Monday, November 14, 2011

Devilish Tattoo

 Sometimes you have to take a few runs at a thing to get it right.

 I've been wanting to do some tattoos that were more of a reflection of the kind of artwork I am into.  My portfolio has been made up of what I would consider fairly common designs; hearts, stars, horseshoes (green clovers, blue diamonds, and purple balloons).  I've done some designs that were "different", but not really emphasizing the kind of "different" that I am into. 

 To remedy this, about a year ago I offered to do some free tattoos.  The catch being that while you could pick what you wanted, I would be the one designing it and the tattoo had to be LARGE.  I figured I would do 2 tattoos a month of this type.

 Funny thing about tattoo-people... they tend to be "spur-of-the-moment" types.  Not many are into planning in advance for anything.  While I got a lot of takers, initially, most had no clue what-so-ever as to what they wanted.  Several knew what they wanted, but they were not the kind of design opportunities I was looking for.  One guy stepped-up to get a Grim Reaper.  He loved the design I came up with, but decided it was more important to go out of state and get baked in the woods than to keep his appointment.

 They guy who got this design approached me about it at a party.  It was a Walpurgisnacht Party, appropriate for this kind of request.  He wanted a back-piece.  He loved my demon girls.  He had some ideas, but was down with me coming-up with a design.  It was everything I wanted to hear.

 Over the next couple of weeks, I received some design ideas from him; images he was offering as reference... just some things he found cool.  The above design was the original based on those references, and neither of us were happy.  It was a decent design and all, but not what I thought was at my fullest potential, and not quite what he had in mind.  I want back literally to the drawing board.

 As is typical in the life of a tattoo artist, shit happens.  Summer is a little busy for me with tattoo appointments and hanging-out with my kids.  5 months pretty much flew by.  I had sketched some ideas up, but had not really committed to anything.  Most of the design happens in my head, and only gets to paper when I have a solid grasp of what I am going for.  I decided to step away almost completely from the original design.  I had this idea related to the Thulsa Doom icon from Conan the Barbarian.  I wanted two snakes to replace the goats in the original.  The client wanted the male demon to appear less as a shadow and more as a buff-monster in-line with his own philosophy.  I decided to draw the girls from the ass up.  This was the result.

  This, I thought, was a vast improvement over the original.  My client agreed.  About a week or so after we finally got together about the design (there was some email issue initially), I did the tattoo. 

 This was a lot of tattoo.  Although it is mostly line-work, a good chunk of it was right on his spine.  The shading, which is normally a little easier to take than the line-work, just aggravated what was already an unhappy back.  We went at it for about 4 and a half hours until I was satisfied.

 Totally worth the effort.  Below is a video showing some of the detail in the design.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Who Wants This Tattoo?

 Saturday, October 29th, was... one hell of a night.  This tattoo design kind of reminds me of that night.  I drew this between doing other things this week.  This would be a great tattoo for my portfolio.  If someone is down with getting this, get in touch with me. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Audio Commercial for Creative Oddities Studios

 This commercial first played on The Ooze Wednesday, October 19th, 2011.  All the voices are by Jason Sorrell. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Beloved Dead

 You know, I admittedly play at this art-thing.  I consider myself a fair draftsman, though I like to think I am getting better with each attempt.  Artistically, pencil-drawing has always been my first love, the media in which I think my skills are most honed.  I enjoy portraiture, and have even been commissioned to create portraits now and then.  

 I also love horror films and the female form.  Thankfully, I am not alone in this.  The horror film industry has provided a plethora of female imagery to gaze upon with wonder.  There is a tantalizing juxtaposition between the sensual and the sinister.  It is this juxtaposition that currently attracts my attention.

 These pencil portraits take days each to create.  The drawings alone for each of these spanned a period of four days, working admittedly only a few hours each day on the images.  My schedule prevents me from producing such works at the pace that I would like, but it gives me some time to decide what monsters I will add next to my collection of beloved dead.

 When Return of the Living Dead 3 came out in 1993, I was 20 years old, and freely admit that the image of a punk-rock pierced-up zombie-girl was titillating (ha!) on a number of levels.  I really dug the first film, I don't even remember the 2nd, but the 3rd film really stuck with me.  As you may recall, Julie was infected with the zombie-toxin, and in order to stave-off her hunger for brains she had to pierce herself with a variety of objects (nails, glass-shards, metal rings, etc).

 I created this image from the film were Julie emerges after her self-piercing session.  The camera pans up from her mid-drift to her face.  The problem was that I didn't get it all in one shot; the camera panning up is followed by a shot were she raised her face to the camera.  To get the above image, I had to go back-and-forth between different frames of the film until I got the posture and expression I wanted, and then used several stills for reference, especially for the variety of chains she wears.

 And now you know.

