Friday, November 15, 2013

Metaphors for life : Looking at the road ahead

I use metaphors alot I tend to take the metaphor as far as I can. A few of my friends have told me I need to write them down somewhere.. Well ok guys here I go..

As an artist I have people say to me "I wish I could draw, I can't even draw a straight line." Funny but drawing a straight line isn't always required in making a piece of art.. But if you do want to draw a straight line there are ways to make it look straighter. When you draw you don't look at the tip of your pencil and where it it touching the paper, you look a little ahead of your pencil and pull the line to the end point.. It's like when you drive your car, you don't look at the front of your bumper, you look at the road a bit a head to see if there is anything you need to be aware of like stoplights, cars stopping, pedestrians, how fast traffic is moving ect.. and you are aiming to your destination.

 I guess you could take this metaphor for life as well.. You want to see whats around you right now, but if you only focus on where you are right now (looking at your bumper) lamenting how your life is and never planning a destination, you will never move and will stay just where you are. You need to think about where you are headed and plan the route to your destination.. While on your way look a bit ahead and plan for the obstacles that may get in the way of your destination.  Some times you may need to take a detour (change the way you are getting to what you want to do) because the way you wanted to go is gone or blocked.. Other times you may discover that the destination you were headed to is no longer there or possibly you no longer have an interest in the original destination and you need to rethink where you are going..

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Planning your tattoo

 You want to get a tattoo but you aren't sure of what to get. Or you know what you want, but don't know how to get the artist to draw what you want done. Here are a few things that might make it a bit easier on you and your artist..

Deciding on your tattoo you need to answer the basic questions... What do I want to get done?   Where on my body do I want it? When should I get it? Who's the best Artist to do my tattoo?   And finally, how do I get reference material to show the artist? Lets answer each of these questions:

What do I want to get done? 
This is the million dollar question. I personally don't like the idea of getting a tattoo just to have a tattoo. I cover up this type of tattoo all the time. Getting "something" is not going to last the test of time. Many have entered a tattoo shop wanting a tattoo and not knowing what to get, point at the wall and say"gimmie that one". This the second biggest reason I cover up a well executed tattoo (names are #1 in cover ups).
If you are trying to figure out what to get, but not sure where to start, you can try by asking yourself why you want the tattoo. Is it to mark a special event or accomplishment in your life? Then maybe get something to represent what you just accomplished or the special event. Do you need it to mark the passing of a friend? You could do something that reminds you of the time you had with that special person. I find writing down why I want the tattoo and a list of things I would want to have tattooed on me are a big help. You may also want to try doing a search in Google images to help find what you want. Type in some of the concepts you want to convey and search the images. (note: don't use the word tattoo in your search or you will just get other tattoos and not an original piece of your own.) Sometimes you might not know what you want but you know where you want it.. the placement on the body will sometimes tell you what should go there. Or maybe you need to ask yourself what belongs there.. Try and picture that part of your body, what is missing.. I try to bring a tattoo out of the skin, not just slap something on..

Where on my body do I want it?
So you know what you want, but not where to put it..There are many things to think about with placement. If you want it to show when you are out at night or the weekend but hidden when you are at work, you will need to see what parts are covered in work clothes, but uncovered in street clothes. There are a few body parts that have a few more considerations. Hands and Feet both have some issues with healing and with how the tattoo will look over time. The palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet both are very difficult  if not nearly impossible to heal nice and solid. I have seen a few good ones over the years, but most of the time the tattoo tends to look like specks of dirt left behind. the tops of both hands and feet can heal quite nicely but have a higher chance of needing a touch up.

When should I get the tattoo done? 
Your tattoo is an open wound and will need to be treated as such. You can't go into the sun or in the ocean, a lake, pool or hot tub for 2-4 weeks depending on how quickly you heal. So try and plan your tattoo when this won't be a problem. I know having a pretty tattoo would be great on the first day of your vacation, but if you want to go in the sun or swim, put it off till the end of your trip or you will have to miss these activities.

