Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Word of Thanks.....

With the onset of Fall, I compose this note as the month of September is coming to an end.

I look around sadly at the long pants, long sleeves, and covered frames that, just a few weeks ago, were so much more interesting to behold.

I am filled with sadness.

The past month has been a record-breaker for Tattoosday. When we first spun off from BillyBlog, we garnered 120 hits in the first three weeks of our infancy.

Last year, I was amazed by my progress, in September '08 we racked up 13,351 hits.

And this September, when I anticipated a drop off from a record August, Tattoosday soared into uncharted territory, on pace to top 38, 000 hits on the last day of the month. This may not seem like a big deal, but blogging is often lonely, and the number of hits is often the only measure of recognition we receive.

So, the summer ink is running dry, but despair not, I will continue to spot tattoos, although perhaps not at the dizzying rate of the past few months.

I have a backlog of posts and a head full of ideas to keep us entertained as the leaner months loom.

I thank you all for your continued readership and participation. I am very appreciative of your support!

Bill Cohen

Little Dead Riding Hood

I met Amy in Penn Station earlier this month and she agreed to share this, one of her eight tattoos:

Actually, she has since e-mailed me about her ninth, and I am waiting for a photo.

This tattoo represents an undead version of Little Red Riding Hood, which is Amy's favorite fairy tale.

She also likes zombies, so it seemed like a good match.

This tattoo was inked by T.J. Mcinnis at Mcinnis Tattoo Company in Providence, Rhode Island.

Thanks to Amy for sharing this cool tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zack's Spectacular Foot Tattoos

I met Zack earlier this month as he was walking north on Broadway. But, like many Tattoosday encounters, the ink I spotted (on his leg) was not what ended up here on the blog.

Behold, Zack's feet:

These incredible foot tattoos were created by Beef Stu at Bleed Blue Tattoo in Lexington, Kentucky. Zack recently moved to New York from the Bluegrass state.

Zack told me that the idea for these tattoos came to him in a vision. His right foot tattoo is comprised of a DNA strand, the key to life.
And the left foot. with the skull, represents death.

The word "LIVE" is spelled out above the pieces, with "LI" on the right foot and "VE" on the left. The tattoos, together, Zack told me, serve as a "reminder not to get caught up in the shit" and to "make the most of what you can between life and death".

It took three or four sessions (the feet are not easily inked) for these tattoos.

Thanks to Zack for sharing his amazing foot tattoos with us here on Tattoosday!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stephanie's חַי

It was a string of elephants marching above Stephanie's right ankle that first made me stop and talk to her, but she offered up this, her first tattoo, as well:

She started with the Chai at the top of her left breast. At the time, Stephanie was dating a guy who was covered in tattoos., She was 35, uninked, and going through a mid-life crisis. The shop was in Brattleboro, Vermont, but it has been gone for years.

She liked the tattoo so much, she later added the Star of David and the leaves. The Jewish theme was a tribute to her cultural identity as a Jew.

It somehow seemed both suiting and slightly inappropriate to post these tattoos on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar.

I am waiting to hear back from Stephanie for clarification on her string of elephant tattoos. But, in the mean time, I thank her for sharing this deeply personal tattoo with us here on Tattoosday.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

J.R.'s Five Elements

At the end of August, I spent a couple of minutes on the R train with J.R., who has quite a few tattoos. I didn't have time to take notes, just photos, and I hoped that she would e-mail me with all the details of her work. Fortunately, she did. So, what follows is her explanation of the tattoos, with a little bit of friendly editing.

"My left arm? Dedicated to the five I see them to be. Earth, Air, Water, Fire and Friendship.

The ants (done by Roni from Hidden Hand Tattoo in Seattle) represent Earth.

