The purity police

theres an old joke that goes “Two fishermen were pulling up crab traps and throwing the crabs into a big box on deck. one of the fishermen noticed that one crab had climbed the side of the box and was about to escape over the side. He called to the other fisherman and asked ‘hey should one of us go push that guy back into the box?’ without even looking up the other fisherman replied, ‘dont worry about it, those are liberal crabs, they’ll pull each other back down”
 One of the more frustrating things to witness is people who supposedly share a cause and outlook attacking each other instead of the “enemy” that all are supposed to be united against. I often wonder why my fellow liberal, progressive types are so quick to atack each other, to question our allies ‘purity’, and to nit-pick insignificant differences of opinion when on the whole we share common goals and beliefs. I used to think that this was a particular disease of lefties like me til I talked to other folks, conservatives, religious folk, even people in the same meditation groups or art collectives; all had found their own groups attacking inwardly before taking on the foes they had supposedly united against.
 As a single example I recently began reading a website begun by a feminist who also was an actor director. The avowed purpose was to celebrate womens writing, point of view, and struggle. When the sites creator made a quick post about finding a favorite lipstick the comments erupted with angry readers blasting her for writing “unfeminist” things, rageful posts about her site was bullshit because it dared to mentio that this person liked make up. All the positive work this sites author did was immediately disregarded in the light of her “crime” of having a vision of feminism that the keyboard warriors disagreed with. Why, I wondered, was the reaction so visceral, why were the folks who had clearly come in support been so quick to turn on and attack the posts author?
 Conservatives attack each other for not being “true” conservatives, even video gamers denouce those who play online wargames as not being “real” gamers. It made me think of my teen age years as a punk rock kid and the way we constantly sized up every other punk kid around as a “poser”.
 The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that the fact that these people doing the attacking all followed a similar pattern regardless of the camp they identified with. I now think that the universal nature of this behaviour points out something in these folks that goes beynd their individual gripes. These folks want a reaction, they want to person they are questioning to feel it, they want some kind of emotional payoff as a result of their attack.
 People tend to be attached to their groups because they have a very strong feeling for their cause, they care enough to invest time an energy in the cause and they believe that their cause is worthy of the effort they put forth. The irony is that whomever is the “enemy” doesnt give a shit about and usually actively belittles the “cause”. e all want a payoff for our effort and we simply dont get that payoff from the “enemy”.
 For example, if you are pro-gay rights like me and you call Rush Limbaugh a homophobe he will just laugh and say “yea, so?” But if you call me a homophobe I get upset and feel the need to defend my pro-gay bonafides. In short, if you call me and Rush both homophobic you wont get any payoff from Rush, he embraces his shitty politics and sees them as a compliment while I will be upset and go out pf my way to try to “regain” your approval. Fellow believers hae a psychological interest in defending themselves while the “foe” takes it as a compliment.
 the sad fact is that people part of a common belief system become frustrated at their lack of effect on the rival belief group and out of that very frustration they attack the only people who give back that juicy energy, their comrades! The only time a group seems to submerge this shitty self-testing is when a bigger, more dangerous belief system threatens. Take, for example, the times when anti-gay police harassment was rampant in New York in the late 1960s. After continuous, unprovoked police attacks and abuse, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn united to resist and fought back; and thus began the modern gay-rights movement. The first bottles thrown at the police were thrown by drag queens, who by necessity were allied with the gay, trans, BDSM, and bisexual patrons against their common enemy, the police. Today we have pro gay groups splintering off, banning Drag Queens from pride parades, the shunning of BDSM from “mainstram” gay rights groups, and conflict as gay groups divide along racial lines. It appears that as strides are made in the rights of Gay Americans the survival mentality then gives way to smaller and smaller sub-genres competing with each other for legitimacy and space within the movement. 
 The internet has made communication within your chosen community easier and spreads the word quickly and efficiently, unfortunately it also gives people instant satisfaction when trying to reach out and hurt someone. If you still get your jollies making another person squirm then attacking someone who is supposedly an ally will give you more of a reaction than attacking those who already dont give a shit about what you think. The ease and audience that social media allows those self-policing accusations to happen just further feeds the ego driven to try to force others to dance to their tune. 

