Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rachel's Roses

I spotted these beautiful roses last week outside of Madison Square Garden, and had to find out more about them.

I introduced myself to Rachel with my standard opening line, "Can I ask you about your tattoo?" Rachel admitted to me that the first impression she had was that I was going to try to sell her on a tattoo-removal product or service. She has not been the first person to think that. Perhaps I need a new intro.

Anyway, Rachel's trio of roses are remarkable, and she has 6 or 7 tattoos in all, many of which are roses as well, although she professed an admiration of Betty Boop, and has one of the comics icon as well.

But all I saw were these three roses, inked by Shannon O'Sullivan at a tattoo convention. Rachel's brother worked for a bit at Skin & Ink magazine, which helped introduce her to some folks in the tattoo community.

Rachel explained her rosy infatuation a bit further, noting she had worked for the designer Betsey Johnson, who used a lot of rose prints and rose-inspired design. She acknowledged that this led to her "obsession" with roses, and that beyond that, they do not have "a deep meaning".

Rachel is a designer whose website highlights her work.

Thanks to Rachel for sharing her beautiful tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Virgin Mary Will Be Saved

I ran into Michael last week outside of Madison Square Garden. He had numerous tattoos up and down his arms, but he told me that he regretted most of them. He had been in the military, based in the San Diego area, and he said he hoped, someday, to have all of his ink removed.

"All of it?" I asked. He had a lot.

He nodded, but then pointed to the one pictured above, inked on the underside his left forearm, and said he would probably keep this one, as it was a religious tattoo that has some meaning.

He said that he got this "homemade" piece in Tijuana for about $30, and that it took only a couple of hours to do.

A lot of people in Southern California make the trip across the border to Tijuana to take advantage of the nightlife there. Some even walk away with tattoos.

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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Vaj Shares His Interpretation of the Creative Process

The triptych above (ok, it's not technically a triptych, but I am calling it that as I divided it into three sections) belongs to Vaj (rhymes with Dodge), a filmmaker who I met across the street from Macy*s on 34th Street and 7th Avenue early last week.

This piece was inked about 16 years ago in California by Jeff Rassier, who currently works out of Black Heart Tattoo in San Francisco.

Vaj, who has been in the entertainment business for many years, based his tattoo on the interpretation of the creative process.

The center of the tattoo contains a jar with two brains:

moving up and out of the jar is a an arm, at the end of which is a hand holding paper:

Moving down out of the jar is an arm, at the end of which is a hand holding a pen, which is dripping ink:

The two hands, each with pen and paper, are acting out the creative process, stemming from the two sides of the brain.

Thanks to Vaj for sharing this interpretation in his tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Josh Slices Up a Sturgeon on His Culinary Sleeve

At the beginning of the week, I ran into Josh, a chef at an upscale restaurant in Tribeca. He was actually showing his tattoos to a couple of people standing with him, so I felt in apropos to join in the conversation.

Josh is hard at work on a culinary sleeve on his left arm, which includes a langoustine, a Red Junglefowl, and the tattoo above, a sturgeon, complete with slicing knife and roe.

The tattoo, as well as his other work, was done by Mark Harada at East Side Ink in Manhattan.

Thanks to Josh for sharing his sturgeon with us here on Tattoosday. Here's hoping he'll return to show us more. The Red Junglefowl was not completed, otherwise I would have asked to feature that piece here. It's a sweet piece (you can see a fragment of claw above the sturgeon).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dylan's Tattoo Dances on Her Ankle

Earlier this week, I met Dylan as she was crossing 34th Street by Macy*s Herald Square. She had the tattoo above her right ankle.

She had been a competitive dancer as a teenager, and had this inked when she was eighteen in Santa Cruz, California.

It was merely an expression of her love for the art of dance.

Thanks to Dylan for sharing her tattoo here with us on Tattoosday!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

News Link: Tattoos Gain Even More Visibility

Published: September 24, 2008

WHO in the world gets a neck tattoo? A couple of years back you could have narrowed the answer to gang members, prison inmates, members of the Russian mob and the rapper Lil Wayne. Then something occurred.

Continued from the New York Times here

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Christopher's Ink Bridges Generations

Last Friday I met Christopher on Penn Plaza. He estimated that he had tattoos numbering in the mid-fifties.

Again, I am sometimes intimidated by folks with a lot of ink, and will usually not trouble them, but not this time.