 There are other times when it is not a good idea to get tattooed:
--When you are sick is a bad time, not only will your tattoo take longer to heal because you body is busy trying to get you better, but you are also exposing the artist to your cold. We artists don't want your cold, call in and reschedule please.
--After a surgery is a bad time to get tattooed. Like being sick your body is working on healing itself and needs all its resources to do so. By getting tattooed too soon you can not only have your tattoo heal badly but you could compromise the healing from your surgery. I always recommend to my clients to ask their doctor how long they should wait after surgery to get a tattooed.
--During pregnancy is never a time to get tattooed. You have committed all of your body's resources to growing another human life, you don't want some of those resources to be taken from that job to heal your tattoo. Also Doctors don't even want you to get dental work or dye your hair during this time, so tattooing is a definite no no..
The best time to get tattooed is when you have 3-4 weeks where you can be out of the sun, and out of the water . Winter is usually a great time for healing a tattoo.

Times where you can still get tattooed but it will be harder for you to sit and possibly hurt more:
-- when overly tired
-- just over a cold
-- when you are hungover
-- for the ladies it is best not to get tattooed during your "Lady Time". With hormone fluctuations the tattoo can be considerably more painful for some women..

Who is the best Artist to do my tattoo?
This is a very important question. When picking an artist start by doing some research into your local shops. Ask friends who have tattoos you like where they got them and who did them. Check sites like Citysearch and Yahoo for recommendations and reviews of local shops. Remember to read all the reviews. Sometimes people will give a negative review of a shop but not be specific why they had a bad experience, or their complaint may just be petty. Read to see if there was a real problem, and if so, what was the problem. When reading the good reviews, see if the things people love about the shop are things you are looking for in a shop. Go to the shop for a visit. You can check it out and see if you feel comfortable there. Just because you visit a shop, doesn't mean you have to get tattooed there.

When picking a specific artist to do your tattoo you definitely want to see some of their finished work.  You can either go to the shop and look at portfolios, or you can go to the shops website and see the online portfolios. Most shops these days have more updated portfolios online than they do in the shop. It is much easier to upload a photo than to print out photos to add to the book. Here's what to look for in the portfolio. The line work should be clean, not shaky. The shading should be smooth and blended, and the colors should be solid. Look for an artist that can do work with the look or feel of what you want to get done. You may like the color work someone does, but that doesn't mean they are the best person to do your tribal work. You can also ask if the artist you like does the type of tattoo that you want to do. Not every artist does every type of tattoo. Some artist are very versatile and others specialize in one style. You want to make sure what you want done is something they do well..

 How to get reference material to show the artist? 
  These days many shops offer free consultations before getting tattooed, where you can discuss with the artist what you want and they can help you flesh out your ideas.. I recommend either searching google images, or a designers site like for images to show your artist.. These can either be printed out and brought with you to your consultation, or emailed ahead so the artist will have them for the consultation. You can also make a pinterest board ( and send a link to the artist.. I cannot say this enough about reference images... DO NOT LOOK AT TATTOOS for reference. We can use existing tattoos to refer to for a style of tattoo, but  a tattoo on another person is their tattoo and you should never copy it. As an artist it is very hard to draw up the design if a client gives me all photos of existing tattoos. I have to make sure that I am not copying (even subconsciously) from the other tattoos.. It is much easier to go from existing art , designs and photographs of real things, to draw the tattoo..
What not to do
Perfume/Cologne.. The tattoo artist is sitting very close to you, if you are wearing perfume or cologne this can be very distracting to your tattoo artist. You may not think you have much on, but to the person sitting just inches away from you it may be very strong indeed.. And if your tattoo artist is sensitive (As I am)  It can cause nausea and severe headaches. Not what you want to do to the person tattooing you.

