Ink Master Season 4Last year I tried out for the famed Inkmaster show that airs on Spike TV. I can’t even begin to tell you how shocked I was when I received word that I had made it onto the show. I was amazed, astonished, scared, thrilled and giddy all at the same time.

What you need to realize is that I’m completely self-taught. I started in my kitchen tattooing clementine oranges because I read somewhere that helps. I also tattooed my first “skin” there as well. A friggin bar code on the inner part of a friend’s knee. Kinda awkward, but I did it. And sweet christ almighty that shit was terrible! The lines looked like a blind, drunk man in Russia tried to tattoo someone with a rusty blade on a bumpy road. A travesty! After that, I have to admit it put a fire in my gut to want to learn more, push hard and don’t stop no matter how much discouragement I may receive. I moved my operation into my living room and decided to be bold and invite people for free tattoos. That proved very successful. I had a flurry of people coming by my place because they heard they can get a free tattoo from this new guy on the street. For those seven days I must have worked on 20 to 30 people. It was insane. I worked my day job, then moonlighted as a flourishing tattooer. After that week, I stopped the free tattoos and began charging folks. I also began doing tattoo parties. The parties helped me develop some speed and helped me think quicker on my feet. They also helped spread my name around town like a virus. Pretty soon I was booked for 3 to 4 months at a time and I worked my ass off. I have to admit… I fell completely in love with tattooing. There is a science to it that I discovered that constantly challenged and turned me on.

I worked out of my house for a year and a half. It was great money and the clients were steady. Then I began to want more. I felt the need to get my ass into a shop somehow and learn all things shop related. But what I realized is that getting into a shop in Boston (where I’m from) was a daunting task. I ‘d have better luck teaching an elephant how to ride a motorcycle. I created a portfolio and went out into the world. I hit up several shops in Boston, Quincy, Cambridge, Everett and Somerville looking to get in as an apprentice. I knew I wasn’t ready to go into a shop as an artist… hell, I didn’t have my license! What I did though was get information from a fellow street artist (scratcher as the tattoo community calls them) about steps to take towards getting licensed. I did what was necessary and then one night, I received a call from a friend of mine. She told me how she went to a shop to have some work that I started on her completed. She went in and asked the tattooer at the front desk if he would do it. The tattooer looked at it, asked who did it, she replied, he asked if I was at a shop, she replied, he asked if she could contact me to go in. When I received the call from her, I called Scotty from Star Trek to beam me up! I drove out to Brockton, which is approximately 15 to 20 miles from Boston to the shop. The tattooer, Greg, looked at my portfolio and asked if I would like to join. I damn near crapped my pants and said “HELL YES!”

I joined Brockton Ink and worked hard to continue to push my craft. People who I tattooed at my home thankfully supported and followed me to the shop. I was and still am very grateful to those folks who helped support my growth. While at Brockton Ink, I learned a lot. I figured out how to build my own tattoo machines, how to better present my work, etc. Greg is a great dude and he left to open his own shop in Rhode Island. I applaud and look up to him for that. I changed Brockton Ink from a hole in the wall to something people were proud to come by and visit and receive work there. Repainted the walls, created a logo, web presence, community presence and most of all, gained respect as a shop. Took a while, but it happened. During my time at Brockton, I tried out for Inkmaster. I thought it was a long shot and that I wouldn’t get it because in the tattoo world, I’m still a rookie. I tried because I felt it was a good step in my development as a tattooer. Lo and behold I received word I got on the show as I was leaving Brockton Ink to begin a new life at a shop in Abington, MA called Extreme Fantasy. You will have to watch the show to see what happens. But know one thing, I’ll be damned to become irrelevant, I will always be grateful for a new day and I absolutely love what I do. I ‘m here out of passion, not because of money.

As my best friend of 30 years says “Grow on, Flow on…”

Siren full Siren full close

Anybody familiar with Disney and cartoon culture will recognize this immediately. For the rest, this is heavily influenced by the great illustrator Tim Shumate (click on the link, click on his portfolio and be prepared to be blown away!!! The man is a genius!). Mr. Shumate has created a plethora of hip, updated and edgy illustrations based on many of the beloved Disney characters many of us have grown with. Those illustrations have thus inspired hundreds of fans to get his version of the characters etched into their skin. This is no exception. The story behind this is; a couple of months ago an interested patron called the shop and asked if she could pay for a tattoo over the phone. I replied yes then she proceeded to tell me the story of her friend whom she loves to pieces really wants a tattoo of the Ariel design of Mr. Shumate’s.  I researched the design and decided to create something new for her friend. At some point communication switched and I was able to show the person receiving the tattoo the designs  I conjured up. She loved them.

boxing ring chest boxing ring chest close2 boxing ring chest close1

 

This is a returning client. I’ve been working on him since I was at my house. Thankfully he’s followed me to the shop and comes through punctually to continue to add on to his growing collection. Our latest adventure together is this boxing ring. When he first presented this idea to me, I thought “How in the damn am I gonna illustrate that successfully and clearly…?” I had to create the two boxers separately and stencil them onto him. Then I drew everything else directly onto him so I can have the right proportions without fudging the design. The meaning behind this is for you to face any and all opponents and defeat them bravely. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. But at least you stood up for yourself.

This was created with a #08 03 bugpin liner, #08 15 bugpin curved magnum, #10 17 bugpin curved magnum and intenze and starbrite inks.

french stamp ankle french stamp close

This lil doozy comes from a friend and client who is into getting unique pieces. I had to put on my steady surgeons gloves for this because of how tiny all the details were. I enjoyed the challenge a lot. One thing about this piece for me, I have a tattoo machine that I specifically use for work that requires a single needle or a 3 needle linework. It’s a Bloodhound Irons liner. A beauty of a machine and it runs those small needles brilliantly. I would suggest to any new tattoo artist to really research your machines and find the ones that best suit your artistic  style, hand speed, pressure and purpose that you need it for. Not all machines are built the same.

