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Trying On Tattoos

I’ve been trying to think about when I first started wanting tattoos. I knew about tattoos when I was little (Popeye, duh), but I don’t think I seriously considered what it would be like to have a tattoo until I knew someone who got one.

Ironic tattoos make more sense when they're fake.

Ink Nerd rockin' fake tattoos at a Meat Sisters show in 1993. Scribbled by Ezra, photo by Maggie Robertson.

I’m not sure, but I think the first person who I knew who got a tattoo was a guy named Mike Fitzgerald. This was probably around 1990 or so (I would have been about 16). It was of a crescent man-in-the-moon face in a circle with squiggly black sun rays radiating from it (or did the circle and rays come later?). I remember talking to him about the pain, how the guy messed it up but was going to fix it later, how much it cost, etc. In retrospect, it sounds like he had a pretty typical first tattoo experience. I was fascinated by Mike’s tattoo, and really wanted one, too, but at the time I couldn’t imagine spending $50 or whatever on ANYTHING, let alone something that I was worried I would regret for the rest of my life.

Pretty soon I went to college and became thoroughly entrenched in the punk scene in St. Louis (and beyond), and it seemed like everyone was getting inked, whether it was at a “parlor”, at a party with a homemade “gun” made out of a Walkman motor, or scratched out in a dorm room with a needle dipped in ink from a Bic pen. Even in the middle of all of that, I still couldn’t decide on anything that would be worth committing to or spending money on. At least that’s what I told people; I think I was mostly just scared to do it.

Drawing fake tattoos, on the other hand, was much easier! They could be huge, scary, cool, and/or completely stupid, and even if you drew them with a Sharpie, they’d eventually be gone! You could have a new one every time you played a show!

I can think of half a dozen instances off the top of my head of my friends and I going out in public with crudely scrawled marker tattoos. Pictured here is me “singing” with my band at the time, The Meat Sisters, at a DIY punk show in Springfield, MO in some unused office space, in summer of 1993. The fake tattoo on my arm is a chunky circle-A anarchy symbol flanked by two skulls with mohawks, accompanied by the text “HARD CORE”. On my leg is the burning wheel logo of Krishnacore band Shelter, with the message “KRISHNA RULES”. Both were supposed to be ironic: the skulls, mohawks, anarchy symbols, etc., being total punk clichés, and “religious punk” being a bit of an oxymoron, at least as far as I was concerned.

I still think the “hard core” design, which I originally drew for the label of the B-side of the Meat Sisters 7″ EP “Undermining America’s Traditional Values” (Synergy Records), would make a kick-ass tattoo… But I’m still not hard core enough to get it.

Whew!

obama-i-got-this

I was not able to, until now...

Stegosaurus (Tattoo) Stampede!

I’m partial to Cretaceous beasties, myself, but the Jurassic classic Stegosaurus seems to be popular these days in my Dinosaur Tattoos group on Flickr! Additions in reverse chronological order:

MC Mikey Megatrons stego tattoo by Evan at Bayside Ink

MC Mikey Megatron's "Stegosaurus"

This is such a great start to MC Mikey Megatron‘s dinosaur “pantleg”. (“Stocking”? Either of those terms working for you?) I can’t wait to see the next installment! Tattoo by Evan Lovett at Bayside Ink Tattoo in Beachwood, NJ.

little stego, pile of dinos

littlest foot's "little stego, pile of dinos"

Littlest foot shows off her cute stego tattoo by Ethan at Brass City Tattoo in Waterbury, CT. She also has a colorful (and also cute) half sleeve featuring a pair of “apatosauruseseseseses” done at Hartford County Tattoo in Bristol, CT!

Stego tattoo from Cossixs photostream

Stego tattoo from Cossix's photostream

I like this little guy! Interesting how it is in the same position as MC Mikey Megatron’s; bonus ink nerd points to anyone who can find a link to the source artwork! I asked Cossix for info about tattooer or tattooee (this collector seems to be female… Tatooine, perhaps? Sorry, I couldn’t resist.), but got no response.

