Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Forearm tatoo design seamless fit

Hi There,

This week I have been working on a large project, a maori / kirituhi forearm design.
Like other sleeves, this tattoo design had to be wrapped around the forearm completely and make a seamless fit.

Here you'll see a few pictures of the design in different stages:

drawing tutorial tattoo imagesmaori tattoo for the forearmforearm maori kirituhi style tattoo

final forearm seamless mauri designThe size of the design is 27 cm high and the width at the elbow is 30 cm and at the wrist it's 18 cm.

To make sure the design fit's seamless I first draw one side of the design and copy it. Then I place it against the other side and continue the design. I always try to keep the lines flowing and the fills interesting.

The customer liked the tattoo immediately, so I only had to make some minor changes to this drawing. Here are a few pictures of the process of tracing the design:

how to draw a maori tattoo designdrawing maori design with pencil

Tomorrow I will be working on an armband in maori / kirituhi design. Really enjoying this kind of projects, where I can use my own style and mix it with Maori shapes and symbols.

Regards, Mark

Jubail Celebrates the Midnight Mile

I met Jubail on the corner of 34th and 6th Avenue, and he shared this awesome tattoo:

"Midnight Mile" is a song by Bouncing Souls, and it reminds him of coming home to New York City.

Jubail, who has "nine or ten" tattoos, was a student at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

He was about to earn his commission as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army when I spoke with him, and he knows he can rely on his tattoo to help him remind him of home here in New York.

He also has the Bouncing Souls logo on the inner part of the elbow, also known as the "ditch," which is one of the most painful places to get tattooed.

Jubail credits his ink to Saka at Tat-Nice Tattoos in Huntington, WV.

Thanks to Jubail for sharing his Bouncing Souls tattoos with us here on best-tatto-design!

And here's a little "Midnight Mile" bonus:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Where The Wild Thing Tattoo Is

The day after I met one Jared, I met another, out in front of Madison Square Garden.

With a tattoo like this:

how could I not stop him?

As one would imagine, Jared loves the book, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

The tattoo displays, on Jared's right forearm, one of the "Wild Things" that is in Max's imagination.

Jared, who was in town visiting from Boston, has ten tattoos. He had been thinking about getting a Where the Wild Things Are piece for several years and finally had it done by Chris Ford in January 2009. Ford had worked in L.A. but is now in New Jersey.

Jared said that he has had a lot of attention from people about the tattoo, in part due to the publicity from the movie adaptation coming out this Fall.

Thanks to Jared for stopping to talk and share his "wild" tattoo with us here on best-tatto-design!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jared Shares His Vegan Tattoo

I met Jared while he was waiting for a train in Penn Station.

After the Manhattan Mall food court closed last summer, I discovered this wide expanse of Penn Station (especially the Amtrak area) was great for inkspotting when the weather made normal traipsing about unappealing.

Jared's ink runs down the length of his arm, from the top of his right bicep, down to the inner part of his forearm.

As a Vegan, Jared did his research, and sought out a tattoo artist that could give him a Vegan tattoo:

There's a school of thought that some tattoo inks are not "vegan," in the sense that they incorporate glycerine from animal fat, or they use bone char in the black inks. See this article here.

Some artists refute this as gimmicky, and here is a more skeptical view point from a Vegan. But many Vegans who are steadfast in their ideals find the idea of a purely vegan tattoo appealing. I featured another Vegan tattoo back in October 2007 here.

Jared, who is the musical director for the national touring company of the show "Spring Awakening", went to Cary at Body Electric Tattooing & Piercing in Hollywood for this custom design.

The top section of flowers includes at least one chrysanthemum. The bottom part spells out the word "Vegan" in twisting, viny, letters.

Jared's whole arm took three sessions and ultimately embodies the Vegan lifestyle, not just in words and design, but in the ink used to create the art.

Thanks to Jared for sharing his work with us here on best-tatto-design!

Friday, June 26, 2009

best-tatto-design Boxcars: A Leonine Tattoo and Wearing One's Heart on One's Sleeve

I met Jeff and Jeanie in Penn Station as they were about to board an Amtrak train out of the city.

