This post covers an appointment from two weeks ago. The weekend prior, my camera battery died and my charger was MIA. It was finally found (left on a job site) so I decided I would post up these pictures in advance of my next appointment tonight. As a result, you can see some of the lines are still healing. My only major take-away from this appointment was how fond I am of the background elements he is adding to the piece. If you look at Hokusai’s painting, there isn’t any wind or cloud elements separating the layers of the tail feathers (for example). In my opinion, adding these background elements goes a long way in making the phoenix an incorporated element of the whole suit vs. a copy of a painting tattooed on me. It’s subtle, but I believe it will pay off huge once we’re into shading and color.
Horizakura only did about an hour and change because we were going to meet a mutual friend who was in town. My next appointment is tonight, so I imagine we will continue with the tail across my lower abdomen.
I also thought I would include a little note here about perspective when viewing pictures of tattoos. Especially when we are evaluating tattoos online, it’s important to remember that you are looking at flat images of three dimensional surfaces. A good example (and the reason I wanted to add this note) can be seen below. If you look at the right wing from today’s post, it may appear to be overly thin in comparison to the left wing. But if you look at this side view taken four weeks ago, you can see how the perspective changes the shape of the wing. Not earth shattering information, but I figured it was worth pointing out.
I’ve been excited to write this post for a long time. If you’ve been reading this blog for the last year or two, you may remember that Horizakura had a few different ideas for what would go on my stomach. I was receptive to most of them, but nothing really seemed like the perfect fit. He said it needed to be something big that would stand out. It wasn’t until after an appointment in July of last year that we discovered the perfect idea. As I alluded in that appointment’s blog post, I was telling Horizakura a story about my visit to Obuse and the Hokusai Museum there. It’s a great little museum and one of the paintings on display there is a smaller version of a painting Hokusai did on the ceiling of a temple. It is called “Ho-O Staring in Eight Directions” and depicts a phoenix and some leaves. The painting is designed in such a way that no matter where you stand, it appears to be looking at you. After looking over the painting, I moved on and didn’t really think much more of it for the rest of my time in the museum.
Ho-O Staring in Eight Directions painted on the ceiling of Ganshoin Temple by Hokusai
After I left the museum, I still had a whole day to kill by myself, so I did what I always do in Japan. Looked for the nearest temple and took a walk over there. When I entered, I walked over to the main prayer area where there were benches set up. I took a seat and noticed another painting of the phoenix from the museum, propped up on an easel in the corner of the room. Next to it was a sign that asked guests to not lay down on the benches or the ground. I was a little hungover and, for a split second, I was mystified by this. In all my temple visits throughout my three trips to Japan, there had never been a sign like this. “Look up you idiot.” I turned my eyes up and you guessed it. I was sitting underneath “Ho-O Staring in Eight Directions.” I had, by complete accident, wandered into Ganshoin Temple, where Hokusai painted the work in the 1840’s. I was blown away, not only by the coincidence, but by the imposing nature of seeing the work in person. It was a really amazing experience. The cherry on top was that as I looked over the rest of the carvings and art in that room, I noticed the archway leading to the main altar was adorned in part with the same dragon turtle that is tattooed on my right leg.
I left Ganshoin amused that I had unknowingly created a great memory for myself. After telling Horizakura about this experience, he suggested that we use that phoenix as the main subject of my stomach. He said, “It will be my collaboration with Hokusai.” I instantly knew we had made the right choice, and I have been waiting months to see it come to life.
For this appointment, Horizakura tattooed the first part of the phoenix across my upper stomach. Pain is different for everyone, and for me, this was just absolutely terrible. Specifically, where the feathers begin to go over my sternum and follow the rib under my pec was just brutal. It certainly didn’t help that I was pretty sick for two days prior to the tattoo, but if you took the time to read the back story above, you may have figured out there was no way I was going to cancel this appointment. In terms of design, you may notice that he has made some changes to the original. I assume this is to make it a little more tattoo friendly, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask him. That’s enough words for one post (indeed too many words, but I’m sure you skipped all of them to look at the pictures).
I returned from a couple weeks of work travel to a very lovely surprise! My copy of “The World of Japanese Tattooing” by Iizawa Tadasu was waiting at the office! It took me a few months to get a copy of this book. I suspect it would have been much easier if I was able to search for it in Japanese, but the only online option I could find was Donlon Books in London. It cost more than I would have liked after the conversion to dollars and shipping/insurance, but I have it now and that makes me quite happy! The book is a treasure trove of classic Japanese style.
Published by Haga Shoten in 1973, the book is composed of a large number of Japanese tattoos by such masters as Horiyoshi II, Horigoro III, Horikin and more. It also includes an array of ukiyo-e prints and Japanese text that is (sadly) totally lost on me. There is a brief introduction in English that gives some very interesting insight into how Japanese tattoo and its history was viewed during the time of publication. It approaches the comparison between Japanese and Western tattoos with a pretty heavy bias, but it is a bias that no doubt existed in the late 1800s/early 1900s when cross cultural exchange of tattoo was beginning to ramp up. Having gotten the book so recently, I haven’t had time to look through all of it with very much attention to detail, but I am very excited to do so.
All in all, that special mix of consumerism and the desire to collect has made it worth the price of admission. I am quite proud to have added this book to my collection. Below are a couple pictures I took:
I haven’t had any appointments lately since Horizakura has been traveling. However, I did have the opportunity to go to Rome for work last week. During that trip, I happened upon a very non-Italian art exhibit. While I doubtlessly should have been trying to get into museums to see the works of Bernini, I saw a subway advertisement that informed me of a Hiroshige exhibit nearby. Despite the fact that the collection is typically housed in Boston (a mere 4 hours from my home), I wasn’t sure when I would next have the opportunity to see it. It’s a great exhibit with an extensive collection of his works. They allow photographs, so I thought I would share a few of Hiroshige’s prints that most directly relate to Japanese tattoo in their subject matter. It’s well known that Japanese tattoo has its roots in Ukiyo-e prints, but seeing some of that influence first hand was a treat. I have also included a humorous print that depicts a battle between Sake and Rice as well as a poem that specifically relates to the content of my tattoo. Check it out!