Merchandising myself ...

It's been a long time coming but I finally had some shirts printed.  Somewhat in preparation for the upcoming Vancouver Tattoo & Culture Show, somewhat because it was long overdue.  So there you have it, my first shirts are available in Women's S, M and Men's M,L,XL.  They're a slim/long fit (American Apparel Summer T), a quality shirt that get's better with time.  I'm selling them for thirty dollars as they're sold for twenty-five as blanks off the rack.  Feel free to grab one then next time you're in the shop, or not, no pressure.  Thanks for taking a moment to read my small sales commercial/shameless advertisement.

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We all benefit ...

The longer I tattoo the more my gratitude increases.  I get to cross paths with so many individuals whom I might never come into contact with under any other circumstance.  There are a lot of talented and interesting individuals out there, a lot of inspiring people, a lot of stories, smiles, and thoughts.  Most every day I get to have a conversation with someone I barely knew before, I get to learn, I get to share.  In the end we're there to tattoo but more often than not we both get to walk away with something new; be it artwork or ideas, we all benefit.  Vancouver, you've got a lot to offer and I'm glad to gain insights into lives I may never have encountered otherwise.

While working on a piece for Laura her partner Matt took some time to wander around the shop snapping a few photos.  As it turns out he's a talented fellow.  Here are a few images he sent my way.

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Something From Nothing (Recycled Thoughts)

I formerly had a Tumblr blog which I sporadically updated with bursts of thought followed by long lulls of nothing.  I'm in the process of consolidating some of the information I've got out there in so many forms.  Here's an old post, likely in a string of posts which I'll eventually upload here:

 

So, let's suppose it all began from nothing. An unfathomable explosion of material and energy. Expanding at an unimaginable rate. Let's just agree that magic occurred, just this once. Things cooled, coalesced, and expanded further and further apart. Cosmic dust formed stars, gravitational pull clumped elements together, things cooled, planets formed, and somewhere along the way the Earth came to be. To the best of our knowledge at the moment the universe it said to be 13.75 billion years old and the earth a mere 4.54 billion years old.

Then, about 3.8 billion years ago simple cells (prokaryotes) began to form. Suddenly we've got life on Earth. It took a while but about 2 billion years ago we end up with complex cells (eukaryotes). After another billion years we end up with multicellular life, 600 million years ago we jump to simple animals, 500 million years ago there were fish, 475 million years ago there were land plants. As you can see, this timeline seems to be increasing it's speed. The jumps and changes start occurring more frequently. At 400 million years ago there were insects and seeds, 300 million and we hit reptiles, 200 million and finally we've got mammals. At 150 million years ago there were birds and roughly the same time flowers. The dinosaurs dies out 65 million years ago. 2.5 million years ago our genus came to be. Then, only 200,000 years ago anatomically modern humans arose. Only 25,000 years ago Neanderthals disappeared.

If we look at these figures there definitely seems to be a pattern of acceleration. Now that we've agreed that a magical explosion created all that exists can we agree that there is a constant drive towards complexity? I for one am going to agree with that. And, as that complexity gets more complex (for lack of a better word) the speed at which it evolves continues to accelerate. The building blocks get more and more complicated and can then help to create that next even more complex block at an even faster rate. Makes sense doesn't it?

So, up until a certain point this creation/change/move towards complexity was all very unconscious. Even at its ever increasing pace it still took very long periods of time (by human standards) to make leaps from one point to another. Then there was a shift from unconscious creation to conscious creation.

At some point our minds made the leap that we could shape/change out surroundings to better our situation. This must have been monumental. For the better part of 4.5 billion years things progressed and moved forward without cognitive guidance. Then, if we are to use tools as the benchmark, about 2 to 2.5 million years ago the changing of elements to fit our needs came into being with certain Homo habilis specimens. There's no definite date or occurrence but at some point someone made the leap from just being a part of the process to actually influencing the process. From there the acceleration gets bizarre.

A shift occurred. From unconscious evolution through extreme lengths of time to consciously manipulating the world around. Is this what the drive toward complexity has been aiming at? And we are not the only species to be doing this, crows and primates are great examples but dolphins, elephants, octopus, and many others have been witnessed using tools and manipulating their environments. Perhaps we just got there first, there may be more on the way.

This, in its essence, is an act of creation. Changing your surroundings. Using the mind to figure out how to change those surroundings and think ahead to how this will benefit you. A rudimentary form of creation by our current standards but it was a major step to be sure. The first acts of creation were for the betterment of survival. Eventually we reached a point of comfort wherein creation could become a pastime. Be it the creation of myths in attempt to explain this wild ride, to cave painting, to adorning the body ... these all seem like acts of creation motivated by something else. Creation for the sake of creation rather than the sake of survival. I hypothesize that the act of creating is an integral part of what makes us “human”. Without it where would we be? In the grand scheme of things, from the prokaryotes of 3.8 billion years ago to our complex human brains I see a straight line aiming toward instilling the drive to create.

