For those of you who don't know, I just got my second tattoo. It was an insane experience and I'd like to share the story and also feature some incredible photography of the event, captured by my buddy Eric Langley, aka The Visual Guy. Please check out his Photobucket site to see the entire series at full size.
I have been following the work of a tattoo artist from Charlotte named Tom Michael, or known to some as Ugly, since he did a guest spot at Decatur's Ink & Dagger Tattoo last year. All of his work is really incredible, but it's his Japanese inspired work that I fell in love with. When I found he was coming down again for another guest spot I decided to get in touch with him.
Ink & Dagger Tattoo Parlour - Atlanta area custom tattoo studio
And if you're wondering, Ink & Dagger is a class-act shop. All the artists are extremely talented, friendly, and seem to respect each other as a team. And I think it's important to note that the music playing was great, which is important when you're spending the better part of a day being repeatedly jabbed with sharp needles.
For months I had been studying these old Japanese prints. The ones with samurais and other warriors really spoke to me so I started collecting images from the web, trying to come up with an idea for my tattoo that would be strong and timeless. When I found this print, it touched me immediately and while I continued to look for more reference, I kept coming back to this one. I'm so glad too, because when I showed it to Tom he recognized it as being from one of his favorite artists. We decided to keep a classic look to the tattoo, and to retain the soul to the original print. The one change from the original image that I requested was that he draw the warrior wielding a weapon instead of throwing stones, as I didn't think it would read very well as it was. He agreed and made other small revisions of his own to really make the best tattoo.
Here's the info on the original image:
UTAGAWA KUNIYOSHI (1797-1861)
The Chinese warrior, Zhang Qing,on his horse throwing stones (c. 1823)
So, let me say, when we approached this project, I was expecting a tattoo about 2/3 the size of this one. In fact right up until the stencil was put on my body, I was thinking smaller. But because there was so much detail that we wanted to include, and to naturally flow with the shape of my body, Tom and I agreed that this size was right for this tattoo.
It took 5 hours to do the incredibly detailed outline. While there were some tender spots, it wasn't too painful for this part of the session.
This is right after the outline (and red lightning bolt) were finished, as I said almost exactly 5 hours. We could have stopped here and picked up at a later time, but because he was traveling from Charlotte, both of us wanted to finish in 1 session, and decided we would do our best to do so.
By the way, that's Tom. He looks all tough and mean but he's a real down-to-earth guy and was very professional. Check him out on his MySpace site to see some galleries of his work or for info on getting a tattoo from him.
The entire shading and coloring process was painful and a challenge to endure. Basically he's going over all the places he just outlined with a single needle, but this time blending tones with a machine with multiple needles. You try everything from breathing exercises to zoning out on music to day dreaming to talking to the artist in an attempt to forget about the pain - but it still manages to get through. Right when this photo was taken, we were into the tenth hour and about 15 minutes from being done. I got really queasy and couldn't decide if I was gonna puke or pass out, but knew something was bad was about to happen and had to ask Tom to immediately quit and give me a few to let me rest. He said I was looking green, but the photo shows more of a white bed sheet color if you ask me.
Shortly after rebounding from my near-puke experience we got back to work and finished it up. This was the final painful wipe-down. About 10 hours under the needle and 12 in the shop - we were both hungry and beat but totally stoked about the tattoo.
Here's the finished piece. I couldn't be happier with it. The line work, the color, the detail, and how the composition fits on my body are all so beautiful. At the beginning of the project, I had really high expectations and Tom blew them all out of the water.
Here is a detail of the finished piece. Thanks again Ugly for an extraordinary piece of artwork, and to Eric for capturing this amazing life experience! Please check his photobucket site for the entire series at full size - they're quite incredible!
Sorry if the formatting in this blog is all fucked up - I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing with it. I'll post new photos and a follow-up once the tattoo heals. Thanks for stopping by.