This is your tattoo apprentice Marléna, here to deliver you with your weekly Speakeasy Tattoo Los Angeles news update! And It isn’t just this post coming to you hot off the press, but the weather in LA has finally gotten all sunny and hot. This is the weather everyone loves so much, and me, I’ll just be over here melting beneath my normal costume of black clothes.
I didn’t have much homework for the week, but what I did have was a terrible summer flu! The okay thing about being too sick to do anything, is that you have so much time to think. I spent a lot of time thinking about all the tattoo art I want to make soon, which leads me to the body of this post- tattoo flash! If you aren’t already familiar, flash, is what we call those sheets of tattoo designs you see lining the walls of ye good olde walk-in shoppe. As I continue trying to refine my own process and materials for creating tattoo flash, I’ve been wondering more about the origins of flash. Why is it called flash? I went digging around the dark web, and this is what I found…
Tattoo flash finds it’s early beginnings right alongside the beginnings of American tattooing, in the Big Apple, NYC baby! In the beginning, tattooing was not a legal practice. The first folks getting tattooed? Mostly sailors and soldiers. Though tattooing became popular quickly, it would remain an underground trade, as it wasn’t legal. Most tattoo artists at the time did their work across a variety of venues, this included barbershops, carnivals, and often bars. Artists were mobile, carrying their supplies in briefcases. They would transport their tattoo designs on lines of string, because this was the fastest way to pull them all down at once! This was important to avoid police busts, or a bar that got too out of hand. The sheets came to be called flash, because the way they were strung allowed the artist to pull them down in a flash!!
Hello fans of Speakeasy Tattoo Los Angeles! Apprentice James here with another blog entry for the ages. It was another great week at the shop with everyone busy making incredible art. Some highlights include a beautiful personal painting from Andreanna, some perfect line work from Jesse and an expressive work of tattoo art from Nicole. Check these out.
While everyone was busy killing it at the shop, Scott decompressed on his chrome steed through the southwest. One day he’ll let me ride this beast (not a chance).
Today as part of my apprentice duties I had the privilege of washing and waxing these guys. Expertly customized Harley and a track only 748s. Love these machines.
For the meat of my post this week I’d like to reflect on a conversation my mentor Scott and I had during our meeting and then make an image inspired by that conversation. Our talk centered on the question of the best place to find inspiration, specifically whether or not looking at other artists’ work stifles or improves creativity. I suppose the main argument for looking at other artists’ work is to stay up to date on what is popular at the moment. It also lets you know where you stand in your field. The main argument against drawing inspiration from others is that you may lose a sense of your personal vision. An artist might unconsciously adopt the style or subject matter of another artist. Whether or not it is preferable to be derivative in your work is a whole other discussion beyond the scope of this post. Although I suspect the true answer to the question at hand lies somewhere in the middle, during various concept art classes I’ve attended, I have always been told to use real world shapes and objects as inspiration. For example, if my task is to design a robot, I’ve been told it’s best to observe real world machinery like tanks or mechanical arms used in car factories rather than a fictional robot design from a movie like Pacific Rim or the Gundam animated series.
Another constant source of inspiration is nature. Scott, having just returned from road tripping through some of the most scenic parts of the country, has been rejuvenated creatively in a way that only comes from being immersed in a natural setting, away from screens and connected only to his machine. I have never seen him so relaxed. His experience along with our conversation inspired me to attempt an illustration of something natural. A departure from my usual sci-fi themed drawings.
As an avid aquarist, I am constantly trying to recreate a naturalistic aquatic setting that acts as the perfect background for my livestock. This week I picked up a few celestial pearl danios or galaxy rasboras as they are more commonly known, as well as 5 red pinto shrimp for my tiny 4.5 gallon desk aquarium. Pintos are a relatively new color and pattern morph of the southeast Asian crystal bee shrimp, developed over countless generations by an experienced German breeder. While these are somewhat low grade pintos, I still think they are fascinating and beautiful. They remind me of living gems. Not to mention the fact that high grade pintos are obscenely expensive and all crystal shrimp perish quickly without perfect water parameters.
I won’t do a tutorial for this image but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
Good morning Speakeasy Tattoo friends, and in case I don’t see ya: good afternoon, good evening, and here is a quote I remembered recently while reflecting on my week. Initially I only remembered the beginning of the quote, specifically the word undone.
“Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something. If this seems so clearly the case with grief, it is only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. It may be that one wants to, or does, but it may also be that despite one’s best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other…”-Judith Butler, Undoing Gender
This week was one I had been waiting for, the week I was asked to take one of my coil tattoo machines apart, and put it back together! I’m a big fan of undoing things, so I was excited to take apart a machine. While I may of had a past life in which I worked on large industrial machines, taking them apart and putting them back together- I was nervous about getting all the tiny washers and screws right when putting my tattoo machine back together! How did I do it, you ask?
