Jump to content

Fueling the culture / getting tattooed by big names


joakim urma
 Share

Recommended Posts

OK, so this is going to be a bit hard to follow I'm sure..

A few weeks ago I mentioned to Iain Mullen that I wanted to get some kind of geometric dotworky type of tattoo and I wondered who he thought I should get it from. After just a second he said "Xed Le Head! He's the originator of that whole style". And I thought: Yeah, that would be cool! Out of this short trade of words came some thoughts that later began to formulate.

I easily find myself soft to the idea of getting tattooed by well known tattooers. I'm not the type of person that show of my tattoos or brag about them to friends and strangers. Pants drop and shirt goes off in tattoo shops when tattooers show interest in seeing what I have, but that's about it. Still I have some notion of wanting to get work from big name tattooers that I admire. Of course the style of the tattoo goes first, but even among tattooers of "equal" skill and in the same style I'd easily choose the one that seems most well respected in the craft. If the tattooer an interesting character it's also a big plus. I gues it has to do with the added "value" of the tattoo: the circumstances around getting it, the shop or convention, the mode that day and the person making the tattoo. I've always by interested in people so I want original folks to mark me too.

I also have this belief that people who spent a lot of time and energy doing their craft will have a very refined taste. That their added years and position "in the game" will leave me with a tattoos that I will learn to appriciate even more as time passes, as I too go deeper into the culture.

There are limits however. I wouldn't get a tattoo by Horiyoshi III or even someone like Bob Roberts or Eddy Deutsche, I think they lost it a long time ago. (Come on, send a lynch mob..) I was set up to get tattooed by Henk last autumn in Amsterdam but I don't think I care about it anymore. Getting heavily tattooed is a hard process, there is only so much skin to cover.

I also think sometimes about WHY we go to the lenghts of getting tattooed by people from across seas for example. Hopefully we can be honest to ourselves and do it because we want this particular person to leave their mark on us and grace us with art, and not do it be part of some "I got tattooed by the Smith ST-crew club". (I got a tattoo by Eli Quinters by the way...) But what if everyone who wanted a particular style tattoo saved up all their money and went to the master of this style? Everybody. Would someone like Jondix have the chance to blossom if we all went to Mike The Athens? Would the tattoo world not have El Carlo if people where picky enough to only see El Monga? Maybe we should be less elitist and let the small dogs get their chance a bit more, to help push the art further?

A tattooer that I know told me about one of his visible tattoos. It was made by one of the absolutely biggest names in this part of the culture, someone I bet a lot of you look up too beacause of his art (so do I). But this experience was so bad, the big shot tattooer turned out to be really rude and bossy/macho-y and this was one of the reasons that this guy now gets tattooed by friends almost strictly. And this is someone who loves tattoos, who looks up to Theo Mindell as his favorite tattooer and who really struggle to improve his own work. After all it's just tattoos, and if the process is not fun for you, why bother chasing "collectors items"?

For a while I was really into getting only one piece per tattooer but this story made me loosen up a bit and now I get more work from people that I got a good vibe with. I kind of want to get something from Jelle Neleman mostly because he seems like such a PMA dude. His work is really nice but I can name at least 5 tattooers that do the same tattoos.

I don't know.. I hope you got something out of this rambling. Feel free to write down your thoughts and associations! Bless

Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny you mention Jondix and Mike The Athens.

I'm kind of new to tattoos. I am drawn to that style. I think the 1st work I saw in that style was Tom Hooper. He spent some time in NYC and I believe influenced other NYC area artists. Out of all of them, I liked Hooper's work the most.

Then I saw some work by Jondix. I liked his work more than Hooper's. Found out Jondix and Hooper worked together. Saw many other artists doing very good work in that style, but something about Jondix' work stood out for me.

Then I found out Jondix was influenced by Mike The Athens. For me, I like Jondix and Mike's work the most.

If I lived in Europe, I would definitely seek them out. Not because of their name, but because I can see and appreciate the differences in their work over others that do the same style.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that you bring up a few interesting points that can make a person think about their motivation in tattoo "collecting".

There are likely many reasons why certain tattooers become big names. Skill in their art and skill in their tattooing not being the sole factors.

Getting tattooed has always been a fun experience for me. Sharing stories, geeking out about technical things that fuel my curiosity, talking food, all are things that add to the experience. In the end I want to have an awesome tattoo, but I also would like for the process to have been a pleasant one.

A lot of what fuels my interest in certain artists is the opportunity to see their body of work. I get psyched on cool pictures. I'm certain that there are many great artists who I have never heard of, because they choose not to get their stuff out there. They too may offer a great experience, but perhaps I'll never know.

