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Existentialism-- Just a bloody good excuse to go riding...

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Its amazing what one can learn simply by just venturing out into unfamiliar territory.
It can be as simple as servicing a bike headset and realize that what I always thought was an issue with the fork geometry that was blamed for the speed bled during a turn actually comes from the headset that was long due for an overhaul.

Or just browsing blogs to realize that there are people out there who set out to see the world. One from a Singaporean couple that seems to be really happy doing what they believe in. No fancy language needed, simple  folks from what can be read on their  blog. At times I wish I was the person travelling and writing the blog rather than the one reading. Cool shitz!

Lately I have been bitten by this "life is too short" bug and just want more time for myself... but like lyrics of Cats in the Cradle....."But there were planes to catch and bills to pay.." guess only smaller things can be taken on for now.

Don't we all just get all caught up with a hectic lifestyle, catching up with peers and the ever out of reach list of things like bigger cars and houses, that we forget sometimes how to live and just be ourselves. At least that's the conclusion I came to.....

So I say fuck it. Plan for tomorrow but don't forget to live for today.

Tattooing has always been a part of me but its been such a long time since my last ink fix.... How many time, when alone, the memories of buzzing needles mixed with the odor of ink and alcohol swipes all came flooding bac... the numbing pain that starts building up after the first break in the skin. Somehow it feels strangely good when the natural opiate kicks in. Have to admit, I'm a pain junkie. Being the impatient sort, I just hated the healing part.

At the start of this year I went to the Singapore Tattoo Convention, the 2nd ever on this little prim and proper island and wasn't expecting much. Actually all that was in mind was getting ideas to start plans on a project, get back into the scene a bit, dabble and draw and have something big in maybe 2 years time. Definitely not on that very day.

Having always been one who don't really give a damn about what others think, over the years as one settles down to a more "normal" life, I was getting conscious of how people may view if my tattoos start to show, especially in the work environment. Yea yea yea, the fucking executive life that got me to ditch my grungy ways of the past...those carefree and more true to self days.

Decided I'll just be myself again. Fuck the World or rather The World Can Go Fuck Itself for all I care. I'm living for Me now!

.......Back to the convention... Wow things sure have changed. Yes, old school art is there and always will be. New generation of artists will add a twist somehow to keep things refreshing. Not always with good results I must say. New development, ink and advancement in techniques all play a part too. Given my last bad experience with tattooing in Taiwan, when a couple I met at the entrance said how good the Taiwanese has gotten, it didn't really raise much of an interest in me. Secretly I was still hoping to get a real Japanese piece of irezumi

Much to my surprise, the Taiwanese "delegation" at the show was huge and were displaying some impressive art. From the hand drawn flash shown in individual booth, its quite clear that each has their own strong points. The "traditional" tattoos as Japanese style tattoos are referred to in Chinese terms takes on a unique twist. Many details and things like background are still steeped in the traditional Japanese style and signatures. But unmistakable Chinese influences are present too, yet its not like the typical cheap garish oriental art associated with Chinese sidewalks and bazaar meant for tourists that don't know any better.

I'm not out to trash anyone, just that certain styles of tattooing imo can't be done right by just anybody who decides to take up a tattoo machine. Guess it all boils down to culture and what one has been living with all their lives. Just like I have not really seen a good Celtic piece done by an Asian in an Asian country. Somehow they just get muck it up with elements of New Age Tribal (and this despite anyone that defends it, I have to say is simply fugly. But most of all, the thing that really stands out is when the elements within a piece is all wrong. Each individual object may be exquisitely inked but they just don't gel together, which imo is what happened with the piece pictured below

Up close the colors were brilliant but central water theme (koi) surrounded by peonies! I can't help but think of an aquarium shop that doubles up as a florist.

But I really shouldn't be too critical. I am wearing some glaringly colorful mistakes myself too. Tattoos are a journey like so many things else....

There were some very nice pieces I spotted too but just couldn't imagine myself walking around with art like that.
Below a nice foreboding dark Western style art with a little traditional cherry blossoms fusion the Colors are well thought out in the whole pic and even have this nice East- West fusion mix. Wouldn't say exactly out of place but conservative me would definitely choose to go with either or, not a mix.

2 hours of circling the hall later and impressed by a few other booths but unable to connect with their art, I found myself back at the Taiwanese pavilion.