Drinking/Drugs... In the old days of tattooing people would get drunk and go get tattooed. That is no longer the way things work.  Most tattoos do not hurt bad enough for pain management. In the first 10-15 minutes of a tattoo are the worst as your body begins to pump endorphins. Then it just becomes annoying, not bad at all.
--Drinking is not helpful and can actually harm the final look of the tattoo.. Alcohol makes you more vascular ( you blood flows more freely). If you are poking holes in the skin and putting ink in those holes, the less bleeding the better. If the skin bleeds a lot you can push the ink out of the skin. This will make for a tattoo that won't look as solid and will possibly have problems with scabbing. People used to drink to make it hurt less and to give them courage.. Well to make it hurt less you would need to drink so much you may pass out. And if you need that much courage to get tattooed, maybe it is not time for you to get tattooed yet..
 --Drugs are taken by clients to help with the pain.. Unfortunately most do little to help and some actually cause the tattoo to hurt more.. Pot is a big one that people think will help them relax, but ends up making it all worse. Think of it this way, once you have a little buzz (and this goes for alcohol too) if feels good to be touched, slight touches are very pleasurable.. Now what would happen if you touched that wonderfully sensitive skin with a needle? OUCH ! As for pain killers, oral ones usually don't work for topical skin pain.. For that there are Numbing Creams and Sprays.
-- Numbing Creams and Sprays can be helpful if used properly. There are several numbing creams and sprays on the market that a tattoo artist can use. If you want to use one please ask your artist in advance about it.. DO NOT PRE-MEDICATE without letting them know.. The one problem with all of these is that they cause some swelling of the skin.When doing a tattoo the artist must draw on the skin or place a stencil on the skin to be sure of how the design will look laid out in that area. If the tissue under that stencil is distorted with swelling, the final design may be flawed and distorted. So doing any numbing before the outline is a bad idea, but these products work excellent for doing the color and shading. With the creams, most must be applied and wrapped with saran wrap an hour before the tattooing begins and the numbing only lasts 2 hours. Once it wears off it hurts way more than the tattoo would have in the first place. Some of the new sprays you can use once the skin is broken, they don't get rid of all the pain, but are excellent for taking the edge off a particularly painful spot and can be used past the 2 hour mark.

--Name tattoos are the most covered-up tattoo. I personally have issues with anyone wanting to put their name on me, like I am piece of clothing at camp they don't want lost in the laundry.. But I do understand that many people feel putting another's name on them as a sign of devotion. There are better ways to show your devotion..  Indirect symbols work best..Lets say you call them honey, how about a bee? Or are they your teddy bear? how about a bear? Or an image from where you met or their astrological symbol? Maybe the both of you get a matching tattoo as a symbol of devotion to each other. All of these are indirect symbols.. For some reason putting a name on your body is like flipping off the universe, asking it to end the relationship.. Do I know people who are still together after getting names on each other? Yes, but they are rare. Personally you couldn't pay me enough to get my husbands name on me and we have been together for over 26 years. We have a matching tattoo, I love it.

Other notes
touch-ups vs re-colors Any reputable shop will touch up your tattoo within the first 6 months of getting it, if needed. The human body can push out extra ink, the skin can swell and get very red, making it difficult to see how solid a piece looks to the artist, you could have just had a rough time healing. So if there is any loss of color, call the shop and book a touch up.. You the client are our best advertising and we want your tattoo to look it's best, we want to touch it up if it needs it. And please go back to the original artist to get it touched up. Going to another shop and bitching how they screwed it up, when it is obvious (to a tattoo artist) that it is a basic healing issue and a free touch up, just makes you look bad..
A touch up is for freshly healed tattoo that lost color during healing. A recolor is when the tattoo is many years old and has faded over time or lost color due to sun damage. Often when I am telling a client about the dangers of tattoo ink fading in the sun, they will tell me to not worry, they will get it touched up every couple of years.. This is a horrible idea. Recoloring a tattoo is not merely refilling the color. When we recolor, we break the skin, if you do this every couple of years you run the risk of damaging the skin and causing scarring.. So to keep that tattoo color bright, sunscreen to protect it and save the recoloring for many years down the road...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Having a new eye and a need way of looking at the world

 My Cataract Surgery was last week on July 25th. I woke up at 5am to make a 6:30 pre-op appointment. If you know me, you know I believe this is a bed time not a wake up time. Luckily the surgery itself was much less scary than I had feared. I was given a mild sedative so I was awake (kinda of) for the entire procedure. They used a laser to do the cuts in my eye, removed my old lens and replaced it with a new lens. It was all over and done with, including my pre-op, in about 2 hours. I couldn't believe I didn't feel horrible after, a little spacey, but no nausea from the anesthesia. I went to lunch and then went home where I crashed for the next 5 hours..