I've been trying to come up with clever terms for different inkspotting phenomenon, basically creating my own lexicon.

I'll call Jeff and Jeanie "boxcars". Meaning, I approached the two of them and gambled, asking them both to participate, and they came through. Like rolling two sixes on the dice (also known as boxcars). I would even venture to call them "blind boxcars", because I could only make out fragments of their ink, but they still shared.

Jeff went first, displaying this leonine figure on his left bicep:

It's a nod to his astrological sign, Leo, and was also selected for its nod to Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast).

Jeanie shared her tattoo below:

This piece literally has her wearing her heart on her sleeve and is inspired by Mexican art. The tattoo was completed by a friend of Jeanine's named John Flack.

I would have obtained more detail, but the couple had to board their train.

Thank you to Jeanine and Jeff for sharing their tattoos with us here on best-tatto-design!

Update shoulder tattoo sketch


A quick update on the maori shoulder design I started yesterday...

Today I received the comments from my customer, he wanted to apply some changes to the lower side of the tattoo design. It took me a couple of hours to adjust the sketch, but here's the latest design. He really liked the shoulder part, but wanted less curles and round edges in this tatoo.

shoulder curles fern new zealand tattoo

I'll get back to you tomorrow with the latest info on this pencil sketch and maybe some updates on the forearm tattoo design.

Kind regards, Mark Storm

Gina's Mayan Design

Earlier this month, I met Gina in Manhattan at the corner of 31st Street and 7th Avenue and I asked her about these tattoos:

The main element is a the piece she had inked in January 2007, on a trip to Mexico.

She went on a cruise to Mexico with her mother. While exploring some Mayan ruins, she made a rubbing of the design above, which bears some relationship to Xul, a canine god in the Mayan pantheon. She took the rubbing to a local tattoo artist and had it inked while in Mexico.

I questioned her about the cleanliness of a tattoo shop south of the border and she maintained that the place was immaculate, much cleaner than some of the shops she has seen in the U.S.

Just above the Mayan piece is a smaller tattoo, featuring an outline of Texas, where she was born. When her mother saw this "Made in Texas" tattoo, she asked Gina, "What makes you so sure you were made here?" Clearly a woman with a sense of humor. But, Gina noted, the remark "made [her] throw up a little".

This small tattoo was done by Homer Saenz at 713 Tattoo Parlour in Houston. Work from 713 has appeared previously on best-tatto-design here.

Finally, as a matter of habit, I always ask people how many tattoos they have. Gina gave me an unusual answer, "Nine, going on seven."

When I gave her a puzzled look, she explained that she has nine tattoos, but she is planning on having two removed. As an actress, she feels that two of the more visible pieces may prevent her from attaining roles.

Thanks to Gina for sharing her tattoos with us here on best-tatto-design!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mark's Gypsy Tattoo Pays Tribute to the Female Singer-Songwriter

I have mentioned before that I tend to shy away from approaching subway commuters about their tattoos.

However, like most of my self-imposed guidelines, I always make exceptions for work that is transcendent. That is, if the tattoos are supremely blogworthy, I will solicit, for the sake of the reader, people on the subway. One such case presented itself last week on the Brooklyn-bound N train.

I approached Mark Turrigiano as the N emerged from the subterranean underworld and climbed the Manhattan Bridge. He has phenomenal sleeves, intricate work that wraps and surrounds the limbs.

His right arm, with an Asian-inspired theme, is mostly attributed to Elio Espana at Fly Rite Tattoo Studio (whose work has been seen previously here). His left arm hosts an incredibly huge and colorful octopus, which was inked by Lou at Third Eye Tattoo (whose work has appeared on best-tatto-design here).

Because of the scale of those sleeves, we opted to go with one of his newer pieces, a gypsy on the back of his left calf:

This piece, designed and inked by Craig Rodriguez at Hand of Glory Tattoo Studio in Brooklyn, is seen by Mark as "a good way to commemorate [his] work with female singer-songwriters".