As the human brain has evolved even further we are no longer bound by the physical restraints of evolution. With the creation of language we've dissolved the synesthetic boundary. We can create images and sensations in others just by making sounds with our vocal chords. I can describe an event, an image, something you've never seen, and you can create a mental image based on my sounds. I can transfer what's in my brain directly into yours. I'm doing it right now with these words. Take a moment to digest what we take for granted most every moment of most every day. Language, both spoken and written, is awe inspiring when you really think about what's going on. We can transfer ideas to each other, there is no material here, just the transfer of information. But we can also take that information and create objects in the physical realm. Plucking objects from the ethos and manifesting them into this realm. If we look at what we're manifesting and the rate at which its complexity is increasing the whole concept seems limitless. In my short lifetime the changes that have occurred are mind boggling. With the advent of the internet we can now communicate and exchange ideas with most anyone in most any location. A hive of thought has been created and we're all plugging into it. The pace increases, the complexity accelerates. The acceleration gets compounded to the point where it almost seems instantaneous. As the growth curve moves ever towards vertical it will eventually verge on a point of singularity wherein as soon as it's thought it is manifested into physical reality.

And this is where I make an even greater leap. We, in our rudimentary human mind state have the ability to create all that is around us by beginning with a thought. A thought, which has no physical form and is essentially “nothing” somehow turns into a computer, a car, a building, all of which are astounding creations. Of course there are many steps between the thought and the final product but those steps get faster and the creations get crazier. So what are we doing here? Essentially we are creating “something” from “nothing”. Does this sound familiar? Kind of like what we describe as the beginnings of our universe? All that exists began as nothing at all and by some magical factor came into being. Could this magical factor be based on a thought and an act of creation? If we look at the pace in which our minds have evolved it's not as though that pace will slow or that the pinnacle has been reached. A lot of us like to think that the goal has been scored, it's done, we are the ultimate. We may be the top of the heap on Earth, but that's just at this instant in time, it's not as though 13.75 billion years of movement towards complexity had the end game set at 2012 the land of iPhones and internet porn.

So, would it be so preposterous to think that the end game of our ever evolving minds and mental capacity to manifest the immaterial into the material realm just might be the creation of universes? Why would it be unfathomable that this ever increasing complexity and ability to manipulate reality may not eventually reach a point of wherein creation gets so very grand as to bring into being other dimensions/universes/realms in which the thread of creation and complexity can then grow and move forward in a never ending fractal miasma of thought and love and creation? I'm not proposing that you or I have this capacity, but as the mind evolves, given enough time the possibilities are truly limitless.

There you have it, a thought experiment encompassing all that exists and all that may exist. No big deal, just figuring out the unexplainable here. Hope you've enjoyed the ride, like it or leave it, at least I got to put ideas directly from my mind into yours. Keep on creating in your own way, you might just be participating in the essential act of existence, or maybe not, but it's definitely fun to think about.

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Glacial Progression Towards the Unattainable

First and foremost I want to acknowledge that this is opinion based.  From the limited number of years I've spent in the tattoo world I don't profess to know much of anything.  I simply have ideas and opinions and more than likely such opinions will morph and change as the years pass.

Tattooing is an interesting craft.  Somewhere in the realm of art and creativity, teetering on the brink of very orchestrated design work, it's a tough medium to describe properly.  We as tattooers are never creating "our art".  We're taking instruction from a client and we're also taking instruction from the past.  In academia you have individuals referencing books and articles and knowledge of the past, it's books about books about books.  There may be a new idea in there somewhere but it's all built on the foundation of past knowledge.  The same could be said about "fine" art; movements of art reacting to past movements and so on.  I suppose the idea of commissioned artwork has always been around as well but somehow I view tattooing as slightly separate from all of this.  We can take small chances, slight attempts at working outside of the box or expanding the proverbial box if you will.  But ultimately there are formulas which work in the world of tattoo.  Although I am seeing more of a dabbling of "abstract" tattooing going on out there I have a tough time believing that a smudge or drip is going to take on a timeless aspect in our craft.  Concrete lines, identifiable shapes, easily read imagery, these are a few of the aspects which I personally am coming to realize as being at the forefront of our medium.  The confines are relatively small to begin with and once given direction by our clientele those confines become even smaller.  In a way this can be refreshing.  If I had to sit down at my table each day and come up with the idea of what to draw as well as the drawing itself I would quickly be overwhelmed.  The idea is always there to begin with so it just becomes a matter of executing rather than pondering.  So we sit upon the edge of art or design, perhaps it's all semantics and truly doesn't matter much one way or the other.  In the end there is something beautiful about taking the small steps, refining things over the years, slight glacial progression rather than immediate and abrupt change.  