Finally, I think that being the inventor of a style or technique gives someone a certain cachet, but it doesn't mean that others who put in the time aren't working at or above the originators level. It might get difficult if people only got certain things from certain tattooers, more so than is already the case. Imagine the wait lists if you had to go to Todd Noble for all lady heads, or Stuart Cripwell for all moths!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been tattooed by some super "famous" tattooers and by some people no one's ever heard of. I am very, very wary of a sort of "starfucker' mentality in tattooing. There are so many amazing people that aren't as well known as they should be because maybe their style isn't trendy, or they're not on social media, or they just don't prioritize instagram like others do, or they don't travel to conventions as much, etc. People who are well known only gets you so much. And that one tattooer is more well known than another is not necessarily because they are "better".

There is a lot of noise in this subculture, and I am very careful to pay attention to what really turns me on, so to speak, about a tattooer's work, and not get swept up in their name, hype, trendiness, whatever. I had a really good chat about this with a fairly "famous" tattooer recently, who said that while they get a lot of "collector" types coming to them, they can immediately tell the difference between someone seeking them out because they are really psyched on their work, and someone who is more interested in their name and adding it to their list. Apparently there is a pretty big difference in the experience of tattooing these different kinds of people. It was a nice conversation in that I sometimes feel self-conscious when people ask me who my stuff is by, or who I am planning to get tattooed by in the future, and this person was basically like: don't worry. If you are genuine in your enthusiasm, people can tell. If you're a douche and just want to cover yourself in big names, people will know the difference. Our true intentions show through, and it's important to me to connect with a tattooer's work in a very primal way. Basically, to this person, there is an upside and a downside to having a "big name".

All of which to say that I think there is an important difference between recognizing, talking about and respecting the work of people who are doing awesome, creative and inspiring things, and getting wrapped up in names and tattoo celebrity. The former is what makes this community so great, but I think the latter is basically poison to any sense of creativity and authenticity. And the line between them can be thin.

I also agree with others that the experience of getting a tattoo, or if I can put it in hippie terms, the vibes that go into it, is super important. At this point I am unlikely to get tattooed by someone that I haven't heard about through someone else as being awesome. Instagram photos are not enough.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I understand what you are saying. I'm with scubaron on this one in that I'm still newish to tattoos, and I'm really into Jondix and Mike the Athens' work right now (doodoodoodoo... weird) I don't much care about the name so much as whether or not the particular tattooer's work speaks to me, if the work speaks to me then going out of my way isn't a problem. The visions have to mesh, no matter who is doing the tattooing (famous, not, etc.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Lynch mob on the way. Eddy Deutsche is in my top 5 favorite tattooers of all time.

I'm getting to the point where I don't care who has a bigger name or the most Instagram followers. People like Mike Adams and Amanda Wachob have thousands upon thousands of followers but I could care less about their work. (YES, I AM PUBLICLY SHIT TALKING.)

I'll take Mike Roper over just about anyone everyday.

Edit; I'll also take Joel Long, Mike Dorsey, Andrew Conner, Mike Rennie, Will Lollie, Virginia Elwood, Bart Bingham, John Henry Gloyne, Josh Arment, Dave Regan, Matt Brotka, Katie Davis, Ishmael Johnson, John Rippey, Eric Brooks, Jason Phillips, Carolyn LeBourgeois, Sean Perkinson, Chuck Kuhler, Aaron Coleman, Josh Brown, and a gazillion other people who are well known or completely unknown that kill it constantly.

Tattooing is a rich community. There are so many people that do good things that it is impossible to narrow things down like people were able to 20-30-40 years ago. There used to be like 2 conventions a year, and now there is one every weekend.

I suppose what I am saying echoes what @CABS had to say. The experience and the radness of the person will trump just about everything. I'm a young tattooer, and I fully realize I'm not very good at this right now, so I will do my best to make sure my friends get a cool experience and can always look at those blownout lines and holidays and smile saying "That was a good day."

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tattoo veterans that have been doing it for decades have so much experience, that it's safe to say they know how to make a tattoo. Which is why I seek out those tattooers.

But the new generation tattooer need to get experience somehow too, so I like to seek out new tattooers as well.

At the end of the day, it all depends on the bed-side manner/if they are an asshole or not. I collect predominantly traditional, so if there are ten tattooers doing very similar work, then the customer experience is what will make one tattooer stand out from the rest.