And, of all those tattoos, Christopher lifted up his shirt to reveal one of his most meaningful pieces:

The cross with angel wings behind it is graced by a banner that reads "In Loving Memory ... Grandpa Al".

This tribute tattoo was inked at Good Times Tattoo Studio in East Islip, New York by Bill. Christopher is a tattoo artist there as well.

Grandpa Al was a tattoo artist himself, at Ace Tattoo in San Diego, one of the oldest shops in the city (founded around 1947). I acknolwedged that Al must have been busy working in San Diego, with several military bases nearby.

Christopher always knew he wanted to be an artist, and has been tattooing about 14 years.

"What about your Dad," I asked him, "is he an artist?"

Christopher shook his head and said he wasn't. "And he doesn't have a single tattoo. Not one!"

"Really?" I asked.

He shook his head and laughed "I just don't understand it."

So the ink-lination to tattoo skipped a generation in his family, but you could tell he was proud of his grandfather's legacy, and he bore it like a badge of honor.

Thanks so much to Christopher for sharing his tribute to Grandpa Al here on Tattoosday!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Buddy's Advice about Neck Tattoos

Last Friday was a banner day for inkspotting. By day's end, I had four great Tattoosday stories to tell. This is the third of the four, although it was the first encounter of the day. It certainly set the tone.

I was walking east on 34th Street when I spotted a well-inked guy walking in my direction. I am sometimes less-inclined to talk to people with a TON of tattoos, but I stopped him anyway and asked about his work.

Buddy seemed eager to share, and quickly raised his right pant leg to reveal, in red ink, the words "Boston Sucks". Right below it was a depiction of an anatomical part that would fit the epithet. I hesitated.

"It's kind of a family blog," I joked, "my daughter reads it." He seemed disappointed, but was understanding. "How about the neck tattoo?" I suggested. He was game. I snapped the photo above.

It was inked in Austin, Texas at, according to Buddy, a shop called Red River Tattoos, circa 2003. He has approximately 32 tattoos in all. Any story behind it? "I was drunk when I got it," he said. Knowing that, and the absence of any reference to a shop called Red River Tattoos in Austin, I am more inclined to believe it might have been True Blue Tattoo, which is located on Red River Street. Work from True Blue has appeared on Tattoosday previously here.

But then he added, "If you don't get a neck tattoo before you're successful, then you shouldn't get one".

"So," I asked, "are you successful?"

"I'm in a band," he acknowledged, "I'm the singer."

This is not new to me, I have come across several musicians on Tattoosday before (here and here, for example).

"What's the name of the band?" I asked.

"Senses Fail" he replied.

"Cool," I said, "I'll link the band's page to the blog." In the back of my mind, I thought the name sounded familiar.

I thanked Buddy and we parted ways. It was only later that I realized that Buddy Nielsen wasn't just a singer from a band in New Jersey. Senses Fail is a significant act in the music scene. They're not platinum artists, yet. Their last record, Still Searching, sold 900,000 copies in the U.S. alone.

They've toured widely since they formed in 2003. I even have one of their songs in my iPod. The song, "Can't Be Saved" even refers to the tattoo on his chest (the video is below). So, Buddy's tattoo, the one that is up above (according to wikipedia has a second word "lady" below it), is the most famous tattoo I have photographed thus far for Tattoosday.

Thanks to Buddy for sharing his ink with us here!

The "Can't Be Saved" video:

Monday, September 22, 2008

First Day of Autumn Tattoo Blues

To celebrate the end of summer (farewell, tattoos aplenty!) and welcome the beginning of fall (come out, come out, wherever you are!), I am posting this appropriate tattoo celebrating the new season.

I was fortunate enough to meet Brian on Friday, right in front of Borders on Penn Plaza.

As the last weekend of summer was upon us, it seemed bittersweet to find his tattoo above. Brian told me that it is a depiction of Sahmin, who is the god of Autumn in Irish mythology. When I went to research this further, I could not find a reference to such a deity, but I do believe that Brian was referring to Samhain, a traditional Celtic celebration after the end of summer.

As for the actual deity in question, let's just say it is perfect for the season, the arboreal face bestrewn with leaves. Perhaps my friend over at NeoPagan Ink can shed some light on this.

This piece was inked by Joe Ferzola (click for nice bio at About.com) at Inklinations in Copiague, New York. The link to Inklinations takes you to the Devil's Den in Copiague, run by a long-time associate of Joe's, Tony Lafemina.