 The next day was where the surprise came. I was on my way to the doctor for a post-op check up and noticed the road I had traveled hundreds of times looked very different. Everything was popping out at me! My vision was still a bit blurry in my left eye, but even with that, everything seemed to just jump out.. I found myself staring at trees moving in the breeze, or looking at how the cars parked on the street, seemed to stand out so much more . It was like the first time you see a movie in real 3D.  My doctor told me this is normal, that now my eyes are working together better all of my vision will improve. Funny you don't know what you are missing if you don't have it. I have been using the same visual cues to see the world as I do when I paint: close items are clear and far are blurry, and the way shadows fall across objects. But with my repaired vision, things just POP OUT! A whole new visual world has opened up to me. I have no idea if I can paint the way the world looks to me now.

 Over the past week this new vision has been both a gift and a curse. My brain is not used to it and I have been horribly woozy, a bit queasy, and very easily tired. This shouldn't surprise me since every time I get a new glasses prescription I get headaches and a bit queasy. The best way to explain the feeling of looking out my new eyes is this: you know when you look out an old  piece of warped glass? The feeling you get in your head and how your eyes keep trying to focus but they just can't? It's kinda like that. My eyes can see better, but some of the vision in the left eye is still fuzzy (this is normal, it will improve and has already) so true focus isn't possible. Also I had my left eyes sight match my right eyes. I decided that I wanted my close up vision (for reading, drawing, tatting and painting) to be without glasses, and my far vision to be assisted with glasses. So right now my glasses are not the right prescription for my left eye, thus further warping my distance vision. I will be able to get my lens replaced in 2 weeks when we will see the actual prescription my eye will need, then all will be crystal clear. So I still have a few weeks with distance vision being a little off. But my near vision is almost there!

 Today is the first day that I actually forgot I had the surgery. I woke up and saw almost as clearly without glasses as I did before, which is a relief. I thought I was going back to work this past Monday, but since my close vision was still not totally clear, all of this weeks appointments had to be rescheduled. I need my close vision to be perfect to make permanent marks in peoples bodies. Even painting and working on tattoo drawings have been almost impossible. I was going stir crazy not being able to do art until I realized I could work with my Cintique tablet on the computer. Because I can enlarge things on the screen till I can see them clearly. Plus unlike tattoos, if I made a mistake I can just hit "undo". Where my eyes are today I am confident that I will be back tattooing on Sunday!

 So that's how the surgery went, and my progress so far..  I want to thank everyone who bought a piece of art, dropped off a little something in cash, or sent me words of encouragement and support. I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life. I was able to raise about $5000 through art sales and donations which was a huge help! I've already paid out $5600 for the surgery to cover my Deductible and what the Insurance company wouldn't pay for.. In a month I find out how much the insurance company won't cover, I'm figuring it will be around $2,500 to $3000. This cost, as well as a week off of work and replacing the left lens in 3 pairs of glasses, add up to a few more big bills on the horizon. Which is why I still have all my art work on my site still on sale. Without out the help from all of you I wouldn't have been able to get the surgery done at all. So THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!  :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Surgery Date and catching up

 Wow, I haven't posted since February! So much has been happening as I try to prepare mentally and financially for my Surgery, the time has just flown by. What have I been busy with?

 Well, things have been super busy at Zulu Tattoo. I have been neck deep in drawings and planning the numerous Cover-ups that have come my way. I will have a bunch of new cover-up photos for my website to post as soon as I have time to edit them.

 In my own art I have been doing more pieces for my Kowai Kawaii Yokai series. I have so many ideas I can't get them all out of my head! It is great to be this excited about my own art. I also added another style to my art arsenal. I have been doing my pop culture pieces in a Japanese Edo print style. So far I have done "The Avengers in Edo period" and "Yokai Busters" (Ghost Busters), and have many more planned. It is frustrating to have so many ideas and no time to do them in. Here are my two Edo period pieces, They are done on watercolor board with Inktense pencils (like watercolor pencils) and ink for the outlines.

 All of this is going on while my left eye is getting more annoying. Glare is becoming more and more of a problem. With a normal eye, light goes through the lens and hits the back of your eye like the tip of a cone. With a cataract, the light goes through the lens and is spread all over the back of the eye, it's like hitting a disco ball. The more glare, the harder it is to see with the cataract effected eye.
  Because of this, I have had to shut the blinds when I am tattooing so the glare from the sun outside won't effect my vision. Also when I paint I have to angle my light differently. As long as I control the glare I can still paint and tattoo, but I am anxious to get my surgery over with. I finally have a surgery date!!! July 25th!!! A little over a month away. I have already scheduled time off from the tattoo shop to get the surgery and to adjust to my new lens.

