Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Flesh Canvas ... Tattoo artist...
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Flesh Canvas ... Tattoo artist Curtis Conwell on original art, flash designs & coverups

Andrew Finnerty - June 30th, 2005
In a shop across from the steel buildings that make up Cadillac’s industrial district, Curtis Conwell sits at his desk sketching. This is no “regular tattoo shop” -- we’re in Universal Mutations at 916 13th Street, outpost for the man who is likely to become one of the best and most collected artists in Northern Michigan.
If you care about art, if you’re looking for something untainted by mainstream concepts and ideas, this will be your next stop. Besides the paintings, photography and sculpture this is also a tattoo studio among other things.

NE: Did you focus on art, or tattooing first?
Conwell: Art definitely came first. Ever since I was a teenager growing up in Lansing I wanted a leather jacket and a tattoo. The jacket was first also [laughs].

NE: What was the idea for your tattoo shop?
Conwell: Two years ago I wanted to build a place of my own. I’d tattooed at usual studios for eight years prior. I steered away from flash designs (pictures generated specifically for being tattooed, often not by the artist who is doing the work) on the walls to get away from the novelty of tattooing. My walls have art, and my lobby has comfy couches for people to wait on in a laid back atmosphere.
Tattoos are a very personal thing, and should be as artistic as possible, not just a thing to “pick and stick.” But that doesn’t mean you should be wary of flash artists. Portfolios are important to look at when finding your artist. I’ve just always felt I’m better than just doing flash. It’s different from most of the tattoo shops in the state.

NE: Is it important to see the other mediums of the artist before getting a tattoo?
Conwell: If you get the option, it’s nice. Personal space is a great way to know your artist, especially if it’s their artwork hanging on the walls. Sometimes you don’t get that option, and maybe more tattoo artists will put that out for others.
NE: Do you take the same approach to tattooing as you do painting?
Conwell: No, painting is less permanent [laughs]. It’s a different mind-set, but I do try to incorporate the same style. Painting is a different medium that allows me to see the colors I want in a tattoo. It gives me new perspective to what can happen to a tattoo.
NE: How has the use of the computer helped you?
Conwell: I can scan and copy portraits and have something to trace on the paper without ruining a photo. It’s awesome for cover-ups. It gives me a flat surface to draw on before I tattoo over old ink. I can flip symmetrical pieces rather than draw the second half by hand. This is the first time I’ve had a computer to incorporate into my tattooing. It’s not necessary but nice to have.

NE: Isn’t it weird that tattooing is one of the only forms of art on demand?
Conwell: Yeah, it kind of is.

NE: Has our culture finally accepted tattoos?
Conwell: Not really, but I think allowing people to see tattoos as an individual artistic expression, and not the same thing on many people will help acceptance. The more popular it gets, the more refined it will get, and more individual.

NE: Will tattoos ever get to be preserved and placed in museums?
Conwell: There are places that do that. There was an artist who recently had his skin preserved after he died. I would like to think that someday it will be possible to have something like that in a major museum, even though I know a lot a people may cringe at that idea.

NE: Is art on demand like this frustrating or inspiring?
Conwell: Both inspiring and frustrating, because I do try to create each piece. Some days I’m not in the mood to create on a whim; you can’t always force that kind of thing. I do prefer appointments just for that reason. It gives me time to prepare for the piece, to mull over it and see if new ideas can happen.
With my shop, because there isn’t flash on the walls, some people just walk in and back out. The first time that happened, I was happy to accomplish the goal of this not being your usual tattoo studio. If somebody wants a tattoo, but can’t pick from something hanging up in the shop, that forces him or her to think about what they’re doing. Maybe they shouldn’t be getting a tattoo if they can’t think.

NE: With no flash, how does that hinder the person who wants something specific?
Conwell: Well, soon, I’d like a computer in the lobby to help customers with their ideas. Not too often do I get a customer that doesn’t know what they want.
Wishy-washy people shouldn’t come into this. Very few times in 10 years have I not been able to feel out someone’s interpretation, or not have them like what I drew up.

NE: Is there any chance of seeing tattooing become a college course?
Conwell: There are technical institutes that offer certification. The arena of practice would change for artists. I don’t think it’s something that should be taught, it would cheapen it. A persons desire should be there and a love for art.
I did take a few drawing classes in college for some easy A’s. That doesn’t mean that college art classes cheapen artists. Any form of practicing and creating art is good. Once tattooing hits college, it loses its origin, but that may be because of the college.
Tattooing is therapeutic. Some scientists think some of the cavemen they’ve found with tattoos on their spines may have gotten them for pain relief. Tattooing is a transformation step, and college would just ruin that.

