Expansive tattoo depicting piece of Hawaiian history named ‘Best in Hawaii’

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 8:54 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 1:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 48-year-old Shad Bolosan of Waialua proudly sports an elaborate tattoo based on the iconic “Battle of Nuuanu,” a painting by the late Herb Kane.

It covers his entire back.

“When King Kamehameha came from the Big Island, he tried to unify all the islands. To me, that one painting is the one that I always liked the most since I was little. It’s so powerful and it’s actual history,” said Bolosan.

From King Kamehameha’s intense facial features, to the warriors fighting below, the tattoo was just named “The Best in Hawaii” — in a contest by radio station HI 93 FM.

Artist Robert Pho of Skin Design Tattoo is the man behind the masterpiece.

“All my experience, 30 something years, all had to go into this. I just knew I had to kill it,” said Pho.

But before Pho even got started, he had to remove an old tattoo on Bolosan’s lower back.

“There was a big motorcycle that he had tattooed, so even that alone was challenging!” said Pho.

It took 8 sessions; each lasting 8 to 12 hours. The pain was intense.

“Yes, on the back in certain spots it is very tender and you really feel it,” said Bolosan.

Pho specializes in black and gray and realism tattoo designs.

He started tattooing at the age of 16 in a California prison with equipment he rigged.

“The typical motor is from a Walkman radio. I broke it apart and took the motor from that and that was the machine alone. Then I got a guitar string and sharpened it up to make the needle,” explained Pho.

These days, he uses state of the art equipment and he isn’t cheap, but Bolosan says it’s worth it for a piece of art he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life.

“To me, it’s an investment. I’m lucky that I have a good job and that I can afford it, but it’s not for everybody,” said Bolosan.

For winning the contest, Bolosan got a trip for two to Las Vegas and $1,000.

His ultimate goal is to have a full body suit of tattoos by his 50th birthday.

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