Plus, I would much rather get several tattoos from lesser known folks, than one tattoo from a "name."

Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't get past the Eddy Deutsche "lost it" comment.

And also @CultExciter: No I really really like some of the older work that I've seen by Eddy, I'm not saying anything about his influence. But it seems to me, like with Horiyoshi III and a bunch of other legends, that he got a bit too fuzzy and loose with the technical aspects. I appriciate originality, good designs and solid tattooing and I think that in the last part he has gotten soft now. To put it one way, I like Walter McDonald A LOT for some of his crazy ideas and cool concepts, but I don't think it out weights how trashy most of his tattoos look. So I wouldn't get tattooed by him.

Very happy with the response in this thread so far, I think it's going to be a great one!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I think the thing some people need to remember is that these days most people seem to get their tattoo info from a format which involves looking at teeny tiny digital pictures, out of context, unhealed, etc. Instagram is basically bullshit for seeing the quality of people's work. If you've ever been lucky enough to see a Horiyoshi III tattoo in person, you would realize how seriously wrong you are.

(This is kind of a digression, but what I hate about Instagram is that it ends up prioritizing tattoos that photograph well over tattoos that have soul. I'm going to go like, rearrange my crystals now.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

@Pugilist

I agree about what you said about instagram, totally. However in, dare I say most, of Horiyoshi III's older work it IS possible to see that his lines are getting really quite squiggly. I don't think his strenght ever was in doing the cleanest tattoos but the shading now.. even in a fresh, bloody and low res picture you can see that it's not "right". What I mean to say is that no one touches his legacy and importance in the field (!) but I can't get my head around how people are so very into his newer work despite the flaws that I point out. But then again I don't see the appeal of the new work from Stuart Cripwell (and others) who also seem to have went down the route of making quite rough tattoos on purpose. Not the kind of look that I'm into, but I guess to each his own.

Horiyoshi III is excused of course, he's old and sick. I find it amazing that he still makes tattoos at all. Given the chance I might feel the need to get a tiny thing from him as a souvenir from a great visionary. I just don't get people who are up for giving him their whole back, now, and act like it's going to be the best tattoo ever..

</blasphemy>

Link to post
Share on other sites

But it seems to me, like with Horiyoshi III and a bunch of other legends, that he got a bit too fuzzy and loose with the technical aspects. I appriciate originality, good designs and solid tattooing and I think that in the last part he has gotten soft now.

I'd choose "tattoo mojo" over technical perfection any day. It's like music man... It needs soul! I think Deutsche, Roberts and Horiyoshi's work has plenty, and then some.

Link to post
Share on other sites

What @Iwar said! I think what this is coming down to is a difference in what one is looking for in a tattoo.

I am not sure you are 100% getting what I'm trying to say, @mmikaoj . The reason I am bringing instagram into this is because:

1) that tiny format where you are zoomed in on the tattoo and so don't see how it sits on the body, how it looks in natural light, how it moves, how it heals, etc., means that ALL you see is any technical imperfections, which leads to people overvaluing the 'cleanliness' of a tattoo and undervaluing its, well, soul, to keep using that word. The most perfect tattoo is not the most beautiful one.

2) I have been tattooed by several people who tattoo in a "looser" style. This is definitely a matter of taste. What I LOVE about that style is how natural it looks on the skin, like it's always been there, like I was born with it. It feels powerful because of how it moves, how dynamic it is, etc. Social media CANNOT CAPTURE THAT. So all we talk about is shit that's "clean". Whatever. There is a reason why some really technically proficient tattooers choose to loosen up their styles, and that's because of how the tattoos will sit, move, age, etc., on the actual person, not on instagram.

That was my point about how we judge people. I am lucky enough to know a tattooer that got a beautiful Horiyoshi III tattoo in the past 2-3 years. When I look at her arm, I do not see any squiggly lines or jacked up shading. His work is so powerful, I just see this amazing tattoo that looks like it was meant to be on her skin. It's bold, elegant and stunning. You don't get the whole story when you look at instagram, and I sure as fuck don't get tattoos so that people can analyze their technical merits on social media.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah the mojo is important of course. Some tattooers seem to have it all right, yet that crucial mysterious part is lacking. I'm not saying that I don't feel it in for exampel Bob Roberts current stuff, but compared to his older stuff the current falls short and I go looking for someone else. Then people like Sway do super solid stuff, but it feels like a balloon somehow.

