With free-form organic work, part of my goal is always to create a convincing depth effect. With black and grey or muted color schemes, such as this pearlescent gray palette use here, that challenge becomes more pronounced, since vibrant contrasting colors aren’t being used as a clear and obvious way to distinguish the different shapes from each other. When my longtime friend and colleague @deanocook asked me to take on this massive laser coverup project, he had a fairly distinct palette in mind, and I gladly embraced these limitations to see where I could run with them. You can read in detail about my color choices and other tricks used to convey dimension in this piece in the Depth chapter of your ReinventingTheTattoo.com subscription. #seashells #coral #depth #laser #coverup #biomech #abstractart #sleeve #tattoo #education #tattoo education
I love making layers in my tattoo designs, where you can get a sense of what’s in the foreground, middle ground and background, to the point where it almost seems like you could reach in and grab it. This effect is achieved by combining various graphic tricks meant to enhance depth, tricks that work in almost any style, not just biomech such as with this hand tattoo by @donmcdonaldtattoo and myself. You can read more about the tricks we used in this piece in the Depth chapter of your ReinventingTheTattoo.com subscription. #art #drawing #depth #tattoo #education #tattooeducation
You all know how much I love textures, and in some cases I have to intentionally limit my use of them in order to keep a composition balanced. When my German client Uli asked me to start this epic piece inspired by the great tree painter Eyvind Earle, I saw it as an opportunity to create a flowing piece that transformed his leg, but knew that I had to be mindful to keep it from becoming a hard-to-read riot of textures. You can read about how I planned out this piece in the Flow&Fit chapter of your ReinventingTheTattoo.com subscription.
Posted on Thu, October 11, 2018Nobody does focus effects like New Zealand realist Steve Butcher, who has been seizing the world's attention with his eye-popping portraits and wildlife tattoos, with his sports action portraits being some of his most stand-out work. We recently had a chance to interview Steve and get some insights into the thinking and technical processes that go into creating effective focal fields on skin. He shared everything from his stenciling to needle choices and use of color, providing realists with a chance to expand their language and incorporate focus, which can make a piece look like it came straight from a camera. Focal fields are a type of contrast, which makes it possible to selectively make certain elements stand out while others drop back. You can read more about Steve’s groundbreaking technique in the Contrast chapters of your ReinventingTheTattoo.com subscription. #tattoo #focus #realism #portraits #tattooportrait #education #tattooeducation
Posted on Mon, August 27, 2018The larger and more complex a design is, the more crucial it becomes that your pos/neg relationships make sense to the viewer’s eye. In this collaborative backpiece I did with New York artist Jon Clue, we planned on sticking with a mainly organic and textured approach, making readability even more important... so we made use of bold areas of black and a few strategic cast shadows to help keep it all together. You can read in detail about how we planned this one out in the Positive/Negative Relationships chapter of your ReinventingTheTattoo.com subscription!
Posted on Sun, August 26, 2018Large canvases such as backpieces can be great fun with all that space to design for, but this fact makes it even more crucial that you determine Hey which design elements get your top visual priority. In this Heaven-themed back tattoo that I did with Brian Geckle, we wanted to combine an airy, luminous mandala with a row of fences and gates- both elements being geometric and symmetrical, giving us the challenge of keeping them visually separate. Part of this was accomplished simply by being selective with our use of black. You can read about this in more detail in the Priority chapter of your ReinventingTheTattoo.com subscription.
Posted on Fri, August 24, 2018When approaching smaller pieces, especially complex multilayered ones, I try to break the composition down into a few simple large light and dark areas that will read clearly from a distance, rather than looking like a jumble. With this big hand hook on Wes, we wanted to work in a few gears and things along with the hook- a recipe for potential chaos. So I began by anchoring the design with a big simple flowing diagonal shape, one with a decent surface area, and then plotted in the gear elements around that. You can about the design strategy for this piece in more detail in the Contrast chapter of your ReinventingTheTattoo.com subscription.
