Buenos Aires 2012

I came back here to this beautiful city, this special place of roads and trees and people and sky, to interview a group of tattooers here. We’ve got two guys from Santiago Chile. One dude from Paraguay and four guys from Buenos Aires. Image

 

I love this city. There’s something special about it. The South American mindset is just plain different. It’s a little slower, a little more tranquil and … maybe connected? I’m not quite sure what it is.Image

The women are stunning, the people friendly, there’s a lot of dog shit on the street, although not as much human shit as San Francisco has on it’s streets. 

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The food is incredible. Empenadas, the pizza is generally outstanding, and the carne (the meat) – Fuck off! The coffee is good, the wine is good. I may want to grow old in this city. It doesn’t get much better. 

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The interview is tonight. I’m honored to interview such a great group of guys and get a little insight into what makes it a different experience down here below the equator. 

Image-JTG BsAs 2012

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Amsterdam, Nepal and a step home

Me and the legend, Henk. Forgive these stupid watermarks in all of these photos... I can't get rid of 'em.

After my time at Royal Tattoo in Denmark I headed to Amsterdam and The Amsterdam Tattoo Museum just a week before Christmas. Amsterdam is that city where for the first time in my life I felt like I could have died from partying. This was years ago: I remember looking out the window of my room at like five in the morning, the street lights shimmering on the black water of the canals, while my friends snored around me in drunken, coked out stupors as my heart raced, my jaw a vice, with teeth that could have cracked walnuts, shit, they could have cracked themselves. I was younger then and still learning to grab control of my life and I was thankful, maybe for the first time to see the sun come up, because I realized, the difference between life and death is only one moment or decision away. It was a moment in hell and memorable for that reason. Needless to say Amsterdam is fucking insanity personified.

Coasters for Dejan..

And it’s still the same, that shit is wild. I adapt. That’s what I do, it’s how I can travel for two god damn years straight, without a home and out of a bag. I get to a place and I adjust, turn my own dials and become comfortable with what’s around me. I did the same in Amsterdam, I went from the peace and quiet of Helsingør, Denmark – went to the craziness of the XXX city of Amsterdam, where I was welcomed by Henk & Louise Schiffmacher, Tattoo Molly, Yushi, Chris Danley, Danny Boy, Dringenberg and the rest of the crew at the museum.

Louise, Molly, Danny Boy and Chrico Knox de Chile.

It was an honor to be there, in the midst all of that history and to meet Henk for the first time and see him in action. He’s a special one, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. A man who lives for himself and answers to no one, a truly inspirational dude. I worked there for about a week and a half with late nights fueled by the temptations of my surroundings.

Un tatuaje en mi buen amigo Chrico.

I was in a bar with friends when someone got shot three times. I sat there after the first two shots, thinking they were fireworks, as everyone ran out of the bar, like a bunch of gazelles. I was there for the third shot and saw the dude on the ground. Then I ran out and joined Yushi and Sezuki to watch the aftermath in awe.  I flew out of Amsterdam the day after Christmas to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Right before the shooting... Me and Yushi.

After a 21 hour flight, a good amount of time of which was spent listening to Bob Seger “I think I’m going to Kathmandu” on the recommendation of Dringenberg. I arrived to insanity. Out of the 23 countries I visited, it was by far the most fascinating and mind-blowing. Something almost magical. The people there live lives so fucking different from ours in the western world. The whole country is without electricity for 8-12 hours a day. Shortages on gasoline, leave people waiting to get a half a tank of gasoline (the ration) for hours and hours. Many of the houses have no running water.

All those wires for maybe 12 hours of electricity a day!

Walking along the streets it’s easy to get lost down little alleys and courtyards, passing the butchers selling: yak, boar, water buffalo (?), a cut off head of a goat sits on a table with incense stuck between it’s teeth, the glazed eyes, lifeless. The touts call out, they try to sell weed, or treks, or tours or paintings – it’s the same the world over. You just avoid eye contact and keep walking.  Kathmandu though, takes the prize, it’s the craziest looking city I’ve seen.

Durbar Square - a Unesco Heritage sight.

