Traditional Japanese Tattooing with Chris O’Donnell

Traditional Japanese Tattooing
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Traditional Japanese Tattooing

Traditional Japanese Tattooing CHRIS O'Donnell: I tell everybody I'm two years out. Like, I won't take a brand-new customer. It wasn't really self-promotion. I've never been good at that. Like right now, I don't even have a business card. I don't know. I merely tattooed a couple key people, is seeking to do a good task, and then it just sort of happened from there. I don't even really know. It's all kind of a blur. You merely end up-- it's like one day you're reasoning, wow, I please I could do a real back article. And then a year later, you recognize you've done three. You know, it's that kind of thing. It merely kind of happens Traditional Japanese Tattooing. You look back and "there's going", wow. It's almost like I wished for it and it happened. I started Traditional Japanese Tattooing in 1993 when I was 17 years old. It was my after-school task. It was my senior year of high school.
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Traditional Japanese Tattooing
My mothers were divorced, and they didn't really have any fund to force me to go to college. It was just always like, what are you going to do? How are you going to survive? What are you going to do with your life? But I told my mom one night and she supposed doing Traditional Japanese Tattooing? Aren't you worried you're going to make a lot of adversaries? I still don't really know exactly what she meant by that, or why she would say that. But I thought that was concerning. That was literally the only thing she ever to say something about it. I'm Chris O'Donnell. This is my art studio, my artwork room where it all happens. I'm working on something now-- drew a tiger in one article so I could use a lily-white colored pencil to make it pop out.

There's tons of material that I could outline that I couldn't tattoo at first, and still. It's a lot harder than drawing, or paint, even. It's got different circumstances, like leaving the open skin. If you fill it solid, it's going to be brighter, better. But you've got to leave the open skin to reflect any particular quantity of light through it so it pops off the skin and becomes more graphics that course. If you fill in those dark backgrounds so wholly solid, it merely kills the whole thing.

You've got to show some self-restraint for sure. That's the hardest thing to do, is just be able to back off and know when it's done. Most younger people get into it and they see, like, it's going to instantly be easy because they are unable to draw or paint. It's definitely not the case. It's very technical process see. I started at a total biker store, merely a total biker store. It was kind of a miserable suffer, but I'm lucky for it.

This is almost identical to the actual first Traditional Japanese Tattooing that I did on a friend. Tribal-- tribal was quite popular when I first started, early' 90 s. I learned to do color-- I utilized the single needle in a seven round, which is absurd now to think about. But again, I started in a biker store, so that's what they did. When I first went into that tattoo store that first time, when I was there, this was the magazine that was on the newsstand. They would get the issues and sell them. And I didn't know who any of these people were at all-- like Don Ed Hardy, Dan Higgs, Alex Binnie, Marcus Pacheco, Elio Espana, Timothy-- but these are some of my favorite people in tattooing to this day. And then there's this "Primal Urge" section, and they're doing really interesting things, like material I didn't even know was possible. And I would just study this material and think, like, how do you get these effects, and merely slave over these attracts, merely racking my brain trying to figure out how this material works.

Like, how do you compose these images? How do you do water? How do you outline burn? How do you color it? It's so complicated. This material blew my intellect and stimulated me-- this is part of what stimulated me to travel, oh, I want to do tattoos that I drew, that I am agitated about. It's like these four people in a private studio merely working on cool people, getting whatever they want to do. So that was my-- that was the moment. TIMOTHY HOYER: I met Chris O'Donnell in Richmond, Virginia, probably around 1994. I had moved to Richmond to open a tattoo store. It was called Absolute Art. He would just come over and hang out after he was done with his changes at the other store. I see where he was working was more of a commercial-grade store, more walk-ins, less custom-built material. I think he is intended to branch out and be able to draw and have a little more freedom.

And we were at the point where we were becoming ever more of that various kind of clientele. CHRIS O'Donnell: Before long, the people at Absolute Art-- which was like the cool people downtown, the cool older people. They had their own store. And they noticed me, and the drummer at the time, the drummer for Avail came in and got tattooed by me. And eventually, that produced to me tattooing Beau, another person in Avail. But I had to come to Absolute Art to tattoo him because he wouldn't come to my store. Of course, I hopped at the probability, merely to be able to hang out with those used people and tattoo him. And then before I knew it, I was getting hired, and I started working with Timothy. TIMOTHY HOYER: I went through a stage of doing extremely painterly, rendered-- like virtually kind of fine art things, experimental things, just trying a cluster of stuff.