I like this piece a lot because it contains a lot of traditional gypsy elements, but is atypical in its presentation. It seems much larger with greater detail than the traditional gypsy profile tattoos that are much more common. The vividness of the colors also helps the tattoo pop, and you can almost feel the texture of her scarf.

Mark says the piece was completed in about four hours over two sessions. He estimates that his body is about 30% covered in ink.

Feel free to check out Mark's website here.

Thanks to Mark for sharing this great gypsy tattoo with us here on best-tatto-design!

custom tattoo design


Yesterday I started on a new shoulder piece for a customer from Colombia.
He wanted a quarter/half sleeve maori design with some elements from shoulder tattoo 147 and 152.

Not to detailed fills and it had to wrap around the arm a little. The total size of the design is 18 cm x 15 cm.

Here's the first two pictures of the design:

half sleeve shoulder tatou maori

The final sketch will follow when the customer is satisfied with this pencil sketch.

I'm also working on a forearm tatoo design, that wraps around completely and has to make a seamless fit. Quite a challenge, I'll post some pictures soon.

If you want to send me a message, simply use my e-mailaddress, or put a comment on this blog.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Leesa's Memorial Tattoos

There are certain signs I look for when I am scanning a crowd for tattoos. Colored hair and/or facial piercings are good, but not always reliable, indicators that someone may be inked. A guitar case, you would think, also favors the theory that its possessor has tattoos, but it's not always the reality.

So when I spotted a tall woman walking out of Penn Station carrying what appeared to be a guitar case, I took notice. And, she had a neck tattoo that resembled this pattern:

Despite being in a hurry, she let me shoot this photo of her forearm tattoos:

She explained that the one on the left arm features her mother's initials (HLH) under the phrase "máthair mo ghrá" and the dates 2-23-25 - 1-5-09". The tattoo is Gaelic and translates to "Mother, my love".

She explained that her mother died earlier this year and, before I could react, she explained that the right arm is a memorial to her husband (AMS), who died thirty-three days later.

Her right arm reads "Fear chéile mo ghrá" which means, "Husband, my love".

In an attempt to express condolences, I said, "Wow, it sounds like you've had a bad year. I'm very sorry".

But she was not down about it and said that actually, despite a rough year from a family perspective, it had been a good year for her personally.

She indicated that she was running late for rehearsal and I asked her if her band had a website. She started to spell the name "L-E-Z..." and I knew instantly what band she was in. The runic tattoo on her neck was familiar because it had stood for the great drummer John Bonham. Leesa is the drummer for the all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band, Lez Zeppelin.

It was only later, after researching a bit, that I learned that the band's guitarist and de facto leader Steph Paynes, had announced on January 5, 2009, that the other members of the band were leaving, and three replacements, including Leesa, were subsequently selected.

I am assuming that Leesa's reference to a good year, personally, had much to do with her joining Lez Zeppelin, and embarking on a tour.

These memorial tattoos were inked by Matt Adams at Sacred Tattoo in Manhattan.

Here's a clip from the band playing earlier this year in New York:

Thanks to Leesa for stopping and talking with me, despite being in a rush. I appreciate her sharing her memorial tattoos with us here on best-tatto-design!

Please check out the Lez Zeppelin website (here) to learn more about this cool band. See here where they are playing later this summer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sarah Shoulders Her Slavic Heritage

A couple of weeks ago, I had a very productive Wednesday, speaking to five different people about their tattoos.

Sarah is the last of those five that I an posting, and was my favorite of the group that day.

This tattoo was her sixth (she has thirteen or fourteen) and is an homage to her Slavic heritage.

The piece is based on the poster for a 1921 art exposition put on by the Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha at the Brooklyn Museum:

The piece, on her right shoulder was tattooed by Scott Budgen at Lady Luck Ink in Waterford, Michigan.