Posted on Wed, August 22, 2018Many of the pieces I tattoo make use of multiple layers of elements, which could easily get crowded if not for some careful planning. I usually start by asking myself which elements are the highest priority- that is, what do I want the viewer to notice first?- and then designing so that those elements stand out. In this classic biker babe sleeve I made use of line weight, contrast, focus and color to make her face stand out. You can read all about my approach to this design in the Priority chapter of your ReinventingTheTattoo.com subscription!
Posted on Mon, August 20, 2018Value contrast is important in any tattoo, where your dark and light areas form a strong visual balance... but with black and grey work, we don’t have the benefit of color to help differentiate the shapes in the piece, so use of light and dark becomes more critical in the success of the tattoo. In this collaboration with Pennsylvania artist @chrishall, we wanted to make the honeycomb cluster really stand out, so we placed the darkest shading in the areas around that cluster while limiting the use of black within it. You can read more about how we planned out this piece in the Contrast chapter of your ReinventingTheTattoo.com subscription!
We are excited to announce the addition of an important new seminar, Flow & Fit, to the Reinventing The Tattoo curriculum! Flow and fit are at the core of good tattoo design, and such a fundamental part of the discussion of good tattoo drawing that it's the first chapter in the book after the introduction... you'll find the new seminar posted at the end of Page 9. Featuring the work of @guyaitchisonart @meganjeanmorris @coryferguson @burningxhope @philgarcia805 @zhencangtattoo @tymcewen @juan_salgado @russabbott @natebeavers @adamfrance and @shainesmithtattoo, the workshop shows you how to apply strong flowing design strategies to any style of tattooing. Available now in your ReinventingTheTattoo.com subscription!
One of Guy Aitchison's hardest-hitting video tutorials is simply titled Technique. It’s a four disk set that shows you closeup footage of the machine in action as Guy works through five different projects, presented in a concentrated format. The first two disks are a special edition cut of his Guy’s Bag Of Tricks webinar, showing a project from start to finish as he answers a variety of questions from the audience about design preparation, palette and the equipment and methods he's using. The other two disks, Tightening 1 and 2, go into detail about finishing techniques, spotlighting four projects up close, describing every move in detail as Guy shows the line building, detailing, smoothing and other development on a variety of effects including floral, organic, mechanical, metallic and carved wood, with each piece showed healed so you can see the kind of results that you can realistically expect from working with these methods.
Photo Retouching Tutorial Now Added To Reinventing The Tattoo Reinventing The Tattoo just became even more useful. Ever wondered how you can turn those pretty-decent snapshots of your finished work into a professional-looking portfolio, or how to prepare them for a magazine feature? Guy has just added his Wacom Weekend seminar: Photo Retouching and Portfolio Work to the Photoshop chapters of Reinventing. This class is about an hour long and goes into detail about how you can improve your photos without improving the tattoo. Drop by ReinventingTheTattoo.com to read more about Guy Aitchison's comprehensive educational package for professional tattoo artists. Located in: Section 5.2 Page 224
Digital Tattoo Design Rendering Now Added To Reinventing The Tattoo Reinventing The Tattoo has just had three hour-long Photoshop seminars added! Have you ever wondered how to use Photoshop to get those seamless professional design results that you see people posting? Guy has just added his Wacom Weekend seminar: Digital Tattoo Design Rendering to the Photoshop chapters of Reinventing. This class is about an hour long and goes into detail about how you can use Photoshop to get high-end results with your designs. Drop by ReinventingTheTattoo.com to read more about Guy Aitchison's comprehensive educational package for professional tattoo artists. Located in: Section 5.3 Page 235
Photoshop Compositing Tutorial Now Added To Reinventing The Tattoo Reinventing The Tattoo has been expanded again. Are you curious about how to use Photoshop to smoothly bring together images from several sources, including online material and your own drawings? Guy has just added his Wacom Weekend seminar: Essential Design Compositing to the Photoshop chapters of Reinventing. This class is about an hour long and goes into detail about how you can bring Photoshop into your design workflow. Drop by ReinventingTheTattoo.com to read more about Guy Aitchison's comprehensive educational package for professional tattoo artists. Located in: Section 5.6 Page 250
What a crazy couple weeks it's been... most of my spare time in October had been dedicated to preparing for the two seminars I just gave at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering in Jiminy Peak, Massachusetts. This was the first time I've given two at the same event, which made the preparation double challenging. Normally I'll sit down with a cup of strong coffee and open Reinventing to whatever chapter I'm focusing on in the seminar- in this case, the two chapters were Flow&Fit, and a second pass over the Coverup chapters, which I still have a lot more to say about. I then write out some notes, asking myself where I want to go deeper into the subject matter. Doing this for two seminars at once almost felt like having two paintings on the easel... which is something I've done plenty of times.