 The Angry Princess from Thir13en Ghosts presented her own set of problems.  If I remember correctly, Dana was a girl who over-indulged in plastic surgery, seeing imperfection whenever she looked at herself.  A self-inflicted operation to remove an imaginary blemish resulted in her loosing an eye, and she committed suicide with her butcher's knife in a bathtub.  The actress is not nude in the film, but is instead wearing a body-suit.

 Still, it's very convincing.

 There is a classic image of the Angry Princess as she rounds a corner, her knife jutting out in front of her.  Do a Google-search of "Angry Princess" and you will see what I mean.  I thought about that image for my representation, but decided it was too common.  Instead, I used a sequence of images right after she witnesses the lawyer being cut in half but before she hers the people upstairs and vanishes.  Again, I referred to several stills from that sequence to get the posture and expression I wanted.  Next, because of the low-light, I had to refer to other images to get the cuts on her body correct.  The expression seems a little off to me, but I am pleased by the whole.

 So, now I am thinking about who will be next.  I have in mind the Bride from The Bride of Frankenstein, the Wire-Twins from Hellraiser: Inferno, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, the nurses from Silent Hill, and the female alien from Species.  I am racking my brain trying to come-up with other candidates.  I decided to pass on Trash from the first Return of the Living Dead because I don't like her zombie make-up, but I have been thinking of doing a water-color painting of her infamous graveyard strip-tease. 

 Your suggestions would be more than welcome.  Just drop a comment below.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Digital Madness: The Art of TC Downey

 Art, throughout history, has always involved the creative use of the tools of the day to make something aesthetically pleasing, communicative, or representational.  There seems to be an instinct in us to create art, or at least to manipulate our environment.  We seek to make a mark, an impact on the world around us that validates our presence in it.  Children at play in a sandbox will quickly draw images in the sand with their finger-tips.  Primitive man discovered that the juices of certain berries stained their skin and other objects.  The artist has always been limited only by his tools, and with the development of new tools came the creation of new forms of art.  

 I am comparatively a dinosaur next to TC Downey and his work.  What little I do with the digital tools I have is only used to enhance what I do with traditional media.  Mr. Downey creates work digitally that is light-years ahead of where I sit drawing with sticks and pigments.  His work goes beyond simple photo-manipulation which is even now being hailed as a wonder in art galleries across the world.  Mr. Downey's work is not simply manipulation of an image, but is the creation of something new.

 I am impressed by his work on several levels.  Mr. Downey shares in my interest in the erotic and the grotesque.  His work, however, involves subtle distortions of the object depicted that create within the viewer an emotional response.  You can feel the tension, the pull, as described in the Voidial Pull piece, and the earthy weight expressed in Zodiak.  It is intentionally subtle, which is why it works.  

 Mr. Downey has a natural eye for composition, both in the arrangement, the color-scheme, and the layered effects he uses.  Digital media allows for the artist to compose a piece through layer and texture in a manner that has never before been available, and Mr. Downey is a master of this process.  Each of his pieces has a depth created through contrasting layers and textures, drawing the viewer deeper into the fantastic landscape he describes.  His work also embraces the electronic media; featuring and making use of its obvious digital origin rather than trying to disguise it as a traditional technique or to minimize it through realism.  These images are infused with the electrical energies of the tools which generated them.

 Creative Oddities Studios is proud to have been chosen as the caretaker of these incredible works, and we are looking forward to making them available to the market in a format that does them justice.  Visit Mr. Downey's gallery on the Creative Oddities Studios web-site to see our collection of his art and the merchandise that we offer featuring his work.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sorrell Demon Girls

 I freely admit that for years I have been a huge fan of Christopher Cooper and his devil girl art for which he is famous.  You may not know the name, but you have seen his work everywhere that you might buy lowbrow items such as stickers, posters, hot-rod merchandise, etc.  I started drawing my demon girls because I loved Coop's work and wanted to try my own hand at it.  I like the concept, I like the style, and I like the impact the art has on those who have seen it.  It is hip, cool, irreverent, and erotic.  It mixes pop-culture and lounge-culture... perfectly lowbrow.

 I strive to differentiate my work from Coop's, even though he is a huge inspiration.  My first demon girls were designed as a part of a tattoo flash-set... before I knew anything about tattoo designs.  They were popular as collectors' flash, but sold better as stickers and other merchandise.  Despite hearkening back to Coop's own work, the initial difference I worked for was a more realistic model (or models) for my demon girls.  Coop's devil girls all share a very similar appearance, generally based on one particular look (actually, common to all his female faces).  I generally modeled my work on actual women, many times created demon girls who were recognizable as the models they were based upon.  I often also included longer horns and other demonic additions such as bat-wings and pointed tails.  