UPDATE: Briana has informed us that she is the Tatooine, and this stego was done by one of the artists at Marks of Art in San Jose, CA!

maurosourousrexs baby stegosaurus tattoo

maurosourousrex's baby stego tattoo

We’ve been following the progress of maurosourousrex’s baby stego tattoo for a while now, and are looking forward to the “waterfall and possible tree still to come”. I love the the blue and green (and purple!) color scheme and the interesting markings; it reminds me of a tropical fish! No word yet on artist or locale.

Roulettedares00s stegosaurus skeleton tattoo

Roulettedares00's stegosaurus skeleton tattoo

We first saw Roulettedares00‘s meticulously detailed stego skeleton on Carl Zimmer’s Science Tattoo Emporium, and we were very pleased when he saw fit to add it to the Dinosaur Tattoos group. In case you’re interested, it seems to be based on this illustration by pre-eminent paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh done in 1896.

This man, by the way, is a walking museum of nerd ink, representing a trifecta close to my own heart: Star Wars (Hoth, no less! The best part of all 6 movies!), dinosaurs, and comics. If he gets a Lego tattoo, I will found the Official Church of Roulettedares00 of Latter Day Ink Nerds, or, at the very least, swear eternal fealty to my true liege. A “Mutants in Asgard” tattoo would also qualify for this honor.

UPDATE: All of Roulettedares00’s tattoos were done by Myles Karr, currently working at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn!

The Gnomes dinosaur tattoos

The Gnome's dinosaur tattoos

One of the very first members of the group was The Gnome, who gets bonus ink points for symmetry with these two excellent specimens. No artist info available.

Thanks to everybody who has submitted photos to the Dinosaur Tattoos group; keep ’em coming!

Tweet Much?

Those of you who actually visit InkNerd.com may have noticed a new feature: the twitter feed. If anyone who doesn’t bother to come to the site is interested in following me on twitter, you can find me here: http://twitter.com/inknerd (I promise to tweet about geek tattoos in addition to the standard personal mundanities).

Ok, so its not exactly a tweet-ie bird, but I gotta represent my hometown, right?
Ok, so it’s not exactly Tweetie Bird, but I gotta represent my hometown, right? (No artist information available.)

Mostly I’ve added this bit in an attempt to quickly put some new content on the site when I don’t have time to craft a real post (which is most of the time these days), but it’s also a learning experiment for me: I’m kinda trying to figure out what twitter is all about.

I know, I know, I’m way behind. When it first emerged, I thought “micro-blogging” was a collossal waste of time, but I have gotten used to following the brief snippets of my friends lives on Facebook via their status updates; it is entertaining, and makes me feel closer to those I follow.

And I do love the fact that I can text to twitter from my phone and the tweet will show up on this site, on twitter, in the feed reader of anyone who is following me, and on Facebook (well, it would, if Ink Nerd was on FB). Now, if I could combine all my accounts into one, that would be great!

If any of you are tweeting on a regular basis, holla back! I’m looking for friends to follow…

One More D20 Tattoo

Tattoo by Tim Victim

Tattoo by Tim Victim

I can’t believe I forgot this one when I did my post about D&D dice tattoos. I discovered Tim Victim while looking for dinosaur tattoos, and I’m really impressed with his work. Also, his shop, Deep Six Laboratory, is in Philadelphia, which I have an irrational affinity for (and not just because of the show; maybe it’s the nice fossil lady at the museum?).

The following tattoo by Tim and  Jeff Paetzold (of Topnotch Tattoos in Elgin, IL) is really awesome. Once I finish my dinosaurs-and-flowers sleeve (ha!), I’m thinking I would like to have my other arm tattooed with a dragon of some sort (maybe a twisty Midgard Serpent?), and I think the style of this collaboration would be perfect for such a piece (especially the alligator part).

