Jessica's Tattoo Will Help Her Find Her Soulmate in the Afterlife

I met Jessica last Friday night before game 1 of the New York Liberty-Detroit Shock playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Her neck tattoo caught my eye as I was going to Will Call to pick up my tickets (to hear about the game, go here), so when I was walking back outside and she was still there (talking to Jason, whose tattoo will be next to appear here), I introduced myself.

For some reason, the photo came out a little blurry. My apologies.

Jessica explained that this tattoo is the pagan symbol of the cycle of womanhood (cue a comment from NeoPagan Ink, below). She also told me that her fiancée has the same tattoo.

Some folks believe, Jessica noted, that tattoos can help someone find the way to their soulmate in the afterlife. This is one element that makes matching tattoos on people more romantic, if one believes that their ink transcends death.

This piece was inked by Gio at Crazy Fantasy Tattoo in Manhattan. Gio now works at Village Pop Inc. Work from Crazy Fantasy has appeared previously here. Work from Village Pop has appeared here.

Thanks to Jessica for sharing her tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!
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Patrick's Ink Reflects His Personality

Last Friday I spotted this cool tattoo on the left forearm of Patrick, as he was hanging out in front of Penn Plaza.

This tattoo is one of two Patrick has, and was inked about a year ago at Triple X Tattoo in Manhattan by an artist named Angelo Saracina.

Angelo designed this piece as a representation of Patrick's personality.

Thanks to Patrick for sharing a little piece of himself with us here on Tattoosday!
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Two Tattoos from Lara

Last Friday evening, on the steps of Penn Plaza, I spotted this simple tattoo on the right side of Lara's neck. It is the sign for someone born under the sign of Leo.

Even though it was a simple astrological squiggle, I said hello anyway and, as often is the case, she had another tattoo to show me:

Actually, she has five altogether, but this one, the word "heart" inscribed on the inside of her left wrist, has special meaning to her.

She and her best friend from Seattle have the same heart tattoo inked on the same spot. There's something particularly transcendent about tattoos that are shared between friends. When you look at your tattoo, you wonder if someone you care about far away is doing the same. It's a mark on flesh that produces a mental connection.

Not only did Lara explain that the dual nature of their tattoo is a "marking of our friendship," but that it is also a lifelong reminder to always, as she put it, "come from our hearts". That is, to follow their hearts when going through life.

All of Lara's work was done at Lucky Devil Tattoo Parlour in Seattle. Work from their shop has been featured previously here on Tattoosday.

Thanks to Lara for sharing her two tattoos with us here on Tattoosday!
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Heavy Weight Boxer Chris Arreola came thru and got a portrait of his Homie that passed away..

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Introducing "Tattoorism 101"

Tattoosday was founded upon the concept of spotting tattoos in New York City. I never planned on becoming a submission site, nor did I ever anticipate people would send me photos of their ink. But they have.

And I have been conflicted about posting it, as it didn't necessarily "fit the theme".

But one thing struck me about two recent submissions from the ether: the people sending me their ink have been sincere about following the blog from day to day and have expressed their enjoyment of it. Having someone coming back from time to time is one of the pleasures of blogging. And then the epiphany struck me: what better way to thank readers by occasionally
posting their ink?

So, pun-ny guy that I am, I have decided it to call the concept "tattoorism" - people visiting Tattoosday and sharing their work with us here. Of course, one could call anyone featured here who is visiting New York from elsewhere a "tattoorist".

But for my own selfish purposes (my blog, my rules), a tattoorist is a visitor who contributes elsewhere than from the streets of New York.

Of course one of my big reservations has been that by posting an e-mail submission, I'd be preempting the posting of a tattoo from the streets. Previously, I have worried that the people posing for my photos are waiting by their computers with baited breath, anticipating when their ink will go "live" on the blog. Then I have to right my version of reality around which all life revolves around Tattoosday. I know it doesn't.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I can present the first installment of what I am going to call, for lack of a better term, and because I like the sound of it, "Tattoorism 101". Enjoy!
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Tattoorism 101: Emmie's Vonnegut Tattoo

This is the first installment of what I call Tattoorism 101.

Hello Bill, I wanted to start off by saying I love your blog. I really enjoy reading all the stories behind all the interesting tattoos you post. I'm sure you're swamped with submissions, but I wanted to add mine to your collection.