La Paz, Bolivia is crazy looking, and it is crazy, but Kathmandu, while it looks similar in some ways is something else entirely, because in the midst of the chaos and the pollution there are statues of Ganesh everywhere, well crafted hand painted signs, beautiful stone or wooden pagodas, wild monkeys and mysterious doorways with dancing skeletons. There’s even a living Goddess. She’s maybe ten years old now and she’ll be the Goddess until she menstruates and then a new Goddess will be chosen, she lives in a square temple with a courtyard and her feet are not allowed to touch the ground outside of her home, she’s taken out every so often and is carried around the square by he guards while throngs of people worship her. They choose the next Goddess by bringing a group of young female toddlers into a temple, and escorting them into a dark candle lit room full of 108 slaughtered chickens, 108 slaughtered and beheaded goats and 108 slaughtered and beheaded buffalo, inside the room there are elder monks chanting at her – the whole thing is meant to terrify, the new Goddess is the little girl who isn’t terrified – the one who doesn’t cry or freak the fuck out.

These guys and cows just wander around freely through the streets. I'd be freaked out if I saw one all cut up with 107 other cut up ones. I would not be the living God.

It’s so beautifully bizarre. I stayed in Kathmandu for just a couple of days. After that: It was pure relaxation, I took a bus to Lake Pokhara, to spend New Years Eve at the foot of the Himalayas.

On Lake Pokhara

A much mellower place. I read Shantaram (highly recommended), a 1500 page book in about 6 days. I tattooed a local guy there, using his own equipment, shared some knowledge with some of the tattooers there, fixed a local dudes machines, got drunk on some fermented toasted rice liquor, liquor that felt so good on those cold nights.

Done with his equipment...

Toasted rice alcohol. Served hot, good on a cold night.

I was surrounded by local people who took me in instantly as family, people, that though they had little, never let me pay for a meal or a drink. And what a New Years Eve! Even though in Nepal it was the year 2068, they were still celebrating 2012. It was so much better than I could have expected. I thought I would be alone and solitary but I was surrounded by Nepalese people of all ages in a small little restaurant that was closed to the public, it was a private party and I was invited and welcomed and received hugs and drinks and companionship. Why? The same reason for almost every incredible experience I’ve had since I left home: Tattoos. I fall on my knees in front of that god of tattoos that has watched over me and provided for me in almost every one of these countries I’ve been to.

Raksha

This lady ruled, we couldn't speak to one another - but we could sure laugh.

Bhuwan - part of the Enfield Troopers, the local Enfield motorcycle club. Bad ass dude right there.

One thing I remember was going into the latrine, into the shit house out back and thinking as I squatted over the keyhole toilet and inhaled those nauseous fumes of an outhouse, “that is the smell of friends, of other people who are like me, and it’s not bad. Yes, it’s the smell of shit and piss, but it’s from everyday people and it’s only natural, it’s only real. It’s nothing but the smell of life. And nothing is hidden in their lives.

I was pretty excited to head back to San Francisco on the two-year anniversary of my departure. Two straight years on the road, can play with your head, it can make you stronger and it can scare the shit out of you with mind chattering solitude. All of it has an effect, some influence on the psyche, on one’s personality…  But man, if I didn’t feel even more unsettled when I had a place to call home again. It was a bit like OJ’s glove, it just didn’t fit. My best friends picked me up at the airport, we ate Mexican food and drank margaritas for breakfast. I went back to work at Idle Hand, I rented an apartment. I made it a month and a fucking half, I made plans to leave in the first three weeks of being home.

Who couldn't love that face?

I still don’t know why, because the more time I spent there the more comfortable I became, the more I really began to appreciate having friends around me that knew me, that really knew me. Seeing my buddies, with their kids made my heart all happy and made me want a kid. Seeing Idle Hand in motion reminded me how special that fucking shop is and it was a pleasure to be a part of it again. The shop itself and the vibe there will tear your ass apart, break you down, leave you hungover, and provide a place to stay when there’s no where else to go. Many late nights were spent there drawing, talking, focusing on the craft and drinking. They go hand in hand over there. I’ll love that shop til the day I die.

