Custom Tattoo Blog

Breath of Shiva

NeerajOriginally from the Kerala region of India, Neeraj is now living in Hyderabad with his wife and daughter. His wife Janhvi is a tattoo artist and has performed all of Neeraj's tattoos. (He showed me some photos of the murals she has painted on the walls of their house and she is a truly talented, amazing artist!)

His tats are nicely done and solid but he wanted to get some ink while he was in Portland on business; he asked my client Paul Thomas who to go to and then contacted me. While Neeraj was in the company office, he looked up and noticed my other client Nick, whom he had not met yet. (Nick was my November 2017 feature on this blog.) "I have to talk to that guy!," he thought to himself. I'm glad he did.

After Neeraj came in to my shop, we talked a bit about the ink he wanted; he thought maybe I could add something to the tiger eyes on his forearm. I said that instead of altering Janhvi's work, we should unite the whole arm and finish out the sleeve. I thought it would be an excellent unifier to add swirls representing the breath of Shiva (the Hindu God of Destruction, Meditation and Ganja, among other things, etc.) flowing out of his mouth, connecting the lower and upper arms. Hopefully Janhvi will agree.

Click on the Read more link to see the final photos.

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Asian Dragon Cover Up

NickA martial arts practitioner, Nick wanted to cover an old tattoo he had on his right upper arm.

He says, "In the Chinese zodiac I was born in the year of the dragon. As a kid I started reading a lot of swords and sorcery type fantasy books, and there are lots of dragons in those. As an adult I practice Shaolin Kempo, a martial art based around five animal styles, one of which is the dragon. I don't quite fight like a dragon, but I'd like to.  Really, it only makes sense that I should have a tattoo of one. Besides, dragons are badass! "

Click on the Read more link to see the drawing, before, outline and gray shading photos.

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Peony Cover Up

KendraKendra came in to see me about some scars she had on her upper right thigh.

She says, "I have self-inflicted scars that I have thought about covering up for years. During my adolescent years, I struggled with depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphia. Even though that time in my life was over ten years ago, the scars were still always a reminder. I wanted to cover them with a peony; it's my mom's favorite flower because her mom loved to grow peonies. So now instead of seeing scars that remind me of a painful past, I will see a beautiful peony that reminds me of the strong women that I come from. I am excited for Victoria to add color to it in four weeks! "

Click on the Read more link to see the drawing, before, outline, gray shading and color photos.

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Power Animal

Ben RBen is one of my favorite clients and always brings me great projects to collaborate with him on; he knows what he wants, is articulate, and has done his research.

For his first thigh piece he was thinking about a full color bear piece. Ben's a power lifter and he liked the power and strength the Grizzly (or North American Brown) bears represent. They are solitary animals that are "awesome" in the true meaning of the word--- "inspiring of awe."

Click on the Read more link to see the drawing, outline and gray shading photos.

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"I Will Rise Up"

Amy KAmy came in to see me about a chest tattoo.

She says, "Early 2017 for me was painfully challenging; I repeatedly found myself on my bathroom floor, in too much pain to cry, wondering how I would get through. It was repeatedly the image of a butterfly that kept me going. Before my dear friend's cancer diagnosis, she was one day lamenting the messy feels of parenting and the judgement of doing it wrong. I had laughed and said I wasn't above sobbing on the bathroom floor, covered in my own snot. I was a motherfucking butterfly. I'd live to spread my wings and rise up. Little did we know, that image of a butterfly would support her through a year of difficult treatment, at the end of which, she would be free of cancer and thriving. And little did I know, I would use the same image to get me through a health crisis that challenged me on every level. Today, I had a butterfly tattooed on my chest, so on hard days or if/when I end up back on my bathroom floor, covered in snot, I can remind myself I will get through this. I will rise up."

Click on the Read more link to see the drawing, outline and final color photos.

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Buddhist Completion

WilliamPLiving and tattooing in Portland, many times I'm working with clients who already have ink in the area they want to be tattooed. William had a half sleeve tattoo on his right arm and some ink already on his left. He came in to see me about completing a sleeve on his left arm.

He says, "All my tattoos have deep meaning and reflect my life experience. The half sleeve on my left arm is a reflection of my religious inquiry with both Buddhism and western Esotericism. For this tattoo I opted for an open water scene with the Om symbol to represent Avalokiteshvara, as she is commonly represented floating on a lotus pouring a jar of tears into the ocean. I wanted this to represent my empathy and shared sadness with the world. My western astrological sign is Cancer so it was also nice to incorporate a crab into the scene." I also added some kelp, to tie the upper and middle parts of his arm together.

