Thursday, September 15, 2011

Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake


I'll be damned, the universe disposes of its own evil!

-J. Kerouac

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My mind is continuously blown by...


What can I say, people constantly ask me why I commute 2 hours a day down to San Jose. "There aren't any shops closer?" they ask. My answer: HORITOMO*. I have the opportunity to work with one of the most ingenious and inspiring people I've ever met in my short time on this planet. His tattoos are constantly evolving; utilizing his vast knowledge of Japanese culture and myth, virtuoso artistic talent and unbounding creativity. What can i say... he's a cool dude.

So when Horitomo asked me to participate in his new book Immovable I was ecstatic. 2 long, hard years in the making, Horitomo has worked tirelessly, cancelling numerous appointments and forfeiting such of his earthly pleasures as fishing and riding his motorcycle, the work he put in on this project is almost unimaginable for the short time in which he put it together. I learned so much working with him on this project about the history of Esoteric Buddhism, it's founders and of course about Fudo Myo-o and his impact on the Japanese subconscious.  

His idea was to create a guide for Westerners to understand the Japanese god Fudo Myo-o. Fudo Myo-o sort of defies what westerners imagine about Japanese Buddhism. Many people hear the word Buddha and think of peace, happiness and meditation. Love and compassion blah, blah, blah, well Horitomo focuses on Fudo Myo-o, the Buddha's angry manifestation that destroys and consumes the evil passions of mankind. 

The book contains drawings that are direct copies of masterpieces of Japanese art and a series of backpiece and arm designs that were inspired by his in depth researches. There is also a font of information contained in the text, it is such a unique project and it is so beautifully drawn, I can't wait til you all get to see it. It will be released at the SFO tattoo convention we throw in October.
(these are some of Horitomo's sketches for the book, photographed by Molly Skobba)

We also have just announced that at the convention Horitomo will be conducting a seminar on drawing backpieces, needless to say I'm pretty excited to check it out! Working at State of Grace I get to draw and get critiqued by Horitomo regularly and it always completely blows my mind and helps me find resolution where it is needed as well as change my perspective and see things in ways I am unable on my own. Sharing his gifts with the world is definitely not an opportunity to be missed! Check it out here:

Not to mention you get a copy of the book with the seminar, so just a heads up because there is limited spaces available in the seminar. Hope to see all of you there!

*To Taki, Colin, Horiken Dan and Rob: although you guys are also cool I was going for big drama with this statement. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy Anniversary to us

Today State of Grace turned, 9!* Taki reminded me of how Chad Koeplinger and I sat on the floor of the old shop painting the original State of Grace sign til late into the night trying to get it done in time for our big opening.  Here it is:

Man it was so rotten when we took it down, seven winters getting rained on will do it. We tried to hang it in the new shop but it was too smelly!  Here's an oldie but goodie, Taki tattooing the Milazzo, those were the days.

And of course my old station, too, a girl gets sentimental trotting down memory lane!

Anyway as the boss man messaged me this morning, what a long strange trip it's been! Can't wait til we hit the big 10!

*custom official State of Grace jean jackets are still available for purchase at the shop. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I guess, because I'm the middle sister.

It's a well documented fact that Dan Wysuph is known for his musical taste as well as his tattooing abilities. I work with Dan once a week and each week we obsessively discuss and debate music, culture and art, not to mention hilarious anecdotes about his baby (whom I call Baby Banjo). Basically if Dan wasn't my friend I would probably just listen to Bob Dylan all day. 
So last week we got into a debate about youth culture, the future, the death of art and music, and civilization's general turn towards its inevitable impending doom. Rather that is what I was claiming and he was defending art and new music and pointed out I was probably saying the same old thing that every generation before us had complained about. Well, here I am, taking this moment to publicly apologize to American culture and change my negative attitude towards anything not Bob Dylan. I am obsessed with this band, this album and this song which coincidenatlly are all called Middle Brother. 

Something different, inventive and interesting. Fun and catchy, a good one to celebrate this beautiful sunny day in San Francisco. Hope you guys enjoy it!

Oh p.s. this is one from Dan

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sometimes they just don't show up....