 The first few I designed were fair.  I have a few I still like, but most of those old demon girl designs are buried deep in my portfolio in my closet, and will never see the light of day again.
 I eventually became known for my demon girls in a minimal sort of way.  When I would sit down to draw, just to practice, a demon girls was almost always the result.  I began getting commission requests for demon girls, either combined in same way with the erotic BDSM work I was doing around the same time or occasionally requests from men and women to have their significant others or themselves converted into a demon girl in my style.  Demon Girls became so much a part of my thing that I even started to include them in my logos.  Of course, the comparison was almost always made between my work and Coop's... not a bad thing.  Those who were familiar with both our works knew the difference, and I really began to distinguish myself and my own designs.

 I began experimenting with different styles as expressions of the concept, as well as different forms.  The tattoo and comic-book influence remained present (with the designs being improved for use as tattoos due to my tattoo-experience).  I became influenced by the anime-style art, creating more "cartoon-like" demon girls, a few which were well received by my fans.  I also experimented with doing more "demonic" demon girls... designs which were more focused on the threat of the supernatural creature rather than the eroticism.  Cloven-hooves, spiked "armor" (quite revealing and impractical armor, but armor none-the-less), a variety of weapons, and long snake-like tongues began making appearances in my work.

 I also took the work in the other direction, focusing more on blatant eroticism.  "666999" is an example of this; two demon girls pleasuring one another in the "69" position.  I went for a yin-yang theme with this one, one of the demon girls being in dark gear and the other being in white.  The "Demon Tongues" piece was inspired by my involvement in the body-modification industry and a drawing I had done years previous featuring a young woman with a very long tongue.  The more erotic pieces were better received than their more aggressive counter-parts.

 Another style I experimented with was a pseudo-Japanese "anime" style... based on the latest animation craze featuring the stylzed characters from Japanese cartoons.  I enjoy anime and its more erotic counter-part, hentai, and I appreciate the rich depth and history behind the anime culture that arose after WWII. 

 Lately, the demon girls I have drawn have been influenced by American cartoons on the 1940's, 50's, and 60's... big eyes, pouty-lips, and very curvy bodies.  I think that this is again another step to further differentiate myself from artists that use the same concept... a field which is expanding daily.  I have become a fan of 50's and 60's pop-culture, especially the erotic under-current that was largely oppressed in that time which resulted in an equally bombastic expression (and laid the ground-work for the flower-power sexual revolution of the late 60's and early 70's).  

 The demon girl image represents many things to me, but first among them is feminine power expressed through their sexuality.  Even now, there are movements in our society which discourage women from simply being women in a sexual sense; either repressing their sexuality as "improper" or suggesting that the familiar expressions of sexuality only encourage women to be viewed as sexual objects.  There are many women who recognize the influence and advantages of being an object of desire, and who freely, passionately, and happily make use of that lever to make their will manifest.  The demonic form both speaks to this power and my own recognition of its dangerous-side.  It also suggests an streak of defiance, basically suggesting that if expressions of overt female sexuality are going to be demonized by our society, then why not run with it?

 Although I am exploring other concepts, demon girls will probably remain my default expression.  Even now, several erotic and demonic beauties hover about my walls and drawing-table, and are actually the focus of a new and quirky project I should have completed by December that will be featured on this blog.  In the meantime, let me know what you think of my work so far and if you have a request (and are willing to pay a modest commission-fee) get in-touch. 

 Most of these images are available as inexpensive, high-quality vinyl stickers.  Get yours by checking out the Creative Oddities Studios Sticker Page.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Art Erotica 2011

"For over 20 years ArtErotica has been one of the most unique and scintillating art events in Austin. From lust to love, ArtErotica has it all; painted art, sculpture, fabrication, kitsch. It has been dubbed "Austin's Sexiest Art Show," by the Austin Chronicle. Come find something to tickle your fancy, including erotic desserts and specialty drinks.
"ArtErotica started as a humble art show with big dreams. It was a way for the creative community to raise money for those in desperate need by selling works of art. Friends, lovers, and family came together to help - any way they could. The first party raised merely a few hundred dollars, but every dollar was extremely important for those who needed help with medications and bills then, just as it is today.
"Over the years, ArtErotica has grown into quite an experience and quite the fundraiser. The event offers something of interest for everyone; the curious, the clubber, the exhibitionist and the voyeur. Even the art critic who raised a furtive brow walked away with a treasure. Need more to grab on to?"

 On March 26th, Jamy and I headed down to the Seaholm Power Plant to participate in "ArtErotica 2011".  I had been invited to donate some of my work for this AIDS charity benefit, and had submitted two pieces.  We were both excited about engaging the local community, but really had no idea what to expect.

 Other than free drinks.  We were told there would be free drinks.

 We ended up parking about a block away from the site and on the opposite side of the building.  We had seen the Seaholm Power Plant while driving around Austin, but had never had to go there.  Even from a distance, you can tell that it is an amazing venue.  The Seaholm Power Plant is no longer in operation, and has been turned into an event center.  It has a 1940's or 50's art-deco feel... think like the Batman Cartoons of the 1990's (or even Burton's Batman of the 1980's).