Thanks to Sarah for sharing this wonderful tattoo with us here on best-tatto-design!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tattoo photos of my tribal designs


I think it's nice to show you some photos of people wearing my designs.
Here are a few pictures I received lately:

shoulder tattoo 142 photo shoulder tattoo pictures maori calf tattoo photos maori design

The first design is nr. 142 in the shoulder gallery of my website.
The second tattoo is nr. 146 in the shoulder gallery and the third is a custom tattoo design, so that is specially created for this customer and is not sold to anyone else.

In the upcoming week, I will start on a lower arm tattoo with some flowers and ferns. You'll see some sketches of it on this blog, so if you wish to subscribe, simple use the "Add This" button in the upper right corner.

Any comments? Really like to hear your opinion.


Kind regards, Mark

My Third Tattoo: A Hand Steeped in Faith

Last June, I wandered into a 711 and met a tattoo artist named Pete, who works under the moniker Sweetpea. Like most artists, he himself has amazing work. However, I was camera-less that day, so I gave him a flier and we went our separate ways.

Later that week he e-mailed me and we scheduled to meet and talk about tattoos. We hit it off nicely and, in one of the perks of writing best-tatto-design, I gained a new friend. Of the hundreds of people I have photographed for this blog, I'd say I developed some semblance of a friendship with just a handful of my subjects. Sweetpea tops the list.

When I posted his tattoos, almost exactly a year ago today, he was actually contacted by several people who he ended up tattooing. I didn't realize it at the time, but the impact of the post was far greater than I could imagined.

A month or so later he e-mailed me and asked me what I thought of a design on his MySpace page. I checked out the sketch and admired the concept: a disembodied hand, gesturing the "om" sign, emerging from a cluster of flowers.

I told him I liked it, but if I were to get that tattoo, I'd prefer it be modified to exchange the Om for a Star of David.

He came back to me with the updated design and we agreed to get this done. Summer was just coming to an end.

Pete stopped by in September with the design and met my wife, Melanie. The three of us talked about size and placement and agreed that it would look best on the upper part of the left side of my back. Sweetpea was basically freelancing and we decided the only place we could do it would be in my living room. The kids would certainly get an education out of this!

But when he called to see if we could book a slot in early October, a glance at my calendar revealed a conflict with a wedding and Yom Kippur the Jewish Day of Atonement. Not even factoring in the religious connotations, it's generally a bad idea to get a big tattoo on your back shortly before wearing a nice suit. Healing from a tattoo can be uncomfortable and the ointment used to facilitate the process can often ruin many an article of clothing.

So October slipped away, then November, and December. And then Sweetpea left the country for over a month and didn't get back until late January.

He called me in February. Not only was he ready, but he was now working out of Made in Brooklyn a little shop around the corner run by Michael Kaves, an artist steeped in the tradition of South Brooklyn music, graffiti art and tattoo culture (see an early Kaves tattoo here). I stopped into the store a couple of times and set a date.

When I showed up for the intial sitting, Pete was slightly tentative about the design. He wanted to go in a bit of a different artistic direction and wanted to retool the sketch one more time.

It was then that I suggested a chain, to make it look like it wasn't just a star that was being held, but a necklace with a star at the end of it, almost as if the hand had picked it out of the dust and held it up for inspection. Sweetpea loved the idea of adding the chain, as it created another dimension in the piece.

A week later, I was finally back in the shop being inked.

Again, I was reminded how time is distorted by reality TV tattoo shows. In a four to six hour session, the outline and flower was completed. For what was a relatively small piece, I was surprised at the time that the first phase took, until I saw the depth and layering of the colors that went into the floral pieces.

I returned two weeks later for the hand and several more hours under Sweetpea's needle....this time focusing on the hand, and the shading. When the session was complete, the hand was very dark, so much so that Melanie was nervous.

But Sweetpea assured us that the hand would lighten when healed, and lighten it did. It still amazes me how much work he put into the detail and shading and how he, along with the best tattoo artists, can envision the tattoo after it has healed. It's like an artist creating a painting, but with an extra layer that he knows will peel off and result in a crisper, brighter work below.