Thanks to Brian for sharing his autumnal tattoo with us here at Tattoosday!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Series of Nautical Stars Guide Me to an Amazing Tattoo

I've said it before and I'll say it again: sometimes asking about a common tattoo reaps great visual rewards.

Carrie is a prime example. I spotted her nautical stars gracing her right arm near 39th Street and Broadway and I asked her about them. Had she only had one, I may have passed her by, but she had five running up the length of her inner arm, and I had to ask.

Well, like this tattoo, I knew when Carrie stood up from the chair on which she was sitting, that I would be seeing something more interesting than stars. And, well, let's say she took my breath away on Broadway:

This reminded me of this windjammer tattoo, but Carrie, who has always loved pirates, and is going to have this colored in at some point, specified that this is a pirate ship.

The detail is incredible:

and Carrie was particularly happy that the moon came out in the photo:

The brilliant piece was inked by Charles "Chuck" Denise at Revolver Tattoo in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Carrie told me he was voted one of the top 10 tattooists in the country. The stars were done at Philadelphia Eddie's Tattoo Haven by Topper in Philadelphia.

Thanks to Carrie for sharing her awesome ship on Tattoosday (and for being confident enough to reveal so much in the middle of Broadway). She works in the same building where I have a regular Friday meeting, so I hope to feature progress on her work in the future. She also mentioned that her boyfriend has some cool ink too, so we may see some from him as well in the months to come.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sal Shares His Illusion-ary Tattoo

On Tuesday I was in Brooklyn Heights, walking toward Cadman Plaza on Clark Street. As I passed a local video store, Mr. Video III, I spotted some ink on one of the employees and decided to head in and introduce myself.

Sal has seven tattoos, but he chose to share the one above, from his left bicep.

This is, of course, recognizable to anyone who is a rock fan, as the artwork gracing the cover of the 1991 Guns N' Roses album Use Your Illusion I. A G n' R tattoo appeared on Tattoosday previously here.

Sal had this inked because the album was released at a point in his life, when he was a senior in high school, when most people are most impressionable and affected by massive displays of musical force. The album, and by extension, the tattoo, was something he could cling to, a great avenue by which he could "express his rage".

With G n' R classics like "Right Next Door to Hell," "Don't Cry," "Back Off Bitch," and the Wings cover "Live and Let Die," the album is a tour de force of hard rock angst.

Sal also acknowledges that he, like many others who were fans of the band, developed a greater appreciation of classical art, as the image form the record (and its companion, Use Your Illusion II) are based on a detail in the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael's , The School of Athens:

Or, the detail used:

Sal says that this piece was inked around 1994 by an artist named Jason, who worked with the studio of the late great Huggy-Bear Ferris in Park Slope. Work from Huggy-Bear has appeared here previously on Tattoosday.

Thanks to Sal for sharing his tattoo here on Tattoosday. As I will be passing by Mr. Video III on a more regular basis in the future, I hope that Sal would share more of his tattoos with us in the future!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Melissa's Biblical Footnote

Strange as it may seem to have back-to-back foot posts, this may be a trend as the weather cools and sleeves grow longer.

I interrupted a conversation Melissa was having with someone else in front of Borders on Penn Plaza to ask her about her inked right foot.

The words are based on a passage from the Bible, from the Book of Matthew, Chapter 22, Verse 37, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul." It's a slightly edited version, but the message is the same.

Melissa explained that these words have even more meaning for her as they are engraved on her father's headstone. He passed away several years back.

This passage was inked by Craig Messina at Lone Wolf Tattoo in Bellmore, New York.

Thanks to Melissa for sharing this tattoo that means so much to her, here at Tattoosday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jackie Wears Words of Wisdom

Last week I had just left the house when a woman passed me on the street. She had the words "live & learn" tattooed on her left right foot. I caught up to her and introduced myself. Jackie had just moved into the building on the corner two days earlier, and I wished her a Tattoosday welcome to the neighborhood.

She explained her tattoo by acknowledging that, like most people, she makes mistakes in life and that the motto "live and learn" are words to help guide her through life. Being on her foot is significant, as she believes that the lessons she has learned have helped her understand the importance of taking life "one step at a time".

Jackie, in fact, has five tattoos, including one on her waistline and on her inner right arm, but she has this pair on the back of her neck:

The kanji is the word for beauty and, unlike many unfortunate folks who don't research their tattoos properly, it is correct.