The quote "Everything is beautiful and nothing hurt" is from Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five". It's my first tattoo, and it was done by Black Diamond Tattoo Studio in Abington, MA. I knew I wanted to get one for a while, and I knew I wanted it to be a quote of some sort, but nothing really struck me until I saw this. In the book, the quote is actually on a tombstone.
I think it struck me to think that if you can go through your entire life and put that on your tombstone, you must have lived a pretty good one. I know that it isn't entirely realistic, but I think of the quote as an ideal, and something to live up to. I wound up choosing the heart design just because I liked it and I didn't fancy putting a tombstone on my back.

Well, I hope that you are able to post this on your blog. Thanks for running such an awesome site!

This is actually a pretty popular tattoo quote and has appeared, in a different form, on Tattoosday here. I do like how Emmie shaped it into a heart. I think Kurt Vonnegut would have liked that too.

Thanks to Emmie for sharing this piece with us, and for all of you who have sent me photos previously. I will get to your submissions in the days and weeks to come.
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Rachel's Roses

I spotted these beautiful roses last week outside of Madison Square Garden, and had to find out more about them.

I introduced myself to Rachel with my standard opening line, "Can I ask you about your tattoo?" Rachel admitted to me that the first impression she had was that I was going to try to sell her on a tattoo-removal product or service. She has not been the first person to think that. Perhaps I need a new intro.

Anyway, Rachel's trio of roses are remarkable, and she has 6 or 7 tattoos in all, many of which are roses as well, although she professed an admiration of Betty Boop, and has one of the comics icon as well.

But all I saw were these three roses, inked by Shannon O'Sullivan at a tattoo convention. Rachel's brother worked for a bit at Skin & Ink magazine, which helped introduce her to some folks in the tattoo community.

Rachel explained her rosy infatuation a bit further, noting she had worked for the designer Betsey Johnson, who used a lot of rose prints and rose-inspired design. She acknowledged that this led to her "obsession" with roses, and that beyond that, they do not have "a deep meaning".

Rachel is a designer whose website highlights her work.

Thanks to Rachel for sharing her beautiful tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!
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The Virgin Mary Will Be Saved

I ran into Michael last week outside of Madison Square Garden. He had numerous tattoos up and down his arms, but he told me that he regretted most of them. He had been in the military, based in the San Diego area, and he said he hoped, someday, to have all of his ink removed.

"All of it?" I asked. He had a lot.

He nodded, but then pointed to the one pictured above, inked on the underside his left forearm, and said he would probably keep this one, as it was a religious tattoo that has some meaning.

He said that he got this "homemade" piece in Tijuana for about $30, and that it took only a couple of hours to do. He definitely didn't need to take out any payday loans to afford that one!

A lot of people in Southern California make the trip across the border to Tijuana to take advantage of the nightlife there. Some even walk away with tattoos.

Thanks to Michael for sharing his tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!
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LOS ANGELES - He is the Michelangelo of the hip-hop world, the acclaimed tattoo artist to practically every rap star seeking an elaborate, perfectly lettered, black-and-white body drawing that comes complete with an instant dose of street cred.
More recently, though, Mr. Cartoon’s work has been showing up everywhere. You’ll find it on lithographs, on hot-selling Joker brand T-shirts, on high-end Nike shoes. That’s not to mention the framed paintings that cover an entire wall of his studio, which is buried deep in an anonymous section of warehouses on the edge of gritty Skid Row.

“That will be later in my life when that stuff kicks in,” the 39-year-old artist says as he gestures to the works and briefly ruminates about someday spending more time creating fine art. Already, he says, some of his works have been hung in galleries in Paris, London and Amsterdam.

But for now he keeps coming back to the genre in which he first made his mark — tattoos.

“Nothing like skin,” he says as he pauses the whirling needle that sounds like a quieter version of a dentist’s drill to look up briefly from the arm of a customer he’s spent the last several minutes inking.

“The only canvas that bleeds,” he says with a smile. “The only canvas that moves. Where the art directs you.”

With tattoos covering almost every exposed part of his body, from the back of his shaved head to his ankles, Mr. Cartoon is not only an artist but a living billboard for his art.

Short and stocky, and dressed in baggy shorts and a T-shirt, he’s sometimes been described as looking like the central casting version of a street gang member. But his friendly demeanor and penchant for waxing nostalgic about his childhood (”My first computer,” he says pointing to an old manual typewriter) quickly dispel that image.

Skin, meanwhile, is the canvas that made him an L.A. underground legend, ever since he put an elaborate drawing of an urban street scene onto one of Eminem’s arms.

Soon after, just about everyone else in the hip-hop world was beating a path to his door. And they had to — because he wasn’t going to them. Mr. Cartoon doesn’t accept walk-in customers, won’t list his phone number in the book and, until recently, wouldn’t even say where his studio was.

Still, high-profile customers managed to find him.