I spent the last few weeks preparing a backpiece drawing of another Suikoden warrior; Kaosho Rochishin. Rochishin is bad ass. He is a big, fat, drunk, angry warrior with a bad temper who becomes a priest to escape the death penalty. Bald, hairy and covered in flower tattoos. He is also known as the "flower priest". (The below rendition is by Kuniyoshi, 1830.)

 "Rochishin in a drunken rage smashing the guardian figure at the temple on Five-crested Mountain" 

Rochishin ransui godaizan kongôjin o uchikowasu no zu

(The below image is by Yoshitoshi,1887)

"After killing a man in a fit of rage, military captain Rotatsu (Lu Da) escaped a death penalty by becoming a monk at a temple on Five-crested Mountain, where he was given the name Kaoshô Rochishin (Lu Zhishen). He was unable to reform his appalling behaviour, and could not be punished because of his violent temper and prodigious strength. One night he staggered back drunk and tried some physical exercises at the temple gate to prove his strength. He accidentally knocked down part of the gate, and in his drunken surprise saw the guardian statue looming above him and attacked it. Rochishin was persuaded to leave the temple shortly afterwards, eventually linking up with his friend and fellow outlaw Rinchû."

This is the thumbnail sketch for the piece. I planned on adding peonies and wind, for background, to complement the cherry blossom and wind tattoo designs that I was planning on tattooing on the warrior. 

After all of my hard work, the guy never came in...and his phone is disconnected.

Friday, August 19, 2011

KUMONRYU: Tattooed Warrior

 After over a years worth of work I have finished this backpiece of Kumonryu. Kumonryu is one of the Suikoden warriors. Meaning he is a character form one of the 108 folk stories from Japan's beloved Chinese tales of heroes, warriors and bandits. Kumonryu was a great warrior having mastered all of the 18 martial arts of his time. He was a top cavalry officer and although born into wealth he chose not to follow his family's footsteps and instead pursued the life of a warrior. His name comes from the tattoo he bore; a bodysuit of nine dragons. A perfect warrior archetype, he is depicted as strong and handsome and died young while being ambushed by arrows while surrounded on all sides by enemies. Kumonryu is among the most popularly depicted characters in the Suikoden stories.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


A little over a week ago we lost one of the great ones.
 RJ Enriquez
Father, Husband, Bike Builder, Biker and all around Big Brother.

(left to right; Roman, Ray, Uncle George, R.J.)

 Nine years ago this September I arrived in San Jose to work for Taki at State of Grace. I showed up just in time to help put the final touches on the new shop and started work the first day we were open. The space was offered to Taki by Roman Enriquez, him and his family have been building Harley's in San Jose for over 30 years and their shop is called 45s Forever. Roman and his brother R.J. had been getting tattooed by Taki for awhile at that time and they had a house on their property that was available, so Roman offered it to him to rent to build a tattoo shop.
 New to town, I was a lost puppy and was just figuring out my new surroundings, but from day 1 the Enriquez family adopted me. I don't know that I can think of a more close and loving family. Coming from a big close family, myself, I always felt at home at their BBQ's and parties. The oldest of their 4 kids was R.J. He had an awesome personal style and taste; 100% biker/gangster. He was a talented artist and it came through in the bikes he built. He made working at our old shop fun. We all joked we could tattoo through natural disasters because R.J. thought it was hilarious to lite off dynamite and blow fire balls at our window while we worked. His laugh echoed through the shop. The bike he rode was a beautiful sleek chopper of his own creation. It had such a long front end and we would run to the window to watch him pull up in the morning and leave at night. It was a steep hill getting in and out of the parking lot and he made it look easy dropping in and pulling up at the 45's garage.

                             (The insane chopper)

R.J. was the big brother, he was the toughest dude you'd ever know but also the funnest and most loving. His smile was genuine without an ounce of bullshit in his eyes, everyone knew that if he liked you he loved you and if not, well,  you knew it.  Words cannot express this loss to those that knew him and my family, the Enriquez's. All of my deepest Love and Respect to his parents Ray and Erma and the rest of the extended Enriquez and 45s Forever families.