In other words, I just made sure to arrange each group of pieces within a consistent system. The system I used was to think of the pieces as words in a sentence, so the pieces all read left to right. Then I arranged each major section like sentences in a paragraph, the top of the machine being the beginning and the bottom being the conclusion. Here’s a pic of what it looked like:
After disassembling and reassembling my machine, I feel much more comfortable and less mystified by it. Lately I’ve been having dreams in which I review the tattoo related information I’ve been learning in my apprenticeship, so I hope to have some machine disassembly dreams soon. Other cool things I’ve seen lately at the shop? Scott tattooing Nicole’s head…that was super cool! Not to mention, the completed tattoo looks badass and gives me gothic warrior princess vibes.
That’s all for this week’s post! Thanks for reading.
Hello fellow art enthusiasts and fans of Speakeasy Tattoo Los Angeles. James the apprentice here with a short tutorial of what I’ve found to be a very quick and easy method for generating designs digitally. Although I prefer the feel and effect of traditional pencil work when creating tattoo designs, this method can be useful for creating symmetrical designs and patterns. Additionally, the transform tools in photoshop make it very easy to modify and edit graphite drawings quickly. And if a tattoo design includes three dimensional hard surface objects, using 3d models as reference ensures a stencil with perfect perspective every time.
Let’s start with a blank 8.5×11 canvas in photoshop. This is the fun part, the sketching and ideation. This is where you can let your mind run wild and indulge yourself before more refined laborious rendering takes place.
This morning on my way to the shop I happened to listen to an interview with an expert on prosthetic implants and implantable RFID chips. It inspired me to imagine a futuristic gangster with robotic prosthetics who might choose enhancements that aid his criminal endeavors.
I usually start with a very loose sketch concentrating on proportion and making interesting shapes. I try to think about the silhouette and weight balance of the different sections of the figure. Light sources and shadow are not important at this stage. I also like to use a hard brush to begin the sketch, saving round and textured brushes for rendering and color. Unlike pencil and paper, photoshop allows the user to approach the image with more rough exploratory lines.
As I sketch I zoom in and slowly refine different sections of the character focusing on fashion, expressions, pose, everything that brings a character to life. It’s also not a bad idea to start thinking about color palettes. I also constantly flip the image along its vertical axis to make sure it is balanced and the perspective is more or less accurate.
Because I’m not using reference, I can use the transform tool to quickly change proportions and tweak the image until it looks right. When I am comfortable with the overall figure, I can start adding details like clothing, screws and bolts, mechanical hard shapes, etc. These tools give tattoo artists the ability to rapidly modify any illustration until it is exactly what the client envisions.
Because this character is intended to be a futuristic gangster, I thought he should be equipped with something intimidating. When designing weapons or other hard surface objects, it sometimes helps to start with a 3d model as reference. I like Sketchup because it is a free program and there are thousands of pre-made models of real world guns available. I found a Colt 45 magnum revolver model to use as the base. I then take screenshots of the model at the correct angles and use that as reference.
Once the sketch looks as clean as the image seen here, I can start thinking about color and shadow! Thanks for reading everyone and I hope you enjoyed this quick breakdown of a simple sketching process anyone can utilize.
This is Marléna here, writing my first real blog post! The past few weeks here at Speakeasy Tattoo Los Angeles have gone by in the blink of an eye!
A few updates: We’ve gotten an upgrade on our drinking water! No more lugging the precarious 5 gallon water jug back and forth to Albertsons. Just in time for the hot summer days, this really means a lot to me because I love staying hydrated. Also, this past week was our bi-weekly art night at Speakeasy! This week we all drew and painted James! The highlights of this art night included whiskey, *not* listening to feel good music, the hot dog croissants that Jesse brought, and of course getting to make art together! Here is a pic of Scott discovering tongs, while the nun silently judges him.
Another update, which brings me to the body of this post: last week Scott gave me the heads up that I should plan to have tattoo practice homework in a month and some change. This is exciting because it means I need to start thinking seriously about what tattoo machine I will use to practice, and eventually tattoo with. Which brings me to the question many apprentices must ask themselves- Do i learn to tattoo on a coil or rotary machine ???
I’ll take a moment to briefly describe the main differences in how these different machines work, then I’ll list the main differences between the two. The needle of a coil machine is attached to the armature bar, which is pulled downward towards the coils by their electromagnetic field. When the armature bar is pulled down, it loses connection with the contact screw, and the circuit is broken. The armature bar then springs back up and re-establishes connection with the contact screw, starting the circuit over again. It is this on-off electromagnetic circuit which drives the needle. In a rotary machine, the needle is attached to a spinning circular motor. The constant spinning is what drives the up and down of the needle. Now let’s take a look at the main differences between a coil and a rotary machine.
noise output– the loud buzzing sound commonly associated with tattoo shops, is the sound of coil machines at work. I have had the experience of getting tattooed in a small-medium sized shop with 5 tattoo artists running coil machines at the same time. It makes sense so many shops play metal really loud all day, it blends over the loud buzzing pretty well. Because rotary machines are driven by a spinning motor, it is much quieter than the buzz of a coil machine.
versatility– rotary machines are more versatile because that can be used interchangeably as liner and shaders. Coil machines have more adjustable components accessible, which allows the tattooer to make adjustments to how the machine runs. Rotary machines use an interior motor, and because of this they are less adjustable or customizable. However, it isn’t really a downfall that rotary machines are less able to be tinkered with. Rotary machines are versatile because they can be used interchangeable as liners and shader, with a complete range of needle groupings.