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Samsara or How I stopped being a Dickhead

The thing about meditation is that it’s effects never stop revealing themselves. Sit for 10 years and there are still going to be those “aha!” Moments just as poignant and life altering as the ones that happen in the first couple months. In fact they might be even more striking because after some years of sitting you no longer doubt the trust of that inner voice when it says “hey dummy! Pay attention to this, it’s important!” 

In the few months I tried out psychotherapy my therapist once commented “you are the kind of person who, if they know the right thing to do,you will do it” I agree, but for me the real trick is getting to the point where I realize what the problem (and thus the solution) is in the first place. I can count the number of “revelations” I’ve had while actually doing zazen on one hand, most of those moments happen when you are sort of not paying attention. however, I know that without the meditation those sparks of revelation wouldn’t happen at all. (I know because I had 34 non-meditation years of no revelations and whole damn lot of bone-headedness) 

Not long ago I was listening to a podcast (’Stuff Mom Never Told You’ it’s awesome) about passive aggression and the light bulb went off. I realized that all the shitty behavior they were describing, all the bad results they mentioned were going on in my own life! Ouch. Almost all the recent friction I had suddenly began experiencing with my wife could be traced back to my passive-aggressive behavior! It had crept into my personality like a cancer and it was definitely fucking with our harmony. I had felt off-center for  some months and was frustrated that I couldnt figure out why. However, once I understood what was wrong I gave the ’reasons’ scant thought. (was it living with a toddler and all the changes that brings? My mother dying last year? My getting older? Etc) Who knows (and more to the point) who cares!?

 The fact is that knowing “why” was secondary to knowing what the problem was, because once I knew, then I could act. In one of my favorite Buddha tales the Big B  describes us as being like a man shot with an arrow , but instead of just pulling out the arrow and patching the wound we start asking things like “who shot this arrow? Where did it come from? was it metal or wood?” We tend to worry about a lot of secondary shit that doesnt matter when  the real correct action is to fix the problem!  So I didnt put too much thought into how or why I had started to act passive/aggressively, I just determined to stop.  After that it hasn’t been hard to keep an eye on what comes out of my mouth and I was shocked at how my the first thing I said was often couched in a passive-aggressive dig. 
Suffice to say that cutting out this crap has had immediate and great effects. We get along much better, my long suffering wife is no longer constantly being subtly attacked by my insecurity and need for control, and I feel better and more at peace.  At multiple points in my life I have become aware of problematic behaviour on my part and decided to correct it. Before doing zazen I believed, like many of us today, that my shitty behaviours were just “me”, that there was something called “Jason” which acted of its own volition that I was powerless to stop, it might have been my parents fault or society or my spouse who “caused” me to be an argumentative self-pity monster, but it certainly wasnt “me” and there was nothing “I” could do about it! Stupid world making me act badly! 
It was bullshit. Had “bad” things happened to me? Of course, Im human and that is the price of being a human, but was I powerless to change the results of these things in myself? I discovered that this was not at all, the case and within weeks of begining meditation I began to realize that this thing I called “me” was infinitely malleable! Far from being impossible to change I realized that it was taking me a LOT of work to maintain this image I had of myself as this wounded victim of the world! As long as I had believed that other people were responsible for making me feel ok about everything I was passively (but petulantly) waiting around to be “fixed”. It was never going to happen, those who “wronged” me would never fix it, those I loved couldnt, and as long as I was a fucking asshole no one in their right mind would try. Ive met quite a few folks like this who were my (middle) age and its a sad, annoying person to encounter! So, once I began to see “me” as this constantly changing collection of habits and patterns I realized that I could change those patterns which caused suffering, once I realized which ones they were. It was liberating to take back that responsibility for my own being in a way that is impossible to describe.

