A couple of new very quality tattoo books have recently been released featuring an international array of talented artists, I am humbled to be included among them.
My Tattoo Experience with Kian.
My name is Brendan and I live in Western Australia. For many years I had a passion to get a large Japanese dragon tattoo on my left chest and upper arm.
I visited numerous artists here in Perth and looked through their portfolios but just could not find one that portrayed the dragon in a style that I liked and true to tradition.
Whilst talking to a friend who lives in the Eastern States, he mentioned he had heard of a Canadian guy call Kian in Sydney doing amazing traditional styled tattoos. I did some internet research and found Kian’s website. The images in the portfolio were true to the style I was looking for and the site seemed pretty straight down the line and to the point.
About a week later I picked up and read the first issue of Inked Australia magazine and saw Kian’s article. The way he wrote, and his subject matter screamed “No Bullshit” and portrayed that he was an artist in the truest sense of the word. I decided that I needed to contact him, explain my issue of living on the other side of the country and see if he would be interested in taking on the piece I wanted.
I emailed Kian and got a response within 2 days and for the next few days we swapped a number of emails. All I asked him for was a dragon half sleeve and as long as there was a dragon he could do as he pleased with the rest of the piece.
Kian told me he was keen to do the piece and the distance wouldn’t be a problem. He said he would be flexible in the scheduling to cut travel costs down as much as possible. He also said there would be at least a 1 year wait and maybe a little longer. Like I said to Kian at the time, “Hey I have waited nearly 40 years for this piece, another 12 months ain’t going to matter!” I also continued to read his articles in Inked and continued to like his approach to life and his belief in tattooing.
During the wait time, I got regular emails from Kian to advise how the wait times were progressing and also updates on what other major things he was up to like conventions and stuff. After almost 18 months I got a call asking if I could come in for a consult. Due to my location I was given the option of a phone / email consult, but I figured I would rather meet the dude in person to see if I was comfortable with him being the person I would let tattoo a big piece on me and spend a lot of hours around whilst he was doing it.
I flew to Sydney a few weeks later just for the consult and went into Inner vision to for the consult. On meeting Kian for the first time I was immediately at ease with him and after talking with him for just a few minutes, felt like I had known him for years. I explained that my concept had changed slightly and for personal reasons I now thought a Koi Dragon was better suited but he could still do whatever he liked with the rest of the piece. Within minutes he had done a rough outline of the Koi Dragon shape fitted to my arm and we also talked about including a chest panel to allow him more space to work with (that would come back and haunt me later). We also spoke about scheduling 6 hour sessions instead of the normal 3 hours so I wouldn’t have to travel over to Sydney as many times, and locked in some appointment times subject to availability of flights.
I was pretty nervous about my outline session as I had never sat for 6 hours straight before and didn’t know how I would handle sitting still for that long especially with some pain added in. All the nervousness disappeared when Kian showed me the drawing of the Koi for the first time. He stenciled it on and then freehanded the background and some detail onto my arm, and even at that stage the piece came alive.
During the sessions, hanging out with Kian was really chilled and relaxed and nothing was too hard for him and his crew. There were good tunes, crazy stories and a whole bunch of other artists drifting in and out, chatting and checking out each others work.
Every time I went for another session, there was a visiting artist from somewhere in the world to talk to and learn stuff from and I got to check out their work and different styles.
Through all the sessions, Kian was happy to talk and share his experiences and knowledge. We also talked through each stage of the piece to make sure we were both happy with it and talked through some possible future pieces. Also big credit to him for putting up with me bitching and moaning and squirming for 6 hours at a time as well, especially during the more sensitive parts of the chest panel.
I also learned a whole bunch of new stuff especially about his other passion, photography, and managed to get my photo taken with a Russian camera from the 1940’s, not really something you get to do every day.
At the end of it I have an incredible piece of art on me for life that is truly a one off piece designed for me alone by an incredibly talented artist and a plan to get more.
I have to say, it was an amazing experience that was worth every day I waited and every cent it cost me to get there.
My name is Teja, I’m 33 years old and am the director of Point Specifics acupuncture and Chinese medicine clinic, and the Kung Fu Academy in the Hills district of Sydney.
Whilst travelling around Turkey as an impetuous 20 year old, I decided to get a tattoo. So there I was, on the south coast beach of Olympos getting tattooed – hand poke style – by an itinerant Swedish artist. The tattoo itself was a small tribal dragon on my right ribs, and I envisaged myself getting a matching tiger for my left side, those images being the symbols of my Kung Fu school.
Years and life passed, and once I’d established my clinic I started to think again of getting the tiger. I must have forgotten how uncomfortable the first one had been in application…
I first met Kian around 6 years ago after he was referred to me by one of my clients. He was working out of a shop on Crown street in the city and I made an appointment for a consultation. Greeting me in a very warm and friendly manner, he then took one look at my dragon, and my proposed matching tiger, and said that there was no way he would put anything like that on my body. This shocked me! I thought my little dragon was pretty cool, and I ‘wanted’ what I ‘wanted’! Referring me to a number of other studios, he said any clown could do it. I think he could see that I was a little disappointed, so he showed me his portfolio. He also showed me some tribal work he had on himself, and how poorly that style ages over time. After listening to Kian and seeing his portfolio, I began to realise what real tattoo art looked like, and that what I was currently wearing was not art, but rather a stain.
It was clear to me from the outset that Kian wasn’t just trying to get my business and money, giving me what I ‘wanted’, but rather that he was only interested in real art, and in creating a tattoo that would last a lifetime – not just the current trend or fashion cycle. Instead of balancing one crappy tattoo with another, he explained that we could instead put a beautiful tiger on me, something that would I would be proud of. This was a confronting situation, I was put on the spot. I came in wanting one thing but was being offered something totally different. Yet I agreed.
