Sailor Jerry

Picasso vs Sailor Jerry

We have been through the Picasso sculpture show at MoMA twice. It did not get better. Seemed careless and sloppy in both thought and in execution.  He did not stick a baby cake server on a pile of Playdough once, but 30 times over. Our artist friends enjoyed the "playfulness" or some such rot. They said he explored the exploding of imagery. We say 3d telephone doodles.

Let's compare:  Who had a tougher audience?

Picasso had to amuse laudenum addled bohemians lounging around Montmarte cafes as Nazi's paraded down the Champs Elysees.

Pablo Picasso

Picasso sculpture from MoMA.

Sailor Jerry created art for tough guys on shore leave, repairing from Pacific Rim battles with the Japanese. 

Sailor Jerry.

We know whose art we have on our walls ,Matey!

Pigtals no more when tattoos was tattoos: by Bob Crutch Crutchfield

Happy New Year , here are some pics from former crew members off my favorite Diesel Sub , these fellas sailed on her late 50s early 60s ,me late 60s early 70s....You can see Tats here in actual service at sea aboard,before Tats were considered K@@L haha, crewman with Swallows on chest another young crewman with name of boat/sub on his arm....and check out the Mohawk haircuts, the V8 one unique can`t do this stuff in modern Navy haha....even when I was in the Diesel Sub Force "Pigboat Navy " as they called us,45 yrs ago now, uniforms were lax at sea , some wore short pants,sandals and many of us sported beards...we were known as "Sewer Pipe" Sailors because we could take no baths aboard ,and we always smelled abit and alot like diesel (on leave once dancing slow with a gal she ask me what is that smell=it was the diesel you could not wash it out of your skin,it had to wear off ,..might add =she dealt with it haha).   I did one 40+ day patrol N.Atlantic no did that hot water feel good in Boston Navy Yard base when we finally got into Port......  the pictures of boat diving taken thru periscope is mine taken on that N Atlantic patrol, swim call off Jamaica (my crewtimes) down in Caribbean, last pic myself and some of my shipmates on dock by the Boat  ,and the newsclipping around 73 , the Amberjack was last of diesel boats to go down and our squadron SUBRON 12 was decommed = shutdown forever....  crutch

Sailor, Collector, Writer.

Bob Crutch Crutchfield

Sailor Jerry Master Draughtsman

These old tattoo guys were good. Try this at home. Copy freehand (no cheating by tracing) a Sailor Jerry dragon. Or anything else by one of the great masters like him. Not so easy.

Now, try to get it down on somebody's back at midnight in tight quarters with a large group of servicemen watching on a Saturday night in Honolulu's Chinatown. Rubber gloves on, buzzing tattoo machine, trying to get the right ink balance, light touch but the right touch. Ouch, the victim sez.   

Just trying to copy the original drawing's enough for me. And doing a mediocre job at that, thank you very much.  Really doesn't look that bad. That is, until you look at the original.

Sailor Jerry, soft pencil on tracing paper, 11 by 14 inches, date unknown.  From the esteemed Sailor Jerry Swallow collection by way of Mike Malone from the original China Seas, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Dragon Breath

Born Yoshihito Nakano, Horiyoshi III (b. 1946) received his current title from the late tebori master Yoshitsugu Muramatsu, also known as Shodai Horiyoshi of Yokohama. Sailor Jerry visited and studied Horiyoshi II's work in Japan as did Don Hardy. Horiyoshi III started at age 16 and served as Shodai Horiyoshi’s apprentice for ten years. By age twenty-eight Horiyoshi III’s bodysuit was complete, hand-tattooed by Shodai Horiyoshi.

He is considered the foremost tattoo master in Japan. These two tattoo flash samples are just in to Lift Trucks: a dragon descending through the waves and a dragon ascending through waves.



True or False

This is from the book  "Pierced hearts and True Love.  A Century of Drawing for Tattoos" The Drawing Center, 1995. They label it as "Unidentified tattooer, c. 1950" A most excellent book.

There are lots of 3d tattooed arms supposed to be old and supposed to have been employed in tattoo shops.

Here's a pair that sold on eBay. 

We have seen these pop up at local swap meets for about $200. That's okey as maybe a decoration for those stupid "man caves." Rooms which, like a New Year's Eve party, reek of false promise.  

Here's an arm sign currently on eBay. The lady looks sceptical but the listing swears it is genuine.

Can't tell from the photos but as one collector said " After looking  again, something about the paint doesn't look right.  It has that distressed painting technique look. That's a red flag." 

You be the judge. For us there is nothing more dispiriting than, down the road, realizing your item is a phony.  