Alligator and Shark Tattoo from BMENews

Now I just need to win the lottery and get those guys in the same room again…

Holy Tattoo Blogs, Batman!

I saw this delicious blog devoted to pin-up girl tattoos over on Needled this morning. Yowza! What Marisa failed to mention is that Raised by Puffins also maintains a blog about owl tattoos and one about, you guessed it, Batman tattoos!

I’ve been contemplating a Batman tattoo post for a while now, but there are so many out there that I didn’t know where to start (especially due to all the hype re: The Dark Knight)! Thanks RbP, for doing the hard work for me!

Here are a couple of highlights:

Tattoo by Matt Kolling (from Batman tattoos).

Tattoo by Matt Kolling (from Batman tattoos).

Adam West-era Batman tattoo by Mike Kolling of Twilight Tattoo in Minneapolis, MN
Tattoo by Bez at TripleSix Studios in Sunderland, UK.

Tattoo by Bez on Batman Tattoos

Heath Ledger’s Joker tattoo by Bez at Triplesix Studios in Sunderland, England.

Raised by Puffins, you should really check out the work of Electric Pick! Not only does he have a killer signature style of pin-up girl, he’s recently posted an update of his awesome Batman “pantleg” (is the term catching on yet?).

Batman pantleg by Electric Pick

Batman pantleg by Electric Pick

I think RbP should combine two of his tattoo passions and do a blog about Harley Quinn tattoos! I’d subscribe!

Cthulhu Tattoos!

My friend Stephen asked me if I wanted to play the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, so I was poking around on the web and found all kinds of good stuff to get me in the mood, including a CoC Quick Start Guide (pdf), the complete text of the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Call of Cthulhu,” and this really fun blog by Paul Carrick about the process of designing, sculpting, and producing a Cthulhu collectible statuette (and other Lovecraft-inspired artworks).

In the process, I stumbled upon—you guessed it—Cthulhu tattoos! So of course I had to perform an exhaustive search for the best on the web. Here are my favorites:

Tatto by Billy Beens of Tat-nice Tattoos in Huntington, WV

Tattoo by Billy Beens of Tat-nice Tattoos, Huntington

This excellent piece by Billy Beens of Tat-nice Tattoos in Huntington, WV, is everything that I love in a tattoo: bright colors, great design, amazing technique and execution, cool subject matter, and all-around bad-ass-ness. Photo courtesy of TattooArtists.org.

Tattoo by Tommy Lee at NIX2008

Tattoo by Tommy "Lee" Wendtner at NIX2008, Toronto

I love the realistic details, the beautiful shading/highlights and the creepy dead eyes of this scary black-and-grey piece. In addition to the photo above (from Tommy’s MySpace page), you can see a triptych of different angles on FTAtalk.com and an in-progress shot on Flickr. I gather from these various sources that Tommy Lee is based in Germany, and that this tattoo seems to have been completed in about 8 hours at Northern Ink Xposure 2008 in Toronto.

Tattoo by John Fitzgerald at Slave to the Needle, Seattle

Tattoo by John Fitzgerald at Slave to the Needle, Seattle

I really like this stylized interpretation of Cthulhu; bonus ink points for incorporating traditional Japanese style in the waves, etc., and bonus nerd points for including the Necronomicon. Excellent work by John Fitzgerald of Slave to the Needle. Found in BMEzine’s tattoo galleries, filed under the shop’s name.

By ? at Yankee Tattoo in Burlington, VT

Tattoo by Eric Henshaw at Yankee Tattoo, Burlington

This tattoo is one of the more horrific specimens I came across; I think I just lost a sanity point! I also found what looks to be the original artwork on which this piece was based. This guy also seems to be working on a leg sleeve (I’m going to start calling big tattoos on people’s legs “pantlegs”) featuring Baphomet. Cthulhu piece found on Flickr, inked by Eric Henshaw at Yankee Tattoo in Burlington, Vermont (Baphomet tattoo is by Aaron Reil).