 Cost is the only thing left hanging. I have contacted the doctors office, the surgical center, and the insurance company and I still can't get a clear answer on how much I will be paying for the surgery, and how much the insurance company will pay. The surgery will be around $8000 to $9000. I have a $4000 insurance deductible. Because the doctor will be replacing my cataract lens with a lens that corrects my astigmatism, the insurance company won't apply the cost of the basic lens toward the deductible. Because the lens corrects my vision as well as replacing my cataract lens the insurance company considered it cosmetic.  It makes no sense that they wouldn't just make me pay the difference in the cost. That's insurance for you these days. I pay my premium every paycheck, and when I need medical attention they try to squirm out of paying for it..  AAAARRRRGH.. it is so frustrating.. They also won't tell me exactly what they will apply toward the deductible, and then, what of that they will pay for once the deductible is met.

 Because of this I need to get as much of the cost of the surgery together as I can.. I have already had some big art sales this year that I have put in savings for surgical costs. I've sold a few antiques and have took out another credit card with no deductible to also help pay for the cost.

 I'm having a Fundraiser with new art for sale and a silent auction on older pieces. Japan LA is having their 6th anniversary party and have been kind enough to offer me their small gallery area to do my fundraiser during the festivities. Japan LA's 6th Birthday party is Saturday June 23rd 2012 from 6pm till 10pm..  I will also have paintings for sale on My website .If you have ever wanted a piece of my art in your collection, this is the time!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eye update; A second opinion

Today I went to get a second opinion on my cataract and to get recommendation on the lens replacement. The Eye Doctor visit went amazing! I am so glad I got the second opinion.

 I had an eye doctor I loved but my primary Dr. had to refer me to an eye doctor in his circle to check the pressure in my eyes after several ocular migraines. My regular eye doctor was not on his list of doctors to refer. I went to the other eye doctor and got my eye pressure checked. While I was there I talked to him about my cataract in my left eye since it seemed to be getting worse.  He was not very helpful and had recommend I go with a replacement lens that would fix my vision in the left eye. A lens that was $1500 more than the regular lens and not covered by my insurance. I was willing to pay the extra money out of pocket if it made my vision better, my eyes are very important to me.. But I couldn't get straight answers from him and once I did more research on the lens via the internet, I discovered that that lens was not a good option for me for a number of reasons.. I kept getting the feeling that I was going to the wrong person for my surgery. I just wanted to understand what my options were and which lens would be best for my vision needs. But all I got was the up-sell..

My husband and I talked about it and decided I needed to go back to the doctor who originally diagnosed my cataract. He was amazing the first time and did a great job explaining what a cataract was and I was totally comfortable with him.

So today I went back to my Favorite eye doctor and got a second opinion. First off, my cataract has gotten worse since the last time he looked at it. Before I only had a cataract on the front of the lens, that cataract has expanded and I now have a second one on the back of the lens in the dead center of my vision. Which explains why my vision in that eye has seemed so much worse.. We went over my options of lenses.. Correcting my left eye to see distance better and glasses needed for reading.. But my right eye is near sighted so maybe not so good.. Adjusting my vision so both eyes are the same so my vision close up is good and I would need glasses or contacts for distance and a few other options I can't remember right now.. My doctor is conferring with his associate and the operating surgeon to give me a recommendation that is best for my lifestyle and my profession.. He took the time to talk to me and answer all my questions, brought in the other doctor and discussed my case.. Both agreed that the crystalens is not a good option for me, it would be if I was replacing both eyes, but not for doing just one lens replacement.  I would have been paying alot more for a lens that would actually give me issues in adjusting to the new lens and it would not have worked well with a single eye lens replacement.. I am so glad  that my husband urged me to follow my gut reaction. I am now starting the process of getting my surgery done.. I will get the lens recommendation as well as a surgeon recommendation in the next week and then I will need to schedule my appointment. And the best part is that I will be seeing clearly the day after my surgery!!! I will not be tattooing for a few days after that just to make sure my vision is 100% before working on any clients.

