Saturday, September 30, 2006

I came across this story on CNN today, about a convicted child molester and murderer who had a tattoo forcibly applied to his forehead in prison. "Katie" was the name of the young girl he killed. The full story can be found here. Prison justice can be brutal, and child molesters rank at the very bottom of the prison hierarchy. This reminds me of some of the prison tattoos detailed in the fascinating book "Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia". As a mark of shame, nothing can surpass the tattoo - it is the permanent Scarlet Letter. In a very similar way, tattooing was used in Japan during the Tokugawa period as a form of punishment. To quote from "Japanese Tattooing from the Past to the Present" by Mieko Yamada:

"Crimes such as extortion, swindling and fraud were punished by tattooing. The criminals were tattooed with a black ring around an arm for each offense, or with a Japanese character on the forehead."

To many this custom marks the beginning of the poor reputation wearers of tattoos face in society. Yamada goes on to say:

"The tattoo became a mark of punishment, used by the authorities to ostracize the outlaws from society. While the purpose of this penalty was to identify criminals and repeat offenders, tattooing as punishment became a vicious circle. The tattooed criminals were ostracized by society throughout their whole lives. Some of them abandoned all hope, and sank to a level of despair and a cycle of crimes. Consequently, the penal system formed a solitary minority group, called eta class, the social outcasts. For this reason, ordinary people became afraid of tattooed people. The people with the penal tattoos often used the records incised on the skin for illicit purposes. They hardly rebuilt their trust in society. Some of them abandoned themselves to despair and repeated crimes. This phenomenon made other people feel frightened and they came to see any tattooed person as a criminal or evil. Therefore, showing tattoos was perceived as a threat to society."

From what I have been told, the association between tattoos and criminals has decreased in recent years, and now many young Japanese proudly display their Western-style tattoos. But there are still many places in Japan where showing a tattoo would be considered completely inappropriate, especially the larger, traditionally styled tattoos which have been strongly connected to criminal organizations for years.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I picked up a book the other day with pictures of tattoos by Horikazu (I think it's called "Horikazu's World" but since I can't read kanji I can't be sure) and I definitely recommend grabbing a copy - that is, if you don't mind the high price, usually around $200-$250 USD! Horikazu has been tattooing for over 40 years and his work is highly regarded. I believe some of his work is also featured in the book "A History of Japanese Body Suit Tattooing" by Mark Poysden and Marco Bratt. I don't own that book though, so I can't verify. Anyway, this book is great; it's filled with high-quality images of his detail-laden and colorful work.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Those of you near Montreal, Canada should try to get out to the tattoo convention this weekend. Horizakura and Horimasa will be there along with too many other great artists to name. More info can be found on this site (in French and English).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Here are the pics. I had to keep the lighting low to avoid glare from the A&D ointment, so the pictures are not as sharp as they could be - sorry. This session was a departure from the norm. In the past, Shinji was very strict about following a certain order: first outline, then background and black shading, then color. This session he decided to do some shading even though the outline is only about 1/4 complete. I wasn't quite sure if this reflected a change in his thinking or had more to do with the availability of his gear. At any rate, tebori was a nice change of pace. The work was concentrated on the bottom right portion of my thigh. As you can see, the new background on the front is starting to be joined to the background on my back. Shinji also did some shading in the water at the top of my thigh and thickened up the lines which form the rock on the left side of my right thigh. I am surprised at the uniformity and crispness of the line he created in the rocks, I imagine this is quite difficult to do by hand.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Just got back from another session, will post pics soon. I had the pleasure of meeting Horimasa while I was at the shop, who is in town for a few weeks. Horimasa is another one of Horitoshi's students, and I believe he will be working out of the well-known Starlight Tattoo in New Jersey while he is here.

Horimasa, hope you enjoy your time on the East Coast!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A friend sent me this link, along with a note which read "I think I found the perfect coffee table for you!"

Monday, September 11, 2006

Here are some pics from the second outlining session, completed yesterday. At this rate, I imagine it will take approximately 6-7 sessions total to complete the outline. Notice the outcrop of rock near my armpit and on the bottom of my thigh. The rest is crashing water and backgroud. You can also start to see the right boundary take shape near my center-line.
I dragged myself to the appointment even though I felt awful. Tired, hungry and with a headache is not the way to walk into a tattoo parlor. Amazingly, I felt much better during the actual process than I did last time. Still, I was glad that we finished a little ahead of schedule and I could get out of there and into bed.