Posts Tagged ‘dragonfly’

This 1/4 sleeve is a protection piece for this man’s daughter. Beginning at the bottom is a lauhala (pandanus weave) pattern signifying family. Moving upward is her name which turns into the bottom of a star that becomes the bottom of a maka nui or all seeing eye. Underneath that is a papa honu or turtle shell inset with FS spots. To the rear of the shell is a wind since this persons hails from Kohala. The maka nui is adorned with niho mano for strength. There is also more lauhala at the front of the eye.

2.75 hours

Dragonfly, Rotary Works

One (ink)


I started this tattoo last month and it needs another hour or so before it is finished but I decided to post it anyway.

This client has been in before and is furthering his collection of Ana’ole Poly by adding a full sleeve. He is an avid waterman–paddles canoe and is a freediver as well– so he chose to go with an ocean-minded theme that reflected his love of the sea. I added other symbols that complemented his initial idea and this is what resulted.

Before I get into the explanations I want to say that one day I will learn to take a proper picture. I don’t know why I have no trouble shooting back up for Anna when she needs a second shooter at say, a wedding, but when it comes to shooting my own work, I screw the pooch. Oh well, I will get better!

Looking at the first picture, beginning from the left and moving to the right, you will first see the inside of his arm as if he were facing you head on with his palm turned toward you. Each consecutive picture moves around his arm with the last picture being the rear shot of his arm.

Starting from his wrist (and the image furthest to the left), the symbols progress as such:

There is a column of lightning that wraps around his wrist followed by a vine of maile with 4 leaves inset with momi (pearls) reflecting a FS. Inset into these two vines are the tips of the maile vines themselves.
From the side view (pic 3 from left) there are rain drops which segue into the lighting from that angle.
On the underside of his forearm (pics 4,5) are six wind-blown waves. Together all of these symbols create the rain on the ocean accompanied by lightning, suggesting power and perpetual change as well as joy, good fortune and growth. Rain is one of those symbols with balanced meanings with both positive and negative connotations.

Just below the inside elbow joint or ditch, are a trio of all seeing eyes which are surrounded by an unfurling palm frond (signifying growth) themselves crowned by five hawk feathers (hulu i’o) the combined ornament of all three symbols also carry the FS.
These compound symbols represent insight, protection from adversaries, nobility and growth.

Underneath these symbols are a row of shark teeth (niho mano) containing FS.

(Note: FS= Fibonacci Sequence, refer to past Ana’ole posts on this blog)

On the outside of his arm in the same general space (in the same pauku as the rain) are three waves (nalu) accompanied by two mini blade shaped paka which contain a total of three stars which symbolize strength, inspiration and hope. Below this pauku is the image of Pele (which I need to still finish).

Moving upward into the inside elbow crease is a symbol called Pohaku wa wahi wa’a, which was a stone hammer used to smash the hulls of enemy canoes. Ancient Hawaiian’s would sneak up on an enemy encampment in the dark of the night and smash their canoe hulls with this tool, and then slip away into the darkness. Since this person paddles canoe then I thought this image appropriate. Set into the blade of his axe-like weapon are a row on shark teeth (niho mano), three waves (nalu), and a spiral of ocean water.

Above this symbol lies another row of shark teeth reflecting a FS.

On his bicep is the god of the sea Kanaloa. He is adorned with water, waves and a small he’e (octopus) that pokes out from the bottom of his jaw.

The final symbol is located on his tricep and is an unfurling fiddle head fern set under the image of the sun. In the sun’s rays are FS as well. This part of the tattoo still needs a little work and is the part that I need to finish.

Total time:


Equipment used:

Dragonfly, Rotary Works (machines)


One (ink)


Today a good friend and neighbor came in for a tattoo of King Kamehameha. King K was responsible for uniting the Hawaiian islands back in the day, which he accomplished with brute force and determination. I live in the part of the state where King K was born and raised and ultimately learned how to be such a bad ass. Many people who live in Kohala are descendants of this iconic figure and it is not uncommon to hear people dropping the fact that they are proud to be part of this great king’s legacy.

Since there are no pictures of the man wearing his royal plumage (that I could find) I had to use his statue as the main reference. There are 4 statues of King K (see this link for the dirt,* one being a replica, I believe. At any rate, using a statue as a reference doesn’t lend itself to producing an image that is completely life like especially since I chose the statue on Oahu, since it is the one with the most detail, despite the fact that the skin is painted black, which hardly allows for contrast building. I attempted to give the image life with use of subtle colors and dropping in the background of the Pololu Valley, which is where King K liked to chill, among other things, ahem.

During the tattoo I asked my friend if he remembered the song about King K that we used to sing when we were children (small kid time). The song told the story of how King Kamehameha went to Mauna Kea, lost his underwear twice and then ended up buying a $50 dollar car. He said that he didn’t, so I sang a few bars. After we had a good laugh he turned to me and said in a very serious tone, “You know, my grandpa would always yell at me when I sang that song because he said that King Kamehameha didn’t wear underwear”. How his grandfather knew that information is something that I will never understand. In all of his statues, the great king is wearing what looks like a primitive thong covered with a swatch of royal cloak. That has to count as underwear, no doubt.

I took my time on this one spending nearly 4 hours on it total. Aloha!

Equipment used:

Pulse- Watson



Alla Prima

Ana’ole walk-in


This person was a walk-in who wanted to get a tattoo before he left. Generally, this is the best time for anyone to get work done because it allows the enjoyment of the sun and ocean (two things that you need to avoid after getting tattoo work) to their hearts content.

