So I finally finished the painting above there (sorry for the annoying watermark, but I’ve been seeing a number of my old painting/flash images popping up on “compilation” CD’s put out by pirate scum) I was ready to give up on the old fella a number of times, when I first got the washy background on I felt like id ruined it, my masking wasnt perfect and I wasnt sure I could salvage it, but i figured it could at least finish it and if nothing else try out some new shit I hadn’t messed with yet. The further I got the less depressed about it I was until I got finished and while i think its far from “perfect” it is better than I pictured at first so ill count that as a victory heh heh.
The characters on the plaque are Japanese Kanji (I think) for “Shu Ha Ri” which I’ve talked about on this blog before, but the short version goes like this. In 1998 or ’99 a magazine ran a 10 page article on the Japanese Horimono master named Yoshihito Nakano (more often known as Horiyoshi III). It was inspiring to me on many many different levels, it solidified my desire to focus on japanese style tattooing, it reinforced the notion that through hard work one could improve even something as ephemeral as ‘artistic talent’, and lastly it introduced me to the concept of ShuHaRi.
Normally used in martial arts circles, it is a concept which also shows up in Zen training and now, tattoos as well. It’s deceptively simple, first you learn the tradition the way you are taught (SHU or “Obey”), Second you perfect that method until it becomes your second nature (or to put it in modern terms, until it is in your “muscle memory”) when you can then begin to do your own version and this is “HA” (or “break”) and finally you go beyond both your tradition and your own style into something transcendent of what came before (“RI” or “leaving”) . Put into tattoo terms I realized that I was trying to transcend before I had even learned the traditions, trying to run before I even knew how to walk. I decided to make Horiyoshi 3 my model/teacher even without being able to personally be introduced to him. For years my dragons were copies of his (starting off as very poor versions, but still based on his) and my water, backgrounds, koi, were all drawn as closely as I could go to the spirit of Horiyoshi 3’s. Now after 10+ years I might be starting to “break” , and even though I know that I will never catch up to his level of expertise, the process has transformed my drawings far far more than 10 years of “doing it my way” could have.
So the concept is pretty important to me, its how I’ve been training Cara as a tattooer and I almost can’t see any other way to progress very far beyond whatever ones natural starting point is.
Also, as promised, here is one side of the biomech 1/2 sleeves I have been doing. The first shot here is what the customer already had on his arms, they were probably pretty classic and bad assed at some point, but they went beyond that “cool old look” into mud and so the client wanted to start fresh with the sort of artwork he admired these days.
So here is what we put on instead. I hadn’t done any sort of color biomech for sometime but I found it really fun to do and the customer is a rock who can sit for long sessions while still keeping a sense of humor and a genuine pleasure to work on.
Some of the piece is fully healed and some is only a few days old in the picture, but I think you get the idea. We have already begun to work on the other arm and I’m guessing I’ll have pictures of that for you guys by November. Before that we will be working at Pittsburgh’s tattoo expo, the Meeting of the Marked if you are in the area you should definitely check it out, Tim puts on a great, friendly convention and you will get to see a ton of great tattooers in one place!