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.  


Another new beginning for 2014 … this time it comes in the form of a website.

After almost a year without an image update on my old site and close to six years with said old site it's time to change things up just a bit.  I ended up doing the site myself using squarespace (yes, I may be a member of the Joe Rogan army if that means anything to any of you out there).  It's been a relatively easy process even for someone who doesn't profess to be all that savvy with the ol' internet.  In the end I went for ease of use and a format in which I can have a venue to consistently update work and keep things current from here on in.  That's the plan and I'm sure it'll never be another full year until I get new work floating around out there in cyberspace.  Hopefully it all works out and I didn't forget to cross any t's or dot any i's.

A new shop in 2013 and a new website in 2014.  There have been a lot of changes in the past year and it has all gone as smoothly as one could hope for.  Taking a risk, putting oneself into positions that might be a bit nerve racking … this seems to be a theme running through my mind these days.  Not that a new website is a risk, it's just a change and change is always an opportunity for growth.  A few weeks into the year and already I've begun some great new projects with far more on the horizon.  With so much growth in 2013 I'll be pressing myself to do the same over the next arbitrary number of rotations of the planet.

Much gratitude to all of those who have been tattooed by me in the past and those of you who will be tattooed by me in the future.  It's been quite the ride and it continues to get better.  

Hannya Chrysanthemum Cohen Floch Tattoo Artist Vancouver

Here's one that I completed the other day … I do have better images from my actual camera but for now the iPhone photo will suffice. 



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