Meditation has always worked like this for me, once you realize what it feels like to not be uncomfortable with yourself, any sort of imbalance becomes quickly apparent. The word Buddhists use to describe the cyclical world of suffering, avoidance, greed, and ignorance is the sanskrit word “Samsara”. Apparently the root of the word samsara once described a wheel where the central hub was not centered, as it rolled ove the ground your wagon would bump bump bump as the uneven wheel jarred everything, you would know that something was out of kilter. I lived much of my life with that feeling, like a perpetual pebble in your shoe I felt irritated by life and could never shake the feeling that something between me and the world was separate and uncomfortable. Samsara. I even got a skeletal hand holding a banner with the word tattooed on  the back of my neck to never forget what a painful and deadly path Samsara is.
The biggest change for me since I began sitting was a growing comfort with the world. I cant describe how profoundly strange this felt to me at first!  But the reality is that no matter how weird our haircuts and how many wacky chemicals we ingest we are a part of this world, not something seperate from it. When we allow ourselves to be natural the world embraces us (and shows us  when we stray into unnaturalness) To live at odds with reality becomes impossible in the best possible way. Obviously I had and still have a lot of work to do, I always will, but without the baseline that daily Zazen has given me I doubt that I could or would respond to those quiet reminders which alerted me to my bad habits. 

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The slowing


I haven’t been writing in this blog all that much these days. Part of that is because of that picture up there. I mean, not literally the picture is causing me to write less, but that little girl sitting on my knee is getting a lot of my free time.

Would you believe me if I told you that was part of the plan? When Cara and I began seriously talking about having a child one of the first things I realized was that here was an amazing chance to change my life. I am, by nature , the kind of person who likes to be alone. I have always been drawn to solitary habits and diversions; working in a photography darkroom, writing, painting, playing video games etc. what I didn’t do was hang out with groups if people, join clubs, tow the line, enjoy the game. My only interest in “the group” was how to get as far the fuck away from it as possible.

As you might imagine, this doesn’t make one a lot of friends and is a real drag on a relationship. It also goes from being a “that’s just how I am” sort of thing to a “ok this is pathological” really quickly.

So when we began to try for a baby it occurred to me that here was a situation where being a reclusive hermit was not a fucking option. My little girl demands and gets my attention, even when I don’t want to give it, even when I’d rather be alone, and I love it. Even when it’s exactly Not what I want to be doing
I love it! I do not, and will not, be the “absent dad”. Luna may one day wish that I would back the fuck off, but I will never knowingly make her wish she had my attention or love. It will be there without her having to ask.

One of the blessings that meditation has given me is the clarity to see my own bullshit, I simply can’t lie to myself knowingly anymore. I can’t rationalize my character defects, blame others for my life, or hide behind some constructed facade of tough guy ness. It has left me naked to the world and while I still have plenty of faults, I can’t pretend not to see them or explain them away. I knew, even before she was born, that I was going to have to make major changes to my way if dealing with the world lest I screw up my child’s development and sense of worth.

I welcomed it even as it scared the shit out of me. When were together the phone goes in my pocket, the games get turned off, and Sesame Street replaces Iron Monkey and BladeRunner. I like to sit on the floor with her, I pretend to gobble her feet up and she occasionally toddles over and gives me a big hug. I am here for those hugs, really here!

So I plan to keep writing here, but it will be whenever I have the time. Thanks for reading.

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New shop? New shop!

Because I have not written a blog in a long time I feel it’s tiny voice even in my sleep. Like a dog you thought would die if locked in the shed only to hear is mewling whines for weeks and weeks, ever quieter and yet no less there.

Sorry, that was a pretty heavy metaphor.

Anyway, having given birth to this blog I feel like I must, occasionally, feed it. But to be honest I haven’t had the urge lately, you see there is a new ” project” on the horizon and I tend to be the kind of guy who gets very hot on one thing and let’s it consume me for a bit. Right now most of my waking energy is spent thinking about my new baby girl and THE SHOP. The baby girl part is mostly thinking about how I can be less useless to my wife who I estimate is doing ninety-eleventy percent of the work currently, while letting me remain a selfish lazy crybaby. This requires a lot of work and self reproach fortunately I have a lot of practice at it and, like the master of judo who has hardened his muscles through countless hours of training, I too can throw my ego around using only its own (prodigious) weight against it. So I try to remember to change a diaper before being asked and to entertain my little girl as long as possible while my poor exhausted wife gets a shower, not as easy a task as it sounds since my breasts will, stubbornly, refuse to produce milk.