Ants are the closest social structure to mirror humans. They have no real strength individually, but together can achieve so much. As a human, I feel it is destined to feel lonely and when I got the tattoo, I came to terms with that and even found beauty in it. I want to feel less like an ant in the sense that there is something that I'm "supposed" to do and if I don't do it I'll be punished or kicked out of the colony, so to say. I want to feel more that there is a greater purpose for my life (or at least one that reflects me as an individual and not what society tells me to be) and that with the help of others I can realize that to it's fullest potential.

The clouds and birds (done by Jeff Cornell owner/artist at Hidden Hand Tattoo) represent Air.

There is a Leonard Cohen song called "Bird on the Wire" that I think is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I feel the lyrics of the song so deeply and feel that they express such a core sense of who I am. Always, trying to be free. I aspire to someday be free instead of always trying and the tattoo is an attempt to remind myself that the feeling of trying is also a choice just as easy as the feeling of being free is a choice. The past tense nature of the words remind me to be light and free as a bird...

The blue tattoo on my inner arm (done by a girl in her apartment 10 years ago and I can't even remember her name) represents Water.

It is a play on yin and yang as well as a the symbol for Cancer, which is my astrological moon sign. Cancer is ruled by the moon and your moon signs make up your emotional nature. So, I feel this sign very strongly and luckily balances my Leo sun sign which I will get to more later. The symbol has stars instead of circles like a traditional yin yang because I wanted it to represent the universe within myself versus me questioning the universe around me. I got the box around it to express the feeling of being limited due to the human mind. I wanted to remind myself that any limitations are just an illusion and the healthy balance is one in which I'm learning from my experiences but also pushing my own boundaries.

The red and orange tattoo on my outer arm was done by the same forgotten artist though I will mention I was one of her first clients and that she was the perfect person for the job due to her own self-exploratory nature. She provided a healing space in which I was able to have an out of body experience.

The tattoo represents Fire. It captures my before mentioned fire sign of Leo, which is ruled by the sun. It is also Buddhist themed using a Tibetan mantra Om Mani Padme Hum which roughly translates to "the jewel is in the lotus," which to me is a beautiful way to live life. The lotus roots reach far into the muck and swamp but emerge with a beautiful flower on top. The tattoo is an attempt to capture the notion of living in the world yet being separate from it, as to not get burned or be consumed by it. The circle in the tattoo represents the sun and myself and the red is the part of myself that struggles to find my way in the world.

The beehive (done by Louis Barak here in NYC) is a tribute to Emer and Naomi, two best friends of mine, and the tattoo as a whole captures what I consider to be the fifth element, Friendship...It bears the lyrics of The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends." We lived together in Seattle and called our lovely house the Beehive. We used to listen to The Beatles A LOT...though now I'm more of a Stones fan.

There are two bees buzzing to represent them

and the three forget-me-not flowers represent each of us. Emer and Naomi have known me the longest and have seen me through thick and thin. They mean the world to me and I love them both like sisters. I know in my heart that we will know each other forever."

A big thanks to J.R. for sharing her tattoos with me on the subway and then writing so eloquently about them for us to read here on Tattoosday!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cogito Chuck Robbins (Literary Ink)

Sometimes I abbreviate post titles and they seem nonsensical, like one of those captcha messages, or a subject line in a morsel of spam.

So I'm sticking with this title "Cogito Chuck Robbins" because I like the way it sounds. So there. It will all make sense eventually.

I met Chris outside of Penn Station one Friday afternoon, intrigued by his forearm tattoo:

"Cogito ergo sum" is a Latin phrase that means, in English, "I think, therefore, I am." It is attributed to the 17th Century French philosopher René Descartes.

This was the first of Chris' three tattoos. He is a philosophy and creative writing major at SUNY New Paltz. This phrase is the "missing link in a belief system," or, in his words, "what I always knew, but never knew".

The tattoo was done at a shop in East Meadow, New York.

Chris also has this dead bird near his right elbow:

Inked at Skin Deep Tattoo in Levittown, this is inspired by the art on the cover of Chuck Palahniuk's Lullaby.

