Urban artists are often looking for a new medium to express themselves and achieve their artistic vision. They usually start from walls and then gradually branch out into canvas, digital art or paper. Some develop an interest in the ancient art of tattoo and decide to exhibit their artwork not only in galleries and on the streets, but on people. On the other hand, art aficionados don't want their bodies to be adorned by anything, but the finest art. They don't care about the time and money when they reach out to a famed tattoo master. After all, it's something they will wear on their skin for the rest of the life. Unlike canvas or an empty wall, drawing on the skin is a much more challenging and mutual, two-way creative process, where both artist and the client have their own visions and expectations. From the artist whose fan base consists of rap superstars to those inspired by Japanese aesthetics and traditional American iconography, we present you the selection of emerging and established names of urban art who love inking.
Image courtesy of The White Elephant Studio and Otto D'Ambra
SupaKitch is a French urban artist, inspired by Japanese visual art. He started his career in the 1990s, as an avid graffiti writer, and later began experimenting with other mediums, such as photography, painting and graphic. He painted murals across Europe with Brendan Monroe, Wayne Horse and and his wife Koralie, with whom he also started a fashion line Metroplastique, and won the prize of ‘Young Entrepreneur of Fashion’ in 2005. SupaKitch had his first major solo exhibition in 2007, which was, actually, a double, simultaneous exhibition at Galerie Bertin-Toublanc branches in Miami and Paris. In 2009, he met the tattoo artist Caro, who inspired him to became a tattoo artist himself. Now, Supakitch is a member of the tattoo salon BleuNoir in Paris and creates beautiful, black and white tattoos of animals (mostly birds, foxes and wolves), flowers and anthropomorphic creatures.
Image courtesy of SupaKitch
Word To Mother is a British artist, renowned for the pieces brimming with emotion and layers. He attended an art school for illustration and started as a graffiti writer, but now he is busy creating paintings, prints, tattoos and graphics. Influenced by colors, textures, nature and people, he produces powerful and melancholic artwork, which you had a chance to see at several solo and many group exhibitions. The texture, grey hues juxtaposed with bold colors and vintage typography of his artwork capture the life happening around and inside him. The tattoos lack the multilayered component that his other works possess, however, the detailed lines, popular cartoon characters, black and white imagery, and entertaining typography are still present.
Image courtesy of Word To Mother
Mike Giant is an illustrator, designer, tattoo and graffiti artist from San Francisco. He is well known for his monochromatic work - black ink is his preferred tool, whether he is creating an illustration, tattoo, a skateboard graphic or a t-shirt print. In the 1980's he discovered the world of graffiti, skateboards and tattoos, but he didn't start inking himself and the others until the 1990's. In 1998, he bought his first tattoo equipment and worked his way up through the world of inking to become one of the most famous tattoo artists. His work is influenced by Mexican folk art, Japanese illustrations and punk-rock/heavy metal/hip-hop music. A true rebel, Mike Giant is also a member of the Rebel8 clothing company, which is deeply rooted in tattoo, graffiti and skateboard culture.
Image via Gabriela Curraleira
Mike Friedrich, also known as Cuke, is an illustrator and designer from Berlin. Mike's art career began when he started freelancing and doing illustrations and design projects for clients such as Nike, Nintendo, Converse and Hummel. Friedrich is part of Berlin’s Sam Crew together with several other artists. He also enjoys making street art and painting outside. In 2014, as he developed the interest in tattooing, the focus of his work changed. His dark, gruesome imagery perfectly translates to skin. The creatures from horror stories and dreadful animals are a part of his grim tattoo repertoire.
