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.
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