When I first began designing tattoos, there were very few women willing to model, and I thought there probably wouldn’t be much! material to work with, that I’d soon run out of ideas. But I continued designing, and I’ve been doing it for thirty years now. And the reason I still can is that I’ve been able to work with many tattooists and been blessed with devoted models. I’ve been very lucky to have the opportunity to create fifteen or sixteen substantial works a year.
Whenever acquaintances introduce me to someone new, they describe me as a guy who does the designs for those tattoos… Everyone thinks of me as a tattoo artist. Certainly I design tattoos, but I’ve never thought of it as my life’s work, and I don’t spend all of my time doing it. Probably only a third of my working time is spent on tattoos. I guess that shows how strong an impression tattoos leave on people who see them. I’m still thought of as unorthodox as I continue to design, but I’m grateful that there have always been many understanding viewers at my exhibitions. And I don’t worry about themes or difficult artistic theories. I just want to go on enjoying the delight I get from drawing.
These days, the number of artists who still paint on the silk unique to Japanese painting has dropped away to almost none. Japanesestyle painting has changed to much heavier works created with lots of mineral-based paints. I’m not going to say that’s either good or bad, but for my own style of painting I still need silk for the delicacy and softness of expression it makes possible.
It may be tedious work mounting the silk on frames, and pasting on Japanese paper backings, but it makes the best medium for paintings of women, and especially tattoo designs. The surface of the silk allows me to create the kind of soft focus and fine detail I need for tattoos relatively easily. I have tried Japanese paper and illustration board, but I’ve realized that silk is the best medium for the work I do. With the exception of the preliminary sketches, all of the paintings in this book were done on silk, including a few works that are not designs for tattoos.