Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Wrap-Up, Looking Ahead to 2009

For those of you following best-tatto-design, I am going to take a different approach to the blog in 2009.

The concept will be the same, but I am going to enhance it a little bit. All posts will be dated and time-stamped around the time that they happened. So, if I don't get around to posting the ink for a few days, it will be back-dated for chronological effect.

I also want to blog above and beyond the successes (i.e. the people who said "No") and expand to other tattoo-related topics, when they arise.

For example, if I stop in Borders and look at a tattoo book, I'd like to link it here. I am hoping to turn all the "no thank yous" into items of interest.

I also have a couple of new features in the works that I hope to unveil in the new year that will continue to make best-tatto-design the interesting experience that I believe it is.

In an effort to start out with a clean slate, I am cleaning out my drafts and posting all the remaining drafts I have in house, including several pieces by Jessica, who I met back in June.

Once again I want to thank everyone who regularly reads best-tatto-design, and those who visit once in a while. 2008 was a banner year, registering over 100,000 hits this year alone. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2009 will bring. Happy New Year!

More of Jessica's Ink: Blue Stars and Random Art

Here are some more tattoos from Jessica, who inked much of this work herself. She has over 50 tattoos, and has work featured before here.

She has inked some blue stars....

And that is Italy as well, with the red, white and green colors of the country's flag. The blue stars accompany a tomato slice and what I assume to be a Madagascar hissing cockroach...

and a koala bear.....

Thanks to Jessica for sharing all her ink here at best-tatto-design.

More of Jessica: A Death's-head Hawk Moth and Knee Flames

Here's more of Jessica's ink. "Flames on my kneecap and the death's head moth from The Silence of the Lambs....."

That is the Death's-head Hawkmoth:

which came to cultural significance when featured on the movie poster for the Jodie Foster movie mentioned above.

Thanks again to Jessica for sharing her ink with us here on best-tatto-design!

More of Jessica: Moogoogaipan and Red Foo

Here are the last two pieces I have on Jessica (I'm sure in '09 she'll send me more...). They are her foo dogs, which she has dubbed Moogoogaipan (named after the Americanized Chinese food dish moo goo gai pan) and Red Foo.

Jessica has shared a lot of ink here. She actually has some other foo dogs in an arm sleeve (shown here) which are well worth seeing again. Thanks again Jessica!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Michael's Mariachis Celebrate Life with a Burst of Musical Color

In reconnecting with old college friends through Facebook, my old friend Michael who I haven't seen in almost twenty years sent me an amazing tattoo he has on his right arm.

He sent me before and after shots so we can see the transformation from outline to spectacularly colorful body art. First, the before shots.....

The detail and the line work is exemplary and breath-taking. As someone with a guitar inked on my arm, I can appreciate the intricacies of a finely-drawn instrument. The detail on the mariachi's jacket cuff is incredible.

And now, for some color:

Michael explains the basic premise of this tattoo:
In a sense, this piece is a "memorial" tattoo, although I hate to call it that. Since I grew up in the Southwest, Day of the Dead was a regular thing, so I've always been drawn to that type of imagery, plus I like the meaning -- honoring the dead, and reminding us to live life to the fullest. I picked the mariachis partly because I am so into music, and partly because of the celebratory aspect of mariachis.
Like many intricate tattoos with multiple elements, every part has significance. The tulips, for example, that are growing at the mariachi's feet, "are an actual heirloom varietal that I have in the garden" [and] are for my wife -- tulips are her favorite flower".

And the angel at the top of the piece (and the top of the post)?

Michael informs us that "the angel is for my mother, who is no longer with us. The angel holds a purple iris (my mother's favorite flower), and looks down over the whole scene."

This amazing piece was inked by Susan Behney-Doyle who works out of Jinx Proof Tattoo in Washington, D.C. Mexican folk art is one of her specialties (see a gallery of her work here) and Michael says he "gave her a few reference pieces to look at, but she basically drew it after a consultation". He continues, "we made just a couple tweaks after I saw the drawing, but it's a one-of-a-kind custom piece".