Work from Skin Deep has appeared previously on Tattoosday here. Palahniuk also has quite a cult following, and his work is the most often represented in ink here on Tattoosday. Check out other Palahniuk tattoos here.

And Chris' third tattoo is based on the cover art from one of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins:

This echoes the front of the great book Still Life With Woodpecker, which has made many people a fan of the writer.

The piece, which was inked by Mike Vlad at Triple X Tattoo in Manhattan, is a subtle nod in appreciation of Robbins and his great book. Work from Triple X has appeared previously on Tattoosday here.

If you like these pieces, and are a fan of literary tattoos, you should certainly check out Contrariwise, a site dedicated solely to contributors' literary ink.

A hearty thanks to Chris for sharing his tattoos with us here on our site!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Colin's Left Leg is Traditionally Flash-y

I spotted Colin one afternoon while I was waiting for another tattooed individual to get off of her cell phone.

(Not only have I come up with individual terms for things that are associated with inkblogging, but I follow a code, as well. One of its tenets is to never bother someone talking on a cell phone.)

Colin ambled by and I bounded after him, stopping him and asking about his tattoos.

His left leg is covered with traditional flash, from swallows and bombs, roses, death's head moths,

and a pin-up girl, done in the Sailor Jerry style.

He explained that the sleeved left leg is a result of being "overzealous and excited" about tattoos.
Usually I try to talk about one or two pieces, but because most of his work is just flash, I captured most of his calf.

No fascinating stories to tell, just tattoos.

Thanks to Colin for sharing his ink with us here on Tattoosday!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sweet Pea Shares More Classic Brooklyn-Style Ink

My last tattoo (here) was inked by Pete who uses the moniker "Sweet Pea".

I stopped by to say hi a few weeks back and I got a glimpse of him tattooing a koi on a client's leg.

Sweet Pea invited me to snap a shot of his own leg, recently inked by legendary tattoo artist Tony Polito:

This piece of classicly-inspired flash, signed by Polito himself, is another fine work of body art on Sweet Pea's canvas. See the original post featuring his ink here.

Thanks to Sweet Pea for sharing this tattoo with us here on Tattoosday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Any Port in a Storm: Chris Wears His Clipper Ship with Pride

I spotted this beauty of a tattoo in Bay Ridge on the calf of Chris:

He explained that it is a cover-up and took Alex Franklin at Brooklyn Ink about four hours to complete. Work from Alex and the other artists from Brooklyn Ink have appeared previously on Tattoosday here.

Chris is originally from Boston and he said the clipper ship tattoo just "seemed like the New England thing to get". He later elaborated, in an e-mail:

"I wanted to get something true to where I've grown up and my heritage. A clipper ship is a very New England type tattoo and I was born and raised in Boston before setting off to NYC. Ships also mean a lot to me as 3 of my relatives left England for NYC on the Titanic and 1 of them perished at sea with the ship. In addition, my grandfather was aboard the Navy's USS Allagash in the Korean War. Any Port in A Storm is an important saying for me, because I am a cop in Brooklyn. Essentially it means, when you're in trouble, any way out is a good way out, whether or not you like the decision.
Thanks to Chris for sharing this wonderful tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Claire's Tree of Memory and Strength

On a drizzly day in late August, I ran into Claire, a woman on my block in Bay Ridge, with this tattoo on her upper right arm:

When I asked Claire about the tattoo, she explained that her mother is mentally ill and that, despite being present, she really has not been there as a parent to her, due to her illness.

She remembers, as a child, that her mom often wore a suit with a floral pattern. When deciding upon this, one of her five tattoos, the design reminded her of that suit, and subsequently, the tattoo came to represent the absent parent.

This tattoo was inked by Charlie Foos at Fly Rite Studio. Charlie apprenticed there and is now working in Baltimore at Read Street Tattoo Parlour. Work from Fly Rite has appeared previously on Tattoosday here.