If anyone out there has watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi you might have a better idea of what I'm writing about.  Dedicating years (or a lifetime) to the slightest detail, the subtle change, the aspiration toward the unattainable perfection.  This mentality can be aimed at most any endeavour and I especially see it closely related to the world of tattooing.  This is a stark contrast to the instant gratification which out culture seems to be breeding on an increasingly faster rate.  The years of trying to get the proper curve to peony petal are unfathomable to the selfie riddled fast food brain of the "I want it now" population.  This is one of the most important aspects which I noticed in master tattoo artist Diau-An.  He embodied the work ethic and dedication on a daily basis which few others out there might dare to even dabble in.  For this, he became a huge inspiration and a major reason as to why I pursued tattooing.  This one mindedness can be seen in many forms of tattooing but for me it has always been the Japanese tattoo (and the Japanese inspired tattoo) which embodied the mentality most evidently.  I recall trying to track down a very few books from the Saskatoon public library in an attempt to see a few bodysuits in an age where the internet didn't offer the immediate gratification which it does today.  These were powerful images and for me a love of large scale Japanese work was born.

Beyond this there are a number of artist who have inspired me on a regular basis.  Just like Jiro aiming for the ceiling of perfection these individuals seem to constantly push the edge of what is possible.  In the end we all realize there is no ceiling and perfection will always be just out of reach.  Again, this is all opinion based and for me these are my personal tattoo heroes.  In the coming months I'll get the privilege of beginning a back-piece by one of them and the roles get to be reversed, me in the chair quietly accepting the pain as the artwork grows.  I'll keep my list short as it could go on for quite some time.  For now, here are a few of the most inspiring artist which I've come across.

Filip Leu for consistently blowing my mind and pushing the boundaries of tattooing.

Mike Rubendall for his powerful imagery, dedication, and attention to detail.

Aaron Bell for the balance and easy on the eyes imagery and such a great understanding of the body.

Shige for going beyond and making the average artist feel inept at best.

Stewart Robson clean and smooth and always impressive.

One might notice that there is only one Japanese artist on my little list.  Perhaps this is due to my lack of being Japanese.  In the end I'm working in the realm of the "Japanese inspired tattoo" rather than the firm traditions of the craft.  Thus, these are the artists I tend to be drawn towards the most.  Of course we owe so much to the past and the building blocks that have been set down especially in the not so distant past by Ed Hardy and Horiyoshi III.  Without the foundation the growth and exploration wouldn't be possible.  There are those who stay even closer to the tradition, much respect to them as well (Chris Trevino, Horitomo, Horikitsune, and so on).  The past informs the present and the future is unwritten.  Again, the slow progression, the harkening upon past imagery and rules, the aim to perfect something (anything), this is something at the forefront of my mind most every day.  

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Consultations

The consultation process is far more important than you’d think.  This is where the framework for your new tattoo is set.  If ideas are not communicated properly here it can lead to numerous redraws, frustration, and wasted time for both the client and the artist.

Before the Consult:

Have a solid idea of what you’re looking for.  This can include reference materials of any type.  From rudimentary drawings on a scrap piece of paper to jpegs on your laptop, it’s all helpful in guiding the artist in the proper direction.  Think about how you’re going to explain your idea as words can often be interpreted differently than intended.  This does not mean that every detail has to be worked out, just the general parameters of subject matter, style, and placement.  Images tend to be the clearest form of communication, don’t limit your search solely to other tattoos.  For example, if you’re thinking about a bird, going to the source (nature photography) can be helpful.  Photos of other tattoos can be helpful as to giving a sense of what you’re looking for but don’t expect to get a direct one to one of another person’s tattoo.  This would be disrespectful to both the artist and the recipient of that preexisting piece.  Do your research, have a firm grasp on what you’re hoping to get and let your chosen artist create the best piece they’re capable of.  Remember that there is a level of trust involved.  Some things will work well on paper but they won’t work well in the skin.  There are adaptations to be made and if you’ve chosen an artist I hope you’ll respect their opinion as they should be knowledgeable as to what will look best.  Trust your instincts.  If things don’t seem right from the beginning then perhaps it’s not going to be the proper relationship of artist/client that you’re looking for.

During the Consult:

A discussion will take place, ideas are related and images are looked over.  Notes will be taken and perhaps a small (and rough) sketch will be made.  A tracing of the body part/general size of the piece is made.  Photos are taken if necessary (as in the case of cover-ups or placement next to preexisting pieces).  Feel free to ask any and all of the questions you’re thinking about.  Once the idea is clear to both artist and client a date can be set for the actual tattoo appointment.  A cash deposit is required to book the appointment.  Currently a deposit is paid in the sum of the first hour of tattooing ($160).  This deposit protects the artist against last minute cancellations or rescheduling and simply prepays a portion of the tattoo.  The deposit can be used as partial payment during the final tattoo session.  A card with the time/date/deposit amount will be filled out and the consultation is complete.

Note:  The consultation process can differ from artist to artist, this is simply how it seems to work best for me.

Cohen Floch Tattoo Artist Vancouver, BC Scheduling
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