The whole tattoo was crafted back in 2006 over a five-month, seven-session period. Michael notes that one of those sessions was devoted solely to shading the guitar. A closer look at the instrument reveals an incredible complexity of brown variations that truly makes the guitar jump off the skin.

Tattoos I Know: Paul, Part 3, or, The Great Cover-Up of 2008

Earlier this year, I featured the first tattoo belonging to Paul, a co-worker and friend. Later on, he showed me his sleeve (here).

I am just getting around to show you his new work in progress, a cover-up of a tattoo on his right bicep, located above the first one of his that I featured here.

This isn't completed, but it does display a stage of the work that is interesting. Documenting it now will make it more interesting when the piece is completed.

That's an om symbol at the top of the piece. The basic design is a traditional Japanese half-sleeve. The work is done by Horisei at Chelsea Tattoo Company. Horisei inked my friend Rob's traditional Japanese tattoos (here).

Thanks again to Paul for sharing his work in progress here at best-tatto-design. We're looking forward to seeing the final work in 2009!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Knight to Remember: Veronica Shares Her Ink

I received a pleasant surprise yesterday, just before leaving work, when Brooke (see her tattoos here and here) introduced me to her friend Veronica, who was visiting her in the office.

Veronica enjoyed the posts on Brooke's ink, and was willing to share her tattoo with us here on best-tatto-design:

I correctly identified the tattoo, on the left side of her back shoulder, as the chess piece known as the Knight.

Although it is a horse, Veronica noted, most people who see it don't realize at first that it is a chess piece.

So why a chess knight?

Several years ago, Veronica went on a date with a guy who had a similar tattoo. Not only had he been a chess player, but his nickname in the military had been "Crazy Horse". He had designed the tattoo himself and Veronica was drawn to it. She knew she wanted one just like it, but they both agreed, as their relationship progressed, that it would only be appropriate if they were married.

Well, we all know where this is heading. When the time was right, Veronica's boyfriend didn't pop the question, he popped the suggestion, "Let's go get that tattoo". Which she did, customizing his original design by making it a little smaller, and adding a feminine curl to the front of the Knight's mane. They went to a shop on Broadway in Santa Maria, California. There are three shops currently on Broadway, so I can't give proper credit to the shop or artist at this time.

The formal proposal came shortly after the engagement was "inked".

Veronica married the man with the matching tattoo but, as life would have it, they split up amicably after three years.

Her ex-husband-to-be told her that he wouldn't be offended if she decided to cover the chess piece up, but the thought never crossed Veronica's mind. She wasn't worried about future girlfriends (or wives) getting the same tattoo. She recognizes it as a unique symbol of a past chapter in her life of which she has little regret.

Oftentimes, people are remorseful about their ink, especially when the piece is tied to a relationship that no longer exists. It is always nice to see a tattoo that holds great meaning, even while transcending a bond that has broken.

So the chess piece remains, and we here at best-tatto-design extend our thanks to Veronica for sharing this part of her personal history with us.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tattoos I Know: Mary-Lee's Paternal Inscription

I'm particularly proud of this particular tattoo story because it hatched out of best-tatto-design itself, in a roundabout way.

The signature above is a freshly-inked autograph of a man who has been dead over forty years. It graces the back of Mary-Lee, who I have known and worked with for a decade. The signature is that of her father.

Earlier this year, Mary-Lee, who has regarded the best-tatto-design hobby of mine with a curious amusement, was moved by the story of Kate's tattoos (here), especially the one of her twin sister's signature. Kate's sister had died in a car crash the previous year, and the name of her sister, in her own handwriting, is a touching and beautiful memorial.

Upon hearing this tale, and seeing this tattoo, Mary-Lee began thinking of a similar tribute, made all the more remarkable by the way the stars lined up to make this happen.

Her father died at the age of 53, when Mary-Lee was only eleven years old. She was a typical Daddy's Girl, and has never forgotten the sudden nature of his passing, and the absence of closure, as she was not allowed to go to his funeral.