 We walked along a set of train-tracks, following other party-goers (we hoped) until we reached the front of the building an the check-in table.  You could hear the music pumping from the building from across the parking lot.  It was an interesting juxtaposition of elements walking into the place; we walked across a gravel parking-lot to this old-industrial building where people in their club-finery or costumes were milling about.  At the check-in table, we by-passed the line and went straight to the artist's table were I was given a badge and Jamy was given a wrist-band. 
 The interior of the building was even more impressive than the exterior.  The length of one side of the building had been lined with a chain-link fence where most of the donated art was hung.  Projected on the far wall of the building was this year's theme-image; a couple of bodies holding one another with "Let Them Eat Cake" in icing on the back of one of the bodies.  The building's interior was strung with lights.  There was a massive buffet of fruit, nuts, cookies, and cakes.  Scantilly-clad servers milled through the crowd with trays of drinks.  The drinks were technically free, but required a donation.  We donated a dollar a drink for what were some very watered-down beverages (it is for charity after-all). 

 Note to self: Bring own booze for 2012.

 For some time, we just milled around taking in the building itself.  We were on the "factory floor", and most of the building was sealed off, but a few siderooms were open discussing the history of the building.  If architecture is of interest to you, I recommend checking this building out when you are in Austin.

 The site now sports a lawn for events such as this, and despite the cool weather it was hot inside with all the people milling about, so it was nice to have part of the event going on outside.  An impromptu and burlesque troop had set up a booth outside featuring a bean-bag toss game.  You would throw at two boards.  The first board determined the gender-mix of the two actors in the performance (m-f, f-f, etc.), and the second board determined the sex-act they would simulate.  They also provided education about safe-sex, including condoms in every sex-act they simulated.  The performances were always over-the-top and hilarious.

 The artwork was a wonderful mix of medias and skill-levels.  Some of the pieces were massive, and I learned that the artist made these giant pieces every year specifically for this event.  It was a silent auction were you bid by placing your name and a dollar amount on a bid-sheet with each piece.  We bid our limit on a photograph of a nude-model wearing a Bobba Fett helmet.  Unfortunately, it was a popular item and we were quickly out-bid.  The art itself ranged form the beautiful to the whimsical and shocking.  There was definitely something there for all tastes.

 A local art school had also set up to do a live demonstration of their students efforts.  Nude models were positioned on a lavishly accesorised bed.  Three girls in costume cuddled on the bed while two buff-males stoode nude at either side fanning the girls with large, feathered fans.  The student-artists set-up around the scene; drawing, painting, and one artist using Photoshop to "paint" digitally.  Signs were posted explicitly forbidding any photography of the session, but a few cameras went-off. 

 The response to a camera flash was offered by a little woman in bright pink who was aggressive about preventing any photography.  I thought this incongruancy; a tiny little woman holding down a whole crowd of gawkers with cameras, more interesting than the exhibit.  I had to get my picture with her.  Big things come in small packages, and despite her stature she was able to intimidate the crowd in to not taking pictures.

 We also had our favorite server was the girl who saw my tattoos and got all excited about tattoo work and about my having work in the show.  She kept our drinks coming, donation or no donation, and made sure they were a little stronger than what was being given out to other guests.  I had to get my picture taken with her as well.

 The highlight of the festivities was the "cake parade", were a group of performers and servers marched through the crowd passing out cookies and carrying along several massive cakes made by local specialty bakeries.  There were a few speakers thanking all the artists and guests for participating.  The event managed to raise about $50,000 in donations, and was THE event to be at that night.  On the way home, Jamy and I remarked on how there was hardly anyone in the downtown party-district.  At this writing, I am planning on creating a piece specifically for this event and participating again next year.  If you are in Austin, dig the local scene, love art, and want to check out something different, this will be the event to check out each year.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Falling Ass-Backwards Into a Tattoo Career

 Since I was a kid, I wanted to be an artist.  I am not certain how I got the artist-bug.  One of my aunts told a story about how my mother would take my little finger and trace the outlines of the illustrations in the children's books she read to me when I was a baby.  She was attempting to associate words with images, but perhaps that had some impact.  My father furthered that same process in his own way, purchasing 6-7 subscriptions to various Marvel Comics titles back in the 70's; from the Amazing Spider-Man to Conan the Barbarian.  I was drawn both to the story and the artwork.

 As a child of the 70's, I grew up in interesting times.  My dad, I freely admit, was a bit of a hippy, and I spent as much time in-and-out of local head-shops and in the homes of some strange characters as I did in front of a television watching Sesame Street.  In this environment, I was exposed to underground and low-brow art in all its glory.  The comic books were a little more involved and a lot more raunchy.  I found myself reading "The Fabulous Freak Brothers" and the works of Robert Crumb.  "Heavy Metal Magazine" caught my young eye with its artistry, sci-fi and fantasy stories, and of course the erotic aspects of its work.