Thanks to Claire for sharing this powerful and beautiful tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tessa's Tattoo Illustrates the Battle of Head Versus Heart

Yesterday, I wrote about two of Lindsay's tattoos. After talking to her, I spoke to her friend Tessa, who had this amazing piece on her left shin:

First, I need to commend Tessa on the quality of this tattoo, which looks crisp and fresh, as if it had just been inked a few weeks ago. She actually had this done in 2005 by Adam Barton at Samuel O'Reilly's Tattoo Parlour in Santa Cruz, California. The quality of the tattoo is judged not just on how well it is done, but how it sustains its vibrancy over time. Tessa won the lottery with this piece.

The theme behind this tattoo is head versus heart. The struggle between logical thinking and emotional feeling are universal, and Tessa acknowleges that this tattoo reminds her of the ongoing battle between the two sides telling her what to do.

Thanks to Tessa for sharing this, one of her nine tattoos, here on Tattoosday!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Ship and An Owl Sail in from California

I ran into Lindsay and her friend Tessa as they were coming out of Penn Station last month.

Between them they have seventeen tattoos, many of which are fairly amazing. Lindsay shared two of her pieces with us here at Tattoosday.

First up is a traditional ship tattoo on the front of her upper left arm:

Aside from the aesthetics, and the nod to the classic style of traditional tattooing, Lindsay told me that this piece is a steady reminder for her to "stay the course" in her life.

It was inked by Shawn Phelps at Integrity Tattoo in Campbell, California.

The back of Lindsay's arm hosts this incredible owl tattoo:

Owl tattoos are a popular tattoo motif. I've mentioned before this great blog dedicated solely to Owl Tattoos. On the far side of her upper left arm, she says her owl, aside from its decorative strengths, "watches [her] back". This great tattoo was done by Karl Fisher at Tattoo 13 in Oakland, California.

I humbly thank Lindsay for sharing her a little bit of her body art with us here on Tattoosday!

Be sure to check here to see what amazing piece Lindsay's friend Tessa offered up to the blogosphere!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Christina's Flawed Tattoo is Just Right

I spotted this interesting tattoo while in Penn Station last month:

Christina, to whom this piece belongs, called this a "reverse tattoo," in that the main focal point of the piece is the word "Flawed".

The word is empty of ink and is created by the artist using negative space.

But why "flawed?" Christina explained that "we all have a weakness" and that "only God is perfect." It"s a reminder that "everyone has need for improvement" and that no one is ever perfect.

This is one of four of Christina's tattoos.

Thanks to Christina for sharing this with us here on Tattoosday!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nine Little Foot Tattoos and a Prayer for Peace

It is embarrassing to admit, I don't remember the name of today's contributor.

Normally, regular readers may know, I'm a bit more diligent about contributors to the site, but in this case, Z, as I will refer to her, gave me her card, which included her email address and website (she's an artist that works mostly in oils), and I subsequently put it somewhere safe. So safe, I forgot where.

In other words, I lost it.

But let's talk about how I met Z and came to know her tattoos.

Fate spilled me out on the 36th Street platform in Brooklyn. An express train (N) came before the local, so I hopped on, with the intention of riding to 59th, one stop away, and then grabbing an R train.

Standing on the N, I looked down and saw a tattooed foot. Not your normal tattooed foot, with a rosary (like this one), or flowers, or whatnot, but a foot with tattooed marks on it. Just the right foot. The left foot was bare, although there were symbols circumnavigating the calf, just above the ankle.

As luck would have it (Luck loves Tattoosday), Z exited the train at 59th Street and I started talking to her on the platform.

We both caught the R and talked tattoos all the way to 95th Street. Upstairs, at street level, I snapped some photos.

This is her foot:

Up close, one can see that the marks are ants.

Z grew up in New Orleans and always remembers the big, black ants that scurried about.