Perhaps we should all be grateful for that.

The other, and significantly less important, object taking up space in my mind is the impending relocation of Black Cat Tattoos from our current location to butler street in Lawrenceville some time in April. Cara and I have been looking for a new, larger location for some time and since the current lease on our spot on Craig street ends in April we were actively searching for a few months. Sadly most of the spots on Craig street were unsuitable (stupid expensive) or not a good fit (run down shitholes impossible for customers to find) and so we had to look in other areas more acceptable to hipsters like us.

Clearly we needed to look to Lawrencevile where the waxed mustache and ironic “who’s the boss” t-shirt still roam the plains in herds uncountable. Through great fortune and the keen eye of friends we found such a location that, uncannily enough, would become available right when we needed it. Also, being in the as yet mostly empty but clearly up and coming area of butler street near 34th street we would be over a mile from the next nearest tattoo establishment. In this age of Southside tattoo shops opening inside each others back pocket I may be a bit old fashioned, but I still feel that a respectful distance from other tattoo shops should be the (polite) right thing to do.

I will miss Oakland, I have tattooed in its dirty bosom for my entire tattooing career, I’ve smelled it’s O fries and told its bums to fuck themselves for nigh on 16 years. More specifically I will greatly miss the folks at Phantom of the Attic games. One could only dream of more pleasant neighborsm , truly, of all the changes to come, moving away from Geoff and crew is the only cause for regret I have.

Still, onward and upward! We will be in a nice, newly refurbished building with heat that works, ceilings which don’t leak, and with room to stretch out. We will also be welcoming a new artist, Matt Macri into the black cat family (I’m the dad). At this point all I can really do is plan and work on preliminary things like signs and what sort of chairs to have, fortunately the move will be far less of a build out than the current Black Cat location where we had to take a very raw space and build walls, lay floor, install plumbing and electricity, instead we will be picking out bookshelves and figuri grout where to hang the pile of great art from friends we have acquired over the years.

As of now the only firm info I have to share is that we will be in the new spot by May and that I will be updating you if e folk as I am able.

I’m excited!

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The book

I’ve been writing this blog for a few years now, and in that time I also had the honor of apprenticing my wife Cara in tattooing. The surprise which shouldn’t be a surprise is that I have learned as much in the process as I tried to teach. It’s a funny thing, we often know how to do something effortlessly and when the time comes to teach someone else that skill we just don’t have the words. It’s a whole separate discipline to take our knowledge and turn it into something that can be imparted to another. Teaching Cara has also taught me, it’s forced me to examine (and sometimes alter) the way I do things. Sometimes I would tell her to do things one way only to realize that I didn’t actually do things that way, this meant that I either had to change my “lesson” or change the way I tattooed to be in line with my words.

At the same time I had been practicing Zen Buddhism for years and had enough time to be able to look back and see what a huge difference it had made in my life. While I don’t think I would be qualified to teach anyone else Buddhism, I can share my own story and experiences as long as I made it clear that they were just that; one mans trip through life with Zen as my guiding philosophy.

Which is a long winded way of saying that I’m thinking of writing a book about tattooing and zen. I’ve come up with the wildly imaginative title of “Tattoozen”, and I plan to it to be a sort of guide for tattooing while being a balanced human being. What it won’t be is a a book that tells someone how to tattoo, I won’t be giving away technical tricks or the few “secrets” that others have been generous enough to share with me in person. In the same vein I also will strive to avoid any illusion that I’m teaching Buddhism, I really do think that should be left up to those with a lineage and years of experience. Even with those guidelines I feel like I have a lot to say that would be of use to tattooers.

So I’m already planning for this book to be aimed at a narrow audience, tattooers and perhaps artists in general. But I do feel that if anyone needs a book on balance it’s tattooers! I love tattooing and I love my fellow artists, and I hate seeing people sabotaging themselves the way I did for years, this is my way of trying to help folks avoid the dumbest mistakes I made myself.