Holly and Martin

My apple is better than your apple!

It's the newest craze...

But something in me had changed and it didn’t feel right to go back to the city. Maybe that’s it: it was going back to something. And I wanted something new, but a place to settle down. I just spent a week and a half at Kings Avenue in NYC and Long Island and met new family. I saw my mom in CT for the second time in two years.

After dinner drinks with Kings Ave and crew.

My lovely Momma.

I also went back to Greensburg Pennsylvania, where I really started tattooing and saw one of my best and oldest friends Daniel Weyandt. Today I’m in DC, where I write this now. Tonight I fly back to Buenos Aires on my birthday, to go work in that beautiful city at Well Done Tattoo again. I’ll be there for a month, working on a project for TAM and after that my friend Mariano and I will head into Sao Paulo together where I’ll attempt to meet some real bad ass motherfuckers. And I’m excited, it’s frustrating to carry this fucking backpack around, but it’s almost always worth it.

Saw this in the Redwoods with my great buddy, Justin Shaw.

Everything I’ve done, everywhere I’ve been, slowly it all gets sifted. There’s a lot of stories to tell, some of them amazing, some humorous, some sad, some perverse. There are so many – and they’re all mixed up between the life I had before and the life that I have now, I got a second lifetime after I spilt up with my ex-wife, and I think this trip – all of this time away was a way to learn that. This is a new lifetime and each day it becomes more and more what I make it to be. I’m thankful for that. Very thankful.

Nepal

The craziest thing for me over these past two years, especially the last year of getting to work with all of these legendary people, these crazy hard workers has been the difference between all of them. There’s no set path. Some party. Some don’t. Some draw on the spot others spend hours preparing their drawing. Some like whip shading, some like smooth gradations, rotaries, coils, some show mad respect, some are pirates and others are family folk – it goes on and on.  Somewhere along the way though I think I began to assume there was one way, a best way, a best approach… If you do A+B it will = X…. but it won’t. That’s some religious kind of thinking. Some Christian/muslim/jewish/religious way of looking at things. Everyone has their own way, their own path. Some do drugs, some drink, some get married and have kids, others get married and divorced some fuck hookers and others don’t get laid very often. But the good ones work their asses off, and all of them do it in their own way. I suppose in the end that’s the common thread, the people I look up to, no matter how they go about it: they work their asses off.

I’m honored and humbled to say that I will be joining Kings Avenue as a full-time artist in the beginning of August. Which means I’m moving to NYC and I couldn’t be happier with either of those things, it’s time for me to throw an anchor. Anchors away!

Here’s some work from the past couple weeks stateside:

Wanderlust

I can color a mandala.

And here’s more photos from all of the Nepal, Amsterdam, SF etc…

Justin Shaw crucified for being a good Nor Cal boy.

 

It's fun to teach other cultures American gang signs.

I loved the way her sweat shirt matched the wall perfectly.

The woman who rented me my guest house in Pokhara.

If you love something give it away.

Newly tuned machines

Alright, If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I appreciate it. That was long winded!

Be well out there in the real world.

JTG

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Anchors away (for a while)

Hello out there in Cyber world.

I’ve made it back to San Francisco and have been here for about a month so far. Been working at Idle Hand with old friends that are like family.

I’ve already got ants in my pants and will be hitting the road for about two months. I’ll start off in CT (even tattooed thugs like me have to visit their mommas).

Then I’ll be working at Kings Avenue Tattoo in NYC from March 9-14. Then Unique Ink in Greensburg PA from March 15-19. Please get in touch if you’d like to get tattooed.

After that it’s back to South America, I’ll sit in at Well Done Tattoos again and travel in Sao Paulo Brazil to meet some of the tattooers out there that floored me when I saw their while I travelled around South America. After all of this I’ll head back to SF for another month or so until the next excursion.

Here’s some recent tattoos to check out.

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After I left Denmark, I headed to Amsterdam and sat in at the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum, which was a real pleasure. I got to meet some great people and check out an amazing collection of tattoo history.

