?

Or, more specifically, what’s a Northeastern tattoo blogger to do?

Sure, this is a site dedicated to tattoos, but there’s a central character here, as well, which is the city of New York. And whereas there’s a vast array of visible ink from May through September, and occasional sightings in the late Fall and early Spring, December through February are tough times for those of us in colder climates that thrive on the public spotting of a well-crafted, nay, any tattoo.

Just to illustrate my dilemma, since December 24, I have posted 21 items, only 5 of which were tattoos from people I had never met before, and all of them were initially noticed inside a building.

Anticipating this seasonal slow-down, I had been batting around some ideas on how to expand the format of Tattoosday to pique interest during the colder months. One such idea came to fruition today in a segment I will be calling “Five Questions for the Unin(k)itiated.” That is, a series of questions for people who do not have tattoos. And if you think its tough asking strangers about their ink, try asking strangers about their lack thereof.

Astonishingly, the first person I asked was happy to oblige. It was 23 degrees outside when I stopped to talk to a young woman out on Penn Plaza.

So, without further ado, here is the premiere installment of Five Questions for the Unin(k)itiated:

Name: Anna

Q: Do you have any tattoos?

A: No

Q: Why not?

A: I don’t want one.

Q: Have you ever considered getting a tattoo?

A: No

Q: Is there a specific factor that causes you to feel that way? For example, religious, cultural, etc.?

A: It’s a personal preference

[Okay, I’m going to interject something into the discussion here. Right about now, you’re probably thinking, “Gee, Bill, this is kind of boring. Are you sure this is a good idea?” Remember, folks, this was my maiden effort, and this feature may evolve. Plus, one should keep in mind, if Anna did have a tattoo, voila! Instant Tattoosday Post. Just add Curiosity. But I saved the best question for last.]

Q: If you could be a tattoo on any famous person, what would you be, on whom would you be, and why?

A: I’d be on Johnny Depp, because I like him. And I would be a palm tree on his arm, because it represents where I’m from originally, The Phillipines.

Thanks to Anna for humoring me as I questioned her in the frigid January afternoon on Penn Plaza

Do let me know in the Comments section what you think of this piece. Remember, it’s better than nothing!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Liz Presents a Cherry Tattoo

The winter in New York City has not been kind to us here at Tattoosday. Inkspotting is operating at minimum visibility, but we try not to let that discourage us.

This afternoon, passing through Penn Station, I spotted some knuckle tattoos on Liz, who gladly complied with my request to photograph them. Check them out here over on

The drawback of talking to people waiting for the L.I.R.R. is, at some point, their train will flash on the board, and they'll dash off. Cognizant that the departure time of Liz was rapidly approaching, I asked if she had any other tattoos I could feature.

Unfortunately she was bundled up against the cold, and the bulk of her 30-plus tattoos were not easily viewable.

She did present to me, on the left side of her neck, these cherries:

No earth-shattering story here, folks, Liz just likes cherries. She had this inked at Tattoo Mania on Staten Island by an artist named "O'Brien 7," or just "7".

Thanks to Liz for sharing her ink with us here on Tattoosday!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Return of Eryn's Ink: Frankenstein's Monster and the Little Girl

At lunch, I ran into Eryn, whose yarn skull, was one of my favorite posts of 2008.

We've been exchanging messages for a while, and I have been anticipating another sample of her work (she has a lot of tattoos).

She has added to her yarn skull, and her whole right arm is a sleeve-in-progress. We decided to wait and showcase the whole limb when it's complete.

Her January offering was this brilliant portrait from the 1931 classic Frankenstein:

The picture above is the one I took, the one below is from the artist's portfolio:

This tattoo is based on this famous scene from the movie:

That's Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster and Marilyn Harris playing the little girl. The scene is simultaneously poignant and horrifying. It is a commentary on the innocence of childhood and society's destruction of that innocence through its creations. The little girl does not see a monster, but someone with whom to share a beautiful experience.

But the end result is tragic. The monster is even more innocent than the child, until his unintentional curiosity drowns the little girl.

The scene can represent many different concepts. One of which is the way society judges people based on the way they look. Adults see the creation as a monster, whereas the little girl sees him for what he is inside: a child with a curious innocence (soon to be lost).

Eryn has a lot of tributes in ink, commemorating "the darker things [she] loved as a child". This scene is her favorite one in the film, for all the meaning she finds in the brief couple of minutes therein.

The tattoo is inked on the back of her right calf. The detail in the portrait of Karloff as the monster is phenomenal:

The piece was inked by Randy Hall at Hero Tattoo in Conway, South Carolina.

Jeff Cribb, who founded the shop, is credited by Eryn as being the leading force behind the legalization of tattooing in South Carolina.