The popular proverb "All is fair in Love and War" dates back to John Lyly's 'Euphues' (1578). The original quote was "The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war. " John Lyly was a Renaissance English poet and playwright.

Jackie likes this quote because, as she said, "I'm a very passionate about things and if I believe in it, I will fight until the end".

All of Jackie's tattoos were inked at Bodytech Tattoo & Piercing in Gainesville, Florida. Jackie went to college at the University of Florida.

Thanks to Jackie for sharing her tattoos here with us on Tattoosday!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Portrait of Marilyn

Tom Doherty gave me the best answer I have heard to the question "How many tattoos do you have?"

He looked me in the eye and said, matter-of-factly, "Not enough."

Tom has a ton of ink, and is one of the artists in residence at Another Tattoo Shop in Bound Brook, New Jersey.

It's always like winning the lottery when I chance upon a tattoo artist, because they seem to have a greater appreciation for the idea of Tattoosday and, more importantly, they have siginifantly better work, and more of it to choose from.

So Tom was not only kind enough to agree to participate, but he didn't offer up any of his visible tattoos, but instead lifted his shirt to reveal Marilyn Monroe, smiling from the left side of his torso.

Why does he choose to have Ms. Monroe inked there? He wanted a famous face, a "show-off piece," as he called it. The tattoo was done by his boss at the shop, Matt Pope.

Thanks to Tom for sharing this awesome portrait with us here at Tattoosday!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Grandmother's Vision, Inked in China

Last winter, the cold weather drove me inside, into the nearby Manhattan Mall food court, when I had time at lunch to go inkspotting. The food court has since closed and the mall is undergoing a massive J.C.Pennification, rendering it near useless for people-watching. I bring this up in the
waning days of summer, as last week I had some lunch time to spare and it was raining.

So I plodded off into nearby Penn Station to see if any commuters were in the ink-sharing mood. Near the Amtrak portion of the subterranean hub, I spotted the tattoo above and approached its owner to see what it was all about.

Eva, to whom this piece belongs, explained that it is a variation on the symbol for infinity. The arrows pointing off it represent directions moving off of the symbol.

The design originated, according to Eva, in a vision that her grandmother had. Her grandmother was a fortune-teller and the significance of the symbol carried great weight in her family.

Eva had this inked about two years ago, while visiting China. The tattoo was done by a local artist in Xinjiang Province.

Thanks to Eva for sharing this cool tattoo with us here at Tattoosday!

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Spider from Across the Sea

Last week outside of Penn Station, I spotted this not-so-itsy-bitsy spider crawling across the left side of Alexandra's back.

Turns out the spider, along with Alexandra, were visiting New York from Switzerland. Alexandra had limited English, but did impart to me that she "had always wanted something like that" as a tattoo, and that she doesn't regret it one bit.

The tattoo artist was named Stephan, who worked in a shop whose name she can't recall in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Thanks to Alexandra for sharing her spidery tattoo with us here and giving us our first Swiss-inked contribution to Tattoosday!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Introducing Nina's Ink, Part 1

based on:

Last Saturday I posted an amazing tattoo the day after I spotted it and alluded to some posts that take longer than others. This is one of those examples.

I met Nina about a minute after meeting Mike and spotted the tattoo above. It's a tiny piece based on the graffiti art of one of my favorite artists, Keith Haring.

I asked Nina about it and she went on to catalog all eleven of her tattoos, most of which I photographed.

Whereas I appreciate someone taking the time to show me all of their ink, to do the subject justice in one post can be a daunting task.

Therefore, I'll be spreading Nina's tattoos across two posts.

As displayed above, Nina had at least one Haring tattoo. This first post will be dedicated to Nina's left arm, which boasts 7 of her 11 tattoos.

She actually has three Haring pieces, including the barking dog:

based on:

I've always been a fan of Haring, and it was a phenomenal Haring chest piece, spotted at the 2007 Siren Festival on Coney Island, that inspired me, in part, to start blogging about ink. Here's the third of her Haring pieces:

based on:

Haring was prolific in his short life, often repeating elements in his work. I have included in this post the works that are most likely used as the basis for these tattoos.

Nina is a big fan of the work of Andy Warhol, as well. She credits her love of his and Haring's work to a relative - her aunt worked at Warhol's Pop Shop in the 1980s, and it was always part of the family discussion.

