Posts Tagged With: japanese sleeve

The places (or drawings) that scare us

All of us who do art for a living have things we like to draw, things we feel confident in rendering right out of our stock of images we carry around in our noggins. I have drawn so many Koi, dragons, and waves that I often draw these things directly on the customers with markers and go right to tattooing. It’s not that im so wonderful, it’s that  I have practiced drawing these things to the point where my hand knows what to do without me sweating too much about it.

Then there is the other stuff.. . . . the stuff we don’t draw as much. Maybe its the more complicated stuff, or the things with less wiggle room for interpretation, maybe its just the things we are not often called upon to draw. They are scary and I never ever, ever draw these things right onto a customer. These designs that scare me require time, reference, and many, many attempts before I have something i can deem acceptable to go on a clients skin.

When I began getting artwork together for the current set of flash I am painting I knew I wanted to work with Japanese tattoo images and I happened to have a halfway decent tiger drawing ready (I usually have some difficulty drawing a tiger I like for some reason), as I began to lay the tiger out on watercolor paper a though struck me, why not make all of the images in this set things that I’m afraid to draw? It would certainly force me to practice with these images and it would also be a way to push myself a little bit.  I have a hard time drawing Ukioyo style figures, I have a hard time drawing  birds that don’t look stiff and awkward and like I said, I have trouble drawing tigers that don’t look like they are missing a few chromosomes.

Heres what I came up with (sorry for the watermarks, flash bootlegging is out of control these days)

Kintaro wrestling the koi. Usually when I draw this it comes out like Kintaro is trying to get a fish pregnant, but I think I got the struggle aspect working here. At first the fish was just black and grey but he looked faint among all the waves and with Kintaro being all bright red i had to do a little wash of carpy green.

Kiyohime entwining her ex-lovers bell hiding place. His monk robe can just be seen poking out from under the bell. This is one of those Japanese tattoos where knowing the story and history adds so much. her kimono is printed with the traditional “Scale” pattern and is meant to imply the snake that she has turned into. When Geisha (or any woman in Ukiyo art I suppose) are shown with a pink flush around their eyes it symbolizes sexual passion, Kiyohimes desire for her little monk was so strong it immolated both of them.

so here we have Wada Heida Tanenaga slaying a giant snake. He is famous for slaying a giant snake and being a loyal retainer. I love drawing snakes but hate drawing figures and to try to get the effect of the Kuniyoshi/manga style bodies was even harder for me. I like the feet, feet are hard to draw!

A barn swallow in flight with some peony blossoms. The trick for me here was just to draw a bird that didn’t look stiff OR like a traditional sailor swallow. how did I do?

So last is the tiger I started the set with. He’s in a very traditional pose, chest out and “roaring at the moon”. Apparently tigers are so bad ass that one even roared at the moon when it rose to show his dominance over it. i wanted to keep this one super simple and bold.

That is my latest set of flash and it was fun after the nearly  year-long hiatus from painting. I am selling copies of these as a flash set for $60 (email me at to order one). I might even do another set of traditionalish stuff this year as long as it remains fun to do.

Categories: Tattoo stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Work in progress and new jonx.

almost finished with this koi sleeve/chest panel. I haven’t done a really big version of a Showa Koi before so I was a teeny bit apprehensive, but once we got the background on there I was more confident in the ability for it to pop.  The inner bicep (lotus and waves) and some cherry blossoms remain to be done, I’m really excited for how this one is coming together and the customer is super stoked coming in as often as I can make time for him.

I also did a fly reel on a great regular customer who already is wearing two Japanese sleeves I did on him and wanted to express his other passion, namely fly fishing. The reel is from a photo he brought in of a 1940s era piece of tackle that belonged to an uncle who passed away while my customer was still a toddler. But their shared love of fly fishing is something he wanted to do without it looking too much like a memorial piece. It’s on the side of his calf.

Lastly is a piece on shop friend/t-shirt printer extraordinaire Bert. He has a nautical sleeve going on his left arm and wanted to get a lighthouse to fill the vertical triceps area. I tried to keep it super simple, traditional, and scary. I lined this with a new machine that my good friend Robie made.

That’s it for now, I have at least 4 Japanese dragons in various stages of being finished and I have a feeling they will all end up done within a month of each other heh heh. More to come soon. . .

Categories: Tattoo stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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