I also photographed Eryn's knuckle tattoos, which will be appearing in the future on

Thanks again to Eryn for sharing her awesome body art here with us on Tattoosday!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On the Bookshelves: A Few More at Borders

On Tuesday, I stopped by the nearby Borders and ran into Jill, who referred to this post, about the books on the shelves that are tattoo-related.

She showed me the photography section, where I found three more titles of interest.

The first was this title, Suicide Girls: Beauty Redefined:

For those unfamiliar with Suicide Girls, click the link on the sidebar to get a preview. It's basically a pin-up site, and most of the models are copiously inked. They're a lovely lot.


Jill also pointed out this book, Heroines by Bettina Rheims:

Although not specifically tattoo-related, some of the models in this high-end photography book sport ink.


And the third book I spotted was Celebrity Tattoos: An A-Z of A-List Body Art: 16 Temporary Tattoos to Wear by Chris Martin.

It's been extremely cold this week in New York City, so the inkspotting has been minimal. Bear with us. Pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training in less than a month, which means warmer weather is just around the corner!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cat's Ink Pays Homage to Her Experience on the Ocean

Over the last few months, I have reconnected with old friends through Facebook, many of whom I haven't seen in years. In so doing, many have discovered my burgeoning interest in tattoos, and the manifestation of that in Tattoosday. Many of these old friends are inked and I've posted their work here (i.e. this one form Michael).

Today's post comes to us from Catherine, the only person with whom I went to high school and college.

After college, Cat returned to Hawai'i, where she re-connected with the ocean, paddling and, among other things, taking a voyage on the Hōkūle‘a, traversing the sea in the style of the ancient Polynesians who settled on the Hawaiian Islands. That's an oversimplification but, rest assured, the journey is quite different from booking a ticket on a cruise ship.

So, it made perfect sense to me when Cat sent me an e-mail with the subject line "Cat's Tat," accompanied by the photo of her ink:

This amazing tribal piece on her lower back pays homage to her love of the ocean and Polynesian culture. I'll let her explain the rest, in her own words:

I had this done for my birthday a few years ago by Tricia Allen, who is well recognized for her knowledge of Polynesian tattooing. She's pretty much in demand for work, and is often on the BIG big island for jobs and conferences. I had known her a little bit while I was taking classes at UH, and met her again on Rapa Nui - we had a mutual friend there. Anyway, she did it in her living room in Palolo. I was sitting on a stool, bent over, with my face in a pillow. I was beginning to feel somewhat like Pavlov's dog, because ever time the buzz started, I'd get tense. She also seemed to enjoy pointing out where nerve clusters were located (owww).

Here's the story/reasoning/rationale: I had gotten a small one after our canoe club won the state championship in 1993 - my crew won the "blue ribbon" race for women, having been second all season. Anyway, once I really got into sailing, I wanted to design a new one that represented what I had seen and done in terms of canoes (both sailing and paddling). Canoes and canoe related activities have taken me all over the Pacific: The Society Islands (including Tahiti), The Marquesas, Mangareva, Rapa Nui, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji. It took 7 years of my trying out different designs before I found the concept I liked. I went for a consultation with Tricia, who gave me the idea; the Marquesans often use the idea of the human face, where each feature is a symbol in it's own right. Tricia had given me a diamond-shaped example, and from that I immediately saw what I would do.

So - the Marquesan concept, the shape of the hihimanu - ray - represents the twin-peaked mountain of Mangareva. As we approached it from the sea, it looked like a ray emerging from the sea. The eyes are Hawaiian honu - sea turtle, the wings are New Zealand Māori-style naia - dolphins, on the sides of the eyes are Rapa Nui makohe - frigate birds (separate story here - not getting into it), the mouth and nose are a double-hulled canoe and sail, with waves on either side, and the tail is supposed to be moons (for navigation and tides) and fishhooks done in a Tahitian style. Kinda ran out of room at the tail end, though! The whole represents Tangaroa/Kanaloa, who is the Polynesia-wide god of the sea. Not that I've been out there a LOT, but I have been out see the myriad incarnations of Kanaloa: the good, the bad and the truly frightening. I guess the design is in homage of what's out there...

Now I'm contemplating the next one. I have some Cook Island Māori ideas, but I want to go there first. Have also had a few people ask me to design things for them. I have also met maybe three or four others with hihimanu on their lower see LOTS of tattoos at canoe regattas!
Mahaloa nui loa to Cat for sharing this awesome piece with us here on Tattoosday, and for providing such an in-depth explanation. Truly fascinating and inspiring! We're loking forward to seeing the next one!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tattoos and Poetry: A Call

I received an e-mail today from Claire Askew, across the pond, who runs a publishing house over in the U.K.

Among her many projects (Read the Miagazine and One Night Stanzas), she is working on an anthology of poems about tattoos and tattooing. They're seeking submissions from poets all over the world, and I encourage people to contribute.