Tattoo Show Opens September 18th

Saira Hunjan | Jef Palumbo | Duke Riley | Noon | Nazareno Tubaro | Amanda Wachob | Jacqueline Spoerle | Colin Dale | Scott Campbell | Peter Aurisch | Chuey Quintanar | Horiren First | Alex Binnie | Minka Sicklinger | David Hale | Stephanie Tamez | Virginia Elwood | Yann Black


Bound to a limited visual lexicon for over a century, tattooing has sprung free in the new millennium, liberated by artists who combine fresh concepts, holistic design, and masterful technique in thrillingly original styles. They draw inspiration from historical genres spanning Pointillism, Expressionism, Pop Art, and Photorealism; from an array of timeless ethnographic traditions; from illustration and graphic design, comics and street art; from regional folk arts; and from the Japanese style that has informed Western tattooing for the past century. The artists presented in “Body Electric” confirm that tattooing has turned a corner into an entirely new realm of artistic possibility. They are auteurs of body art. 

“Body Electric” introduces a new generation of conceptual trailblazers. The visual art featured here reflects their tattoo sensibility—the next best thing to showcasing the living canvases that bear their designs. They hail from around the globe: In Lucerne, for example, Jacqueline Spoerle uses Swiss folk motifs in lyrical silhouettes perfectly suited to tattoo’s inherently graphical nature. In Los Angeles, Chuey Quintanar takes fine line black and grey portraiture to a new level of grace and power. New Yorker Duke Riley’s maritime narratives betray a blush of nostalgia through strong line work and meticulous cross-hatching. In Argentina, Nazareno Tubaro blends tribal, Op Art, and geometric patterns in flowing compositions that embrace and complement human musculature. And in Athens, Georgia, David Hale, a relative newcomer, folds the curvilinear lines of Haida art into his folk-inflected nature drawings.   

The exhibition includes a selection of flash art spanning the late 19th to mid-20th century. These pieces, many by titans of the trade--George Burchett and Sailor Jerry Collins among them--represent the keystone style of Western tattoo tradition and the semiotic conventions that define it, from hearts and anchors to pinups and crucifixes. Conveying both the charms and limits of these pioneers, they offer a baseline for understanding the evolution of tattooing over the course of the past century. 

By bringing visual sophistication and art historical engagement to their work, the new auteurs have freed tattooing from the subcultural parameters that both sustained and restricted it for over a century. They’ve opened the door to an exhilarating new pluralism, reimagining this art for the 21st century.

*Excerpted from “Visionary Tattoo,” an essay by Margot Mifflin, Guest Curator

See more here

Alex BinnieBert Grimm

Amanda Wachob Avital

Virginia Elwood

Ed SmithDuke Riley SwinburnJacqueline SpoerleHoriren First

Ink and Skinner

Record setting price was set at auction for tattooed figure. Hammer price for this two and 1/2 foot tall composition figure was $23,000. Add the 25% buy in commission, tax and other official sounding crap and you're up around $30,000! 
One famous Folk art dealer went as high as $2,500. "Well I guess I did not get it." he said, adding that  "... very little sculpture exists in that area from the 19th century."
Battleship Kate probably stood well protected, set back on a countertop. Not a sunburned window display as the condition is pretty good.We still don't know if she is chalk or paper mache statue, the catalog description of the item was awful.
The bids came quick and furious.  24k was retracted at the last second as 23k drove it home. 
This record sale makes it clear it's smart to get the best pieces available. We were stunned at prices the Wm Grant & Sons distillery layed out on their Sailor Jerry buying spree a few years ago. Stunned to see a $18,000.00 price tag on a Darpel at the Outsider Art Fair. Great piece, but 18k? Kind of leaves a few of us out. Like the entire tattoo collecting community. 
Tatooists, collectors and historians are not concerned. Most of us buy when we can and sell when we have to. 
But in the end what does this tell us? Perhaps the deep pocket collectors, the Wm. Edmondson and Bill Traylor folk art crowd have finally arrived at the tattoo parlor. Making room on the folk art high pedestal for tattoo flash.
It will be interesting to watch the next auctions. Also to see what pieces come out when word circulates about the high dollar numbers.   We will probably start to see more doctored items. Caveat Emptor. Where there is money, bogus items will follow. 




Once owned by Mike Malone, this was possibly Jerry's last piece. A classic blended with Japanese design elements. We've never seen the dragon used this way before, it's usually a damsel in distress.

Wonder what Jerry was saying? Lightning bolts, sky in turmoil, the sea thrashing with sharks. The Dragon's not giving up in this land, sea and air battle. Sailor Jerry looking the devil in the eye. Tell "em Jerry!