NE: Do the younger kids and families coming to the skateboard shop have a problem with tattoos taking place?
Conwell: We haven’t had any trouble yet. I don’t allow kids to look at the magazines.
But this isn’t the usual tattoo shop with flash all over the walls and in your face. I’m not as forthcoming with underage kids, and 16 is the youngest I’ll go. I waited until I was 18. Usually they have to impress me with how they’re coming at it, unless they’re requesting cover-up work.
Mothers and daughters come a lot together. The longer someone thinks about getting a tattoo the easier they deal with it. For some when they’re emotionally distraught, the tattoos don’t hurt as much. Your mindset will help you deal with or hinder the pain.
Somebody who’s been thinking about it for six months hasn’t spent a long time when you considered some of my own (tattoos) have been eight years before I finally went through with getting them.

NE: How do you like to be approached with a full back piece, such as myself?
Conwell: Bring in pictures, ideas, and thoughts. A theme is good also. Discussing it over the course of a month, and then working on it for a year with each new segment helped me know you were serious. If I draw something huge and nobody shows up for it, I’m out my time for the drawing that never gets presented in the proper way. I don’t charge a drawing fee though, because I’m hoping I can leave my mark on the person. I also don’t want to sit on a person’s money if they don’t come back, especially if the subject matter isn’t what I’m used to.

NE: What is the best/worst reason to get a tattoo?
Conwell: The best reason to get a tattoo is to commemorate the places you’ve been or to mark a place you were at some point in life. It’s also a transformation of the body. It’s a good feeling to know that you don’t have to look the same. It’s a great way to hold onto something, and also for self-expression and values.
A fashion statement isn’t the best reason to get tattooed, it can get annoying, but hopefully the artwork alone or the love of the art, is enough to get a tattoo. Anything that’s not well thought out is bad. There are tons of reasons good and bad, and anyone of them is good.

NE: What will get rid of the stigma tattoos carry?
Conwell: Just getting rid of people’s stubborn mindset. It’s becoming more of an art form that will hopefully become more innovative all the time. And too, as soon as the baby boom generation dies off (laughs).

NE: Is there a return to old tradition?
Conwell: Yes, well – it’s never gone away. The tattoos for cold tattooing (ink tapped into the skin with a needle and mallet); I’d like to create a modernized stainless steel version. It’s a slower process you don’t get to see it often.

NE: Does needle size matter?
Conwell: Needles just dictate how much area you’re going to cover per poke. Tattoo design dictates the needle grouping size. I use between three and 11, and that’s only because the largest tube I have right now is 11. Using a single needle for all aspects of a tattoo (shading, linework) can be damaging to the skin, because it’s being poked more times than it may need to be. I’ve never needed to go smaller than a three.

NE: What matters most when someone looks for a tattoo artist?
Conwell: Look at their portfolio first. Many artists are able to adapt to many styles people want. Depending on what you want to get, look what they’ve done in the past with black and gray, portrait, or color work.

NE: Can you tattoo over scars and chemical burns or moles?
Conwell: Scars can be touchy. Ink spread throughout the whole scar one time; a 30-year-old scar. That’s the only problem I’ve had. Scar tissue doesn’t take ink as well. Half the ink might take, because the tissue isn’t living.
Raised moles I skip over. Freckle style moles I will tattoo over if the work dictates it. If I can skip around it, that would be better. I’ve never been approached with someone who wanted his or her original skin color over chemical burn, but I’d tattoo it in stages. First, I would mix a color to fit their skin tone, let the tattoo heal, and go from there. I could lighten it after the fact, but lightening it up is harder than trying to get it darker.
And then again, joints and moveable areas heal a lot slower than flatter staying services.

NE: Tell me about tattooing without line work.
Conwell: I do what’s required for the piece, but there are pieces where I don’t have to “color inside the lines.” For realism, I may not use an outline, because you don’t see an outline around things in nature. It also helps things stay discreet and less bold. It’s more of a challenge for me without the lines, and I love the freedom.

NE: Tell me about cover-ups.
Conwell: There’s more freedom than most people think. The older a tattoo, the easier it is to tattoo over; it’s dissipated over years. New cells have been given time to grow around the tattoo. People would be surprised at what can be done with the right planning. Distracting the eye from what’s underneath is the key to a good cover-up. You can even make really black ink lighter.

NE: How did you get so good at portrait work?
Conwell: I drew people’s senior pictures in high school for presents. Really though, I just practiced so many different faces. The face is the hardest aspect of the body to master, so I forced myself to practice that.

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