Anywho, the client wanted to chime in on this post and it was an absolute honor to have her write something to better explain the meaning of her piece.

“Now I teach history, but I was always digging about in my families backyard. Like a dog digging for a scent unnoticeable by human senses, getting yelled at to leave it alone, the grass had been resewed, the landscaping had it all looking just right. It all appeared the way they wanted it to, and there I sat, getting dirty, wasting the day away, digging at a scent.

Because our lives are a collection of historical forces and personal choices. My latest piece of inked body art reflects my own collection of atoms. My father is Jewish and my mother is French, and history has within it a windfall of possibilities as to why they perhaps could never have been. My art commemorates some forces that did allow it.

During the Nazi occupation of France during WWII, my grandfather was a mailman. Not a very glamorous job, not an elite position, no wall for his name to be carved into. But his moral compass directed him, he did not concede defeat. Rather he chose to aid the French Resistance – the underground force to counter the overwhelming might of the Nazis. Most of his actions remain particles of the past. And as he passed when I was six years old, my digging has met hard rock.

But imagine that my mother had been raised by a man who had bent to the will of those full of hate, or even had been ready to join them. Could my father, a Jewish man who had been raised with the haunting of Hitler chasing down his genetic line, loved such a woman? Would my own compass be so strongly charged North, towards social justice, not weighed down by history but rather liberated through it?

So my art is a postage stamp. A postage stamp in honor of the French Resistance. A piece that reminds me that I come from a family of fighters and that I have a legacy to carry on.”

Thank you Ms. Client/ Friend lol

This was created with a single needle liner, 5 curved magnum and intenze and silverback inks.

Xmen logo Xmen logo closeAnd the winner of the most technically difficult tattoo I’ve ever completed goes to!!!!!!!!!! This was a difficult beast for me to do. One thing about tattooing, straight lines, curves and fonts are the most difficult design elements to do. It’s because you can’t put a circle template on someone then tattoo within it. Nor can you put a ruler onto a person to draw a straight line. I had to chuckle when the client presented this idea to me. His words were “…I thought is was the easiest thing to do…” Good gravy he was so wrong lol! When I told him what he gave me, he was like “oh… lol!” This is for the birth of his first child, who’s name I think is Xavier. Here comes the X-Men Sleeve.

This technical beast was made with a 9 liner, 15 curved magnum and eternal inks.

 

realistic rose realistic rose closeI have developed a healthy obsession with tattoos that really challenge me and put me outside my normal style. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of tattoos that have no linework. Just shading or color blocking. I kinda like it. It produces a result that’s soft, a little realistic and in my opinion, feminine (depending on the design subject).  This is my execution of that technique. I’mma do more.

This was created with a #08 15 bugpin curved magnum and intenze ink watered down with a mixture of distilled water and witch hazel.

 

jokerjoker closeThis is a walk-in client who is really into his inner geek. He’s dedicating one arm to the 90s cartoons and the other arm to something that I’ve totally forgotten. This was major nostalgia for me as my teenage years was spent watching Batman the Animated series. I would run home at 4:30pm to make sure I caught the latest episode so that I wouldn’t be left out of the conversation we project children had regarding the latest stuff of that day. I had some fun on this one. It kinda pushed me out of a comfort zone because I wanted to add so much dimension to it. But I decided it would be best to stick with the original design and keep it 90s cartoon beautifully flat.

This was created with a 7 liner, 9 curved magnum, 15 curved magnum and starbrite, eternal and intenze inks

angriest ram close angriest ramI seriously get a kick out of the clients I have the opportunity to work with. I appreciate the constant challenges they bring to me. I do have to admit though… Some times when I send them the drawing to approve and they reply to me “Change this, that, make this more…” I get kinda frustrated because in my brain it’s perfect for them and that’s the way it should be. Then I work in the changes they asked for and I look at it and think “Yeah, they were right about that one.” It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does I listen to my gut and listen to them. This is one of those examples. I sent the client a drawing that was perfectly fine but I also sent an additional drawing for just-in-case purposes… He loved the back up and here’s the result. Angry Aries.

This was created with a 7 liner, #10 17 bugpin curved magnum and Eternal and Intenze inks.

uncle floyd uncle floyd closeThis is one of those human stories that I just love. This client wanted to commemorate his uncle with an image of a catfish. Why a catfish? Because when Uncle Floyd took him on a fishing trip, the first fish he caught was a catfish. Brings a tear to my eye

This was created with a 7 tight liner, #10 17 bugpin magnum, #08 15 bugpin magnum and intenze inks watered down with a mixture of distilled water and a splash of witch hazel.

black widow spydra black widow spydra close

 

If you get the heebie jeebies from looking at pictures of spiders, turn away now please. Otherwise, here is my first attempt at what the world loves to call “3D tattoos”. When the client asked for a realistic Black Widow Spider my skin crawled a little. I laughed and asked if he was serious, then away we went. I’m familiar with doing anything 3D, realistic or whatever because of my painter/ illustrator/ designer background. So this was a new but comfortable direction for me. The actual name for this technique is called Trompe-l’œil which is derived from french meaning “deceive the eye”. But for simpler terms, 3D will suffice. I did this using a painterly technique using no lines, just shapes. I like the results.

This was created using a #08 11 bugpin curved magnum and silverback graywash and intenze inks.

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