She has a relatively obscure Warhol piece on the inner part of her bicep:

I should say, it is obscure in the sense that I am unfamiliar with it. It is based on his silk-screened Knives:

Most stunning among the Warhol and Haring tattoos is her Marilyn Monroe piece, which is based on an iconic Warhol work:

On her inner forearm, Nina sports a sweet pin-up piece that she believes is based on a piece of German art, circa World War I:

She loves pin-up art and this was one of the first pieces she had inked.

Not pictured is the word "Say" tattooed on her inner wrist.

All her ink was tattooed by Dan at Amazing Grace Tattoo in Geneva, New York. She's kept him busy in the past year, having just turned eighteen, and he is responsible for all of her body art, all done within the past twelve months.

Thanks to Nina for sharing her passion for tattoos here on Tattoosday. Be sure to check back for more from Nina in the future.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rob's Rite of Passage

I braved a trip to Staples on Sunday, contrary to my notion of self-preservation. September in Staples is one of the outer circles of Hell, at least in my neighborhood, where it seems everyone with children goes for their school supplies. Everyone.

But I digress. On a mission for a printer cartridge, I spotted Rob, who is covered moderately by tattoos. I approached him with a flier, which he was already familiar with, as I had handed him a few weeks back when he was sitting in the front of Brooklyn Ink, a nearby tattoo shop.

If you read Tuesday's post, you can see how many different folks have contributed their ink to these hallowed pages. I estimate that only 1 out of 7 people I approach actually participate, so estimate that in the past year, I've spoken to (conservatively) six to eight hundred people about
Tattoosday. Sometimes I forget a name and or a face.

So, it's amazing to me that I've only, by my best estimates, only asked people about their ink a second time on maybe five occasions.

Once Rob reminded me who he was, I remembered him from the shop, and he told me I could stop by any time and take pictures of his tattoos.

It was then that I qualified one of the things that makes Tattoosday special. I won't go to shops to take pictures. That's just too easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel. The sport is in the random stumbling upon a fellow citizen of the inked nation.

So, to make a long story short, he offered up the piece above (posted so long ago, I will show it again).

This was tattooed by Alex at Brooklyn Ink, and the placement on the hand is as significant as the piece itself.

For many tattoo artists, the inking of the hands is a rite of passage. Once you tattoo your hands, it is very tough, nearly impossible, to hide the fact that you are a tattooed individual. The tattoo in theory meant that there was no turning back and that he was fully devoted to his craft.

He chose the sparrow flying through the horseshoe as both are emblems of good luck. I particularly admire the perspective created by the back wing of the bird behind the horseshoe and the front wing in the foreground. This device adds a nice depth to the piece.

Thanks to Rob at Brooklyn Ink for sharing his momentous tattoo here with us on Tattoosday!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Paul's 9/11 Memorial

Earlier this month, I mentioned meeting Paul here, on the bike path that runs along the southern tip of Brooklyn.

I saved the other tattoo photo I took of Paul's work for today, the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

What I didn't mention in the previous post is that Paul is a federal agent who grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

From his vantage point there, he watched the World Trade Center being built in the late 1960's. He was working in 6 World Trade seven years ago for the U.S. Customs Department when the towers came down, and he spent four months at Ground Zero and the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, searching for remains.

The tattoo is a poignant piece, with the sun shining between the towers. Below is Paul's badge from the Department of Homeland Security, which has evolved into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Particulatly unusual is the depiction of 9/11 in Roman numerals:
I don't believe I had ever seen it represented that way before.

Like the tattoo in the earlier post, this piece was inked by Joe at Brooklyn Ink.

Thanks to Paul for sharing this WTC memorial piece with us here on Tattoosday.

Click here for work from Brooklyn Ink appearing previously on this blog.

A Patriotic Tattoo for Patriot Day

I ran into Rob in my neighborhood in late August and he gladly shared his patriotic tattoo.

Rob is a Revolutionary War buff and has a distinct interest in American history.

He wanted an "old school" tattoo back in 2000, and wanted something patriotic back "before it was fashionable". He's referring of course, to the explosion of post-9/11 red, white and blue ink. He wasn't disrespecting or being critical of patriotic tattoos done after 2001, he was merely clarifying for me that his piece was not a product of the huge wave of emotion that surged through the country after that day of infamy seven years ago.

Rob's "Land of the free, Home of the brave" banner with the original 13-star flag was inked by Darren Rosa at Rising Dragon in Manhattan. Work from Rising Dragon has appeared on Tattoosday previously here.

Thanks to Rob for sharing his red, white, and blue patriotic tattoo with us here on Tattoosday on this occasion.