Then it was off to Nepal which was by far my favorite place I’ve seen in the past two years.  I’ll bliggity blog about that trip shortly.

Thanks for looking.

JTG

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Royal Tattoo – Helsingør, Denmark.

Henning Jørgensen is 50 years old and has been tattooing for 32 years. That’s one year less than I’ve been alive. Royal, his shop has been open in Helsingør for 28 years (26 in the current location). I was five years old when it opened.

I sit here in the midst of its history. While Henning works away upstairs like a madman at peace, with a serene fire raging inside him. His eyes are clear and aware, he sees things and remembers them, puts them into motion. When he leaves the shop he heads home to his family, his wife and daughters. His tattoos are flawless, his technique and approach is the same. But there’s a humility and open attitude to his approach, he asks opinions on color combinations and is eager to hear drawing formulas. That fire inside is directed towards the craft and it lights up the world around him. The guys in the shop say that when Henning is away on a trip, the shop gets really quiet, people don’t come in as they normally do, he has a presence that pulls people in, like a campfire draws people around it for warmth and companionship.

Henning throwing down.

With his slicked back hair and charming personality he’s built a shop like a castle and he’s welcomed people from the world over to work and visit, the entire crew is international. Not one person other than Henning and the three shop girls (Saphira, Ea and Sarah) is from Denmark.  Beppe Shiro is from Italy, Lobiño is from Brazil, Theo Maurin is from France, Ron Koupal is from Arizona and Danny Chan’s from Los Angeles (Danny’s dad was in Goonies)… All of them through whatever paths led them this way had came out to work with Henning and just didn’t want to leave or work anywhere else. Royal has been an institution that welcomes the international community to come and sit at the table, to enjoy the fellowship of family we never knew we had and some of us maybe don’t deserve.

Discussion time with Henning and Ron

The shop is two levels, Henning and Beppe work upstairs, behind the front desk, they work side by side. Large window panes look out at the street and the trees swaying in the wind, people walk by bundled up to protect themselves from the bitter cold, a graveyard lies across the street, holding the bodies of Helsingørs past. A half block away is a tombstone shop, selling and carving headstones. There are four work stations downstairs, which is where I’m working. The walls are clean and white, the floors sparkle. Memories of years past adorn the walls: a personalized drawing from Ed Hardy to Henning, paintings given as gifts on the occasion of anniversaries, paintings from Mike Rubbendal, Joel Long, Eckel, Filip Leu, Paul Jeffries, Bert Krak, Marius Meyer, Rob Abel, Dana Helmuth etc…

My contribution for the walls of history.

After all of these years, the shop runs as a smooth machine. Nothing is left to chance, things work the way they should. All of the systems in place work seamlessly and make for an easy environment to work in. The other day I was painting some flash downstairs and I would walk upstairs every hour or so to take a breather and see what was going on. Henning was working on three different people throughout that day, all the while He worked away focused upon the pigment smeared skin task under his hands. Which is what most of us do, but what makes it different, when watching him, is that he’s been at it since most of us were whacking off to our moms lingerie catalogues. Yet he still works harder and with more intensity than the majority.

To sit in the shop and work is to be a microscopic molecule of a large organism, just a footnote in history. The stream of people who have come through these doors is mind-blowing – 28 years of sharing, of friendship and work. It’s not like Denmark is the closest place to visit and Helsingor itself, isn’t a huge draw for tourism (it’s about a 40 minute ride on the train from Copenhagen) – besides Elsinore castle (where Shakespeare’s Hamlet took place). There’s only one reason for all of these people who have made the journey here and that’s the man himself.  Before I even dreamt of my first kiss or losing my virginity and blowing my wad or having an ex-wife this shop was rolling along. Henning was working, studying and making connections.

From left to right: Beppe, Danny, Henning, Ron, Lobiño and me.

The town is small and quiet. The cobble stone streets and sidewalks lead me past leaves turning, red, yellow, orange, green and brown under the sheet of slate grey sky, past buildings that look like castles, past Danish families living peaceful lives. For being so close to the sea, the wind doesn’t tear though the town, it whispers. It’s bitter cold and getting colder everyday. The grocery store shuts down at 8, restaurants at 10. It’s easy to settle down here, to slow down and focus on work.