Check here for more information.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Michael Has an Ear for Music

Coming out of Penn Station, I spotted a guy on the escalator with an inked hand. Of course, I stopped him to talk tattoo, and he was more than happy to oblige.

Michael has eleven tattoos in all. Only four were visible, and he offered up this one:

He had this musical symbol (the treble, or G Clef) tattooed in his left ear,

because it made sense to him. He loves music, even music he doesn't understand. Michael has seen many people with musical notes inked on their bodies, but he thought it was significant to tattoo a symbol for something he loves on the part of the body where the music is received.

I asked him, on a scale of one to ten, ten being highest, how he had would rank the pain from having his ear tattooed. He said "6". And the most painful tattoo spot for him? "My thighs," he responded.

This note was tattooed at by a shop in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn by an artist named Steven. I am trying to confirm the name before linking it here.

I mentioned that Michael had three other visible tattoos. You can see them over here at Knuckle Tattoos.

Thanks again to Michael for sharing his musical ink with us here on Tattoosday!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

On the Bookshelves

Lacking new ink photos, I'd rather post something tattoo-related than nothing at all. So, here's a new feature on Tattoosday. An inventory of tattoo books currently on the shelves of a local New York City bookstore. Today's snapshot: my lunchtime haunt at the Borders in 2 Penn Plaza.

The Tattoo Encyclopedia – A Guide to Choosing Your Tattoo by Terisa Green.

Read a review here.


Tattoo: From Idea to Ink by Joy Surles

Read a review here.


Permanence: Tattoo Portraits by Kip Fulbeck

I've actually read this one before. Great photos with accompanying mini-capsules about the tattoo or the model's experience with ink, in their own handwriting. Highly recommended.


500 Tattoo Designs by Henry Ferguson


Great Book of Tattoo Designs: More than 500 Body Art Designs by Lora S. Irish


Advanced Tattoo Art (How-To Secrets from the Masters) by Doug Mitchel


The Tattoo Sourcebook by Andy Sloss & Zynab Mirza

Hope you find this feature useful.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Casey's Name Transcends Generations

I met Casey while passing through Penn Station. He was waiting for the Amtrak to his home in Rhode Island. I spotted his neck tattoo and asked him about it because it was not your typical neck piece. He was very enthusiastic about sharing it with Tattoosday,

Simply, the ink, which begins on the left side of his neck and curves in a semi-circle to the right side of his neck, is his name (first, middle, and last) in Armenian.

I normally don't spout opinions about people's choice of ink, but I have never understood why people tattoo their own names on their bodies. I work with many people who possess cursive renditions of their names in ink, and these tattoos don't appeal to my artistic sensibility.

However, after speaking with Casey about his tattoo, I fully appreciate the design and meaning of the piece.

One remarkable thing about the tattoo, in my opinion, is that it is inked in a language that is not commonly seen on skin, in this country at least. I have featured kanji, Hebrew, and Arabic, but never Armenian. The name inscribed in another language, especially when it honors one's family
heritage, elevates the art and carves deeper meaning into the flesh.

What makes this piece even more phenomenal is that the handwriting of Casey's name belongs to his grandfather. He went to him and asked for him to write the name out in the language of the Old Country, with the express desire to have it tattooed. And his grandfather not only gave his blessing, but loves the finished product.

In this way, Casey has created a tribute to his heritage, as well to as his grandfather, and is able to convey that respect for the past. It will also be a constant reminder for him to remember his grandfather and the roots from whence he came.

The piece was inked by his friend Jesus, who was not affiliated with a shop at the time he got the tattoo 2 1/2 years ago, but is now working at Wicked Ink Tattoo in Riverside, Rhode Island.

As a bonus, on two-for-Tattoosday, Casey showed me his other tattoo that is inked on his right bicep:

"So you're a Yankees fan?" I asked, smiling.

Casey corrected me, "It's a memorial piece for my cousin J.J. who was a devoted fan".

J.J. died at the too-young age of 26 and the tattoo was supposed to include the text "J.J. - Rest in Peace," but he didn't have time to finish it. There are plans to complete the memorial in the next month, and I hope to post the final version here in the future.

I must say that I have seen tattoos of the "NY" logo for the Yankees, but this piece is one of the best I've seen, just based on its size and sheer brightness of color. The deeper meaning as a memorial for a close relative makes the tattoo even better, in my opinion.

Thanks again to Casey for sharing both tattoos with us here at Tattoosday!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Literary Tattoo

I didn't spot a shred of ink today, so let's look elsewhere for a moment.

A great site that I love to visit regularly is Contrariwise, an awesome blog devoted to literary tattoos.

On a related matter, a friend sent me the link to the following article about literary tattoos that I thought I'd share with everyone here at Tattoosday.