One day, she was bored, and drew some ants on her foot with a Sharpie. She went several days with her foot be-speckled by these ants, and they grew on her. She wandered into Cherry Bomb Tattoo in Brooklyn, and had them permanently tattooed.

There are nine ants in all.

The following tattoo is above her left ankle:

The Tibetan prayer is "om mani padme hum". She told me that this is the prayer for universal peace.

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

UPDATE: It took a while, but our paths crossed again, on July 2, 2010, I was hanging outside of the laundromat near home when I saw a woman with black spots on her foot crossing the street across the avenue from me. When I saw the ring of Tibetan around her left ankle, I knew it was the same person. I scurried across the street and re-introduced myself. The subject formerly known as "Z" is actually named Jeanette, and I was finally able to update this post, with her proper name attached.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cenk's Skeleton Tattoo Pays Homage to Yukio Mishima and St. Sebastian

I met Cenk where I meet so many Tattoosday volunteers, outside of Penn Station on the plaza adjacent to Madison Square Garden.

He shared this, one of his four tattoos:

This is an interpretation of the depiction of St. Sebastian, as seen by the Japanese author Yukio Mishima, one of Cenk's favorite writers. A variation of the St. Sebastian imagery graced one of the many covers of Mishima's Confessions of a Mask:

Mishima even posed for a publicity photo as the martyred St. Sebastian:

This piece was tattooed by Myles Karr at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn. According to his website, he has since left Saved, and opened Three Kings Tattoo Parlor. Mr. Karr's work has appeared previously on Tattoosday here and here.

Thanks to Cenk for sharing this tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Alexandra's Tattoo Asks "Whoooo ... Are ... You?"

I was walking through Penn Statiom in late August, when I stopped dead in my tracks after spotting this tattoo on the upper right section of Alexandra's back:

Tattoos are interesting to me, to begin with, but when they illustrate a work of literature, I am pleased to no end, even if the work in question is not necessarily one of my favorites.

One need not have read Lewis Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to recognize that this tattoo is based on that seminal work.

Initially, Alexandra shared a bit with me. She just moved to New York from Orlando, and is a big fan of literature, in general. She is "infatuated" with the story of Alice, and the "trippy, unique" universe of Lewis Carroll.

The scene depicted is Alice's encounter with the caterpillar, from the Disney movie, Alice in Wonderland. The caterpillar asks Alice, "Whooo ... are ... you?" This could be an innocent question, but Alexandra notes that this is also a basic philosophical question about humans, in general. Thus, the "W" formed by the smoke from the caterpillar's hookah, represents that seminal question, "Who....?"

In the weeks since I met her, Alexandra has become a fan of Tattoosday, and has shared more, including some photos of the tattoo in progress. She also elaborated a bit more about the whole experience of getting this, her first tattoo.

She directed me to this link here, where she blogs about her tattoo. She added to this, by telling me, via e-mail:
"I was actually scheduled to go and get the tattoo with another popular artist in the [Orlando] area, and was with a group of friends, one whom wanted to get her tattoo touched up. The artist I was trying to work with gave me a bit of the brush off, so we were told to come back later. So we headed down the road and found Fine Ink Studios. Barnett, the owner, had literally set up shop just 5 days prior. While my friend Ashlie was asking about her Fleur de Lys tattoo, Barnett had asked what I was going to leave to get. I told him about the caterpillar, and as professional as possible he told me, "Just so you know, I'd reeeeeally love to do that for you." I went back to the other store, something went wrong, and I decided to leave and go back to Barnett! Happy days, it turns out Barnett had ALSO been employed by Disney and actually had worked on the animation for the film Aladdin. That really sold me, and it was such an amazing 2 and a half hours. I spent the entire time singing Disney songs as loud as I could to get through the pain :)"

Thanks much to Alexandra for sharing so much about the tattoo. Welcome to the Tattoosday family!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mike's Amazing Back Piece

I had just exited from the subway station in Bay Ridge when I spotted an extremely-inked couple.