The train station

I’ve been working hard, when I’m not tattooing, I’m painting or drawing. The modern distractions are still here, just as everywhere else. It’s easy to lose yourself on the computer or to veg out in front of the television, that’s just the blessing and the curse of the times we live in. But these streets hold something special if I look with the right eyes, something peaceful and melancholy which is only intensified by the grey skies and cold air.

The castle of Elsinore

This is a royal town, Shakespeare knew it and documented it, inscribed it on paper. Henning knows it and lives it. He’s inscribed it in skin, along with his crew on the people who have come through these doors over the past 28 years.

Here’s a list of people who have come out to work out Royal Tattoo over the years: Paul Jeffries, Trevor Mcstay, , Mike Rubbendall, Robert Atkinson, Jason Kundell, Eddie Deutsche, Scott Sylvia, Juan Puente, Valerie Vargas, Stewart Robson, Mo Coppeletta, Tim Lehi, Grime, Ami James, Marco Serio, Augustin Cavallieri, Kian Forreal, Chisaki, Salvio, Pierre Chapellan, Corey Norris, Mike Godfrey, Dax Lobo, Enma Kierzek, Jake Fraser, Seth Arcada, Dan Sinnes, Jean Luca, Inma, Frederico, Aaron Bell, Aaron Kewit, Kevin Leblanc, Marius Meyer, Danny Novaiis, Norbert, Andreas, Rex Schwinn, Andy Kennan, Adam Kills, Theo Jak, Mikki Fogge, Soap, Rose Hardy, Cliffe Clayton, Dan Anderson, Jonny Cole, Erica Sandy, Max Stalhammer, Don Yarin, Miss Nikki, Lucas Ford, Joe Wang and Joel Ang, Eric Reith, Rinto, Luke Atkinson, Eric Blaire

I’m honored and humbled to add my name to that list.

Here’s some work I’ve done since I’ve been here and some photos of people and things:

Danny Chan - the Asian sensation!Zafira an angel in black.

 

Thanks for reading,

JTG - November, 2011. Helsingør, Denmark.

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Paris and the Vatican…

Photos for that mass of grey substance between your ears. From Paris and the Vatican.

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A note from Paris

Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Japan, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Australia, Britain, Italy, France. This is where I’ve been since I left home in January 2010.

I’m sitting in my friend Pierres apartment in Pantin, France. Right on the outskirts of Paris. Not far from the city center. Pierre has big hair, like Morrisey, or like Kid from Kid n Play, he’s got big hair and a small apartment with an even smaller bathroom, it wouldn’t be possible to sit on the toilet if it weren’t at a 45 degree angle.

Pierre.

The sky outside the window is slate grey, I can see light sparks of blue spreading through the clouds, it looks like winter.  My toes are cold and my jeans are ripping below the crotch, soon the entire back of my leg will be exposed. Right under my butt. I’ve been wearing these jeans since I left San Francisco, they’ve been sewn together six times and they won’t stay together anymore. Fortunately, I tell myself, the back of my legs are covered in fucking tattoos so at least the hole in my pants shows bad ass dragons instead of pasty white 33-year-old skin. Hobo=me.

The Canal in Paris.

I saw some of my closest friends while I was in London. We worked the convention at Tobacco dock and I hid in the comfort of their familiarity. We saw Big Ben and went on one of those buses that turns into a boat, we ate good food, drank good wine (and a bit (or a lot) of whisky, vodka, beer and tequila). It was fantastic to see them, I was a little afraid that when they left I would be sad. I wasn’t. I felt a breath of fresh air. It felt great to be in the presence of people I knew well.

3 of my favorite people.

When Aaron and Jason left back to San Francisco. Holly and I went to Italy and stopped in Venice, Florence and Rome. It was jaw dropping, immense, everything. Holly cried in front of a church because it was just so fucking beautiful.

The Duomo in Florence, Italy. The church that makes ladies cry.