In 2003, the author Shelley Jackson announced that she would publish a 2,095-word short story called “Skin” on participants who agree to be tattooed with randomly assigned words from her text. The tattooees alone will read the story, which will be complete when the last commissioned word is inscribed on its bearer, sometime in the next few years. It will not be published on paper. Jackson asks applicants (she has many more than she can use) to read her novel, The Melancholy of Anatomy, to ensure that they like her writing before committing to a word, because “Skin” is what she calls a “hidden track” (in the pop-music sense) of the book; both explore the relationship between words and the body.
Read the rest of the article here.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Jerry's Sparrows Represent an Ocean Crossed

I met Jerry just outside of our local grocery store in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

He was kind enough to let me photograph one of the sparrows flying on each side of his neck:

Jerry estimates that 50% of his body is inked. Today being January 4, a lot of that was covered against the elements, so the sparrow it was.

He has been getting tattoos since he was 17 years old.

He went with the sparrow tattoos to represent the traditional aspect of the art, and the fact that he had crossed an ocean (The Atlantic). This is one of the meanings that sparrows possess when represented in ink.

This piece, and most of his recent tattoos, was created by Alex Franklin at Brooklyn Ink.

Work by Alex and other Brooklyn Ink artists has appeared previously on Tattoosday here.

Jerry also has knuckle tattoos, which I also snapped pictures of his hands for, but a shadow (mine) interfered with a clean shot:

The knuckles read "Ride Hard" because Jerry is a biker and he says it's best to "ride hard or not at all". If I get the opportunity to get a better shot of his knuckles, I'll send them over to

Thanks again to Jerry for sharing his tattoos with us here on Tattoosday!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Tattoosday That Wasn't

A trip to New Jersey included a stop at the very-crowded Garden State Plaza on the way to see relatives.

Near a food court, I spotted an inked biker dude, and was going to approach him, but I balk at bothering people when they're eating or about to eat. And I used his SS belt buckle as an excuse to leave him alone.

Moments later, I stopped a mall employee with an interesting horseshoe tattoo on his right forearm. He was on break and seemed uninterested. He said he was in a hurry and I left him with a flier.

Moments later, in Hot Topic, an employee with numerous tattoos, including a piece based on the art of Angelique Houtkamp, took a look at a flier, but handed it back to me and said he'd remember the name Tattoosday and check it out.

So the mall was a bust (not that I went there for the sole purpose of inkspotting), but I was optimistic that I would get pictures from Beth, my wife's cousin, who we would be seeing at the family function to which we were heading. We had chatted the night before, and she was totally cool about sharing her butterfly, dancing bear, and New York Yankees tattoos.

Alas, Beth was not up for it this evening, and I came away photo-less. There was another guest at the house (one of the host's neighbors) who had a cool black cat with arched back tattooed on her chest.

I wanted to speak to her about it, but it didn't seem appropriate under the circumstances.

So this is what I meant the other day when I mentioned my blogging about the misses, in the absence of successes. What do you think? Was this remotely interesting? Let me know in the comments section.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Currently Reading: The Tattoo Artist by Jill Ciment

Winter is not conducive to good inkspotting in the big city, so I've got nothing for you today.

Nothing, at least, in terms of tattoo photos.

I will report, however, that I am reading the book The Tattoo Artist by Jill Ciment.

A work of literary fiction, The Tattoo Artist tells the story of Sara Ehrenreich, who was born in the early part of the 20th Century, became an artist, went to the fictional island of Ta'un'uu, where the art of tattoo is celebrated as a cultural and spiritual form of expression.

I have only completed a brief section of the novel, but am enjoying the narrative immensely. The protagonist's tattoos are described by her briefly as the tale progresses. I have yet to reach the point where she becomes a tattoo artist. However, she describes early on, as an old woman looking back on her life, how she is covered fully by ink.

Here's how she describes one of her tattoos:

His portrait graces my left breast. It is the first tattoo I engraved on myself. The portrait, however, in no way resembles the face I kissed that night; an unlined, untested face of cavalier certitude that the future would be as easy to read as a palm. The face on my left breast is desecrated, pillaged of all illusions, and though it breaks my heart to admit it, it is also the weakest part of my design--the point on my flesh where my emotions exceeded my skill--and no amount of virtuosity can disguise that weakness. The face on my left breast is a living death mask, as far removed from the young Philip as I am from the girl I was.

I haven't finished the book, but would certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys literary fiction and has even a cursory interest in the art of tattoo.

Thanks to Cynthia, my mother-in-law, for yet another inspired holiday gift!

Here's a link to a review of the book in The New York Times.

Read a preview/excerpt in Google Books here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Turning the Page on a New Year, a New Month

One of my holiday gifts in 2008 was a cool tattoo calendar from my mother-in-law.

I've decided that, on the first of each month in 2009, I'll post the photo that accompanies each month.

The photo fpr January is credited to photographer Uli Niedersteiner at Mauritius Images.

Happy New Year to all!