A couple of months later and my drawing was complete, and my first official appointment had arrived. I was very nervous about seeing the design… what if I didn’t like it? What if I hated it? What if I wanted to change something? I sat in the reception area and Kian brought the drawing to me, and left me there alone to look at it. I couldn’t believe it. Beautiful. Not just beautiful, but strong, and yet solemn. Huge powerful shoulders and gentle eyes. In a tattoo? I had never thought it possible. When Kian asked if I liked it or not, I asked if we could actually make it bigger than we had first planned! Kian spent a long time getting the placement right, which ended up extending from just below my armpit down to my thigh. For me, with my little dragon, this was HUGE!
Then it was time to lie down and get started, and I started to panic just a little, on the inside so he wouldn’t notice. But he did. He talked me through the process and gave me strategies to deal with the pain. Setting up his inks and the massage table, Kian was meticulously clean and sterile. He’d obviously spent years doing what he did, and this showed even in his initial preparations.
The ribs, if I may say, are a VERY tender area to have tattooed. Still now, 6 years on, I can still remember getting this tattoo, and how I just wanted to get up and run out of the studio as soon as the whir of Kian’s tattoo machine hit skin. Fuck it hurt. No, not like a mosquito bite! Like a burning hot razor slashing up and down my bones and into my very organs. And that’s putting it lightly. I remember squirming and grimacing and groaning (not in the good way…), and then Kian stopped, looked me in the eyes and said:
“Tey-ha, dude, it’s just pain, let it wash over you.”
Which I translated as “Dude, man-the-fuck up!” Yet something in what he said, simple as it was, planted a seed inside me. Pain is a feeling. It is information to the brain, warning me of danger. But there is no danger, I’m in a safe and clean place under the hands of a master craftsman, so what’s the big deal? Following on this line I began the process of developing courage in the face of pain, which I often still forget, but Kian is always there to gently remind me.
Finally the first session was over, outline and black stripes done! “Great!” I thought, pain over! Wrong. Getting home afterwards, with every bump in the car, every breath that expanded my ribs… ouch. Home finally! Pain over! Wrong again. Then came the peeling back of the protective wrapping, trying to come to terms with Kian’s haphazard usage of tape, the torturous shower, hot face washer and soap. Kian had explained how important this first step of the healing process was, and that all the excess ink, blood and slime had to be cleaned off. This first shower is something I always look forward to after a session with Kian.
Healing the tattoo properly between each session was major, and I had a strict regime to follow. Each fortnight Kian would inspect ‘his’ tattoo and either critique or commend me. Once the tiger was finished Kian put forward the idea of adding cherry blossoms, which again was something I never would have thought of, but as soon as he mentioned it, it seemed the right thing to do. I’m not sure if he is also a hypnotist… for even though the tattoo was finished, and I was ecstatic, I also knew that my journey with tattoos, and with Kian, had only just begun…
The following year I wanted Kian to take a look at my old tribal tattoo and see what he could do. Of course he dismissed the idea of touching it up a little, and instead he drew an enormous Oriental dragon to cover it! First though, he recommended that I first have a couple of sessions at Fade Laser Tattoo to lighten it. Oh boy, if you think having your ribs tattooed is bad, try first having them lasered… years off my life, I swear.
I was just glad that my ribs were finally finished! Done. Project complete… Until…
That time of year came around again, and I shot Kian an email about doing a leg piece to tie in with the dragon we’d just finished. So I went in for my consult and walked out pale faced, looking down the barrel of a back-piece. A lone warrior, standing at the waters edge, sword in hand, wind in his hair, and bearded of course. The process of getting the image right took a lot of research and drawing, and re-drawing on Kian’s part, until he felt comfortable showing me the result. By now I wasn’t even worried, as I knew it would be amazing, which it was. Kian had designed the perfect centrepiece for our project, something that would tie both of my sides together.
Finishing this tattoo took over seven months, with sessions every two weeks. Two of these sessions stand out to me more prominently. The first was the first: 8 hours of outlining – I was vomiting by the end of it and it took me several days to recover… I know, I know, ‘man-the-fuck up!’ you’re saying. The second session was somewhere near the end, the rear end as it were. It had come time to get down to business and sort the crack out. As it was explained to me, you can’t have a back piece with a crack in it, so of course, one has to tattoo it… all. The application of this particular inkage to that particular area had me screaming. Several large tattooed men came over to watch the process, so I guess it wasn’t all bad (see Chafe productions for more information…). Getting my back done was a huge commitment from both Kian and I, as well as my family. Somehow Kian is at his best every session, totally focussed and in control. Over that time in particular, I feel I got to know Kian well, and I consider him a friend and mentor.
Over the next two years we’ve worked on my half sleeves and chest pieces – falcons and a python. The thighs are to follow with Koi designs, thereby completing my body suit… such an amazing journey from just wanting a little tribal tiger!
“Step by step walk the thousand mile path”
Musashi – Book of 5 Rings
Matt visited the studio recently to show me how his tattoo was looking.. And it’s bright and bold like New! I build tattoos that last!
I have added a new section to the website featuring uncensored, unedited stories from my clients about their experience of getting tattooed by me, the process leading up to the tattoo and the final product.
Enjoy and I hope you get a better insight into what it is I do.
If you’ve been tattooed with a large tattoo by me and wish to contribute then please contact me.
The link to the stories is ‘Client Experiences‘ under the ‘Portfolio’ heading in the menu bar. cheers
Buy at least 3 get 1 free til end of october!
Check out the store section of the website, new prints ready to go for $20 plus shipping.
5 different designs all printed on thick archival matte paper at A3+ size (33cmx48cm)
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