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I have recently been trying to make the transition into doing more japanese and traditional tattoos, my biggest obstacle I have found was self-made. Being known for a specific style can be constrictive, but really most people just want an awesome tattoo, so with that in mind I have started to approach tattoos in a different way…
Now for me, making the transition to more traditional styles is not that difficult as I am not known for doing photo realism, this would be harder if I was, but I do get a lot of customers wanting tattoos like my paintings, which are more or less realistic, no outlines for one thing, but I have always done these as tattoos with outlines, usually a tight 5 or 7. In the case where I am not asked to duplicate or do a version of one of my paintings, I have been trying to go for a traditional style like doing wind-bars and clouds behind a day of the dead half-sleeve, it really works well and the mix of styles is visually appealing.
I was asked to do two Day of the Dead skulls as an outer bicep from shoulder to elbow, but that was it, so I had free rein on the background. Another example is the Miami Dolphin ripping the head off the Jets mascot Firefighter Ed, now usually I recoil in horror at such a request, but I thought, well in japanese tattooing there are a lot of warriors fighting adversaries… so why not this?
So with a mix of japanese and american traditional in my head I started sketching it up using some references of the two combatants. I added blood water around the bottom of the piece which was spurting from the Jets mascot’s neck, and gave him a bug-eyed look of horror, a little nod to Grime. The wind-bar background allowed me to use black and grey so that I could use any color in the mascots, which have to be certain colors, no free rein on those buggers!
My customer was super thrilled with the tattoo and I have since added a Miami Hurricanes Cane standing on an Asian rock to it, all the while doing the style that I wanted and having a blast. One last example is a devil head I was asked to do to add to a sleeve with roller coaster elements. I could pretty much have done any kind of style, but I opted for a very traditional profile devil head that I based on one from Spider Murphy’s Flash book by Theo Mindell, which by the way is an amazingly gorgeous book put out by Miki Vialetto. I chose this one to work from because it fit the area nicely mainly, but also because it had sort of an old Coney Island feel.
My customer loved it. Anything that makes it easier to do any sort of tattoo that comes in your door is a valuable thing.
Pooch can be found at Altered State Tattoo in Lake Worth, FL.
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