My plan is to write the book (I’ve started, but its early days yet) and if I can whip it into some kind of reasonable shape do a kickstarter and see if I could get it funded for self publishing. My wife will be having our baby in less than a month, it’s our first, so I don’t know how much I will be able to work on a book in the immediate future, but I figure if I put it out there in Internet land it has a chance of getting accomplished.

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We’re either all in the boat or all in the water.

We live in strange times, our fruit comes from South America and our clothes from Pakistan, our electronics from China and our Cars from Germany or Korea, we don’t see the people who create what we surround ourselves with. We drive past the guys building our street so fast that we don’t ever see their faces and our grocery stores are enormous warehouses staffed by people we wouldn’t recognize 5 minutes after we first notice them, (if we ever notice them at all). My wife Cara used to be a barrista at Starbucks where they have a strict dress code, she had to wear a black shirt, khaki pants, a green apron and a visor or hat. I used to wait for her to get off work and was amazed at some people’s jerky treatment of Cara and the other employees, but she once told me that when she would “forget” to wear her hat that all the sudden customers got more polite. Suddenly she was a person and not an automaton delivering their goods, if they could see her eyes the customers had a harder time treating her poorly.

It comes as no surprise to me, therefore, that a surprising number of people in the U.S. believe and act as though their world could and would be better without all those faceless “others” in it. The far right decrys the poor and those not born into wealth as “lazy” and “welfare cheats”, the fundamentalists wish to punish and ban gays, and the angry white suburbanite fears and hates people with darker skin partly out of ignorance and partly out of the current myth that racism is “behind” us and its OK to let those historically fucked by the system stay that way. There is a lot of fear from these folks. Fear of change, fear of losing their inherited place at the top of the power structure, and fear of having to give their fair share to the rest of the world. We live like kids at the playground hording all the action-figures even if we couldn’t possibly play with them all we just don’t want the other kids having even one that we, maybe, might want to play with later.

In Sweden there is a concept called “Lagom” which roughly translates into “just enough“, it is a concept where everyone in society can exist at a reasonable level without leaving half the population to fend for themselves in an unbalanced “free” market. This sort of concept does not refer to people doing with less, rather it seeks for everyone to have an optimum of comfort. If you have a house full of junk and two storage spaces full of unused furniture (as a 2005 article pointed out , one in 11 of us has off site storage) then you do not have “enough” you have too much. We act as though we could never have enough, we want more and are ever unsatisfied, no matter the size of our television we want a bigger, louder one. A car that is 5 years old is now considered a dinosaur, we are living like the “hungry ghosts” of ancient china, where no matter what we eat it falls though us and we are ever unsatisfied. The old adage says “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” yet we keep buying that next new thing with the hope of it satisfying us when it time and again we see that it doesn’t.

The truth is that satisfaction comes from sharing. From taking care of our fellow humans. There is a reason that charity work feels good and hoarding feels sickening and it is one of the basic tenets of Buddhism. We are, literally, all connected to one another. You are your neighbor and he or she is you, this is why a society works even when half its members foolishly think they can exist without the rest. They can’t, and sadly, neither can we dispense with the childish, churlish, entitled selfish fools who swell the coffers of politicians and corporations who couldn’t give two shits about them. The fact is that we need each other, we are each other even though we are still individuals with our own thoughts and ideas, the fact is that we are all in this together. There is no perfect state of equilibrium, but there is the concept of “just enough” and we are living in an age when I believe that will happen.

I believe that the world is changing, we are aware as never before of the state of the world as a whole, we know what is going on on the other side of the Earth moments after it happens, we see, with tragic clarity, what happens when we ignore our fellow humans in their time of need and I believe that we are all moving towards that sort of awareness that leads to equality. I can see this and so can the selfish scared folks and it really freaks them the fuck out. Scared people get loud and right now they are screeching like a sack full of cats, it’s a little sad the lengths that people will go to avoid taking any responsibility for the world (and their fellow-man) but its going to happen whether they like it or not. Like a glacier the truth pushes forward sweeping away religious dictatorships in third-world countries and blind self-interest in ours, they can fight it, but its going to dawn on them sooner or later that the guy working down at the corner store is someone they need as much as he needs them.

It’s just a shame that they cant see it for themselves and we can start fixing the real problems sooner than later.