So, as the anniversary of his death approached on December 4, and she realized that this anniversary was special in that she is the same age as he was that he died, she decided it was only fitting to get her first tattoo, honoring her dad, at the same age as he was on the day he died.

The final question was, would she be able to get it inked after 6pm on the anniversary? She doesn't know the exact time he left this world, only that it was after 6pm.

She started looking for a reputable shop in the area, and stumbled upon Red Rocket Tattoo, located between work and her home in Manhattan. She booked an appointment after 6pm on December 4 with Betty Rose well in advance. As if the kismet of the dates lining up wasn't enough, Red Rocket is where our friend and co-worker Paul (see his ink here) had his work done, and Betty Rose was the girlfriend of Chris (see his ink here) with whom I served a brief stint of jury duty over the summer.

When December 4 rolled around, everything went smoothly. Betty Rose had lifted the signature from the old ssocial security card that Mary-Lee still had in her possession, enlarged it, and placed the stencil in the perfect spot on the first attempt.

She is very pleased with how the nuances of the signature were picked up in the process, and loves how the inked reproduction is tilted "upwards, toward heaven".

And, whether it is the physical fineness of the lines and minimal surface area the tattoo affects, or whether there is a paternal heavenly influence with its hand in the process, Mary-Lee has marveled that she has experienced none of the typical symptoms that come with a healing tattoo.

This lack of self-consciousness about the ink, combined with the minimal pain and aftercare required, has validated for her the transcendent healing nature of her tattoo.

And it has helped her obtain another level of closure that she never received when she lost her father at the age of eleven.

Thanks to Mary-lee for sharing her tattoo and its story here with us on best-tatto-design!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Jeremy's Patriotic Tribute to His Father

I spotted this patriotic and paternal piece earlier this week at Penn Station.

Jeremy explained this straight-forward tattoo, which is inked on the inner part of his left bicep. The design is a tribute to his father, who died on the 4th of July, 2001. Dad had served in the U.S. army in the Korean War and it seemed fitting to Jeremy, who has six tattoos in all, to honor his memory with this piece.

The tattoo was inked at Bob's Crystal Blue Tattoo & Body Piercing in Shirley, New York.

Thanks to Jeremy for sharing this tribute to his father with us here on best-tatto-design!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Inky Obsession with Hellboy

I met Daniel at Borders and I could tell, from a distance, his tattoo was pretty special. It was only when I saw it up close that I realized how cool it is:

This is based on a limited edition print of the comic book character, Hellboy.

Daniel is a fan of Mike Mignola's creation, one of his favorite comic book characters, and he acknowledges that he's "a bit obsessed" with Hellboy. His hope is to eventually devote an entire sleeve to him. Note the detail on the edges of the panel. This just wasn't the character, but the edges of the piece look as if ripped directly from a comic book panel.

This was inked by Simone at Rising Dragon in Manhattan, when it was still on 23rd Street. Daniel estimates that this finely-detailed piece took about four and a half hours of work to complete.

Work from Rising Dragon has appeared previously here.

Thanks to Daniel for sharing his Hellboy ink with us here on best-tatto-design!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mike's Reminder, Emblazoned on His Chest

An unseasonably warm Monday, when the temperature rose above 60, proved to be a bonus here at best-tatto-design.

I met Mike in Penn Plaza, outside of Borders, and of his eleven tattoos, he chose this one to share here on the blog:

I was struck by the diamond in the middle of the chest, which reminded me of the piece in the best-tatto-design banner at the top of the page.

Mike told me that the message "Never Fail" was a reminder to himself to always strive to achieve his goals, to do the best that he can, and to never fail.

The piece was tattooed by Sean Foy at Rider's Ink in Newark, New Jersey.

Thanks to Mike for baring and sharing this self-motivating message here on best-tatto-design!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Isn't She Lovely? Camille from TV/TV Shares Some Ink

One of the benefits of best-tatto-design is that, because musicians tend to have a lot of ink, I meet a lot of them, and learn about bands that I may never have heard about.

This past Friday, I met Camille (pronounced Cah-mee) outside of Penn Station and he showed me a couple of his tattoos.