Image courtesy of Mike Friedrich
Mark Bode is an American cartoonist, graffiti and tattoo artist. He is the son of the comics legend Vaughn Bode. When he was three years old, he started coloring his father's artwork and absorbing his style. Vaughn Bode died when Mark was 12 years old and left his son with the wish to share his drawing style, but not get too close. Mark grow up to became a famous cartoonist, his most famous works being a 1986 a best-selling comic Miami Mice, Cobalt-60 and The Lizard of Oz. Apart from working with major clothing companies, painting murals and exhibiting in museums and galleries in the US and Europe, Bode has been doing custom tattoo work in San Francisco for more than 10 years. His oeuvre consists of animal tattoos, pin-ups, fantasy creatures, nature and of course, his characters.
Images courtesy of Mark Bode
Otto D'Ambra is an Italian artist who started his career as a designer for various interior design practices in Milan. Searching for his own artistic outlet, he began developing and converging different art forms - etching and collage prints, graphics and tattoos. In 2012, he opened his own studio in London, The White Elephant, where he works on his unique, fantastical artwork and experiments. When it comes to tattoo art, D'Ambra started learning how to ink in 2005, and worked in the Italian studio Trafficanti D’Arte for a few years, before moving to London. Just like the rest of his artwork, Otto's tattoos are characterized with beautiful intricate lines, bizarre creatures which have a head of a fox, a torso of a man and legs of a bird, exclusively black color and effective contrast.
Xav is a young Spanish street artist, born in Gijon. His passion for drawing and painting started at a young age, and lead him to spray his first graffiti in 2005, when he was 14 years old. After painting various impressive murals, winning street art contests and taking part in graffiti exhibitions, Xav gained interest for the world of tattoos. He participated in many tattoo conventions in Spain and nearby countries. The images he has painted on the walls - very realistic and striking portraits of people and animals - now can be seen on skin. No doubt, we can expect a lot from this 24 year old Spaniard.
Images courtesy of Xav
Wes Lang is a mixed media artist. His artwork fuses collage, painting and drawing, in order to achieve his signature colorful, nonchalant style, and depict some of his usual eclectic motifs: skulls, Death, roses, birds, flags, Native Americans, naked women, all gathered in one place. His meticulous pencil drawings reveal his interest in biker culture and American history. Often weird and edgy, Wes Lang's artwork can cause controversy, as some of his works were accused of being racially offensive. Although he clearly draws the inspiration from the tattoo culture, Wes Lang is not a tattoo artist anymore - he used to work in a tattoo parlour in his youth. We hope he returns to working on skin!
Don Ed Hardy is globally famous as the man behind images on Ed Hardy clothing and accessories line, and as one of the legends of tattoo culture. Ever since he was a boy, Don Hardy dreamed of being a tattoo artist. When he grow up, he became the student of the prominent tattoo artist Sailor Jerry. Jerry introduced him to Japanese tattoo master Horihide, who influenced him to start incorporating Japanese aesthetics and techniques into his work. When he returned from Japan, where he was tutored by Horihide, Hardy opened the first private tattoo studio in the US. In 2004, French designer Christian Audigier licensed Ed Hardy's tattoo design to use on his clothing line, and that's when celebrities and fashionistas around the world started wearing Don's tattoos with skulls, bold colors and Asian tigers. He has retired from tattooing, and now works with prints, drawings and paintings.
Mister Cartoon, or simply Cartoon, is a famous Mexican-American tattoo artist, based in Los Angeles. He started his career by airbrushing cars and drawing graffiti, and went on to working on album covers, logos and tattoos. His tattoos, made in Fine Style, the style created in the prisons of California, are strongly connected with the street life of Los Angeles. No wonder that many famed LA rappers wanted to have his art on their skin. The list of Mister Cartoon's clients includes Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Eminem, Method Man, Xzhibit (Cartoon starred in his video) and other celebrities such as Beyonce and Justin Timberlake. The logo of legendary hip hop group Cypress Hill is also Cartoon's work. Of course, this has attracted the attention of leading brands such as Nike, Microsoft, Diesel, Vans and Toyota, who were eager to use his artwork.
Images courtesy of Mister Cartoon
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