With the notes hammered out it's then a matter of choosing some of the root images from the Reinventing curriculum, then as many new images as possible to give fresh examples of tattoos that illustrate the topic. This time around I also invited some fellow tattoo artists to send me some images, so that the presentation could represent a good range of artistic styles. Each seminar folder got a couple hundred images dropped into it, which then had to be sorted, combined, labeled and organized. Text slides were made as well. It's the kind of job that is easy to imagine not really taking that long, but once you are on the ground doing it you find that there's no end to how much time you can spend on attention to detail. So sure enough, there I was sitting on the plane hammering away at the laptop. Then I arrived at Jiminy Peak and they didn't have my room ready, so I camped out in the tavern for four hours, continuing to hammer away. At least I could get a little socializing in that way.
Thankfully, James Kern had a seminar just before mine, and we let him know he could run over a bit. That gave me a solid excuse to keep working until about ninety seconds before it was time for me to start.
Why am I admitting all this to you good folks? As it turns out, every artist that I've spoken with who gave a seminar there was working until the last minute. Not because we are procrastinators, but because we wanted our classes to be as solid as possible.
I'd like to thank everyone who attended the two classes. These were interactive workshops with drawing exercises, which I commented on while people worked, so it was a pretty high-pressure situation for a lot of the artists in the room. You all delivered the goods; I think everyone improved that day, myself included... because I've definitely found that teaching is one of the greatest learning experiences.
I'll be doing some editing over the next month to crunch these two seminars into a pair of 2-hour video tutorials, which will be embedded in your Reinventing The Tattoo electronic package. You'll find them in your Table Of Contents after Chapter 2.1, Flow&Fit, and added into the coverup section, which is becoming pretty substantial. I hope to have these in place by the New Year.
A number of you are coming to the end of your first year subscription, and I wanted to thank you for being part of the Reinventing The Tattoo project, which has proven to be the single biggest thing that I've ever worked on. I'd like to encourage you to renew your subscription, not only to retain all the great material that is already in place, but to get access to the large volume of new material that is in the works. This includes the two large tutorials just mentioned, plus several compact Photoshop tutorials on specific subjects ranging from photo retouching to advanced design compositing. Also in the pipeline are guest chapters by Nate Beavers, Deano Cook, Killian Moon and others, with a new one added every two months or so. We are also working on a significant section on the business side of the tattoo field, plus an apprentice playbook that is being designed to help integrate scheduled lessons into the day-to-day experience of being in a shop working under experienced professionals.
Just look for the Renew button at ReinventingTheTattoo.com, where members can enter their username and password to get a $50 discount.
This past two weeks has been dedicated more toward preparing for my upcoming seminars than actual day-to-day tattooing, with a few fun exceptions. I got to be involved in a couple largish collaboration projects, the first with Texas artist Shaine Smith, and the second with my partner Michele Wortman, with whom I share Hyperspace Studios.
The project with Shaine was another example of a seamless biomech collaboration project. Bio is a great style for collaborating, since the participating artists have a number of common understandings about flow, form, light and depth while at the same time, inevitably a lot of unique aspects to their approach. With most collaborations, I find the best way to mix both artists' styles is to pass the drawing back and forth and take turns tracing over the whole thing, so there aren't necessarily parts of the piece that can be traced back to individual artists. The execution is handled the same way, with artists taking turns working through every part of the piece. When handled the right way, with enough communication, this approach results in a piece that appears to be by a third artist- one who can only exist when those particular artists are working together.