So I think that our models started out a little farther apart and then sort of added together. Yeah, he emphatically had his own mode even back then. I think he probably had three or four years under his belt at that point, so it was still various kinds of forms, the seem of what he was doing, the feeling of it. But it was very, very solid, extremely, really clean tattooing, even at that point. It started that course. We've always been really good at kind of pushing one another, and just sort of stopping the ball rolling. On Monday I'll see, oh, you did that. And on Tuesday I've got to come in with something else, and on Wednesday he's going to come in with something else. There was a lot of that when we worked together because it was just me and him.

CHRIS O'Donnell: I started traveling after I started working with Timothy. He took me to a lot of conventions. He started taking me on trips with him. Like, we'd go up to New York and work on East Side Ink. Yeah, I was really nervous. It was great. New York City is daunting enough when you're not used to it. I remember drawing up totally disoriented, didn't know where I was in New York. It was obviously the East Village, Lower East Side. Pull up, and right off I ascertain Tin-Tin and Elio hanging out in front of East Side Ink, by the dumpster, smoking a seam or whatever. And Tin-Tin had a cast-- it was merely a surreal suffer because I hadn't seen either one of those people in person ever. It was emphatically an easy situation to choke in, like, too many good people around, I'm too young, I don't really have a developed mode whatsoever. I don't even really know what I'm doing. But Timothy was always truly supportive.

And it would be like, oh, yeah, Chris Trevino was here two weeks ago. Here's all these attract that he left behind. And you're like, well what am I doing up there? Why would I-- Dan Higgs was tattooing there at that time. That's where I met Dan. Looking back, I'm surprised that I didn't merely choke and run out of there. But I remember doing a big Japanese snake half sleeve, and I don't know if I'd truly want to see that thing now.

Had wind-- aw man. I used to do that all the time. I'd draw full tattoos, do coloring examines, hang them up in my station, and then eventually someone would finish research projects and announce, what about that? I sort of imagined-- I had no idea who I would do it on. I didn't have a portfolio full of material. But I knew that I had notions, and I knew that this is what it would look like if I tattooed it. So I hung it up. And I see, like, within a month, someone had gotten the drawing already. It was just a tactic for me to be able to start doing the big task, had demonstrated that it might seem good if you let me do it.

I'll set the time into it. I'm not really sure what stimulated me to want to strive for anything, truly. For me, I just wanted to be able to perhaps take a mode and engage it and be able to kind of make that kind of life, where you're just making art that you're actually interested in. I see I merely looked up to certain artists that seemed to-- instead of kind of being a slave to whatever this random person that comes into the store craves, you could actually develop a model, much like paint, and outline a clientele based on such a, where they are able to be coming home with you, and you're basically creating your own world. As far as the Japanese material, that's kind of complicated. I was exposed to it and I liked it, but I didn't really understand it. It was, in my opinion, perhaps too simplistic, to my uneducated slant. And it wasn't stimulating enough. I signify, there was an interesting thing going on that was a course more-- like Marcus Pacheco was doing the Cubist material. Marcus Pacheco, I guess he had an artwork degree.

He's a fine painter. But he started tattooing, but he wanted to see "whats being" really possible for the artwork form. All this really good, fascinating task was happening at the time. And I was so young that I truly didn't have an artistic identity at all-- fortunately, probably. That's probably for the better. And then I started working with Timothy. And he was doing a lot of painterly tattoos, of figures and space incidents behind it or whatever. The Truly fascinating material, but I knew that working with Timothy, they are able to pigeonhole me in merely being a photocopy of him, like wanting to be just like-- you ascertain that all the time. You ascertain one really good artist, and then he works with two younger artists that merely do his mode, merely bite him to death.

I started thinking about Japanese material, and prosecuting a little bit, just trying to understand it. And then I merely proceeded that course. The Japanese mode of tattooing, yeah, it's course more graphics. It's designed to have a bunch of big images all over the body and then tie-in it all together with a background that they are able to pop those images forward. Younger children, they look at tattoos sometimes and they think they're too simple. They don't understand the science behind attaining it more readable to the eye, especially from a distance. It's incredibly complicated. TIMOTHY HOYER: I would say it's become a very-- like a refinement of merely classic tattooing, classic traditional models that have kind of a timeless perimeter to them.