 I was drawing constantly by the time I was 8 or 9.  My father's freaky friends encouraged my efforts, and mentioned on more than one occasion that I should consider being a tattoo artist.  I didn't think much of it then... I wanted to draw comics.  The art, though, has several parallels, including (at the time) a reliance on heavy black line to define form and a minimal color pallet.  In high school, my friends and fellow artists had the same suggestion, but then that was the 80's and I was about as far from the tattoo industry as one could get.  It would still be several years before wide-spread legalization was to occur.

 In Basic Training for the Army, one of my Drill Sergeants caught wind of my artistic talents and tracked me down about my work.  In that environment, the last thing you normally want is a Drill Sergeant to give you any form of special attention.  After checking out my work, he brought me into the Drill Sergeants' office and sat me down with some paper, pencils, and a set of images for reference.  He wanted to get a tattoo that weekend, and while he had a design in mind he lacked the talent to put it on paper.  For about 4 hours I sat in that office with every Drill Sergeant in my unit milling around and looking over my shoulder while I worked out the design.

 That was probably the most pressure I have ever been under in any field of work.

 I started checking out tattoo shops in Europe while I was in the Army, making some contacts and a little cash-on-the-side designing tattoos.  I even considered staying in Europe and working at a tattoo studio in Germany, but the gig was not guaranteed and I was home-sick, so when my tour was over I went back to the states.  I went to college when I was left the military, and again heard how I should consider being a tattoo artist from my peers... only this time they were fellow artists so their opinion had a bit more weight.  In addition, the tattoo industry had finally been legitimized, and new shops were cropping up every month.  With a family to support, the prospects of what to do with an art degree to support my kids were limited.  While merchandising my work and promoting myself through shows, I began investigating the tattoo industry.  My problem was that I really didn't have an 'in'.

 A local radio contest changed all that.  A prominent DJ wanted to get a tattoo, and was holding a contest for the design.  His listeners would get to vote on the work submitted, limiting it to a field of 5 finalists from which he would choose.  My submission was one of the finalists.  That brought me to the attention of some of the shops around town, though I wouldn't know it right away.  It also gave me the extra pushed I needed to start looking seriously into being a tattooist.

 I started designing my first tattoo flash set (the pages of art you see on the walls of many tattoo studios is called "flash") inspired by my success in the local contest.  I had spoken to a local shop-owner, who said he needed designs like the one I had submitted to the contest; kind of a BDSM-themed piece.  I designed to sheets of similar flash for his shop, then sat down to design a set I thought would be attractive to a larger audience.

 I poured through every reference source I could get my hands on; books, magazines, and videos (back in the day of VHS) on tattooing, tattoo-art, and the tattoo industry.  Tattooing had finally become legal in most states, and the industry was taking its first tentative steps into also being recognized as a legitimate art form. I created my designs with this in mind, but not much else.  For months, my studio walls were covered with designs of various sizes, about 200 finished designs and I don't know how many sketched-out ideas.  I selected 60 of the best and arranged them by relative theme into 10 or so sheets.  I printed about a dozen sets along with some business cards at the local Kinkos, cut the sheets down to the industry-standard size of 11X14", and started peddling the sets around town.

 While I am certain that in the back of my mind I recognized this point, there is a difference between "art" and "tattoo art".  It is not a question of the limitations of the tattoo process; a good tattoo artist can tattoo just about anything.  At the time, there was an artist or two that made a name for themselves reproducing classical paintings like Di Vinci's "Mona Lisa" as tattoos a little larger than a US quarter coin.  While that and other pieces of art are impressive, the problem is the nature of a tattoo itself.  Tattoos are inked into living-skin, and living skin changes over time.  That space of skin holding the tattoo will change in time, stretching, shrinking, tanning, and fading.  The ink is inserted into the skin, and the body recognizes it as foreign matter.  While it is too much ink for the body's immune system to removes completely, it never stops trying.  Lines blur and colors fade as the body carries ink away from the tattoo.  This is why tattoos generally incorporate bold, black lines; they help keep the tattoo's definition over time.  Those cool little reproductions of the master-works are neat now, but in abut ten years will be blurry, and over a life-time may become an indistinct blotch of color.

 My designs were supported by 4 years of college training, decades of graphic design practice, and absolutely 0 knowledge regarding tattoo design.  Many of the details were too small to be practical, or the lines too fine.  My skill as a draftsmen was not in doubt, but my understanding of tattoo design was obviously lacking.  Still, many of the studios and artists I took the set to were impressed with the art as well as the professionalism of the presentation.  Many of the tattooists told stories of aspiring artists bringing their designs into the shops in lined notebooks.  I didn't know much, but I was still miles ahead of most other guys who walked through the shop doors with a portfolio under their arms.