All the hooha in the convention was centered around Chris Garver. No doubt a recent boost to tattooing in Singapore was brought on by Miami Ink and Chris was one of the main character on the show. I don't doubt he is good but what was done that day really was not my cuppa.

Inching my way from booth to booth, I spotted the displayed hand drawn flash art that was mainly Koi and ...something "new". At first I thought they were Oriental renditions of Japanese "Ogiri" but realized it was the personal style of one particular artist of the Chinese "Heavenly Dog" and not the Japanese demon heads. Chatted up the chap manning while looking at the adjacent booth where a guy was having some big ass peony covered on his inner thigh. Ouch!  Didn't realize that 1 hour later I would be in the chair for my next big ass piece that stretched 16 hours over to the next day............

An, the chap's name was one cool salesman.... I was just casually asking and not really wanting a new tattoo that soon (given my anal-ness of preparing and researching and insistence on drawing despite being no artist). Asked him can a cover up of my last muck up armband and one that was done during my army days of a rose twining over a dagger be covered over. He said no problem and ask me to see a "live" sample first. A young guy beside me stood up and I did not see a single drop of ink when he was covered. But when he drop the shirt and pants! Wow...right there was a full body suit with a clear river "kawa" style. It has the most vibrant color in a full traditional suit I have seen and the details were bold and strong without being overly cartoon as is the case with many big pieces. An, turn and said this was done by their shop in 6 months on this guy for a contest in this convention. I was awe struck.

"Is the guy that did this going to be the one that will be tattooing on me?" I asked. Yea, An replied with an approving nod and "Oh by the way he is my brother". The artist was nowhere at the booth. Immediately I conjured up an image of some guy in his 30s that has full sleeves showing signs of ink that is at least a decade old...... We decided on the price rather quick after I told him I want a huge Koi on the entire upper arm and a older style heavenly dog instead on an Ogiri on the chest.

Being the procrastinating, ever doubtful type, seldom do I make decisions that quick. But there I was with a quick "Ok! Let's get on with it now."

Back at the hall, I sat and waited for the artist to come back. 5 mins of chit chat later, this plump and really young looking guy came back. Straight away I regretted, thinking in my mind, no way it can be him. Just too young! Can he even hold the gun properly? Immediately all the horror of my last bad tattoo done in Taiwan came flooding back.......

Kept mum and thought to myself..."let's see..." He sized the old ink on my arm and look at the big one on my left side and without a word starting drawing directly with a sharpie. Again thinking to myself "Is this guy for real! Freehand cover up !"

Peering over the shoulder as he progressed, with each glance my confidence grew. 20 mins later he asked if Im satisifed with it, I saw how he was going to do the cover up and knew I need not even tell him what to do. So I said "My input will just be already know what I want which is if the picture can bring out the mood of a big Koi that is not swayed by the stormy water around it... aka symbolism of STRENGTH ..."

It was one of the best looking Koi I have seen, drawn or actually inked with an outline. But he was not happy, he said it should be tilted so that the roundness of the head will be accentuated by the natural contour of the shoulder. 'Erased' and redrawn 10 minutes later.. he carried on with the heavenly dog on the chest.

Nine hours later at closing time for the day, it was still not done. And the guy's lunch box was still sitting on the table since 1pm in the afternoon. He hasn't eaten anything at all. Talk about dedication to work!

The body's endorphin was working overtime and the shivering was bad enough to get my teeth rattling by 8pm but seeing how the artist was just quietly working away, I kept as still all the time. Hell, if anywone has got something to complain, I'm definitely at the back of the queue. Besides I was getting my 2 hourly smoke break and having the crowd outside gawking each time I come out spotting and expanding patch with more ink etched. Have to be one of the densest piece done at the convention.

At 10pm I was more than happy to call it a day but was dreading the next morning when part of the day's area had to be pierced once again as the colors and some of the black shading was not done yet.

.....Morning came and a closer look of what was done and oh damn, does it ever hurt like a bitch!

No time to lose, back to the convention before noon center to finish up. It was another 7 hours and FINALLY, done by early evening. Fuck, I had to give excuse halfway as I was supposed to be at a meeting @ 4pm

Ok, but this was worth all the bullshit excuses I had to come up with at short notice...


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