Artist Yuko Yabuki was born and raised in Japan, and studied at Tokyo Women's Art College, but the painter, who's been living in Phoenix since 1995, says she continually learns new things about Japanese art from tattoo artists.
So it's only fitting that Yabuki will be painting live at the Hell City Tattoo Festival at the Arizona Biltmore this weekend. Though painting is her prime medium, Yabuki says she connects with tattooists because she also draws, and both mediums require line-oriented art. "A lot of tattoo artists think my art is tattoo art," she says. "They decide to put on people's skin what I put on paper."
But the piece Yabuki will be painting at Hell City -- an elaborate, eight foot by eight foot painting titled "Alchemy of Life" -- would require more flesh space and hours with a needle than most tattooists have. It's a large scale work rich with images and symbolism.
"With tattoo art, I use my spiritual side," Yabuki says. "I try to understand the people's philosophy and mentality of getting tattoos. Sometimes, when people make a big decision or have a big life change, they get a tattoo."
The white bird atop the skull "represents finding your purpose. It's a supernatural message," she says. There are hourglasses on both sides of the skull, and flowers in bloom that eventually die. "There's a dried petal on the ground," Yabuki points out. The whole gestalt follows a process from birth to death, with the end result of one turning into gold.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.