Lesson learned, follow you gut, of it seems shady it might be, and ask lots of questions!!! Funny, I tell clients this about getting a tattoo and I almost didn't take my own advice.

Side note for those concerned about me tattooing them with a cataract...... My vision is not a problem for tattooing right now, I am taking care of it before it effects my ability to tattoo.. I would stop tattooing if I thought it would be a problem.. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Kitsune and Tanuki

 Now  a continuation of my Kowai Kawaii Yokai.. Today I will talk about my two favorite tricksters Kitsune and Tanuki (click on names for more information). Both of them are traditional Japanese Yokai and both are shape shifters.. I would say they were my gateway Yokai. They were the way I discovered that yokai existed and introduced me to a new world.

Kitsune is a fox, Tanuki is a Japanese Tanuki (raccoon dog). I first came upon both of them while playing the video game Animal Crossing. They had Kitsune called Crazy Redd, the black market salesman with a tent that sold you things, sometimes very overpriced.  The Tanuki was Tom Nook, he was the owner of the local store where you buy supplies and sell things.
Tom Nook reminded me of Mario in Super Mario Bros 3 dressed in a Tanuki suit. Now I know why..
 I keep seeing them both everywhere.. I finally fell deeply in love with them both with  the Movie Pom Poko a story about the Tanuki trying to save their natural habitat. This movie had not only Tanuki, but also Kitsune and my first glimpse of a Ghost Parade with many Yokai I had never seen before.. After seeing this movie I started looking for information on Yokai and found more and more little glimpses of them everywhere.

Lately I have been a bit obsessed with making Kitsune and Tanuki as shape-shifted girls with Masks as hair ornaments and makeup to match their personalities. Here are a few of my new pieces featuring Kitsune and Tanuki.

The two of them are continuing to inspire me, and we have many new adventures to come.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kowai Kawaii Yokai コワイ かわいい 妖怪

Hello 2012, with a new year I am beginning a new project. Altho not entirely new, I have been doing pieces that will fit in this series for quite some time. The difference is I am now getting focus and really going to see how far I can take the ideas I have. Kowai Kawaii Yokai コワイ  かわいい  妖怪  is the name of the series. The name is in Japanese because most of the influence comes from Japan and because I like the sound of it. What does it mean? Kowai = Scary, Kawaii = Cute and Yokai =Demon, Spirit, Monster. So they will be Scary and Cute Monsters. If you would like to know more about Yokai look to wikipedia, it has info on what they are and the many different types.

  This series has come about over a very long time and is a perfect mix of my obsession with all things Japan and my fascination with Monsters. I have always been fascinated with monsters, as a child I would watch Sir Graves Ghastly every Saturday. Sir Graves was a pretend vampire who would play old black and white monster films; Frankenstein, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, the Werewolf. Kind of like today’s Elvira… But way less sexy.

I always saw the monsters as the misunderstood hero in the story. People saw them as different and attacked because of the fear of their difference. I always saw myself a monster in a way, I wasn’t popular in school, I had friends but I was often the butt of jokes and I was picked on a lot. So I related to the monsters plight of being picked on and misunderstood. For years I have done my own versions of these Classic Monsters, sometimes even mixing my obsession with Japan and making Geisha Versions of them.

Then a couple of years ago I discovered a book Yokai Attack. It was a revelation for me, All these monsters, spirits and demons have been a part of so many of the Japanese things I love. I found them in my favorite Anime. Pom Poko, Spirited Away, Princess Monoke all have Yokai in the story. Many of the Japanese tattoos I was drawing for clients had Yokai in them (Oni, Tengu, Kitsune). And even in some of the lovely art I picked up on my trip to Japan were all filled with Yokai!!! Now I had a name for them, I could look up more and more about them online. And I have spent hours looking at Google images of Yokai, reading articles about them and doing sketches of them..This is the first time since I started drawing my Big Eyed Girls that I have been this inspired.. I have so many things I want to do with them. Paint, draw, design, try new techniques and really explore my own creativity with them..
Here is a sample of some of the new work:
Me and my Yokai pals

Ha No Me (teeth eyed)

Tanuki and Kitsune playing hanafuda

I will be posting more images as I work on the project and more specifics about the Yokai I am working on.