Chris Crooks' Incredible Japanese-Inspired Large Scale Work

Chris Crooks' Incredible Japanese-Inspired Large Scale Work

This artist takes the traditional iconography of Irezumi and gives it a contemporary makeover.

The diaspora of Irezumi is as impressive as it is wide-reaching. Alongside its global sprawl during the last century or so, this style of tattooing has undergone various stylistic evolutions as multitudes of artists have imbued the age-old art form with their own aesthetic sensibilities. One such artist is Chris Crooks. He specializes in iconography from the traditional Japanese style, but he illustrates these figures in his own unique way, expounding on its core principles to make his body art more detailed and realistic looking than that of his predecessors.  

What separates Crooks' tattoos from that of more orthodox practitioners of the Japanese style is that his work is generally more lifelike, intricate, and colorful. Irezumi — while beautiful in its own right — is simply not as detailed and rife with chroma as Crooks' nuanced take on the longstanding genre of body art. Notice how he foregrounds his central figures to the extent that there is little to no black backgrounding surrounding most of them. This, however, is just one of his stylistic departures. He also employs more vibrant color schemes in his body art, making his depictions of mythological beasts, heroes, and deities considerably flashier than they've appeared in the past. Lastly, the level of detail that he invests into his versions of these ancient icons makes incredibly realistic. Just have a look at the kitsune below, and you'll see how he pushes the envelope. 

Though Crooks has stylistically distanced his work from the tradition out of which it grew, he still remains true to it in terms of his subject matter. In these tattoos, there are numerous icons that have persisted in Irezumi for centuries, such as dragons, hannyas, samurai, and more. Notably, he seems to have a special spot in his heart for daruma dolls, and illustrates them both as inanimate objects as well as living creatures. Interestingly, he has also brought in imagery from other cultural traditions into his subject matter, the most prominent of which are his depictions of Tibetan skeletons. Those these gold-plated skulls are not traditionally germane to Japanese tattoos, they certainly look badass when adjacent to figures like Fudo Myo-o.

A pair of sleeves with a dragon, Tibetan skull, Fudo Myo-o, and chrysanthemums via Chris Crooks (IG—chriscrookswhitedragon). #ChrisCrooks #chrysanthemums #contemporary #FudoMyoo #dragon #Japanese #largescale #sleeves #Tibetanskull

If you want to see more of Crooks' neo-traditional Japanese tattoos, then make your way to his Instagram, or should you want to commission a large scale piece from him, he owns and operates out of White Dragon Tattoo Studio in Belfast, Ireland.

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