Tattoo by Johnathan at Alpha & Omega Tattoo & Body Piercing, Oshkosh, WI

Tattoo by Jonathan at Alpha & Omega's Tattoo & Body Piercing, Oshkosh

Speaking of horrific, WTF?!? This beauty adorns the back of Brian Defferding, the creator of horror comic School: A Ghost Story. I really hope that Brian posts follow-up photos on his MySpace blog. Tattoo by  Jonathan at Alpha & Omega’s Tattoo & Body Piercing in Oshkosh, WI.

Tattoo by Mike Tidwell of Obscurities, Dallas

Tattoo by Mike Tidwell of Obscurities, Dallas

While this sleeve doesn’t feature Cthulhu himself, there is no shortage of tentacles and other Lovecraft-inspired horror. Bonus points for the small portrait of H.P. Lovecraft himself on the forearm. Artist: Mike Tidwell of Obscurities Tattoos and Piercing in Dallas, TX. Source: BMENews.

Again, these are just my favorites; I was actually  surprised at how many Cthulhu tattoos I found! I guess it makes sense; scary bad-ass monsters have long been prime subject matter for tattoos… If you find one (or have one) that you want to share with the rest of us Ink Nerds, feel free to post a link in the comments, or e-mail a photo to josh [at] inknerd [dot] com!

Ink Nerds I Have Known: Ezra

High Roller by Heather O'Shaughnessey

High Roller by Heather O'Shaughnessey

My good pal Ezra’s awesomely nerdy flaming 8- and 12-sided dice (showing “7” and “11,” no less) were inked by Heather O’Shaughnessey at Trader Bob’s Tattoo Shop in St. Louis, MO (she’s also responsible for my Red Squares).

This tattoo inspired me to do a post with as many images of D&D dice as I could find, but it turns out I’m not the first in the blogosphere to have that idea. Here are a couple of really great collections, with surprisingly little overlap:

So flaming D&D dice are not as uncommon as I would have thought. The tattoos with slogans (a la “High Roller”) are the best, however, including “Roll 4 Damage, Bitch,” “That’s How I Roll,” and “Leave No Die Behind.” (Evidently there’s a lot of love for 12-siders out in the tattooed gamer community… Who knew?)

Here are a couple more that Reis and Alice (both of whom sport D20 tattoos) somehow missed:

The first, found in BMEzine’s “Dice” keyword gallery, gets bonus tattoo points for working on two levels: nerdy gamer tattoo and cosmic art piece, but loses nerd points for disguising a nerdy gamer tattoo as a cosmic art piece. Cere‘s tattoo was done by John Clue at Super 88 Tattoo in Massapequa, NY.

The second (below), found in Devil Dinosaur’s Geek Tattoos flickr group, gets bonus nerd points for including the non-standard 30-sided die; double-TRIPLE bonus nerd points for including three 6-sided dice (for rolling ability scores the old-fashioned way) and two 10-siders (percentile dice, for generating numbers from 1 to 100)! No information about artist or collector, except that the latter attended Ohayocon ’08.

Extra-mondo nerd points to anyone who spots what’s wrong with this picture….

Frazetta!

The Ink Nerd and the Cat Girl (but which is which?)

My friend Matthew and I just made a special trip out to the Frank Frazetta Museum in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. It was awesome. After a quick (65-mile) drive from Brooklyn, we arrived on the beautiful 75-acre Frazetta estate, paid our admission, and wandered the one large room, ogling and marveling at the amazing paintings on the walls. I’d seen most of them in print many times, but nothing compares to seeing them in person, actual size. The brush strokes and the physical dimension and texture of the paint on the canvas are lost in most reproductions; did I mention it was awesome?