 One of the questions I was asked consistently by artists and shop-owners was whether or not I wanted to be a tattoo artist or if I was tattooing.  At first, I said I was only looking to sell the designs, fearing to lose the sale by suggesting that I had an ulterior motive.  Eventually, I started replying that I was interested in being an artist, and asking about apprenticeships.  Most the studios said that they were not looking for apprentices, but also warned me about the risks of trying to learn to tattoo without an apprenticeship.  They also pointed out how saturated the local market was with tattoo artists.  At the time in Ft. Wayne, IN, there were more listings for tattoo studios than their were McDonald's restaurants, and there were places in Ft. Wayne were one could stand on the street in front of one McDonald's and see the next one down the road.

 So, yes, there were a lot of tattoo shops.

 I sold some of my sets or sheets from my sets, and started to make a minor name for myself in the local industry.  I was invited to participate in a couple of art-shows held by local shops, and it was through one of these shows that I met one of the best tattoo artists in Ft. Wayne who really gave me the kick-in-the-ass I needed to become a tattoo artist.  The advise that he gave me that I am going to relate in this post goes against everything you learn in the industry, so unfortunately he will remain nameless here.  He is an award-winning artist and tattooist, had been in all the top tattoo-publications in the nation, was an art-teacher on the high school level, has had a few art shows at the local colleges, and has established two successful studios.

 More importantly, he was a great guy who treated everyone he dealt with with respect.  Despite his success, he always acted like just-on-of-the-guys.

 We sat down at his shop, and he basically answered every question I had about the industry and my experiences.  He liked my flash-set, but explained to me the differences between "art" and "tattoo art" that were problems in my designs.  He also described my set as "collectors' flash".  My designs were cool, but not something most people would want to get.  Collectors, like tattoo artists themselves, would buy my art, but most shops could not make any money having the flash on there walls.  Most people want hearts, skulls, and more common fair.

 He also gave his opinion as to why I was having such trouble finding an apprenticeship.  "Your work is too good." he said.  "It has some issues, but any artist looks at your work and the fact that you have no experience and he realizes that when you do have experience you are going to be competition."  He explained that the reason that tattoo artists are such a tight-knit community is that everyone is watching their competition.  Every tattoo that someone else does is money that could have been in your pocket.  That is why prices in most shops are relatively the same; it is the point of equilibrium between what the shops can afford and what they charge to under-cut one another. 

 He suggested, against common wisdom, that if I wanted to be a tattoo artist, I should just get some equipment and start practicing.  Obviously, he didn't mean on people, but the opportunities to practice and materials on how to tattoo were available to anyone.  While it is always better to learn through an apprenticeship under the guidance of an experienced artist, it is not as essential as many studio-owners would make you think.  You have to be careful, of course, and honestly spend a few years more practicing and working to figure things out so that you don't harm your clients, but studio-owners perpetuate the idea that you have to learn through an apprenticeship because literally anyone can pick-up a tattoo machine and give someone else a tattoo.

 It will be a shitty tattoo, but it will be a tattoo.  The axiom that "you get what you pay for" is nowhere more true than in the tattoo industry.

 Still, I had it in my head to learn the "right" way, but the advise given provided a "plan-b" where before there was none.  It was a year or so later that someone saw my work on-line and suggested I participate in a tattoo-school they were establishing.  They loved my work and all-but-guaranteed that I would be making money in my first year.  The one catch was that I had to move to Texas. 

 I discussed this with my friend, who said that he used to offer apprenticeships, but stopped because it never worked out like he had hoped.  My situation had him reconsidering, and if it would have kept me in Ft. Wayne he would have given me an apprenticeship.  By this time, however, my girlfriend and I were already committed to the move.  He wished me luck.

 Life can be funny, sometimes.

 My girlfriend had taken a job where we were moving, Austin, TX.  My instructions were to come to Austin, get settled in, and then come by the shop to get started with my apprenticeship.  Now, the guy I had been talking to seemed legitimate.  He had a web-site featuring his shops (he had established multiple shops in Austin), his work, and his proposal for a tattoo-school supported by one of the local colleges.  He co-authored some of the tattoo-legislation adopted by the state of Texas.  I fully expected there not to be a problem.

 I arrived at the shop, only to find that the guy who told me to meet with him in Austin no longer resided there, but several hours away in College Station.  He explained to me that he recently felt like a change, that College Station would be a better location for his school, and that as soon as I could move there, we could get started.  Instead, I starting selling a new flash-set to the local shops and asking questions.  The guy I was talking to had been involved in setting up several shops in Austin, generally as a minor partner.  There were always "problems".  His "school" was going to involve paying homeless people to let students tattoo them, not a good situation for anyone.  Basically, about a month before I arrived, he was ran out of town by his creditors and the other artists.

