Artist of the Month: Horiyoshi III

Horiyoshi the third (Nakano Yoshihito) is a tattoo artist from the Yokohama area of Japan. He is a legend to many in the tattoo world, as well as an intelligent, thoughtful, and charming man.

tumblr_nz9fux3XDU1s2p727o1_500
Horiyoshi III with sword.

 

His interest in the art of tattoos first started when he was 11 years old after seeing a tattooed man at the public bath, and developed further when as a high school student he found a book with illustrations and engravings of tattooed men.

tumblr_m0mm78zljm1r9exbio1_500
A young Horiyoshi III showing off his tattoos.

 

At age 22 he got his first tattoo, a full back piece, from the great Horiyoshi II. He later became a pupil under Horiyoshi II at age 25, as he needed to learn more about the art in order to become a tattoo artist.

tumblr_lv7g3ttifu1qcjubko1_500
Tattooing with a machine.

 

Horiyoshi III is not only an amazing artist, but has a full body suit done in traditional Japanese style, which took 12-13 years to complete. His tattooing is also large scale pieces, often full body suits, back pieces, or leg or arm sleeves.

tumblr full body suit
Body suits, finished, and unfinished.

 

Irezumi, or traditional Japanese tattoos are often associated with the yakuza (Japanese mafia), because members used to have intricate body suits to show their status. Horiyoshi III used to tattoo many yakuza members, back when tattooing was much less common than it is now, but says about 10% of his clients are still yakuza members. Yakuza members have actually started lasering off their tattoos, or hiding them more, as well as not encouraging new members to get visible pieces, because it is such an easy way to identify someone. Instead, Japan is slowly moving towards tattoos being more accepted and about the art again.

tumblr front and back
Full torso irezumi.

 

Horiyoshi III originally learned tattooing with the tebori method, or “tebori you no nomi”, which means “the hand digging tool”. This is a tool that is shaped like a stick, with needle points at the end, which is then dipped into ink, and jabbed repeatedly into the skin. It is a much slower way of tattooing than the modern machine now, but can still create intricate and detailed pieces of art. Horiyoshi III is also skilled with the tattoo machine, which he learned how to use later in life.

tumblr tebori
Tebori tool refined by Horiyoshi III.

 

Horiyoshi III says there are four steps to the perfect tattoo. The drawing, outlining, shading, and finally colour. He then compares these steps to life. He says outlining is like planning your life, clarifying your ideas. That tattooing can be compared to life because every needle stroke counts, just like every second counts. That every line must be done with care, that life must be cherished.

tumblr more body suit
Bright and colourful full body suits.
tumblr_lol9d02BpK1qmj2s0o1_500
Suits like these can take hundreds of hours, and years to complete.

What is your favorite Horiyoshi III tattoo?

 

Advertisements

Hannya Tattoo

Hannya tattoos are an intimidating Japanese design based off masks that date back to Japanese Noh and Bunraku plays from the 14th century. These plays often dealt with the supernatural. These masks were carved from wood and were used to show a character’s state of mind, which from these masks was usually anger, hatred, and sadness. The Hannya in particular represents a woman betrayed by love who is then filled with hate, jealousy, and sadness, turning her into a demon. This image is also a popular design for good luck, as the terrifying demon is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

tumblr hannya mask
Traditional Japanese theatre masks, including a Hannya.

 

The Hannya is supposed to show different emotions based on how you’re looking at it. From the front it is supposed to look menacing and full of hatred, but from an angle from the top, it is supposed to appear full of sadness. These mixed emotions are meant to reflect the complexities of humans.

tumblr Shige Yellowblaze tattoo
Back piece done by Shige at Yellow Blaze Tattoo

 

Hannya tattoos are obviously a Japanese design, but don’t necessarily have to be done in the typical Japanese style for tattooing. While the majority are done in Japanese style, they can also be done in a more American Traditional style, neo traditional, or new school design.

tumblr Dan Molloy
More neo traditional Hannya done by Dan Molloy at Bold as Brass.
tumblr Dean Sacred
By Dean Sacred in his unique Japanese influenced style.

Hannya’s are also typically done in a fairly large design. They are often done as a full back piece, or on the stomach, or as part of a full sleeve. They can be done as a smaller tattoo as well, such as on the hand or as a stand alone arm or leg piece.

tumblr Ivan Szazi
Three full body pieces featuring a Hannya done by Ivan Szazi at Four Elements Tattoo.
tumblr Mick Gore
Small hand Hannya by Mick Gore

 

The Hannya is also often paired with other Japanese designs, such as snakes, warriors, waves, flowers, or dragons, which all have their own meanings and their own roots in Japanese culture.

tumblr Senju Horimatsu
Sleeves with other Japanese imagery by Senju Horimatsu

 

The colour of a Hannya changes the meaning as well. It is said that the deeper the colour, the more malicious the demon is supposed to be.

tumblr Kintaro Horiyoshi III
Amazing back piece by the brilliant Horiyoshi III.

What do you think of Hannya tattoos?

Rock of Ages Tattoo

The name Rock of Ages comes from a hymn written by Augustus Toplady in the mid to late 1700’s while he found refuge from a violent storm on a rock at sea. The first two lines of the hymn are “Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee.” Rock of ages then became a painting about 100 years later. In the 1860’s Johannes Oertel painted a picture that was first called “Saved, or an Emblematic Representation of Christian Faith” which was later widely reproduced and called “Rock of Ages”.

rock-of-ages
Painting by Johannes Oertel

 

The image was perfect for tattooing, with its strong, dramatic nautical theme, beautiful woman, and religious symbolism. As a tattoo this piece often also features a sinking ship, multiple women on the rock, skulls, multiple crosses, etc. The image has been recreated as a tattoo for a long time now, and can be traced as a tattoo as far back as the late 19th Century when it was tattooed by Samuel O’Reilly.

tumblr Chris Marchetto Massachusetts
Back piece by Chris Marchetto at Redemption Tattoo in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

It is usually done in old school traditional style, but can also be done in black and grey or realism. The shape and diversity of the piece means it can be done well on many parts of the body. It is most popular on arms or as a full back piece.

Tumblr Sterling Barck White Lotus Tattoo Laguana Hills
Black and grey back piece by Sterling Barck at White Lotus Tattoo in Laguna Hills.

 

The image can have many meanings, but most obvious is that your faith, whatever it is, will keep you safe during troubled times.

Tumblr Jake miller at Cathedral Tattoo
Leg piece by Jake Miller at Cathedral Tattoo in Salt Lake City.
tumblr Dave Halsey- Cincinnati
Huge piece by Dave Halsey at Crying Heart Tattoo in Cincinnati.

What’s your favourite piece?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