larch needles newsletter 5/3
as it always does, spring arrived in a flash. the surrounding landscape is changing by the hour, and my thoughts turn to unfurling microbiomes and bubbling algae. in its resurgence after winter, plant and fungal life feels somewhat alien and surreal. all that was cold and still is now churning and mutating. it's impossible to not feel invigorated and inspired.
recently, a lot of my work has come to feel a bit stale. this is probably true of any art practice, but tattooing especially comes with a lot of "stylistic inertia." the work i do is largely determined by work that i've done previously, making it somewhat difficult to shift directions. it's been so long since i took any extended time to develop new ideas. don't worry, i'm not planning on overhauling my practice and becoming an american traditional or black and grey realism artist! but there are lots of concepts bubbling up and untested techniques i'd like to explore. specifically, i'm interested in using more negative space, more subtle lines, more variation in value, and using grey tones and shading. i've been inspired recently by my former studiomate Moth, who has a beautiful way of embracing fragility and imperfection in their work. tattooing is delicate business, and skin is a very imperfect medium. i'm a perfectionist by nature, but i've learned that in chasing perfection, it's very easy to lose the detail that brings a tattoo to life. i'm also inspired by my new studiomate Liev, who has an incredible grasp of texture. the way they handle a tattoo machine feels more akin to a pencil or stick or charcoal than a pen.
i've been thinking a lot about composition on different scales, and how these scales can be in conversation with one another in a fractal-like way. especially for abstract work, i've found it helpful to think in terms of "cells" (small units of material that don't necessarily function on their own) and "gestures" (broader shapes and motions). one artist i've been fascinated by lately is @jangmi.ink, who creates enchanting images that push that idea of a cell beyond a dot, circle, or line, by building gestures out of tiny repeated marks and glyphs. i've also been trying to cross-pollinate between the worlds of sound and visual art, and thinking of ways musical concepts might influence my designs. the Make Noise youtube channel, which i've been binge-watching, talks a lot about time scales in music and sound, ranging from granular microsound, to notes and sound objects, to compositional structures, to the flow of days and lifetimes. everything in the audible world is fundamentally just oscillations, but depending on their frequency, we might perceive them as pitches, rhythms, or expressive gestures. if you're inclined to dive deeper into this, i highly recommend this talk by Adam Neely. this also seems like as good a time as any to plug my bandcamp, where i'm sharing the fruits of my music experiments, warts and all. i won't claim to be a virtuoso of any kind, but i'm having a lot of fun!
4/2, cellular web
this was my first time attempting "hollow" lines, and it went really well. i have no expectations that it will heal exactly like this, but i'm hoping that it will retain a bit of lightness and subtlety compared to solid lines.
4/3, beetle dialogue
my client suggested doing two beetle galleries instead of one, and i responded by suggesting that we have them connect. now i can hardly imagine doing these any other way! the beetle galleries are quite quick to do, so it makes a lot of sense to link them together into larger compositions that cover a lot of ground (and it looks cool).
4/7, earth fractures
this custom design prompted me to find a way to update the "chasm" motif that i've been working with for years, which is a bit too dark and dense for my taste now. this version, with the broken islands of negative space, feels much more lively and animated to me.
if you didn't know already, i really love gap-filler projects. limitations can do wonders to get creativity flowing. i also loved this opportunity to combine a few different motifs in one piece. this is unfinished at the moment, and the image on the right is the start of another section that will fill the other side of their forearm.
4/16, landscape mutation
building off of pre-existing work, whether its my own or that of another artist, is also a fun form of creative limitation. this was made even better by the fact that i got to build off something by Moth! their piece also flows into some work by Frances Segismundo, making this a three-way collaboration of sorts. having my work exist alongside other folks' in interesting ways is one of my favorite things about tattooing.
4/17, threaded cairn
a slight update on an old concept, with mycelium-style branches (i use the term more to refer to my own body of work than in a strictly scientific sense). i'm really happy with how soft this one feels.
4/24, beetle gallery
my half of a trade with Liev! i tried using a single needle cartridge for the first time (i usually use cartridges with groupings of three needle points). the line is significantly more fine, and it was definitely easier to achieve that "hollow" look. however, it's definitely a bit trickier to control the needle depth - singles have notoriously low resistance when puncturing the skin, so even very slight muscle fluctuations can push them too deep. looking forward to seeing how this one heals!
4/26, protoplasmic bottle
this custom piece gave me an opportunity to play with some new ideas, and i'm really excited to work more with the resulting motif. i had a lot of fun adding a dash of little specks here and there to balance out the composition. this is exactly the kind of thing i want to be doing - organic, animated, texturally varied, plenty of negative space. i also really like the suggestion of a contour, but ideally i'd like to do more in this vein that's not entirely bound to a well-defined shape.
4/29, mycelial rays
finished this piece we started last month! really happy with the heal on part one.
may: still taking appointments for this month - i'm at about 50% capacity right now and would love to line up a few more! especially on weekdays, as i'm trying to give myself more weekend days off.
june: next month's books are officially open, as of now!