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There are as many ways to do a tattoo as there are tattoo artists. Some folks hew strictly to tattoo tradition and some bring techniques from other art disciplines, like graffiti or oil painting, into their tattooing. I respect that each of us as artists and customers must find the mysterious combination of our influences and mix all those unique experiences into our chosen style and technique for doing a tattoo. For me to pretend that there is a “right ” way to tattoo is foolish and I wouldn’t dream of telling another tattooer how to do their job. However, there is a point you reach when citing ones personal “technique” becomes a refuge from shoddy workmanship or worse, as cover for ripping people off. Sometimes if it looks like bullshit and smells like bullshit then it’s probably bullshit.

About a month back a client came in asking if I could “finish” a tattoo of a butterfly she had started on her shoulder at another shop, she would eventually add some flowers around the butterfly but wanted to get the butterfly part done in the meantime while she decided on the next move for the tattoo. She explained that the work she had wasn’t very good looking, that she had left the shop disappointed in what the artist had done, and confused that he had told her that it would require “a couple more passes” to finish. Now, I have been tattooing long enough to have seen and learned about the work of artists like Guy Aitchison, and Pittsburgh locals Don McDonald and Jason Angst who use layers of color and black and grey to give a sense of depth and to use each layer to bring out a luminous quality that sets their work apart. These are layers with a purpose and each time these guys give a tattoo a pass it works the way an oil painter does with balancing neutral tones with the translucent quality of tattoo ink, in short when these kind of tattooers do multiple pass sessions it is for a good reason and their work shows it.

That wasn’t the case with this butterfly.

I was so annoyed at this poor woman having payed a lot of money for a smudgy mess that I wanted to get started fixing it right away and didn’t take a picture til we already had the right wing done.

What you see on the left there is not one session of a multiple layer tattoo, it is a shitty tattoo. Maybe more “layers” would have made it better, but frankly the work I did took one pass and about 30 minutes so I can’t see any reason for this tattoo to take multiple passes. Here is piece after I finished it.

Actually, I can think of a reason that a small, simple tattoo that could be done in one shot should take multiple sessions. . .


Times can be tough in this economy for a tattooer, if most of your business is walk-ins then you often don’t know when your next customer is coming through the door and in a city like Pittsburgh, where there seems to be a shop(or three) on every block, then competition is tight. If you were an unscrupulous sort then one way you could literally double your business would be for all of your tattoos to take twice as many sessions. I can’t claim to know that is what this tattooer was doing, but I do know that there was no reason for this piece to take more than one session.

Perhaps, at this point you might be saying “maybe the artist just wasn’t very good who did the work originally?” and I would agree except that I have seen many of this persons tattoos that were very solid and bright! This tattoo was a month old and so I know it isn’t the artists early work and since I have seen very solid work from them so I can only assume it was this poorly done for the purpose of forcing the customer to return for more “passes”.

I am not here to call anyone out and this person certainly isn’t the only tattooer I have run across in recent days doing this sort of thing. It must be a terrible temptation to pad your wallet with a couple extra “passes”, but in my opinion it is unfair to the clients and makes all of tattooing look bad. The point of this post is to warn customers that a good tattooer (like the three mentioned above) has good reasons to layer their work and will explain the hows and whys of their chosen technique, but the fact that good artists are doing this is, rarely, also cover for shoddy artists to take advantage of their customers. As tattoo customers it is your responsibility to look carefully at the artists portfolio, to ask questions, and if you are not satisfied with their answers, to go to someone else.


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Fire sale

Foster Huntington has just published a book called ” The Burning House:what would you take?” The premise being, if your house was on fire what would you save from it if you only had  minutes to spare. I haven’t read it yet but over at Brainpickings.org they have an excellent review and from the few samples that were included it is apparent that pets and mementos top the list with practical “i-just-lost-my-house” items a close second (phones, cash, pet food). I doubt that anyone would leave everything else in order to take their 50 inch television or that they would bypass the shoebox of family photos in order to get espresso machine out. We often hear that we are a shallow and commercial people, that we crave silly things and have misplaced priorities, Ive said it and I think i can safely say that its generally believed.  When i look at the photos of the meager pile of pets and personal items I realize that  a lot of that perceived shallowness is really not there. When push comes to shove, that is to say, in an emergency it seems like that all gets stripped away and we really do focus on what is important.