Camille is the drummer for the band TV/TV (MySpace here).

They just released their 5-track EP Something to Get Excited About this past year (read a review here). I've heard several of their songs since then, and I've enjoyed their sound (see the bottom of the post for more info). TV/TV is playing at the Highline Ballroom on January 15 and are booked for the Warped Tour in the Summer of 2009.

Of Camille's sixteen tattoos, he showed me this one first:

On the day the world mourned the passing of Bettie Page, it seemed appropriate to get a shot of a pin-up tattoo.

This piece is a vision, like many pin-ups, of the wearer's "dream girl". The top caption, "Isn't She Lovely?" is a nod to the Stevie Wonder song (his "favorite song ever"). Camille notes he's a big Stevie fan.

He says it's not obvious from the piece, but the woman has a knife behind her back, which explains the warning "Trust No One".

Just below the pin-up are the theater's Comedy and Tragedy masks:

See another version of this motif, appearing previously on best-tatto-design, here. He added these to his arm because he loves the theater and musicals.

Both tattoos are on his left arm. The comedy/tragedy masks are on the inside of his wrist.

The artist on both pieces were inked by Turk at Guru Tattoo in the Pacific Beach section of San Diego.

Thanks to Camille for sharing these tattoos here with us on best-tatto-design!

You can hear the songs from their debut EP here on their YouTube channel. Here's a taste, listen to "Call it Love":

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fabiana Shares Two More Colorful Tattoos

A couple of weeks back, I posted some ink from a guy named Tom (here), which featured the trinacria of the Sicilian flag.

The above example, from our good friend Fabiana (see her last post here - which links to her previous ones, as well), is a more colorful and elaborate take on the design.

Fabiana explains:
"The tat of the Medusa head I got because it's on the Sicilian flag. I was born there and it reminds me of all that I left behind, kinda just reminds me of my fam there and the time I lived there and all the things I went through! I love Sicily! It's such a beautiful place, hope I can return there some day! So now I look at it and it takes me right back to where my life first began."
This piece is on her upper right bicep and, like most of her work, was inked by Lou at Third Eye Tattoo in Brooklyn.

Another relatively new piece on Fabiana is this card on her left forearm:

Again, in her own words:
"The other new one I have is the orange one that kind of looks like a card. I got that because of my ex-girlfriend. I used to say to her 'I love you to the moon and back and all the stars in the universe.' So because of that, I got a moon and seven stars with the color orange because that was her favorite. She meant a lot to me but things just didn't work out. I will love her always!"
Yet again, a hearty thanks to Fabiana for letting me post her ink here, and for sharing the deep personal meanings behind the tattoos.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tattoos from the Blogosphere: The Back of Nathan's Legs

My recent affiliation with Nathan over at has been fairly sparse with the cold weather seizing the Northeast. However once he added me as a contributing writer, I queried about him sending me photos of some of his ink to put up over here on best-tatto-design. This post reflects a couple of leg pieces he sports.

First a pre-color peek:

And then, with some color, in its completed form:

A little limb isolation (click to enlarge):

These pieces were inked by Jason Brooks ("he is incredible") at Rock of Ages Tattooing in Austin, Texas.

The following is an excerpt from Nathan's blog, which begins to explain "bitter strength" and "Quixotic honor":

So I went under the gun again. First time in almost six years. I was just supposed to get the outlines done, but then his appointment after me canceled and I got a four hour session. The crook behind the knee and the area around the Achilles tendon were miserably painful, but the rest was pretty tolerable.

The theme behind the piece is a warning about virtues bordering on being vices. Values that can bite you back. Just because I am strong enough to endure hardship does not make it any less hard. Sometimes not bearing the load is better than having the strength. Honor is good up to the point that it becomes pride or self delusion. Of course it also works backwards. I am strong enough to persevere. Sometimes the windmills are dragons in disguise.

Thanks to Nathan for sharing his ink here on best-tatto-design. Be sure to check out his ink blog here. Who knows, may be you'll see a post by yours truly over there one of these days...