Shaine and I have a lot of the same influences, but he has a much stronger Giger imprint on his style, so we made a point of letting a lot of that character into the piece. We started with a bunch of loose sketches which we boiled down into two very similar drawings, as seen in the first image here. From those drawings we sketched on the client's leg, starting with a light green marker and then going successively darker and more developed until we were satisfied with the drawing, as shown in the second photo. We took turns through this process and talked in detail about the different parts of the design as we were doing this- remember that communication is key.
After a long day of tattooing, we got a pretty good foundation in place, with the basic colors and all of the dark and light areas blocked in, as seen in the third photo. This will require a followup session to really dial in the detail and saturate the colors, although we plan on keeping a lot of that neutral fleshy look. It was a fun project that went off without a hitch, and I look forward to continuing it soon.
The other collaboration that I did, this time with Michele Wortman, was over the course of two days instead of just one, so we were able to get a lot more ink in the skin. We really enjoyed the different organic and geometric textures, and had fun with a small coverup in the gemstone area, where there was a twice-lasered star that still contained a bit of color, as seen in the fourth image. It wasn't dark but definitely had to be taken into consideration, so we let it influence our color choices for the gem, which you can see in the fifth image. We were only able to work one artist at a time because of pain tolerance issues, but I'm still very satisfied with the first pass we got over the whole thing. Since we had to work quickly, the color is less saturated than I'd like it, but we'll have a final pass on this at some point in the near future.
The other project was a final session on a backpiece that has been in progress for a decade and a half. Some backpieces are like that, as many of you no doubt already know; often it's not by any fault of the wearer. At any rate, I had a ton of fun with this back, which was based on photos shot of a huge clay model that I had built for the purpose, and finally feel satisfied with the level of detail and development that I've put into it. I do organic pieces like this one all the time, but seldom do I have a photographic reference available for the purpose and usually can't get them looking quite this realistic, although doing these kinds of projects occasionally does help me to do things out of my imagination that are more believable.
That's the last two weeks here at the studio... now my focus is pretty much entirely on wrapping up the seminar content for next week. For this who can't make it to the Paradise Tattoo Gathering, I plan on using my seminar materials for some new content that will be added to Reinventing The Tattoo over coming months, although the classes are interactive, so I'd still recommend trying to make it in person if possible. Tickets are available in the Event Tickets page at TattooEducation.com.
Posted on Mon, September 26, 2016September 26, 2016
Greetings from Reinventing The Tattoo!
Every other Monday I'm giving you a quick report of something that happened here at the studio in the past week. Recently we had a visit from Chris Hall, who tattoos in Pennsylvania and does some very fun abstract organic tattoo work. Recently Chris, while collaborating with a number of other artists for the upcoming Biomech Encyclopedia project, introduced the idea of using malleable materials such as plaster or crumpled paper as inspiration for organic abstract tattoo drawings. This past week was the second visit in an ongoing sleeve project that Chris and I have been collaborating on, giving us a chance to extend and refine the parts that we had established in the first visit a few months back.The design was composited together in Photoshop from a number of pictures that we shot of spikes and hooks that we had crumpled out of plain paper. We had to be mindful to photograph each part of the design with the lighting hitting from the right direction, so that when pieced together in Photoshop it would all make sense. The finished reference was then printed at full size based on a tracing of the client's arm, then hand-traced in two stages: first, Chris traced it onto the thin cover sheets for stencil paper (the white sheet, not the yellow one) using pencil but with no stencil paper in the mix. I then taped it down over stencil paper and traced it a second time. This gave both of us a chance to have our hand in the stencil, giving it a good balance of realism and style.
This particular client has a limited pain tolerance, so rather than the normal double day power session with both artists jamming, it was one day, moderate in length, one tattoo machine at a time. It'll take one more session to dial it in, but I'm happy with our progress. Then the next day I had a few hours to skim over the hand piece that I had recently done on Chris. It had healed and settled just fine, but since the opportunity was there, I took it. Like the crumpled paper piece, this tattoo has no outline, while still using strong areas of black. The no outline approach can always benefit from a second pass, especially when it comes to giving the piece a really readable structure.