He really didn’t know what he wanted to get, as we started talking about design, vacillating between several traditional Hawaiian symbols and placements.


Sorting out the gobbledegook in someone else’s mind is part of my job and thankfully this person was consistent enough in his desire to get some sort of Polynesian work done on him. Sometimes people come in and they don’t know what they want, but they know they want something (an allegory to life?). In these cases I tell them to go home and think about it since getting a tattoo shouldn’t be treated as an impulse, like say, changing your hair color or buying that Harley you’ve always wanted but never needed. Besides, I don’t want to put my time and energy into something that could be classified as trivial. But that’s just me.


Inside of forty-five minutes, we had established that he wanted something that exemplified his family, love of the sea, the Big Island and protection. Also, he wanted the tattoo to reflect his warrior’s spirit, although he joked that because he was now studying to become an accountant that his warrior days were presently in his rearview. Utilizing traditional Hawaiian symbolism within such parameters, his tattoo would have consisted of a smattering of triangles and squares and perhaps a petroglyph-esque rendition of various elements of the island topped off with a turtle shell. Fairly played out symbols that everyone and their mother has emblazoned on them nowadays. So, I suggested something a bit more dynamic and he agreed. Leaving me to my devices, he and his party went off to the local bar to have a few drinks. When he returned thirty minutes later, I had completed 90% of the drawing, and after making a few small modifications, we set an appointment for the following morning.


When doing any Ana’ole work I prefer to have some time to think about the piece, drawing up several options before finally arriving at a final design. In the case of a walk-in, I don’t have that cushion to fall back on, but as is the case with any walk-in, coming up with something on the spot is part of the challenge of creating a thought out, meaningful piece. I was very pleased with the final design, but more importantly so was the client.


Walking through this piece starting from the bottom and moving upwards from left to right, I decided to place the maka io, or hawk’s eye as the base for the simple fact that the hawk’s eye is a symbol of vigilance; always on the lookout for danger or opportunity. Behind the eye are lauhala checkers, which signify family and unity. Moving upwards along that same plane is the sun (which you can hardly see from this angle) which is a symbol of strength and life as well providing illumination for the maka io to see.


The next plane consists of a row of niho mano, or shark’s teeth, set into a wave. This is to symbolize the strength of the ocean, an object that he admittedly enjoys yet fears (as anyone should).


Just above that are two rows of spearheads signifying his warrior spirit. Set into these rows I put Mauna Kea to symbolize the Big Island since a volcano (albeit a dormant one) is a good way to represent the BI. Coming off of the right of this symbol are four waves which symbolize his family (at least the ones that he was traveling with this time). Since they all share a love for the sea, I have them coming into contact with the wave to illustrate this better.


Lastly, I put Ku the god of strength as the main hierarchal piece, to tie together the protection and power elements of the piece. Both the ku tiki and maka io are facing forward to confront anything obstacles that he may encounter in life.





PS. I promise that one day I will learn to take a proper picture!


Equipment used:



Pulse, Watson









Silverback 3,4



This gentleman came to me wanting a surreal interpretation of Hemingway’s classic, The Old Man and the Sea. His inspiration came from watching a cartoon adaptation of the book and also the artwork of Jay Alder which consists of exaggerated foreshortening and perspective. The fish, being the main focus of both the tattoo and the book, I chose to interpret as dragon or serpent-like, not only to convey ferocity but the wisdom of the creature as it is regarded in the Orient.

The Old Man (which is hard to see from this angle) I chose to depict as a sense of movement rather than a detailed personage, mainly because we had decided to make him secondary in the hierarchy of the design, but also because it worked with the surrealism of the piece. He is shown only as a  Gumby-esque stick figure with elongated limbs and a straw hat covering his face. He is in the process of tightening his line just as the fish takes the hook, which is reflected in the slack in his line juxtaposed by the tension in the line coming from the fishes mouth. I chose to color him in red as this color signifies good fortune (among other things) in Asian culture. His boat is a nod to cubism, my intention was to not be able to tell if it is moving forward or backward.

The sea depicts the duality of calmness in the background toward the land mass and turbulence in the foreground (I like balance!).

My client wanted to have the fish ‘lit-up’ as they tend to do when they are hooked. Keeping with the surrealism, I decided to leave out any sense of depth (as shading would convey a sense of realism) and instead used colors from opposite ends of the spectrum to give ‘life’ to the fish. When you put long wave length colors (reds, oranges) together with short wave length colors (blues, purples) it causes the eye to ‘vibrate’ as it struggles to focus in on one wavelength while being overpowered by the other, opposing color. In the print medium it is wise to avoid such devices, but on the skin it can certainly add some vibrancy (literally!). The fish itself was meant to be both fluid and imposing which I tried to convey by mixing curves with straight lines. Its eyes are not bloodshot; what you see is blood coming through the white ink.

The land mass is another somewhat featureless object intended to give depth but is unidentifiable as a specific place. We also decided to leave the sky out (which was going to be either red or orange) because it would have detracted from the power of the fish and also because it would have suggested a ‘time’ to the piece which we felt wasn’t important.

I am loving my new machine (Dragonfly) because it is so easy to get along with and is a pleasure to use. What I am finding out is that I may need another one as switching between 3 needles and tubes is a pain!

needles used:


ink used:

alla prima
joe cappbianco

Got around to doing more work on my hand, this time with my new machine. Added and All Seeing Eye (maka nui) to complement my Kanaloa, God of the Sea. I will eventually do my entire hand, especially now that I have a machine that doesn’t hurt!
I did this all with a single needle (1RL).