Due to scheduling and the shop getting busier, I wasn't able to sit again with Sweetpea until the second weekend in June.

I came in for some final touch-ups, a little extra tuning and coloring to slam the door on the tattoo.

I suggested some gold for the star to really make it shine, and he added some crisper outlining and some subtle shading to finish things up - white highlights in the fingernails and in the chain, and a little bit of added color in the hand.

And whereas I had been happy with the tattoo before, I was astonished at how much more amazing it looked with the "finishing touches".

So what does this tattoo mean? I know that is a question I extend to the countless volunteers who offer up their ink to best-tatto-design readers.

I believe that meanings change over time, as the context of a particular tattoo evolves.

The addition of the chain was significant. Instead of merely proffering a symbol, the hand extended a concrete thing that symbolized something larger.

I alluded to our discussion of the chain, as if it had been picked up and held up for examination. This forms the cornerstone of the tattoo's current meaning to me.

So here it is: the hand of a Higher Power, call Him God, or Yahweh, or another deity. The Star of David represents my faith, my understanding of Judaism.

For many years, I had fallen away from the spirituality of the religion and had merely been a "cultural" Jew, meaning I identified myself as Jewish but didn't worship at the synagogue or observe many of the religious traditions.

But when my children reached the age when they started going to Hebrew School, the pendulum swung back and I became more regularly involved in the faith.

And although I do not consider myself "devout," my faith is stronger than it has ever been, it has been plucked from the dust and is being held up to the light.

This tattoo represents Faith, lost and found.

There are other elements that pervade the tattoo that make it more complete to me, as well. I consider it a Judeo-Christian tattoo, in a sense, with a hint of Buddhism.

The hand is still held in an "Om" gesture, despite the modification. So it has a base in a symbol of peacefulness and meditation. The chain has almost rosary-like appearance to it, which is appropriate in that it represents to me the faith of the artist, and my deeper understanding of Christianity that developed over 13 years attending a Christian elementary and high

I thank Peter Caruso aka Sweetpea for creating this amazing tattoo for me. He has told me that appearing on best-tatto-design a year ago was a significant moment in his career, as well. In the middle of our second session, he had shared with me that his passion for tattooing had dwindled, and he had been thinking of hanging up his tattoo machine.

However, he said, my interest in the art of tattoo through the blog, and getting him talking about the history of Old School Brooklyn tattooing, rekindled the flame. He started tattooing again and, at Made in Brooklyn, he has been tattooing full-time, doing his own thing, and creating some amazing works of art.

This won't be the last time you hear of Sweetpea or Kaves or Made in Brooklyn here on best-tatto-design. Their influence in my neighborhood is being extended on a daily basis. I have witnessed the phenomenal work that they are producing for others and I am sure to be featuring it here in the future. I also hope to bring you a closer look at the shop as they continue to grow the business and transform from a little shop around the corner into a Brooklyn institution.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jake's Redd Foxx Tattoo Helps Us Celebrate Father's Day!

Last week, I posted about a trio of friends that had recently moved from San Francisco to New York, all of them inked.

Jake was the first of the three to share his tattoo with us, and it is such a good piece, I saved it for a special occasion, Father's Day:

This is, of course, a portrait of the great comedian Redd Foxx. People of my generation (X) remember him as the bristling curmudgeon in the sitcom "Sandford and Son".

For those who are unfamiliar with the series, the show is about a widower, Fred Sanford (Foxx), raising his adult son Lamont (played by Desmond Wilson), and their junkyard business. It was a breakthrough show that was one of the first on network television to feature a minority cast.

The father-son dynamic is an ongoing theme, and Jake recalls watching the show with his dad and it being a bonding experience.

His father passed away about four years ago this month from cancer. The tattoo is not only a tribute to the great comedian, but a reminder of the times Jake spent watching "Sandford and Son" with his dad. Jake added, "I'm pretty sure if [my dad] was still around, he would get a kick out of seeing Redd Foxx on my calf."

This amazing portrait was tattooed on the back of Jake's right calf by Greg Rojas at Everlasting Tattoo in San Francisco.

