Today, I’m introducing some of the top cutting-edge tattoo artists, their designs, & styles.
This is just scratching the surface of whose making incredible work out there. I’ll have future posts focusing on the game changing artists and their works.
Tattoos are everywhere these days. Artists are exploring new ground previously associated with the Fine Arts world. But they aren’t simply just copying fine art masters, they’re truly creating new stylistic movements which takes into account their unique medium, the legacy of past tattoo artists, the experiences of the world they engage with daily,….and of course, you, their customers.
This is what got me interested in tattoos, my undergraduate major was in painting, ceramics, & digital art. I was typically found in the art studios dressed in paint splashed overalls and smoking a cigarette, (very cliché, but my name’s Phoenix so I got away with it).
This was also when I got my first ink, on my right arm. A classmate introduced me to tattoo’s with the ones he sported. So I decided to design one for myself. It was the typical tribal arm band, and while I prided myself on being a good artist, I truly didn’t understand the canvas and it’s properties. I’m happy with it but it wasn’t mind shattering.
It took me literally 20 years to get my next one. I’m pretty particular and wanted it to be perfect. But no tattoo is perfect. They’re subject to your vision, the artist’s interpretation and execution. I’ve since refined how I approach getting work done and how I engage the artist.
Once I started to really become aware of the multiple stylistic approaches, I became hooked and just a little obsessed.
Styles & Vision
First, I want to state that I have the greatest respect for the Old School & Traditional work that’s paved the way in America. Likewise, Traditional Asian, New School, Tribal, and Portraits have become the staples in the industry and should no less be honored. A good artist, is a good artist no matter the genre you choose.
If, like me, you’re a fan of the new direction cascading across the globe in tattoo designs, there are some really great artists you should be following. Here are my personal favorites right now who, just in my simple opinion, I believe are hitting it hard:
Jagoda Gulestus, based in Warsaw Poland, his vision blends elements of Surrealism, a touch of Cubism, and Illustration. (See above)
Xoil (Loic Lavenu), at the Xoïl, Needles Side TattOo studio in Thonon-les-Bains, France. Loic is well known globally for pioneering the style “Photoshop (Ou Collage digital).” Photoshop, an Adobe software product allowing designers to collage such elements as illustrations, photos, and text into one piece. Loic uses his own sense of balance, color theory, and imagery to tattoo uniquely identifiable work on his clients. Myself included.
“Dots To Lines” is the artist, Chiam Machlev. While based in Berlin Germany, he’s gained international acclaim and dedicated followers. His work, usually, is primarily in black but does work in color. The designs are geometric to ornamental, creating such breathtaking visual effects. He prefers working with dots and line work as his handle describes but it goes way beyond just the aesthetics. In interviews he indicates that it’s the harmony and balance of his design in unison with the client’s body.
Justine Nordine is a U.S. artist working out of Grand Junction, Colorado. He specializes in a popular new style of tattooing finding its roots in watercolor paintings. Justin, himself, has a Fine Arts degree & teaching background to draw upon. His studio mixes tattooing and arts from his local community. Justin did a unique conceptual tattoo series called “A Tattoo Conceptual Piece,” whereby he melded fine arts and tattoos. For more check out BECOME A MASTERPIECE.
ToKo Lören works alongside Xoïl, at the Needles Side TattOo studio in Thonon-les-Bains, France. His visions are often surreal beyond the norm. There does seem to be collage influences from Xoil; however, Toko incorporates figurative elements such as faces, hands, and bodies into his designs making them uniquely his style.
Roxx is an internationally recognized tattoo artist, finding her tattoo beginnings on the streets of London. She owns and works from the 2 Spirit Tattoo in San Francisco, California, where the shop only focuses on blackwork & dot work tattoos. What sets Roxx apart is her distinctly patterned designs which flow with the body parts and incorporates an almost inhuman precision coupled with an organic simplicity.
Volko Merschky & Simone Pfaff, also known as Buena Vista Tattoo Club, introduced the tattoo world to their bold, often harsh style of realism & collage referred to as “Trash Polka,” which lightly references the Austrian composer, Johann Strauss II and his piece “Tritsch Tratsch Polka.”
This style is often copied but for an original piece you will need go to Würzburg, Germany.
But Wait There’s More
As we’re moving into a tattoo future where more artists are specializing in their own unique styles, they’re making a name for themselves with die hard followers who are eager to get inked.
These artists are becoming selective as to the work they will create. This is to keep their work true to their own vision, integrity and continuity of design. Also they get booked months, if not a year in advance.
The consumer/collector needs to understand just what they can expect from these artists and how to communicate what they are looking for without treading on the artistic vision. It’s not easy and something I will be covering in a future post.
One way to get in to see a much sought after tattoo artists are conventions and guest spots. But they aren’t without risks.
A number of months ago I saw on Facebook that Xoil (Loic Lavenu) was doing his first guest spot on the West Coast of the United States, in San Pedro California. He was only going to be there a week and, as many of these acclaimed artists are doing, he was only taking one client a day. I immediately called the tattoo shop and was fortunate enough to grab a spot. I came to find out the phone began ringing off the hook and they could have booked him up for months, that’s how much his US followers wanted to get inked by him.
I live in Seattle, Washington and took a week off from work to just go 3000 miles to get a tattoo from this artist. So if you are willing to travel on little notice, spend extra money for the trip beyond what the tattoo costs, then there is a chance to collect a great piece of work.
Now the potential downside are any subsequent touch-ups after healing, whereby you may not be able to see your original artist. Xoil was back in France and I couldn’t go see him. Fortunately, my touch-ups were not dramatics, but they could have been.
Is That It?
Xoil, Jagoda Gulestus, DotsToLines (Chaim Machlev), ToKo Lören, Roxx, Buena Vista Tattoo Club, and Justin Nordine are all incredible visionaries with amazing futures ahead of them.
And of course, there are so many great edgy artists out there and personal taste comes heavily into play. What I like, you may not, and let’s be honest, these are big commitments, so choose the styles that resonate with you. Then find the right artist, review their past and current pieces to get a sense of what they are capable of creating (and what they are not). Then start planning. Reach out to the artist or their shop to see what the waiting time frame might be and what pieces they are willing to take on. Be very clear as to what you want and the placement when setting up your first consultation.
In the end its worth waiting for the right one. I am the first person to admit impatience and tattoo addiction is common. You get one great piece and another is soon in your future.
To see who else is cutting the edge in tattoo designs, go to my favorite site Tattrx.com. The work there is organized so you can see the different styles and where the artist is working.
If you have any questions or just want to talk about your experience I’d love for you to leave a comment. Also add your name and email address to my mailing list so you can stay up to date on the latest tattoo information from the consumer’s perspective.