Jerry the Sailor

Norman Keith Collins known as ‘Sailor Jerry’ born in 1911 was a very popular, well-known American tattoo artist who focused his art on sailors. Before Collins became ‘Sailor Jerry’ he lived in Chicago in the 1920’s where he was taught to use a tattoo machine and would practice his art on drunks. Collins enlisted in the United States Navy at the age of 19 where he would travel at sea and was exposed to Southeast Asian art. Collins continued sailing Asia and the Pacific sea and ended up sailing to Hawaii where he eventually opened up his own studio and spent the rest of his life.

Collins art stems from what he was exposed to, which was the typical ‘American Sailor’ religion and Asian designs. Some popular symbols Jerry used were bottles of booze, snakes, dragons, women, crosses, weapons and many more. Each symbol/ object had a meaning behind it. For example the anchors represent stability since they are the most secure object in a sailors life and journey. The anchor is a reminder of what keeps you stable. Sailor Jerry himself was covered in tattoos and wore white t-shirts to expose them.

Sailor Jerry helped change the tattoo industry completely. During these times there were only few colors available for tattooing so Sailor Jerry developed his own safe pigments that created much less trauma to the skin. Also he was the first to make use of single-use needles and hospital-quality sterilization.  

- Kamilla Tatka

Smith Street Brooklyn Comes to Chelsea

If someone asked me, "What's your problem?"  I'd have to say "skin."  

Andy Warhol

Eighty Eight degrees inside on a sub zero-freezing night outside. Which was good. An abundance of arms necks legs with multicolored designs of dragons skulls clowns snakes pin up girls and geometric patterns floated around the space. Mostly old school classic images updated to the modern look. Even a Felix the Cat tattoo looks new on a young arm or leg.  Ghosts of Bert Grimm, Brooklyn Joe Leiber and Sailor Jerry whispered around the crowds. Friendly, sans-Chelsea attitude. Reminded us of Kustom Kulture openings in LA, big smiles and lots of laughs.

The works are screenprints and drawings for tattoos. One stuck out as a Skeleton reading or studying something like an Albrect Durer print, another was a sheet of crybabies. Ok. Maybe some were more successful than others.  Overall a cool exhibit and fun place to go, free beer and free tee's by Katsufumi Takihana.

These guys have the reputation for being the  best tattooers out there. We wish them good fortune in this transition to fine art.

Smith Street Tattoo Parlour at Art NowNY on 28th street. With Mullowney Printing and Raking Light Projects.

Sailor Jerry Would Be Rolling In His Grave

The Tattoo artists are rolling in their graves

A few decades ago, tattoos used to be a sign you were a degenerate. They used to be reserved for people in gangs or bikers. Sure, there was the acceptable army or navy tattoo, or maybe that one crazy picture you got on your back that one drunk night; but now they are much more commonplace.

As long as there isn’t a giant skull on your neck, tattoos have really been accepted into society. Just look at shows like “Ink Master” on cable T.V. and the starlets like Angelina Jolie.

Maybe they have become too commonplace. Tattoo artists like Sailor Jerry were true masters of the art, famous for their legendary work and pioneering the field. Now you see Sailor Jerry Rum ads all over the place. Soccer moms are wearing Ed Hardy (who was Jerry’s protégé) T-shirts emblazoned with rhinestone and sparkles.

(Banned from clubs everywhere)


Sailor Jerry had set up shop in the red-light district of Honolulu, and focused his business on hard-drinking and brawling sailors. He famously told the Hawaii Five-O television producers to take a hike when they wanted to film him in a segment. 

(The Real Sailor Jerry)

It’s ironic how these tattoos have invaded pop-culture now. Sailor Jerry would be rolling in his grave. That’s why it’s even more interesting to have the real story behind these artists at Lift Trucks. Log on and learn the real story about these guys from our site: and Tattoo Archives from our friend Chuck Eldridge

Hello Sailor!

Curator’s Statement

By Pamela Hart


In the world of classic tattoo art, before the image was marked on the body, there was the flash. These bold iconic designs were created by tattooists on sheets of paper and displayed in tattoo parlors. They’re part of the landscape of carnivals, Coney Island, and penny arcades. Look closely at a sheet of tattoo flash and you can almost smell the sweat, cotton candy and popcorn intermingling along the carnival’s dusty corridors. You can hear hawkers urging passersby to check out the bearded lady or take a toss and win a prize. Tattoo flash images caught customers’ attention because of what they represent. They include symbols and signs of love and beauty, of travel or time served, of war and military service. They’re amulets, mementos, or status symbols – occasionally religious, often personal. Whether elaborate or plain, the images suggest romance, travel, patriotism, adventure and perhaps a connection to shadowy subcultures.