Alice through the Looking Glass

The amount of time I spend on tumblr, caught in a web that takes me deeper and deeper with every click listening to SLEEP, OM, ALL OF THEM WITCHES and THE COSMIC DEAD is probably something I shouldn’t be proud of; Tumblr is the land of the outraged, of the exhibitionistic and of the omnipresent ‘funny ‘cat video. It’s also usually the first spot where I see the latest paintings from my friend Alice, who last appeared on Occult Vibrations in December of 2015: Alice and the Tower. 

Her most recent work has been trending to the psychedelic; mashups of mushrooms and Scyphozoa and skulls- Psilocybiology would probably be a good word for it, with each new painting looking like it came out of an 1800s zoology folio curated by Timothy Leary. Truly inspiring vision.

Alice is currently on the road- her adventures (as well as appointment information) can be found on her tumblr page: http://aliceofthedeadtattoo.tumblr.com/

Inborn Absolute (pre-order available)

Robert Ryan’s “The Inborn Absolute” is available for pre-order.
http://www.featherproof.com/catalog/the-inborn-absolute

From the publisher:

Coming in at just under 160 pages, this 12.25” by 10.75” cloth hardcover contains over 70 pages of full-color paintings; 30 pages pulled from his personal sketchbooks; and essays and interviews with art and music luminaries Genesis P Orridge, Freddy Corbin, and Andrew Berardini, all discussing the esoteric origins and subject matter of Ryan’s incomparable body of work. With early roots as a musician and painter, Robert Ryan’s work reveals a deep mastery of the American tattooing tradition while creating a mystical and fantastic world full of unique takes on Eastern religious iconography.

No Tasmanian Devils Allowed

 

I think for every tattooed person there is a moment where we come to the understanding that we’re going to end up heavily tattooed. A personal big-bang of understanding that we can get whatever we’d like tattooed on us as long as there’s someone skilled enough to translate the idea; for me one of the main nodal points in my own tattoo history was discovering Guy Aitchison in the pages of Outlaw Biker’s Tattoo Revue magazine some time in early 1990. I had gotten tattooed before finding Guy- A biker named Darnelle Hoen, Bill Hannong from Ancient Art in Florida and Bill Liberty at Liberty Tattoo in Sacremento had all worked on me but I was directionless. I wanted to be tattooed but the kind of imagery I wanted wasn’t really available. Even my first tattoo (by Darnelle) was a custom tattoo- a near line for line tracing of the terribly drawn (embarrassingly enough Rollins inspired) Sun that I brought in and in all of it’s blown out glory it was a reminder to me that sometimes you just have to get what you get.

When Chicago poet Lori Jackson submitted the first of two articles- defining articles that without a doubt propelled Guy into the spotlight- I finally found someone who was close to my age who was doing tattoos; someone who read the same comics I read and watched the same movies and who took those influences and created tattoos that were previously unthinkable. The first article- No Tasmanian Devils Allowed– was a game changer. The second- a punkasfuck travelogue chronicling Lori & Guy’s 1990 roadtrip that found them traveling the US gave me a list of people to learn more about- Fred Corbin, Eddie Deutsche, Dave Lum…  the list when on and on. Inspired by his work I began a correspondence with Guy who was always more than generous with answering my geeky fanboy letters and even offered to fit me into his appointment book when visiting Florida for Daytona Beach’s infamous BIKE WEEK.

Guy was an unlikely artist to be working the event; his whole appeal was how different he was than the standard biker tattooist archetype of the time but even that turned out fortuitous. In 1992 I would finally get tattooed by him- and through that appointment went on to meet quite a few characters who’re still very much part of my life; John Himmelstein (who sleeved my left arm and a big chunk of my left leg) Mike Wilson (who was still an apprentice but went on to tattoo my back piece, right foot, right shin, fingers and sides of my hand) and Annette LaRue all worked at the shop in one capacity or another (artist, apprentice and guest) and have remained people that I’m very thankful to call friends.

Over the years Guy’s work has evolved from the more Giger influenced biomech to his own fractal/organic and as I’ve evolved as a tattoo collector my personal aesthetic has moved away from the imagery that appealed to me in my younger days, but without Guy I wouldn’t have had that portal into truly personal tattooing and will always count him as a major influence.

These photos were taken from 1991 to about 1994, 35mm scans from my collection. If there is an interest I could probably have my arm twisted to transcribe Lori’s Tattoo Revue articles and post them here for you folks- let me know in the comments.

