TATU TATTOO, Wicker Park with TONY FITZPATRICK. Examine tatooing technique, artistry, and culture. Interview with customers.
00:00Copy video clip URL No audio. B-roll of various tattoo flash artwork on wall. B-roll of the tattoo parlor and customers looking at the artwork on the walls.
01:29Copy video clip URL No audio. Interview with Tony Fitzpatrick.
01:37Copy video clip URL Audio on. Repeat interview with Fitzpatrick. He says the first thing people ask about his tattoos is if it hurt to get them. “Yes. It’s a needle digging into my arm.” He comments that tattooing is an old art and that it’s been demonized in our culture. Bad guys in movies have tattoos.
02:31Copy video clip URL Audio cuts out. Interview ends.
02:45Copy video clip URL B-roll of Fitzpatrick talking with staff. B-roll of artwork on the walls.
02:56Copy video clip URL Re-interview with Fitzpatrick who repeats what he said at 01:37Copy video clip URL.
03:22Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Fitzpatrick says there’s a good reason for getting a tattoo. It’s part of how we tell our story. He says you can tell a lot about a person by the tattoo they have. The dog on his arm is a character from a comic strip he drew. He says he got his first tattoo when he was 32. He comments that his father was a pharmacist in the Navy and when sailors came in for help getting rid of a hangover he’d always notice they came in with a new tattoo. He continues saying that tattoos have been demonized in our culture and references movies with tattooed characters, villains. In the West it is associated with bikers, sailors and social outsiders, In the East, in China and Japan, it is perceived as something more spiritual.
05:35Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Fitzpatrick says you can tell a lot about a culture by the tattoos people get. He says the great tattoo artists like Sailor Jerry Collins, Bob Shaw, Burt Grimm, or Don Ed Hardy are not thought of as contributors to a great American art form. People will mostly think of Andrew Wyeth or Winslow Homer. It’s rumored George Washington had a tattoo. It’s rumored George Shultz had a tattoo.
06:57Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. B-roll of tattoo flash artwork on the wall.
07:12Copy video clip URL Stella, a customer, shows off her Egyptian gods and Hindu writing tattoos. She is an anthropology major and likes Egyptology. She notes that tattoos are her way of letting out whatever little creativity is in her.
08:55Copy video clip URL Fitzpatrick interviews tattoo artist Dean who says that it’s fifty-fifty who gets a mundane tattoo and who gets a meaningful one. He says he’s been tattooing for 15 years. He got his first tattoo when he was 15 and decides what to get based on how he feels at the time.
10:05Copy video clip URL B-roll of tattoo artist Scott Harrison at work marking a customer’s arm. Some audio is overpowered by the sound of the tattoo gun. The artist says he’s been working for three years. He graduated art school with a degree. Says he got his first tattoo six years ago in California. He says he’s always liked tattoos and had a relative who had a dragon on his forearm. He says he spends about 70 hours a week drawing.
12:05Copy video clip URL Harrison comments that needle making takes a lot of his time and drawings with a lot of custom detail can also be time consuming. He will also spend a lot of time doing mundane tattoo drawings customers want which are not personally satisfying for him, but part of the job. He says he gets inspiration from old time tattoo artists. He will modify some of their work.
13:29Copy video clip URL Fitzpatrick asks Harrison how long it takes to become a proficient tattoo artist. He responds, “When I’m proficient I’ll let you know, man.” He said he was a traditional artist before but became so cynical and fed up with the corruption. The idea of producing a painting to go on a rich person’s wall didn’t appeal.
14:32Copy video clip URL Harrison notes that a lot of interesting people get stupid tattoos. He says you can put a unicorn on someone who tells great stories while in the chair and that makes up for having to labor over a mundane drawing. He surmises that about one in six tattoos he does in a day will be an image that interests him.
16:34Copy video clip URL Fitzpatrick asks Harrison what’s the one tattoo he’d love to do. He hadn’t thought about it.