Meanwhile, back at the desk, I've just talked to my old friend Deano Cook about doing a chapter for Reinventing The Tattoo, possibly along with a video tutorial. Deano was one of the pioneers in color realism back in the early 2000s and continues to push the envelope with his distinctive marine realism, often based on photos that he shot himself on diving expeditions. Deano has always impressed me with his dedication in his craft, and I look forward to seeing what he and I can come up with to add to the Reinventing curriculum! In addition, I just got off the phone with Nate Beavers, whom many of you know from the current season of Inkmasters. Nate is a maestro of texture and surface detail, and he plans to write a chapter about his toolkit, along with another possible video tutorial. Both of these chapters will be cutting edge information from some of my personal favorites. And there will be plenty more guest chapters in the future from additional artists of this high caliber.
This is the first of what will be a biweekly series of bulletins for Reinventing subscribers only. In it I’ll be updating you on the newest and upcoming upgrades to the Reinventing The Tattoo content, plus sharing with you a recent project I've done where I can talk a little about the piece and the challenges that I faced in it, in a way that is relevant to the Reinventing core curriculum.
This past week I did the third pass on a massive full back coverup project. This piece is massive not only in terms of how much stuff had to be covered, but also just in sheer size, since my client is a large dude. In the before photo you can see what we were dealing with: A largish tribal piece in the center, lopsided and badly outlined, with raised scar tissue, along with a pair of big chunks of tribal black on each shoulder, some 4-inch tall lettering, and a necklace type thing that made for a line going around the upper back. Rather than just blasting over the whole mess, we opted for a design that made use of parts of the central tribal piece in a way that minimized our struggle and allowed for the central area of the back to appear clean and smooth without the murkiness that coverups sometimes have. The raised scarring in this area made that even more crucial.
Every coverup project presents these kinds of challenges and opportunities. Some of the old work is often so dark and strong that it really pays to ask yourself if parts of it could be incorporated into the new design, while other parts can be more easily hidden. The goal is to find a balance between accepting what you can't change and changing what you can't accept. The parts of the old tribal work that we did incorporate were thoroughly reworked and changed in a way that allowed it to make sense in the context of the new piece. It also allowed us to give the tattoo a strongly balanced contrast of dark and light, which is key in making coverups appear strong and clean.
Many of you have already read the new section in Reinventing about coverup tattooing. This current project, which I expect to do a final pass on later in the year, will be part of a second round of coverup examples which I plan to add to the coverup section toward the end of the year. I'll be giving a seminar at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering in Massachusetts this coming October 20-23 about taking coverups to the next level, where I'll be showing a number of new examples that aren't already in the Reinventing content. I'll be recording the seminar and adding it to the section, along with a number of guest artist contributions about coverups that will be incorporated as well. This coverup section is long overdue, and I plan on making it massive. Stay tuned.
Last but not least, some of you may have already noticed the Phil Garcia chapter that was added last week. I'll be making a bigger deal about this in coming weeks, but needless to say it's a great chapter by one of the most technically proficient tattooers that I've ever had the pleasure of working with. Phil and I are also working on a video tutorial which I hope to have ready by the end of the year, which will be quite a heavy piece of educational material. More updates on that as we get closer to completion.
So many of you have already seen the new coverup tutorial, which was added to the Reinventing curriculum earlier this summer. Part 8, which used to bve the book's conclusion, has been changed to Part 9, and the new Part 8 is all about coverups, including five new chapters:
8.1) Coverup Tattooing: Facts, Myths and Misunderstandings
8.2) Coverup Examples, Large and Small
8.3) Almost Too Good To Be True: Laser Tattoo Removal
8.4) Scar Coverups: A Next-Level Challenge
8.5) Incorporating Coverup Tattooing Into Your Career
The section includes an almost 2 hour video tutorial, Coverup: A Fresh Look, which you can find embedded near the end of Chapter 8.1.