 

 

Best Intentions II

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Issue #2 of BEST INTENTIONS magazine is now available. I have an article in it, so any review would be biased; but if you like the stuff we post here on OV you’ll dig it.
http://bestintentionsmagazine.bigcartel.com/product/issue-2

120 pages full colour tattoo magazine including interviews from –

Claudia De Sabe (Seven doors, London)
Dave Fox (Studio One, Philadelphia)
Curt Baer (Iron Mountain, California)
Eterno (OTR)
Patrick Kitzel (Tribal tattoo magazine)

Articles by –

Rosie Vans tattoo travels journal
Mr Gordo Instax view of Seven Doors
Shawn Porter’s Occult Vibrations

Artwork and tattoos by –

Ant Dickinson
James Matthews
Jimmy Duvall
Matt Kerley
Nick Mayes
Sam Ricketts
Teide
Tony Weingartner

Cover by Claudia De Sabe. Includes logo sticker designed by Joseph Aloi JK5.

 

8MM: Meadowlands

I’ve been working on restoring footage from an 8mm video cassette that was recorded at the 1991 Meadowlands tattoo convention. It’s a frustrating process sometimes; I’ll find 3 seconds of Eddie Deutsche tattooing but what are you going to do with three seconds followed by a shaky camera move to the next booth.The screen grabs often promise something more interesting than the finished, edited video.

Archival woes, I tell you what.

OV Book Review: Vintage Tattoo Flash

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According to the online photo storage site mylio.com, in 2015 an estimated 1 trillion photographs were taken world wide. Even if that number is slightly inflated using their metric, it’s fair to say that in 2016 more pictures will be taken in a 365 period than in the combined 202 years since Joseph Niepce took the what is believed to be the first photograph in 1814.

It’s an easy parallel to apply to tattoo flash; with the amount of tattooers working today and the cross cultural influence that our community has had on the art world with amateur flash designs appearing on tumblr, instagram and even god help us for sale at rock bottom prices on Etsy… a case can be made that there are more sheets of flash being produced per annum than ever before.

Why is it, then, that when you crack open a book like Tattoo Flash: 100 Years of Traditional Tattoos from the collection of Jonathan Shaw you see the designs that scores of artists are trying to reproduce in great volume at their rawest; free of ego or cleverness or embellishment- just pure folk art drawn by tradesmen tattooers, each design tweaked and perfected for the purpose of tattooing within the limitations of their craft. What colors were available and what would hold up, details that needed to be softened because a tattooer who was looking ahead wasn’t thinking about how the tattoo would look when he finally dipped the sponge in the bucket (with a drop of lysol for sanitation) to wipe the blood off before slapping a bandage on but how it was going to look it ten, twenty years… things that tattooers knew that more highbrow artists wouldn’t even consider are reflected in the bold will hold simplicity of an Ace Harlyn designed horse head and banner from 1948. It’s just a design that’s perfect to tattoo.

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Luckily the book doesn’t try to make sense of all that. It’s not a commentary on tattoo culture present or future- just a loving look back at the roots of designing tattoos from some of the art’s acknowledged masters who, along with the unknown tradesmen who carried their designs from town to town- setting up near a military base or carnival, plying the trade for people who didn’t need a sociology degree to pick out the perfect tattoo, right there on the third sheet from the left, for $6 and who walked away with a story right here on their arm.

The book is hefty; coffee table sized to do right by the amazing collection of flash that legendary tattooer Jonathan Shaw  has amassed over his decades of tattooing and traveling. Flipping through the pages you find image after image that the average working tattoo artist could still make a buck off of without having to reimagine or overthink. Lady heads, skulls, Hot Stuff Devils and the ubiquitous snarling black panther already laid out and ready to go (though you may want to change the prices up a little; $12.50 for a chest piece may send the wrong message) for their clientele.

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For newer tattoo collectors who frantically try to keep up with their favorite artists via Instagram, this book will be an eye opener. That weird “neo-traditonal” piece your favorite social media tattooer just dropped a stencil of on tumblr? Bert Grimm designed that when your great-grandfather was out raising hell as a new boot recruit in the USN, piling into the shop with his friends and finding the right Hula girl or WHO ME? duck to add to the growing collection he has under his whites.

Either way, artist or collector, your money will be well spent if you pick up 100 Years of Traditional Tattoos from the collection of Jonathan Shaw. It’s packed with never before seen flash sheets from Shaw’s exhaustive archives; eye-poppers from Tennessee Dave and Greg James circa 60s/70s, Bert Grimm, Bob Shaw, Ed Smith, Tex Rowe…  every page a reminder of the power of simple, clean, bold traditional tattoo designs.

You can find out more about the book at PowerHouse Books, or order it on Amazon.com.

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Rob. Williams and Jonathan Shaw