“Something cool.” He comments on having tattooed NBA player Scottie Pippen. He starts to tell a story about it, but stops.
17:38Copy video clip URL A customer Harrison is working on, Richard Benjamin, shows off his many tattoos done by Harrison.
18:00Copy video clip URL B-roll autographed photo from Scottie Pippin on the wall. B-roll of tattoo flash pages.
18:24Copy video clip URL Continued interview with tattoo artist Harrison working on a customer’s arm. He argues that tattoo is a valid art form but the way most people do it degrades the medium. He says copying the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character on the arm may not be art, but some artists who do intricate work with subtle nuances are rising to the level of art. He says most people don’t realize what it takes to make a successful tattoo. They want too much intricate detail and don’t understand that the medium does not necessarily support that kind of work. A million colors in a one-inch tattoo, over time, will just become a smudge.
21:07Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Harrison comments in come cultures tattooing is done to conform to the society. It is also related to sexual repression. Looking at a tattoo magazine is like looking at Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.
22:51Copy video clip URL Fitzpatrick notes that when the AIDS scare first erupted the tattoo industry was one of the first groups targeted as a danger. But there are so many sanitary and safety rules followed that it is now a groundless fear. Fitzpatrick notes that tattooing has been illegal in New York since the 1960s when a judge declared tattooing was giving people hepatitis.
23:50Copy video clip URL Benjamin notes he got his first tattoo about three years ago. He says the people he lived with persuaded him to get his first. Once he got one he found he liked it and went to get more. Harrison observes that men fear tattoos, women adore them. Benjamin says he has more planned and eventually would like to go full-sleeve.
25:06Copy video clip URL Edward, a customer, talks with Fitzpatrick and shows off his tattoo La Dulce Vita and shows off his body work: seductress, grim reaper. Fitzpatrick notes that seeing panther heads and eagles on the World War II vets he saw friends with his dad.
27:18Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Edward shows his neck tattoo of a snake. He says he plans to go full body and that he saves up for his tattoos. You have to. It’s expensive.
28:19Copy video clip URL B-roll of Harrison at work. He notes that the misconception is that tattoos are superficial fashion. He says there are anthropological levels to it: the practice and social implications to it. The tribal notion of it is that it’s a right of passage. Coming of age. Just like in our culture. We get marked with our cultural symbols.
31:21Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Harrison notes that tattooing world is wacky, and far more weird than any media representation has ever depicted. You’re with a lot of interesting characters, under stress of getting a tattoo, an artist carving into skin. He says there are some images he won’t tattoo, but takes it on a case-by-case basis. He’s tattooed a swastika on Puerto Rican gangbangers but would probably not do it on a white supremacist.
33:46Copy video clip URL Harrison tells the story of a big guy with tape around his glasses who came in once asking him to tattoo his hand. Harrison warned him that a tattoo there is socially a big deal. It will affect the jobs you get. The man didn’t care. When asked what he wanted tattooed on his hand the customer replied, “Just four letters: S-T-U-D.” Harrison rejected him saying, “I couldn’t have that on my conscience.” He says he’s tattooed plenty of drunks who come in. The biggest problem is they talk too much and move around. He retells a story of tattooing a drunk who suddenly reached for a pack of cigarettes while Harrison was tattooing, ruining the work.
36:02Copy video clip URL B-roll of the finished piece Harrison was working on.
36:07Copy video clip URL B-roll of a Sanskrit tattoo on a girl’s foot. She says she won’t get it colored. Too painful. Also, bright colors aren’t good for her complexion. She comments on the social acceptance of being a woman with a tattoo. She says her tattoos are more subtle without color. She plans to get more. She says she got her first tattoo before moving out of her mom’s house but didn’t tell her. When she showed it to her, her mom cried. When she got her second her mom exclaimed, “What are you doing!?” When she got her third one her mom simply commented dryly: “you got another one.” She gives permission to be seen on TV.
