“Croc” – Acrylics on Woodboard

September 3rd, 2013 in Japanese,Paintings

croc In an ongoing effort to take what-usually-are North American subjects (Like Crocodiles) and paint them with the distinct Japanese attitude. This next piece was done with acrylics on a wood board. It features the profile of the head and a lotus to the left. The mission was to capture an extreme intensity in the eyes that is often portrayed in Japanese styles.

“Afghan Buddha” One in a series – Acrylic on Canvas

June 3rd, 2013 in Japanese,Paintings


“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”  -Siddhartha

“Peacock” Painting acrylics on canvas 28in x 18in

January 4th, 2013 in Japanese,Paintings

A Japanese style animal painting of a Peacock. This piece was done over the course of days but required weeks of brainstorming. Done with a wispy almost water-color like back drop. Look at the gallery below to see the steps I took in creating this painting:

“Feast” An Original Japanese Gore Style Acrylic Painting

September 6th, 2011 in Japanese,Paintings

An ode to the traditional gory japanese prints, this painting titled “Feast” features a severed man’s head with a crow feasting on it’s fine flesh. 24in x 18in on canvas stretched on a wooden frame. For sale @ Etsy $95.

New Japanese Style Koi Fish and Tiger Tattoo sketches

July 7th, 2011 in Flash,Japanese

Been working on new sketches of Japanese style Koi Fish and Tiger tattoos. The Koi Fish is paired with waves and flowers.

Essay on Tattooing

December 3rd, 2010 in Japanese,Tattoo

Tattoos are viewed differently where ever you go. Some places they are loved and adored as pieces of art – some view them as tradition and have deep cultural roots. Then there are those who cannot tolerate them.

History of Tattoos

I won’t go in depth about why people cannot tolerate them, it’s evident and undeniable (Even Otzi, a 5,300 year old mummy from the Copper age has tattoos throughout his body) that every native culture and peoples have developed their own form of tattooing and tattoo art. Although along with these beautiful peoples, traditions, and cultures they have all been lost. The spread of Western ideals such as Christianity and early European attitude of it being a barbaric practice – although this attitude of barbarism didn’t just apply to tattooing, but also of these natives’ other practices, religions, and lifestyles.

Face tattoos of the Maori people

Today’s tattooing may not represent the cultural and traditions of our native heritage but there are still many artists and collectors (of tattoos) that honor these endangered traditions of our ancestors that have been eroded or destroyed by Western and Religious fanaticism. This is my mindset when it comes to Tattooing. The style I choose as my favorite is the traditional Japanese tattoos of the Edo Period.

Tattoos and Ukiyo-e in the Edo Period

Tattooing during the Edo period (1600-1868 AD) in Japan represented many things. With tattooing came hours and hours of pain, for those who could endure these hours of pain showed strength – and only those of wealth were able to afford these full body tattoos. So in this period tattoos represented strength and wealth – it was a status symbol shared only by few. The style of prints during this time was Ukiyo-e or “pictures of the floating world” – woodblock printing allowed artwork to be easily distributed to even the common people. These prints and motifs had a huge influence in Japanese tattooing, the artist that drew these prints did not print them but instead took them to someone who specialized in making these drawings into woodblocks to be printed. These same people who engraved these woodblocks became some of the first tattoo artists, they would take the prints and engrave them – only this time on skin.

I want to bring tattooing back to it’s roots – being a beautiful piece of our heritage and culture. I specialize in Japanese motifs and hope to bring as much influence to Japanese Tattooing as the first woodblock artists did.

On the bulletin board… Wild Cat Flash!

April 26th, 2010 in Flash,Japanese,Tattoo

A traditional Japanese and American style piece of flash line work. Features a “Wild Cat” Tiger.

“Swan” Painting

February 16th, 2010 in Japanese,Paintings

A very traditional styled acrylic painting of a Swan and flowers, finished with gold leaf.

Failure Print

August 6th, 2009 in Japanese

I decided to get my hand on trying my own Ukiyo-e style prints, instead of using woodblocks I decided to screen print them. Here is a failure print, this is the 2x trying to expose, I already know what I messed up on (The negative was DRAWN, not printed – that is the main issue). But this is really to just check out what I’ve been working on.

Sketch of Kuniyoshi print, for test print

Screen, you can see some areas got over exposed (Missing right eye), not because I over exposed them, but because the ink in those areas were too transparent

Failed Print

Origins of Japanese Tattoo artists

April 24th, 2009 in Japanese,Tattoo

I’ve written much about tattoos and popular motifs in Traditional Japanese tattooing, although I’ve never discussed the people responsible for these works of art. The beginning of Japanese tattooists developed from the practice of punitive tattooing, where bands (around the arms or legs) or characters were tattooed as punishment.

Punitive tattoos

This was called Irezumi or “The insertion of ink”, this term has negative connotations because of it’s use as punishment and on criminals. Although these Irezumi tattooist were inserting ink into the skin, they were not tattoo artists.


To understand how the first tattoo artists came to be we must understand how Ukiyo-e (Pictures of the Floating world, woodblock prints, see my post on “Rules of the Japanese tattoo” for more insight) prints were done. There were many craftsmen involved in the process of creating Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, but the main ones that were involved were the artist who did the drawing and woodblock carver who took the artist’s design and carved it into the woodblock. The artist would get much of the royalties from the prints sold, combined with the people of the Edo period looking for individuals to tattoo popular woodblock designs (see: Water Margin’s Popularity in Japanese tattooing) they turned to craftsmen already familiar with the designs and with manual skills. This allowed an opening for these woodblock carvers to become the Edo period’s first tattoo artists.

Traditional Japanese tattooing tools

Opposed to the word “Irezumi” to describe decoritive tattooing the Carvers called tattoos “Horimono” meaning “carved object”, and the prefix “Hori” which is adopted by Traditional Tattoo artists into their names means “To carve”.

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(c) 2016 James Then