 At this point, I was at the end of my rope.  It was time for "plan-b".  I ordered a starter tattoo-kit on the Internet, the "Tattooing A-Z" book and video by Huck Spaulding, and some "practice skin".  I had read about other artists who learned in this same manner, practicing on there own and picking up what they could by visiting shops and conventions to watch other artists work.  I had friends who were more than willing to let me practice on them (it seemed like every day I was getting asked by 3-4 people if I was ready to start tattooing).  When I finally decided that I was ready, my friend Vince had volunteered.  The tattoo went as well as I could expect, but I discovered that the stencil process that I though I understood did not work. 

 Sometime that week my girlfriend and I were driving down a road and passed a tattoo studio that had a sign out front that listed all their services.  Included on the list was "supplies".  It had been my understanding that tattoo studios did not sell supplies to the public, and though we had seen this sign maybe 100 times, neither of us made the connection.  Needing to figure out why my stencil process didn't work, we stopped in to see about getting proper stencil supplies.

 There was only one artist working that night and minding the shop.  I think I asked about "stencil paper", having no clue what I was looking for, only having read about it.  He produced a sheet of paper, and then I asked if he could show me what to do with it.

 He asked if I was kidding.

 I explained my situation.  Instead of giving me a lecture about tattooing on my own and how I needed an apprenticeship, he showed me how to use the stencil-paper.  He then asked if I had a portfolio.  I went to the car and brought in my flash-set and some of my artwork.  I commented on how good I was at drawing women, and that was one of his own boon-doggles.  He then asked, flatly, if I would be interested in an apprenticeship.

 I asked if he was kidding.

 Seth was even then a good artist, and was really about exploring what could be done with a tattoo needle.  He was a follower of Guy Aitchinson, and though he had learned in a shop, his own apprenticeship involved more carpentry work for the studio than actually being taught to tattoo.  Most of what he learned, he had to learn on his own, going relatively down the same road I was going.  He liked my work, was impressed with my professionalism, and considered my dedication remarkable.  My apprenticeship would cost $5000, but I could start for $500 and pay it off over time.  I was hesitant, given my previous experiences, but my girlfriend insisted that this was what I was waiting for.  I started my apprenticeship that week.

 I had a regular job that became more and more difficult to be at everyday.  Every hour was one wasted waiting to get to the shop were my "real" job was waiting.  This only became worse when I started getting paid for my tattoo work, and worse still when I paid off my apprenticeship that same year.  I looked forward to a two-week vacation during which I would spend everyday at the shop.

 It was like two weeks of freedom for someone who had never experienced freedom before.  Even as an apprentice, I was still making a little money tattooing simple designs.  When I got back to my desk after my two week vacation, I just sat and stared at my computer.  I couldn't bring myself to log-in.  I couldn't see the point of taking a call from a customer.  After about an hour of wrestling with what I was considering, I called my girlfriend and told her what was going-on.  She told me that if I wanted to quit, then I should quit. 

 We went out for lunch to celebrate.  I haven't looked back since.

 Life as a tattoo artist is not easy.  It is basically "feast-or-famine"; you may have more work in a week than you can handle and make $500 a night, or you may go a week without a customer.  It requires discipline and dedication to the craft.  For a good tattoo artist, the apprenticeship never ends... you are always learning and trying something new.  For me, it was a long road to get here with more bumps than I had ever expected, but I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Julie Zombie

 I am a zombie-film junkie, and back when I was a kid no two movie affected me more than "Return of the Living Dead" and "Return of the Living Dead 3" (I don't even think I have seen "2").  I really digged RDL3 because of Julie, the zombie-girlfriend.  Not only the idea of having a sexy girl who is into radical body-modification, but as a zombie she could do all my ass-kicking for me.  There are problems, like her appetite for brains and the fact that she is dead (necrophilia is not my cup-of-tea), but the pros outweigh the cons.

 This was done (obviously) in pencil, probably my medium of choice.  Unlike most of my work, this took a few days to get to this stage.  I am certain I will be touching it up for weeks to come.  The planning stages of this piece took months, mainly because of how booked I am with commissions and tattoos.

The process builds-up, basically.  I started with a sketch, what I consider basic drawing.  Once the sketch is established, the shading that creates the form is akin to sculpting.  You build the forms, using darker tones to push things back and removing tones to bring things forward.  Everything gets covered with graphite as I draw, so highlights have to be introduced with an eraser.  On this piece I used a 6h, 4h, 2h, 2b, and ebony pencils as well as a knead-able and standard eraser.  It was done on an 11X14" bristol board (fairly standard for me).

  I am thinking about doing a painting of Trash from RLD next.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cult of Cthulhu Vintage Ads

This all started with me cleaning out my morgue.  

A "morgue" was a term I saw used by some comic-book bullpen to refer to where they kept "dead ideas"... ideas waiting to be resuscitated, if you will.  I ran across this vintage ad I had stashed there that I planned on modifying as a whimsical Creative Oddities Studios ad.  That's it on the left there.  