quality of motion– if the job of a tattoo machine is to drive the needle up and down, it’s important to think about the quality of this up and down motion. The motion of the needle of a coil machine can be described as hammer-like, or punchy. This hammer-like quality is a result of the on-off circuit. A rotary machine is driven by a consistently spinning motor, which creates a slightly more fluid up and down motion.
weight– rotary machines are much more lightweight than coil machines. Less weight on the hands and wrist allows artists to work longer without hand cramping/fatigue. Additionally, working with less weight on the hands and wrist helps to prevent muscle strain over time.
maintenance– because rotary machines have internal motors, they are different than coil machines which can be easy taken apart, fixed, or modified. Some rotary machines require lubrication, but they have less complicated maintenance that coil machines.
Hello fans of Speakeasy Tattoo of Los Angeles! James Allen here, one of Speakeasy’s new apprentices, introducing my co-apprentice Marlena Mendoza. Take a moment to get to know a future star in the realm of tattoos and illustration.
Where are you from and what series of events brought you to become an apprentice at Speakeasy tattoo?
I’m from the Bay Area, just north of San Francisco. I moved to Oakland in 2011 and was in school for art until 2015. After 4 years of art school critiques I didn’t know what type of art I wanted to make anymore, so I spent the next couples of years making weird art in my room. I decided to spend one year practicing only drawing/illustration, so that I could have a solid foundation to pursue tattooing. I decided to move to LA because I wanted a new environment to learn a new skill (tattooing),
and there were too many distractions back home that would make it challenging to focus on apprenticing. I moved to Los Angeles fall of last year. I started hanging out here and I got the sense it would all be a good fit.
If you had to build a secret post-apocalyptic treehouse fort how would you design the floor plan?
I would build a treehouse in some old growth redwoods. I would rig booby traps in the surrounding area and defend myself from above. I would keep treetop chickens for eggs.
What place have you never been to but want to go to the most?
I really want to go to Japan! I saw a documentary with Hayao Miyazaki and he had some cats at Studio Ghibli that looked like the anime cats in his movies, so I want to see if cats in Japan look like anime cats. I also want to visit haunted shrines and houses.
What about tattooing are you most excited about?
Right now I am just really excited to learn. I love looking at art/tattoos and being inspired by other artist’s technical abilities. I did ballet growing up, and it’s sort of like being 6 years old again going to see a professional ballet and being so in awe of the years of work it took that dancer to learn to dance so beautifully. That’s how I feel about tattooing right now, like there is so much beautiful tattoo work happening around me and I’m excited about how much I need to learn to be able to create the type of work I want make.
If you could be an alien instead of human what would your body look like and how would it function?
If I was an Alien I would have no body and take the form of something vaguely elemental like light or water.
April showers bring may flowers, and this April marks a shift in apprentices here at Speakeasy Tattoo! Congratulations to the amazing Andreanna, who has recently been spotted tattooing clients, in addition to teaching the new apprentices everything about being apprentices! Don’t tell anyone, but Andreanna has also been holding covert meetings in the garden of Speakeasy, which she conveniently calls ‘tattoo consultations’. There have been reports of laughter during these ‘consults’, which may or may not be a guise for an intricate plan to steal all of Scott’s Reese’s peanut butter cups!
With that being said, I would like to use my first blog post to introduce to you one of Speakeasy’s new apprentices, James Allen!
Hi James! Could you start by telling us a little about yourself, where are you from and what series of events brought you to become an apprentice at Speakeasy tattoo? I’m from Los Angeles, born in San Francisco, and raised here since I was a baby. I’ve spent most of time in the valley, mainly the studio city area. I’ve always pursued illustration and eventually realized I wanted to make a living tattooing. It seems like the best way to draw from my imagination while giving individuals something they will appreciate for a lifetime. I was searching for an apprenticeship opportunity, trying to connect with artists through social media, etc with no luck until I applied to Speakeasy and met Scott. He saw potential in my work and here I am.
If you had to build a secret post-apocalyptic treehouse fort how would you design the floor plan? If the apocalypse happens here in la I would probably get eaten by roving gangs of ravenous cannibals long before I was able to build a tree fort but if somehow I did survive I would probably just cover myself in foliage like a sharpshooter or an orangutan in a rainstorm. I would live in the trees hidden from the zombies.
What place have you never been to but want to go to the most? I would love to go to New Zealand. I’ve only seen footage but it looks beautiful. It’s also full of strange wildlife I would like to see.
What is it about tattooing that has led you to pursue an apprenticeship? I can’t wait to draw my future client’s ideas. I want to create unique designs that they wouldn’t find anywhere else. I would be thrilled just to draw for a living, but it’s a huge extra reward to give my future clients something that they will appreciate and love.
If you you were an alien, what what would your body look like and how would it function? If I was an alien I would be one of those shapeshifting lizard people. I would then become a politician and subtly reveal my form from time to time, frightening those who enjoy tin foil head ware.