39:19Copy video clip URL B-roll of another artist, Mike Palmer, working on customer Kurt Wilde. Palmer says he’s here 5-days a week, 10-hours a day, but only tattooing for half that time. He started two years ago. Says he went to art school but dropped out.
41:20Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Palmer says he doesn’t favor one tattoo from another. Each have something about it he likes. He doesn’t have a favorite tattoo artist. He likes different ones for different specialties they have. Fitzpatrick comments on how undervalued tattoo art and artists are in the US. Palmer adds that a few years ago there was a surge of naive art, outsider art but tattoo never got looked at.
43:10Copy video clip URL B-roll of customer’s finished tattoo. Palmer applies Vaseline and gives after care instructions to help heal the skin: keep the bandage on for two hours.
43:49Copy video clip URL Discusses the after care of a tattoo with customer Jennifer, he puts on a thick coat of Vaseline to keep the body from forming a scab too quickly. A scab will soak up the ink. Let the tattoo air dry, use antibiotic cream 3 or 4 times a day for 4 days. The skin will start to flake. It’s a normal reaction, just use skin cream. Keep it out of sun, don’t saturate it with water, and don’t use sun block for 3 or 4 days.
46:20Copy video clip URL B-roll of customer’s arm tattoo: a ship with eyes.
47:14Copy video clip URL Harrison shows off his hand tattoos: images of a race car devil on one hand and horse head on another inspired by a man called Jack Dempsey who had those images on his hand before having a skin graft to remove them. He showed Harrison a photo of them. Over the devil is the word Mumbo Jumbo. Over the horse is the word Reason.
48:00Copy video clip URL B-roll of girl’s Egyptian tattoos being worked on.
49:48Copy video clip URL B-roll of the tattoo parlor.
50:07Copy video clip URL B-roll of tattoo flash art on walls. Elvis head.
50:23Copy video clip URL Fitzpatrick stands outside the tattoo parlor and records an introduction.
50:46Copy video clip URL Change of location. Ann Nathan, owner of the Ann Nathan gallery, describes the Eye Tattooed America exhibit of tattoo flash, printed designs for tattoos, from top artists. These flashes are watercolors. Fitzpatrick says that tattooing in the US started in the East and West coast because of the military bases there.
52:11Copy video clip URL Fitzpatrick talks about the work of George Klauba who took tattoo art into modern art in the late 1960s. He introduces Ann Nathan and the exhibit. Audio drop outs. They talk about Klauba’s work. Fitzpatrick notes that tattoo art gets re-figured over time. Each artist puts their own stamp on them. He talks about the pioneering tattoo art work of Don Ed Hardy.
55:00Copy video clip URL Nathan shows some of Klauba’s sculpture work, a native South Pacific islander painted mask. Nathan admits she does not have a tattoo.
55:48Copy video clip URL Fitzpatrick shows off flash art by Tino Camanga. He says for artists tattooing is part of their story. There are new artists bringing a new language to it. Nathan adds that tattooing goes back about 5,000 years and notes the remains of an Ice Age man has tattoo markings. She talks about the work of other artists in the exhibit: Thom Paul deVita, who works on wood from crates, and the mixed media work of Michael Malone and Sonny Tufts, who use gambling motifs in their work. Fitzpatrick comments on the longtime connection between gambling symbols and tattoos.
1:00:02Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Fitzpatrick comments on the religious influence of some of the work. Nathan says people react shocked and excited when they see this exhibit. They are impressed by the tattoo flash art mixed with fine art. Nathan comments this is the first time in Chicago an exhibit like this is happening.
1:01:17Copy video clip URL B-roll of a photo of the exhibiting artists.
1:01:39Copy video clip URL B-roll of the art work in the exhibit.
1:02:14Copy video clip URL B-roll exterior of the Ann Nathan gallery.
1:02:33Copy video clip URL END