Japanese, that's kind of where he went following the end of the beginner stage of trying to figure out what you're doing. He hit on that and merely proceeded with it. CHRIS O'Donnell: Yeah, it's incredibly difficult to start doing the bigger material, especially the first 200 days. Just stenciling the whole thing, that attains you nervous. I was doing back parts before I knew how to draw things on with a pen.

So I had to stencil background, every detail. So it would be necessary to perfect. You'd spend two hours trying to article together with the stupid stencil. Then you'd merely try to get it on right and hope it is. And then there'd be parts of it that weren't in the right region or cut off. When you're doing the broad outlines, and then there'll be-- say it's a deity with like eight arms. At least three or four of those hands are truly fucking crazy. And more often than not, I would bite off more than I could munch. But then you finish it and move on, and hopefully, you learn from those gaffes. That's the bizarre thing about tattooing, is you do memorize from your gaffes, and the mistakes are on people.

The question with tattooing, in a way, is that it's too easy to start. Maybe not correctly, but I signify, you are able to get stuff and you could start Traditional Japanese Tattooing, and you're just going to mess people up endlessly and not get anywhere. But you see it on TV. You travel, oh, those people can do it. I can do it. I'll just go order a kit and start. Why would I buy art volumes? I'll merely buy the kit and merely scribble away and fuck people up. Proceeding off on a tangent. I don't get truly depressed about it anymore. I used to get depressed about the country of my industry.

But New York is an easy region. You can kind of make a bubble. The Traditional Japanese Tattooing artists around New York, they seem to be segregated from all of that absurdity. What I do for myself is principally through my friends and everything. I kind of make my own worldwide, like this room. This is a safe region away from that material. I have all the books that originally invigorated me, and I go back to that region and kind of re-trigger those notions, those suppose. Like, oh, "it's what" Traditional Japanese Tattooing is. You could haunt over all the things wrong with Traditional Japanese Tattooing these days and you merely want to quit, and you are able to as well. But I merely try to stick to what I always thought Traditional Japanese Tattooing was, and not let anybody else ruin that for me. I literally try harder every occasion, because you get to a point sporadically where you're so disgusted with your own task that you merely want to quit. And the only thing left to do is either quit or find ways to become better. For me, I was always endeavoring for inspiration, always searching for inspiration.

So I would want to meet Eddie Deutsche. I would want to meet anybody that I looked up to. Ed Hardy, because I would reap inspiration from that, come away from that and my work would get course better because I merely was so excited. I always seemed behind because I was always trying to figure it out. And it never seemed like I was ahead of anything in Traditional Japanese Tattooing. I'm always merely squeaking by trying to make it happen, build something-- Yeah. I'm always kind of like-- I feel like I'm always one of the last people to get it, of the grouping that I'm in. But that's just me, I guess. It was maybe a year, year and a half after I'd moved to New York. I don't know. I was Traditional Japanese Tattooing and the aide went up, and she goes-- she had the phone. She supposed, "There's an Ed on the phone for you." And I suppose, "Ed who? " And she starts, "He didn't say. Maybe Ed Hardy? " I was like, "Uh, OK. Let me take it." And I did, and he supposed, "Yeah, I like your work." In reality, he supposed, "I like your work a lot.

You have truly kept it up. I really like what you're doing." I'm losing my mind because that's what you always want, someone like Ed Hardy to call you and announce, yeah, you're doing it right. You're eventually doing it right. I remember drawing when I was a kid, or when I was a young tattooer, reasoning, male, see if Ed Hardy saw this and supposed, wow, that's really good.

I like what you're doing. And then that's funny that that actually happened. It's funny to look back on that thoughts and see it materialize. It was just emphatically encouraging, because the whole occasion, you're thinking, what am I doing? I'm not as good as this person or that person. You're never happy with your own task. But to have someone call you of that stature and that pedigree, and be able to say you're doing good, it's encouraging. Don't you want more joy? I could ramble much more significant. -No, it was very good. Traditional Japanese Tattooing

So many gems in there.

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