I talked with both of them, but Mike was gracious enough to share this phenomenal back piece:

Mike, a musician, has been on the receiving end of the tattoo machine for many years. He is currently lead singer/bassist for The F.T.W.'s, a New York-based rock band.

He even speaks nostalgically about the mid-90's, when tattooing was still illegal in New York City. He has a critical eye and like many people with a commitment to old school tattooing, is dismayed by the skyrocketing popularity of the art, and the subsequent deterioration of the overall quality of tattoos.

For every great tattoo you see here on Tattoosday, there are two dozen others that were inked because they are trendy, and not out of appreciation of the art.

We had a lengthy discussion about this and I worried he might not be so down with the site because I don't always feature top quality tattoos, and am oftentimes just as interested in the story behind an average tattoo as I am in a convention-quality piece.

As for Mike's back piece, he credits Miss D'Jo at the fabulous Lark Tattoo in Westbury, New York for the creation of this gigantic tribute.

See other work from Lark on Tattoosday here.

Mike spoke of a friend and tattoo artist, Chris Lewis, who committed suicide many years ago. Chris had given Mike a knife as a gift, and after his friend passed, Mike had this quasi-memorial back piece done. The knives in the tattoo are modeled after the blade in question.

The detail in this gigantic tattoo is simply phenomenal. Just take a look again at the handiwork on the knives:

Much thanks to Mike and his girlfriend Amanda for stopping and talking tattoo with me. Your contribution to Tattoosday is much appreciated!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Amy Beckerman's Ink: Laughter and a Peony

It was Amy Beckerman's peony above her right ankle that first caught my attention:

This beautiful floral tattoo, designed by Dan Bythewood at Regeneration Tattoo in Alston, MA, is one of four tattoos she has.

Dan is a friend of Amy's from college who had studied art then went on to become a tattoo artist.

I thought this one was wonderful, as well:

The word "laughter" pefectly suits her, as Amy is a professional comic. This was also inked at Regeneration, but by Cathy Johnson.

You can see a segment of Amy performing below, as one of her characters, "Ida Felter":

Amy performs regularly in a show called "Dykes on Mics," the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at Comix (353 West 14th Street in Manhattan). It's a free show, starting at 9:00 PM. The next performance is Tuesday, September 28.

Amy's website is here.

Thanks to Amy for her enthusiastic participation in Tattoosday!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Joe's Blue Koi (and a Honu, too!)

Joe has this amazing koi on his upper left arm, part of a 3/4 sleeve:

Initially, our discussion was brief. He is a fan of traditional tattoos and loves the Japanese style. He had this inked in 2001 by Civ at Lotus Tattoo in Sayville, New York. Work from Civ appeared previously here on Tattoosday.

I certainly thought it was unusual to see a blue koi. It's certainly not the most traditional color for a koi tattoo. When I asked Joe about it, he replied, "...there is no significance and I believe it was suggested by Civ...I thought it would certainly be unique, since I had yet to see a blue koi. It was strictly an aesthetic decision."

It was only later, when I was looking at the photo at home, that I noticed a fine detail I hadn't picked up before:

Having grown up in Hawai'i, that certainly looked like a honu design, or traditional Hawaiian sea turtle. I had remembered that Joe had a Polynesian-style tribal arm band on his right forearm, so I shot him an e-mail.

He replied:
The story behind the Polynesian sea turtle is ... I was on my honeymoon in Hawaii, 2001. I had wanted to get tattooed while there and found a shop in Waikiki, Skin Deep. Walked in, shot the shit with one of the guys for half an hour, had an idea of what I wanted to do, a Polynesian band around my forearm being that we were in Hawaii. It seemed fitting as far as a "souvenir" tattoo. Since the band I decided on did not work in a perfect circle around my arm, I decided on the turtle to make it work. We did the tattoo in about an hour and I still love it...

Thanks to Joe for sharing his koi tattoo. I am looking forward to featuring more of his work in the future.