Monkey King Tattoo

The Monkey King is a Chinese story based on a real monk who walked on foot from China to what is now India to recover the true Buddhist holy books. When he returned to China he translated the Sutras into Chinese, contributing to the development of Buddhism in China.

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Monkey King full sleeve by James Acrow at Slow Down tattoo in Vancouver.

Monkey king is the story of this monk, mixed with Chinese legends, fairy tales, supernatural stories, and popular beliefs. Monkey King is a rebellious being, born out of rock that was fertilized by the grace of Heaven and Earth. He is very intelligent and has magical powers learned from a Taoist master. He can transform himself into different beings such as trees, birds, beasts, and insects. He can travel by riding on a cloud, and can shrink or grow by using a metal rod he steals from the Dragon King after fighting him in the ocean. The Monkey King is a mischievous character who fights many battles, travels to heaven, and comes back to earth. He is trapped under a mountain for 500 years, and after being freed, must travel with the monk to ensure his safety on his journey West to the Sutras, accompanied by a pig, a sea monster, and a horse.

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Monkey King Sleeve by Adam Sky at Rose Gold’s Tattoo in San Francisco. 
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Amazing black and grey back piece done at Chronic Ink tattoo.
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Realistic Monkey King done at Chronic Ink tattoo.
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Incredibly detailed sleeve done at Chronic Ink tattoo.
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Half sleeve Monkey king done at Chronic Ink tattoo.
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Half sleeve Monkey king done at Chronic Ink tattoo.

There are various versions of the Monkey King story, and all are very interesting and amusing.

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Grim Reaper Tattoo

The Grim Reaper is a sign of death in many cultures. In Western culture it is often seen as a skeleton in a cloak, with a scythe or a noose, usually a male. He is usually seen as frightening, but in myth does not actually kill people, he merely guides you to the afterlife. This version of the reaper is based off of Charon, from Greek mythology, who steers the boat across the River Styx, carrying the dead across to the underworld.

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American Traditional reaper by Chad Leever at Revolution Tattoo in Indiana.
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Amazing torso portrait of Charon crossing the River Styx by Teresa Sharpe at Unkindness Art in Richmond, VA.

 

Reaper tattoos are usually done in American traditional style, but are also often done in black and grey, neo traditional, dotwork, and realism.

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Dotwork Reaper riding the waves by Alicia Anderson at Village Ink Tattoos in Clearwater, FL.
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Dark Reaper back piece by Herb Auerbach at California Electric Tattoo Parlour in Soquel California.
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Reaper horse riding by Justin Dion at Sovereign Tattoo in Portland Oregon.

 

The reaper is often shown in tattoo form as just a hood and skull,with its scythe, but is also often seen in full body form.

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Traditional hooded Reaper by James Armstrong at Holy Mountain Tattoo in the UK.
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Dark female Reaper by Sim at Cosmic Tattoo in Essex UK.
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Female neo traditional hooded Reaper by Justin Harris at Black Vulture Gallery in Philadelphia.

Don’t fear the Reaper.

Artist of the Month: Apro Lee

Apro Lee is a tattoo artist from South Korea. He tattoos in Seoul in a private studio called Black Mark It. He has been tattooing since 2005, and doing only blackwork since 2007.

 

Tattooing in South Korea is still illegal, making it difficult as you can imagine for someone to make a living as a tattoo artist. Only a person with a doctor’s license can be a tattoo artist. Police don’t bother artists unless someone actually reports them. People who usually do the reporting are often other tattoo artists looking to get rid of competition, or neighborhood gangs. If an artist is reported and apprehended, they usually have to pay a fine as well as have all their equipment taken from them, but they can also face months of prison time. Despite tattooing being a crime, it is estimated that there are at least 20,000 tattoo artists working in illegal studios throughout South Korea.

 

Apro Lee decided to become a tattoo artist while serving his mandatory military time. He saw a portrait of Kurt Cobain on the internet, and it amazed him that tattoos could be something other than tribal or dragons and other iconic Japanese pieces, for gangsters. Apro has loved drawing and art since he was a child, and found that tattoos were the right fit for him.

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Since tattooing for all intents and purposes is still illegal in Korea, Apro learned how to tattoo online in 2005 from someone who was willing to teach Apro and a few others through the internet. After that Apro went to work in Westside Tattoo in Brisbane, Australia, learning from owner Matt Cunnington.

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Korean tiger and arrows

Apro started by doing realistic black and grey pieces, but now almost solely does bold blackwork. One of Apro’s signature designs is the Korean tiger, which features hard bold black lines, and intricate dotwork to create a stunning tiger in the Korean style. The contorted tiger represents government, and is usually featured with a magpie which represents a person laughing in its face.

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Black and grey realistic skull
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Huge tiger and magpie
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Neck tiger and magpie

Apro wanted to show people that Korea has their own art style, as Chinese and Japanese art largely dominates Western ideas of what Asian art is. Apro has been a guest tattooer in Europe, Australia, America, and all over Asia, spreading the Korean style of tattooing. Apro always tells people the meaning of the tattoos he is giving people, and wants to spread Korean culture as much as possible.

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Korean style sleeve
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Korean style blackwork clouds

 

Apro also tattoos many nooses on his clients, and has one on himself as well. The noose on himself signifies the fact that in his country he is technically a criminal, but the part where the noose is cut means that he has survived, or that he will survive it. On clients this can stand for many things throughout a life that has been tough.

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Bold black noose

 

 

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