For me I think it relates to the "big names" thing, if someone showed me a new Eddy Deutsche piece and I didn't know it was his (keep using the same example names) I think theres I big chance I'd go "Yeeeeah that's a fucking great tattoo idea! Wish someone made it look stronger!" I guess I'm a bit of a slave to the type of stuff that I like, and also that I got into tattoos only five years ago. I can look at 90's work and be really into the concepts but not the look

Link to post
Share on other sites

Also: thanks @Pugilist for making some really important points. I'm going to try to look for this looseness that helps tattoos sits well on the body. I for sure don't wish everybody would tattoo like Tony Nilsson, but I guess I have a different standard of how much roughness, for lack of better word, that I like in my tattoos. One thing I learned to see by watching Robert Ryans stuff is that if he cleaned it up (like he probably can) it would lose that vibration that makes it go "aaahhhhhhhh"

I agree that pictures are not the ideal way to look at tattoos, far from. In a way tattoos are like graffiti, they belong in real life. I see some fantastic stuff online but it doesn't compare to seeing pieces for real, even pieces objectively not as nice still grabs me more. I often see fantastic tattoos that I don't think I'd be as into if presented like a photo. Real Life rules, ya'll...

Edit: to me that what makes tattooing such a strong and interesting art form. It's meant to age with you and to be viewed in all kinds of situations, not to be hanged on a wall in ideal light. For me the net is where I go looking to see the best work, if not visiting a convention. But some of the coolest tattoos I've seen have been on people I met in the metro. I'm happy @Pugilist broke these factors down. I feel we got a bit derailed on a part of what I brought up in the original post but it's been full of insight anyhow. One of the reasons why this forum is such a great place

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm digging this thread! Some of the most interesting and passionate replies I have seen in a while. Also a touch of controversy, oh my.

I think that this distinction being made between "clean" and "loose" tattoos is interesting as well. I for example have some of both styles side by side on my body. I find that both types are soulful. For me it's not a question of the precision of a line that dictates this factor. I believe in my case the way that the tattoos were done was quite deliberate. My chest of a panther vs. snake by Bailey Robinson is as clean as they come. Not a dot or squiggle out of place, but still powerful. My gorilla rose ribs by Chad Koeplinger is only as precise as a mega spread liner and serious whip shade action applied at warp speed allows. Not crisp, but bold for miles. I love and wouldn't change either. I think that many images can be successfully interpreted in many ways. The main importance being only for the wearer.

Please keep your thoughts coming.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh I agree, @mtlsam, don't want to diss on clean tattoos! I more wanted to point out that some ways of looking at tattoos privilege that over everything else, which is a shame. Lots of very precise tattooers also make stuff that's powerful and cool and amazing to look at, of course!! Something I wanted to add to my previous rants was that I don't think "looser" tattooing is any less technical. Paying attention to how an image flows and knowing just how much to put into it and how much to leave out is as "technical" as perfect lines, if you ask me. Both take tremendous ability and vision, and they are of course not mutually exclusive.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with Graeme... I don't think I can sort out emotions to respond to the horiyoshi comment.

There is a short video on YouTube of the man free handing with a liner these badass finger waves on a dudes leg/ body suit like an absolute master.

He has lost nothing... Will not rant I promise, walking away

Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread really makes me only want to get tattooed by people older than me like Bob Roberts and Eddy Deutsche. I realize it wasn't your original point (I too am wary of the star culture in tattooing) but your misinformed dismissals ('there are limits'!) are so offensive to me that I can't get over it. In the end I realize it comes down to different sensibilities and what I'm looking for in tattoos is obviously very different from yours. BUT, if I can add my 2 cents as a person who's been tattooed by both Eddy Deutsche and Bob Roberts, Eddy is the most 'PMA' guy ever (if that's what you're after). If you're looking for an 'experience' or stories, Eddy and Bob have plenty. The flash at Spotlight has bullet holes. (The fact that the stencil is made from the original flash push pinned on the wall alone makes it almost worth getting the tattoo to be a part of the history.) Nothing 'soft' or 'squiggly' about my Bob Roberts tattoo. There's no question about Eddy's technical ability. I think every respectable tattooer would disagree with you on this point. I think people with 'perfect' tattoos look uptight--not what I'm going for (not interested in putting computer graphics on my body either). Any imperfections will add to its beauty.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I know im not impressed by horiyoshi, shige, eli quinters et el! I have seen much better work done in my local shop! I think the tattoo snobs have given the culture a black eye!

Hmm... In another thread you recently wrote that you're new to tattoos, so posting a bold statement like that is kind of odd. I'm not saying you don't have great local tattooers, I just thought that was a really weird thing to write.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share




×
×
  • Create New...