Frank wasn’t around at the time, but his wife Ellie chatted us up for quite sometime, and regaled us with stories of Frank, his family, his art, and his business:

  • Frank taught himself to paint with his left hand after a stroke a couple of years ago (an impressive example is on display at the museum).
  • At one point, he wasn’t happy with one of his paintings used for a pulp novel, and his publisher arranged to credit it to his rival, Boris Vallejo, instead.
  • He used to regularly paint over his classic paintings, because he was never satisfied with the published versions—not paint them again, mind you, but paint ON TOP OF the original work!
  • The US Army asked Frank if they could use his “Death Dealer” character in the insignia of a division, but they thought the name wouldn’t go over very well, so they referred to him as “The Phantom Warrior.”
Frazettas Death Dealer, by Stacy Sharp

Frazetta's Death Dealer, by Stacy Sharp

Although Frazetta is perhaps best known for his definitive vision of Conan the Barbarian, Death Dealer seems to be the character of Frazetta’s most often translated into skin art. Here’s a tattoo version of the painting, “Death Dealer II“, done by Stacy Sharp at Sharp Tattoo in Ronkonkoma, New York.

If you’re not familiar with Frazetta’s masterful, iconic art and illustrations, you’re missing out. Check out the Unofficial Frank Frazetta Gallery for relatively large images of many of Frazetta’s most famous works, including “Cat Girl,” above. Then, visit the Official Frazetta Art Gallery to buy posters of your favorites!

And go visit the museum, already!

“Do you guys mind if I steal the tattoo design…?”

David recently posted a comment asking if he could steal the design of my Triceratops tattoo, designed by Mike Bellamy of Red Rocket Tattoo. My response:

Hi, David,

I’m glad you like my custom Triceratops tattoo; I’m very fond of it, as well. Thanks for asking if Mike Bellamy and I would mind if you copy it, but the answer is: PLEASE DON’T STEAL THIS TATTOO DESIGN.

I spent many hours deliberating over the elements of this tattoo, and researching photos and other images of dinosaur fossils, flowers, other tattoos, etc. Mike built upon my ideas and research to create this awesome, original, unique tattoo design. Obviously, this isn’t a piece of flash that i picked off the wall at the tattoo shop.

I imagine that your tattoo artist would also much rather create his or her own custom design than copy someone else’s hard work. The tattoo community is more interconnected than you might think, and word gets around if an artist is stealing others’ custom artwork.

When I was planning this tattoo, one of the most helpful resources I found was a multi-part essay, “Get the Perfect Tattoo” from Off The Map Tattoo (also available in PDF format). I highly recommend reading all the sections. An excerpt from the “The Perfect Tattoo Design” section:

Many people first learning about tattoos try to find other tattoos upon which to base their own design or idea. They may spend hours looking through tattoos hoping to find the perfect design when they should be looking at the quality of the artist’s work rather than the designs themselves. Copying other people’s tattoos is disrespectful to the wearer of the tattoo, and to the artist who drew it, provided it was a custom, one-of-a-kind piece to begin with. … To get the best tattoo, it’s worth finding a lot of reference material, and bringing the images and your ideas to the tattoo artist who will be doing the tattoo, for them to look at and then incorporate into their own style.

Marisa DiMattia (former copyright lawyer and he voice of Needled.com) sums it up nicely in an article about the legal issues of copying tattoos entitled, “A Stolen Tattoo Could Get You Sued“:

To avoid law suits and even a laser, get your own original tattoo. The most important reason to do so is not legal, it’s ethical. Many custom tattoos tell people’s personal stories and mark unique events and experiences. Why have another person’s life written on your skin? Get a work of art that is all about you and leave out the lawyers.

Having said that, I think it would be GREAT if you got a tattoo of a dinosaur skull with flowers and vines and stuff, even a Triceratops! As I’ve pointed out on the blog, mine is certainly not the only one out there. Don’t you want yours to be original and unique, too? Work with your artist to come up with something even better than mine, and we’ll compare dinosaur tattoos. I’d even be happy to help come up with ideas. When you get your own one-of-a-kind piece done, send me a photo, and I’ll post it on the blog (and to the Flickr group)!

Thanks in advance for doing the right thing,

Josh