 The text is only slightly modified.  It was a cute ad from a more innocent time.  I am a fan of 50's and 60's era kitch; it is the era the "low-brow" artwork I most admire seems to be spawned from.  This ad represented a creative-oddity of a different type... an attempt to show off a little wit while hinting at the more lurid art I normally do.

 Some people seemed to really dig this ad.  In fact one outfit, the Cult of Cthulhu, liked it so much that they thought that this would be cool to have their own set of vintage-ads.  They draw heavily upon the symbolism of HP Lovecraft (I wrote that for all the non-geeks reading this who have no clue what a "Cthulhu" is) which really took-off with the sci-fi boom of the 40's and 50's.

 The project: 6 vintage-style ads.  I won't tell you what I charged, but I think we are both happy all the way around.

I dragged the Internet far and wide to dig-up some cool, vintage ads.  One ad I knew I had to do was the "x-ray" specs.  This ad showed up in virtually every comic-book I read back in the 1970's.  The product was simply a cheap, plastic glasses-frame cardboard lenses.  In the center of each lens was a small hole that blurred your vision, making the edge of whatever you were looking at to over-lap with the interior of the object, creating the "bones" you would see in your hand or arm.  More often than not, this ad featured a teen-age guy going gaga while looking at some babe's underwear through her clothes. 
 This ad I thought was much more appropriate considering the Cult of Cthulhu's symbolism.  "Green" is a big deal to these folks as well, so I wanted to adjust the color-scheme to suit.  A major point for these folks is that "belief is reality", which I strung along with "seeing is believing" and talking about having the courage to really look... kind of ironic considering this device impairs the vision.  It is a little blurry in this low-rez version, but I am certain the high-rez image will be on their site soon.

Sticking with the comic-book ads, I don't remember actually running across this ad as a child.  This appears to have been a competitor with the "Sea-Monkeys" ad.  I considered that ad for a moment, but it was too "cutesey".  I think this was some kind of plankton that grew with water, sunlight, and a minimum amount of food.

 This ad discusses the Cult of Cthulhu's efforts to help its members develop into something more than the average human... at least as far as perspectives and relative awareness is concerned.  Maybe the monster-thing is fitting, but I don't want to speak for those folks.  I think it plays well with the whole "Cthulhu" thing.

 The "Space-Grotto" would be their website... in virtual space.  I don't think they have a space station just yet.  If they do, I should have charged them more for this job.

 This ad is along the lines of the vibrator-neck-massage ad.  It is a pocket-finger, meant to stimulate the "gum-line".  Now, I have to ask, since this is a product that is clearly designed for women, what ladies actually purchased this?  Someone did some market research and thought that this would be worth the advertising dollars. 

 Anyway, like the vibrator ad I did for Creative Oddities Studios, I wanted to use most of the text... twisting it for my own purposes and my client's needs.  It took some digital wrangling to manipulate the word "finger" into tentacle, but the rest of the text was just a matter of cutting-and-pasting... as well as infinite patience.  

 "Raspberry Cheesecake" is probably code for "all your base belong to us" or something like that.

This next ad was actually inspired by a suggestion by one of the Cult of Cthulhu's members, who suggested that we go with the old Uncle Sam poster.  However, this is Creative Oddities Studios, and as our fans know, we have a certain standard to uphold. 

 I pulled the hydra-thing from the old "Dunwich Horror" poster.  Hopefully, Venger Satanis appreciates taking the place of John (Johnny Wad) Holmes in the ad.  

This next ad was a bear, but I love the concept.  Imagine, back in the day, women douched with Lysol.  Not only that, but Lysol encouraged the idea that if a women had an unpleasant order, her husband would abandon her.  Talk about giving women a complex!  No wonder so many of the women I have dated told horror-stories of neurosis, shame, and confusion about their sexuality. 

 What I think makes this ad work for the Cult of Cthulhu are the words "doubt", "inhibition", and "ignorance"... ideas that they attribute to mechanical behavior.  This has a LOT of text based on the original, and the cursive "Cthulhu" logo I drew by hand.  Loads of fun!

This next ad is for a vintage stag-film, and I could not help myself.  "Honey Bee" is actually kind of hot, though if she is not dead by now she is probably older than my grandmother.  I see she has the "Bettie Page" rib-cage going... not necessarily my bag, but her DSLs make up for it.

 As an aside, do you think that the geeks who transferred "DSL" from "dick-sucking lips" to "dual-service line" still giggle a little when perfectly legitimate IT people talk about DSLs?

 The main text didn't have the letters I wanted for the ad statement, so I just went with a new font.  It occurs to me that I haven't explained everything about these ads, like how some of the text seems aged, how the backgrounds in most of the ads keeps that news-print look, and so on.  Well, kids, that is why I charge the big-bucks for my work. 

 "You won't believe your eyes when you see it.  You'll not part with it for any price.  The film of the century can be yours!"

 Must have been one hell of a film.

I threw this last one in for free, because I am a cool guy.

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