“Done Eminem and 50 Cent. Missy Elliott, Keyshia Cole, Usher, Pepe Aguilar, Cypress Hill,” he says, not bothering to look up at the celebrity photos on another wall.

But most of his business is provided by “blue-collar guys who want to save their money and come get a nice tattoo.”

They are guys like Bobby Flores of Los Angeles, who met him years ago at a lowrider car show, when Cartoon was a kid hawking airbrushed T-shirts. Since then, the artist has etched an entire mural of Los Angeles on Flores’ back.

He uses a Sharpie marker to draw about 90 percent of his tattoos and then he inks them. There’s no pattern.

“It’s not cheap,” Flores says of the cartoonist’s work. “But he’s the best. He’s the world famous Mr. Cartoon. I wouldn’t let anybody else touch me.”

The artist won’t say what he charges, adding that every circumstance is different. The result: rumors have circulated on the Internet that a Mr. Cartoon tattoo can fetch anywhere from $100 to $20,000 depending on how well-heeled you are and how elaborate a one-of-a-kind drawing you want.

As for price: “I just say if you’re asking about price you’re at the wrong spot,” he says. “Focus on the quality. Focus on the style you want. Find the artist and then negotiate.”

There was a time, he acknowledges, when he’d do them for free. That was before he was very good.

“You’ve just got to practice,” he says of learning the art. “Your friends don’t have any money, you don’t have any experience. Perfect situation.”

He was Mark Machado back then, although his friends were already calling him Cartoon. He threw the Mister in front to dress it up a little. These days it annoys him if someone tries to address him as Mark.

“The only ones who call me by my Christian name,” he says, “are my mother and my wife. And my wife only if she’s angry at me.”

As Mr. Cartoon, he drifted into tattooing after trying his hand at numerous other art forms, including graffiti, airbrushing, etching and an ill-fated nine months at a trade school trying to learn sign-painting.

“They gave me the boot,” chuckles the ordinarily laconic Cartoon. “The teacher told me, ‘Man, you’re a great artist, maybe the best in the class. But you’ve got to go. You don’t turn nothin’ in.’”

Things began to look up after he was busted for spraying graffiti on a building and ordered to pay $800 in restitution. He had no idea where the money would come from until he landed a job painting a mural on the wall of a gymnasium.

“They went, ‘How much to do the mural?’ And I went, “Eight hundred dollars, sir.’ And I kind of never looked back.”

If he hasn’t gone mainstream in the years since, Cartoon has slowly begun to go more public. His main studio is still more or less a secret hideout but he recently opened a more public one. Called Skid Row Tattoos, it is located in a rapidly gentrifying section of the hardscrabble neighborhood, an area Cartoon says he wants to give something back to.

Although his name isn’t on the sign out front, anyone familiar with his work will recognize the place immediately from the beautiful airbrushed lowrider motorcycle on display in the front window. If that isn’t enough, the boutique next door carries Joker brand clothes and Cartoon’s line of Nike shoes.

Back in the day, he used to live at the main studio a mile or so away. He would throw big parties there that helped spread his reputation.

These days he says he leads a slightly more sedate life, with a wife and four kids and a house in the suburbs.

“I’m a white-picket-fence man now,” he says with a laugh as he walks into the main studio.

Moments before, as he was maneuvering his tricked-out pickup truck through downtown traffic, he had reflected on growing older but not losing his connection to the rough-and-tumble side of L.A. that inspired so much of his art. As he spoke, menacing looking clown faces (a Mr. Cartoon trademark) stared up from the vehicle’s floor mats.

“Hopefully you grow up and you have a family and you change,” he mused at one point. “Some guys never change. But the majority of us get older, we start clothing companies, we start design centers, graphic design houses. And we go for broke.”
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Vaj Shares His Interpretation of the Creative Process

The triptych above (ok, it's not technically a triptych, but I am calling it that as I divided it into three sections) belongs to Vaj (rhymes with Dodge), a filmmaker who I met across the street from Macy*s on 34th Street and 7th Avenue early last week.

This piece was inked about 16 years ago in California by Jeff Rassier, who currently works out of Black Heart Tattoo in San Francisco.

Vaj, who has been in the entertainment business for many years, based his tattoo on the interpretation of the creative process.

The center of the tattoo contains a jar with two brains:

moving up and out of the jar is a an arm, at the end of which is a hand holding paper:

Moving down out of the jar is an arm, at the end of which is a hand holding a pen, which is dripping ink:

The two hands, each with pen and paper, are acting out the creative process, stemming from the two sides of the brain.

Thanks to Vaj for sharing this interpretation in his tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!
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