This new section has been a long time in the making and I believe is much needeed as part of the Reinventing The Tattoo educational package. I personally have a great deal of experience on the subject, both as an artist and a collector, and am happy to share what I've learned so far. In the near future I plan to incorporate a few guest chapters and examples so you can see coverups in a wider range of styles and approches than I am personally capable of.
On a different note, we have added several critique examples in Section 2, in chapters 2.2, 2.3 and 2.6. These are critiques that I did of of other artists' work, using Photoshop to demonstrate what I am talking about, in a way that can help readers to understand the subjects at hand- specifically, Positive/Negative Relationships, Contrast, and Lines/Edges. If you've already read these chapters, take a moment to look back through them with the new added material, which I believe makes the points a bit clearer. Additional critique examples will be added over coming months.
Next, I'm working on editing a chapter by guest artist Phil Garcia, so stay tuned for that!
We now have a fifth guest chapter added, this one by guest writer Halo whom you may remember from last year's Inkmasters. His excellent chapter is an introduction to Photoshop: Taking The Digital Plunge. His writing style is easy and personable ion a way that makes his encyclopedic knowledge easier to digest. I've been using Photoshop for almost 20 years and learned several new things from this chapter. Even if you don't think of yourself as a digital kind of person, it's worth taking a quick look just to see what all the fuss is about. The chapter is really intemded for people who have yet to take the plunge, but it's a good read even for experienced Photoshop users. You can find it in the Reinventing The Tattoo electronic edition in Chepter 5.21.
We also got a great addition to Chapter 6.21, Working With Large Stencils, written by Don McDonald. It was already an excellent chapter but this is sort of a cherry on top, showing the making of a backpiece stencil You can find the new material at the end of the chapter.
More new material is on the way, including a chapter by Phil Garcia (Yeah!) and a 2-hour video on coverups, which I'm editing right now.
We have added a bunch of new body templates to the Exercise Images archive. Head to that link and click on any thumbnail to load the full size image which you can download and either print and draw on, or bring it into Photoshop or another image editing program to design on with a Cintiq or tablet.
There are a number of arms, legs, hands, heads and backs available for both male and females. Check 'em out and post any designs you come up with to the forum for critique!
You'll also find some muscle arm templates to help in designing tattoos that contour more closely to the body's anatomy and internal musculature.
The release of the electronic edition of my educational package Reinventing The Tattoo has given me a chance to go back over the entire thing and reassess not only where the curriculum needed to be brought up to date, such as with the Photoshop and tattoo machine chapters, but also where it needed to address the ever expanding spectrum of artistic styles and techniques being used in tattooing.
That's why I'm so jazzed about the first round of guest writers that have contributed to the book; this includes Russ Abbott, whose approach bridges the classic to the contemporary; Nick Baxter, whose understanding of classic realist painting techniques is mirrored in his layering methods on skin; Don McDonald, who does so much large-scale sleeve and bodywork that he's perfected ways to got stencils down for epic projects in one shot; and Megan Jean Morris, whose fine art sensibilities carry across into the way where she works with her clients to create the best possible project for both artist and collector.
The Reinventing The Tattoo electronic format is made for expandability, and I'm working with a number of artists on the next round of new chapters. I'll be adding more of my own material in coming months, including an acrylic painting tutorial and a seminar on coverup tattooing.
Meanwhile, I have also added a short chapter on clients and their design needs, near the end of Part II just before Megan's chapter. This is a chapter that I expect will be updated regularly, since the client's needs make for such a tricky yet fruitful topic of discussion. There is also a chapter in Part 6 detailing the evolution of the rotary machine... it even goes a little bit into the crazy experiments that I did with Carson Hill aling with a bunch of other friends in a temporary laboratory that we made in his garage to capture the motion of a tattoo needle in high definition. Rotaries are quickly taking a lead in the industry so it's worth talking about them in detail.
Last but not least, remember to post work for critique! I generally get to critiques about once every 5 days or so. I expect the forum to get a bit busier as time goes on, where we;ll see a lot more memebers contributing to each other's critiques. It's a great place tro dive deeply into where you stand as an artist and what to do next to take your work to the next level.