We tore through Italy in six or seven days. We saw the Sistine Chapel, the statue of David, the Vatican, the canals of Venice, the Colosseum – it was overwhelming to move so fast through all of these places. To see all of these things in person that we had seen so many times in books, was a surreal experience. There was no escaping the crowds of people. Old, fat, skinny, white, brown, yellow with creamy flapping mouths eating gelato. Fighting couples and sweaty crying kids. It was hard not to feel like we had accomplished something by seeing these sites, but it was difficult not to get jaded at the 20,000 other people seeing the same sights at the same time.

Florence.

Inside the Vatican, St. Peters Basillica.

After Holly left to go back to San Francisco I went on to France. I tattooed my buddy Pierre with this at Mystery Tattoo Club:

And now I’m just killing time, until November when I head off to Helsingor, Denmark to work for the month at Royal Tattoo.

That’s it. Here’s some sexy legs to look at.

Oh girl from Montenegro.

Thanks for reading,

JTG

Paris, October 2011

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The wind up.

Things out here in the land down under are hustling. I have covered a lot of ground in Australia, but pretty much seen only the inside of tattoo shops (and bars… what?).

Stacey Ann and Salty Sal - They're way up there in my cool book.

All of the traveling over the past 80 weeks took a toll on me and for a while i thought it was gonna take me out. I was living such a solitary existence. When I got to Melbourne, I hadn’t tattooed in three months and I went to work for one of the best dudes in Australia, let alone anywhere. A real heavy hitter. After three months of no work that machine felt different in my hand, having to draw with a purpose and a deadline rivaled the mindless exploration I was experiencing in my sketchbook. Shit. Even dealing with customers freaked me out. All in all it kicked my ass.

Tattooing is a giant part of my personality, my identity – shit, it’s my purpose. Without it, I’m pretty lost. Exploring Vietnam, Thailand and Laos left me shook. I was alone and unfocused for so long that I felt like screws were coming loose. There was just no end to this trip in sight. It was just go go go and somewhere along the way I found myself wondering what I was heading towards, where was I go go going? Why wasn’t I working when I wanted to be and when could I stop traveling? When could I have some comforts, like a bed of my own?

All that time though, in all that darkness there was a light at the end of it. I was heading here, to work with Trevor, Debbie, Rob, Matt and Jake at Dynamic in Melbourne. To work with Rick Luder, Dan Power, Stacey Anne, Stefen, Spud, Laith and all the others at Five Star in Perth. And to Inner Vision to work with Cliffe, Kian, Norbert,  Meghan, Wan and Mimi in Sydney. I was headed here to get tattooed under the Southern Cross by some of my heroes.

Trevor McStay

Chad Koeplinger

I was heading here to find out and accept exactly how much this craft means to me, to discover my place in it and to learn to work harder than I’ve ever worked. To give more of a fuck and less of a fuck all at the same fucking time. It’s tricky I know…

I want to make good tattoos, to be a good, kindhearted, conscious and aware dude but still be a pirate. To be comfortable in my skin; open to the people and places around me, making tattoos and work that will make people step back and appreciate the craftsmanship. To make work that inspires other people the way other people do for me. I don’t know when I’ll get there, maybe you never get “there”, maybe it really is all about enjoying the journey.

Recently after  565 straight days of traveling I decided I’ll head back to San Francisco on January 17th 2012: the two-year anniversary of when I left. I’ll get to see my friends and their families, to see my family, to see the man I’ve become on the road. I’ll settle down for a bit and have a bed and a couch but I’ll still set out on some epic journeys – just for shorter amounts of time. Until 2013 – when another massive trip is taking form that will rival the fuck out of the last year and a half. With that decision to head back there is finally an end in sight. I’m happy about that. Working full-time and deciding to head back to SF have had a huge impact on my personality and outlook. It’s been great to come back to Melbourne with my depressed head out of my ass. Getting laid always helps too.

But until then I aint through with this shit fuckers! I still have 165 days to go. I’ll be traveling through Europe in the frigid weather of the later months, leaving my mark wherever I’m asked and exploring this rock. I got people to do and things to see.

Get tattooed! (by me – somewhere out there)

JTG - Melbourne Australia, August 2011

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