As we celebrate Father's Day today, I thank Jake for sharing this awesome tattoo with us here, and invite everyone to revisit the host of tattoos previously posted on best-tatto-design that pay tribute to dads. Click here to see the lot.

And, as a special treat, in the spirit of the day, I present the following clip:

Happy Father's Day from best-tatto-design!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ashley's Trio of Tattoos

I've always said that best-tatto-design is 50% about the tattoos and 50% about finding them. But once in a while, tattoos just present themselves and I can't contain myself.

Ashley is a case in point. She was at the laundromat the same time as I was, and she had two small tattoos inked on her feet. Out on the street, I likely would have let her walk by without stopping her, but there, as we stood around waiting for clothes to wash and dry themselves, it struck me as negligent NOT to ask her about the tattoos.

Ashley has three tattoos in all. The first one I noticed was this peace sign on her right foot:

It's a popular symbol, of course, and not simply because of what it stands for, but for the aesthetics of the shape.

Similarly, she has a small heart on her left foot:

What's interesting to me about this simple tattoo is the duality of the colors. Ashley says that the colors represent the "two polar sides" of her personality - the "mellow" green and the more exciting pink.

Both tattoos were done in the same sitting by an artist named Taz.

Ashley has a third tattoo, her first, which she was kind enough to share with me:

This star was inked by Joe at Studio Enigma (whose work has appeared previously on best-tatto-design here). This is purely decorative, at the base of her neck, and she had it done with a close friend, who had the same design inked on her shoulder blade.

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

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cover up tattoo design

Hi there,

Recently I got the question from someone who wanted to cover up an old tattoo.
The design was a faded dragon or horse or something like that.
Normally I don't design cover-up tattoos, but for this time I agreed on turning it into a maori shoulder tattoo, with some nice fills and curles.

First I made a template with an example of the existing design and the space I should cover in total.

The customer wanted a circle in the middle and some curly maori ferns around it.
Total size of the existing design was 2,5 cm wide and 6 cm high. The cover up had to be somewhere around 14 cm high and 10 cm wide.

I print the template on A4 size paper with all the lines in really lightgrey, so the lines are not that visible.
The first sketch was just a try-out to see how I had to work around the existing tattoo.

It took me around an hour to do this one.

I scanned it and mailed it to my customer who wanted a bit more detail and more curves.

The second sketch worked out better and the shape was done.
After some e-mailcontact on the fills we agreed to keep it simple with some basic lines and full black fills.

Next time I will try to explain how to make a tattoo design ready for a tattoo shop, by creating a linedrawing for a stencil.

Till then!

Regards, Mark

Amy's Variation on a Sailor Jerry Classic

I met Amy one day a few weeks back, outside of Madison Square Garden.

She estimates she has spent about 36 hours being tattooed, and that her body is "a work in progress".

She offered up this tattoo on her left arm, which is a modified version of a classic Sailor Jerry design:

The original concept is your basic naval tattoo design, with the "Stewed, Screwed, and Tattooed" slogan:

This piece has been elongated, with a few flowers added for that feminine touch, and the banner "1 Life" is inserted as a nod to the shop where she had this done.

This, along with most of her work, was tattooed by Branden Noetzel at 1 Life Tattoo in Brainerd, Minnesota.

Amy, who is a make-up artist by trade, also has the knuckle tattoos that read B-O-O-K W-O-R-M. I would have shot them for my friends over at, but she's already on the site (see them clearly here). So, she offered up her two foo dogs (inked on her hands for protection) instead:

Thanks to Amy for sharing her great tattoos with us here on best-tatto-design!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Finished The Rock style shoulder tattoo


I showed you the first sketches yesterday for a Finish customer, Jarno.
He really like the sketch design, so I finished it today.
(Please respect the customer, this tattoo is protected by copyright and is not to be used by other people.)

Here's the final result:

At the moment I'm waiting for some details on new custom pieces.
So hopefully I can show you some new sketches in a few days.

Kind regards, Mark Storm