For the record, if my house were on fire i would (assuming my wife was able to get out on her own) grab one chihuahua and that’s about it.


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Think differently

So Steve Jobs dies yesterday which is sad for the same reason its sad when anyone dies, however the wailing and public mourning has been somewhat. . . trying to me of late. It has brought to the fore a subject I often puzzled over; namely, the way that people took to the Apple brand as if it was some sort of cult or political creed. Dont get me wrong, I am well aware of the company’s contribution to the aesthetic and ease of use of modern electronics, without Apple (and by extension Jobs I suppose) our gadgets wouldn’t look half so good nor function half so intuitively. And yet, and yet, people behave like this entity, this Corporation, is their friend and Jobs a member of their family. He wasnt, he was the head of a large company whose job was to convince you and I to spend our money with them as opposed to some other giant company. Apple was neither more kind or considerate than any other gigantic corporate entity. The hired and fired, the acquired competition and sued for tax breaks and tried to keep their workers wages low, so low that they off shored their work to countries with poor worker rights and pay. Just like every other corporation. So I am very puzzled when I see an Apple badge on someones car or T-shirt, why don’t these folks have American Standard toilet stickers on their cars? Why dont college kids wear backpack maker, Jansport, t-shirts? Why have otherwise discerning and intelligent people align themselves with something generally regarded as icky and exploitative as a Corporate entity?


Im not saying they are worse than any other large company, Im just saying that they are just like every other large company.


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some new stuff

I like to think of this first one as a gypsy lady telling a lie. The customer is the brother of a friend of Cara and Myself and the preliminary work was done via email. For some reason there is always a bit more struggle with me getting the art in line with the customers ideas when we don’t meet face to face before I start drawing. Somehow, that personal meeting just helps cut through a lot of the grey area when a client is trying to describe their vision. We reworked a little bit of this and then tattooed it on. This guy was, like me, not a big fan of getting his leg tattooed, for some reason it sucks extra below the knees for me. Hopefully his will heal faster than my leg tattoos seem to.

the three flower types in this piece represent family members to this client. we discussed doing it a lot smaller, but she has tattoos and has learned that when it comes to tattoos bigger is almost always better. I do quite a number of flower tattoos and they never get tired, there is just too many ways to do them and too many type of flowers out there to run out of new and cool ways to lay them out. the hardest part of these guys is the white flowers, white is not so great in large doses on a tattoo, we used a dusty blue color to add some shading and hopefully hold up even if the white isn’t super bright on her skin.

Day of the dead tattoos are getting popular and I couldn’t be happier. there is something so fun about them and it was a pleasure to work on this piece. The general layout is based on a piece the client brought in from the internet. I eschewed the usual Sylvia Ji stuff (though it is amazing artwork) and instead used a Tamara Lempicka painting as the basis of the face.

here is stage one. As you can see a lot fo the lines are put in using light gray-wash and in the hair I didn’t stress about making the lines too perfect, more than 90% of those lines would be covered as we made the hair black. Also you can see how this piece curls around the arm, from the bicep down over the ditch of the elbow and onto the upper forearm. I like it when tattoos can reveal a little of themselves as the person moves, it makes getting a single picture of the stuff harder, but I think its way more fun and dynamic on the body if I don’t try to impose stiff framing just so I can see the piece all at once.

This is the second session with the shading beginning to go in. Most of the time I don’t do a whole lot of this kind of layering, but if something is supposed to have very subtle gradations I will do a gray ‘under painting’ on some parts, let that heal and then come back with color. Once healed this will make the shading seem to have some depth and translucent effect. Once, again the drawback for me is that I don’t get a fully realized picture until the piece is totally healed and sometimes customers don’t come back until they have spent 5 years on a tanning bed.

So here is the finished piece the day we got done.   I wanted the halo and outer shading to have a rough, almost folkarty feel since all the inner stuff was a clean and smooth as I could make it.  Both  the customer and Christal were thrilled with it and so was I.

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