Click on the Read more link to see the drawing, gray shading and color photos.

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Take Two Addition

LisaTSometimes a new client contacts me wanting some help with a tattoo that didn't quite turn out how they thought it would. Lisa had a tummy tuck scar that she wanted covered up and went to an artist who hadn't had the benefit of knowing the "cover up formula." (See my Cover Up Tattoos article for more info on that.)

Lisa asked for dragonflies and some flowers to camouflage her scar. Her artist tried to cover the scar with that imagery but the design didn't work; you could still see the scar afterwards. Years later, when she came in to see me, Lisa still wanted the same thing but now her lower abdomen had unsuccessful ink all across it. I suggested we deploy the formula using Clematis flowers behind the old ink to cover the scar and include a larger, more detailed dragonfly. Already, with just the outline and gray shading in, that scar is stepping back. Once the color is in, the scar will totally go down and the new ink will dominate the old.

Click on the Read more link to see the drawing, outline and gray shading photos.

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Memento Mori Dragon

SamanthaAbout a month ago I received a query email from Samantha, who had gotten some ink from me almost ten years ago. I hadn't seen her since then. Now she was wondering if I was the same artist who had worked with her before.

When I replied that yes, I was, she said, "I have lost a very, very dear person to me-- my first love, and a best friend for the past 20 years. We met in May of '96-- we were just kids. His sister is also my best friend. So I would really like a tattoo for remembrance [of him]. The tattoos you did for me before are on each of my legs; I get nothing but compliments on them and they mean so much to me. I want my new tattoo to be custom and I know that's what you do. I want to be able to love this tattoo as much as I love my other tattoos that you did." She knew that she wanted a dragon on her back; her friends and family helped her choose an image and other elements that they all felt would represent her loved one the best. After we tattooed her outline she said, "It has only been a week [since we did the first stage]. But I'm already excited to finish." I have performed many memento mori tattoos; this is one of my favorites because of how her people all came together for Sam.

Click on the Read more link to see the drawing, and outline photo.

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Musical Cover Up

KacyLooking for info on covering scars, Kacy found my website and contacted me for some ink.

She says, "Due to some trauma I experienced at a young age, I learned unhealthy coping skills to deal with all the emotions that come from being abused. I turned to cutting and have cut scars all over my body. Every time I looked at my arm or wear short sleeves I was flooded with the guilt and shame from cutting, and the idea that everyone who saw my scars knew that I was a cutter, making it even more shameful. So I decided to turn my scars from hate to love. I love music and it has been my constant companion since I was little. When I listen to music I get lost in the melody and lyrics; afterwards I am more at peace and able to deal with the stuff life throws at you. Since I don't play any musical instrument, I decided to get a pair of headphones with a music graph and notes on it. I also have a semi colon in the graph that fits nicely. The semi colon means that at points in my life I wanted to put a period to stop life, but instead I put a semi colon and have continued on. Victoria drew an amazing design for me after I told her my ideas and what I wanted my tat to demonstrate and signify. I have many other tattoos but Victoria is the best artist I have found to date. She is very light handed in her tattooing, which minimized the pain. I am SO happy with my tattoo and now when I look at my arm, instead of guilt and shame, I see my love for music and am reminded how it has been there for me my whole life."

Click on the Read more link to see the drawing, before, outline and gray photos.

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Falcon Freedom

GinaI was a little surprised when Gina, one of my dear friends, contacted me for a tattoo.

She says, "I always knew I wanted a tattoo, but I didn't know what image I would want so permanently. IF I ever got one, it would have to mark a major event in my life. 2016 brought a major event to my life. I found myself needing something I could focus on and my small tattoo has provided exactly that. It is my [own] drawing and helped me focus on what I need." After looking at photos of falcons rising through the air, we worked on how much we should include in the tat; Gina knew she wanted a simple outline and came up with the design herself. Now she has a falcon flying across her forearm towards her wrist, to remind her that she's free.

Click on the Read more link to see the final photo.

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Contact me for an appointment at 503 807-7863 or email me at

833 SE Main #104
Portland OR 97214

HOURS: Tuesday--Sunday,