Transformation of the Tattoo, part 1

Goddess Cover upHey, life changes and with it, so do we.  Maybe a tattoo becomes outdated due to a relationship coming to and end.  Or due to the way we come to know ourselves more authentically.  Maybe the tattoo was just poorly done in the first place and could be nicer, or maybe it was damaged in an injury.  Sometimes we just want something else in that location on the body and would like to use the space for the new art. Cover-ups are one of my favorite aspects of tattooing.  Body image is a precarious perception and a tattoo can help heal or deepen our feelings about ourselves.  When someone walks out of my studio with a new tattoo they love, it’s a beautiful thing. And when that new tattoo replaces a lamented tattoo, the experience can be transformative.This is part one of a three-part series in which we’re talking cover-ups.  Check back next week for part two… and in the meantime, share your own stories or questions about cover ups on my FaceBook page!

Footprints

FootprintsWhen I complete a tattoo and it walks out the door on the person wearing it, I am constantly aware that whether I ever see the artwork again remains to be seen.  Tattooing is an artistic medium unique from any other in that these images are living, breathing, moving pieces of that live life in every moment with us. With that in mind, it was great fun to revisit a tattoo I completed a year ago on a mother celebrating the first birthday of her first child.  At that time she brought with her the original of her newborn daughter’s footprints which we reproduced in their actual size and with realistic detail, as a permanent memento of the imprint becoming a mother has made on her life and a tribute to the journey they share.

It was great fun to revisit this tattoo a year later when she stopped in with her daughter to drop off this beautiful portrait taken on her daughters second birthday, to see that the tattoo is looking just as realistic and detailed as it did a year ago… and of course, to pass happy wishes on to the birthday girl.  (By the way, props to photographer Jessica Wilson at Kiddie Kandids in the Bloomington, MN Babies R Us for the great photo.)

Next week I’ll begin a three week series highlighting cover up work… you know… changing that old, tired, outdated (or just really unfortunate) tattoo into something that you are once again in love with.  Cool stuff.  Check it out.

60 Second Sketch, Brought to Life

Screen shot 2009-12-17 at 10.59.36 PMI enjoy the exercise of creating a 60 second sketch. I travel with a sketch book and when something of interest catches my eye I’ll often quickly render a series of ideas from that subject, whether it be on the subway in New York or from a canoe in the Boundary Waters. It’s a terrific way to familiarize oneself with the most basic structure and detail of a subject; 60 seconds allows time to nail down only the design structure itself with one or two primary details necessary to bring the subject to life. When I’m in the canoe, I look forward to seeking out beds of lily pads and blooms. The canoe perspective is dynamic as a series of 60 second sketches occur from multiple perspectives as the wind and current carry me on the water, producing some interesting results. I rendered one of these sketches in the medium of scratchboard for a traveling gallery show and subsequent publishing in the book “Scratch Art”. Curated by Guy Aitchison, this collection of scratchboard art was created by tattoo artists from around the world. When Jessica requested this particular water lily, it was fun to put these points of reference and experiences together to breathe life into her piece.

Phoenix Rising

Phoenix in process...

Phoenix in process...

Building onto an existing tattoo is a challenge I enjoy, particularly when the client I’m working with is game to relax in to the journey by trusting the creative process. While our first tattoos are each significant to us, often times they are unrelated to one another which can result in a patchwork appearance. When the desire to wear an extensive piece of art comes upon us, we are faced with a two fold design process: planning the new piece itself as well as strategizing about how to incorporate the existing art in a way that is consistent with the overall design. This requires creativity as well as an openness to allowing the process to unfold.

In this week’s photos you’ll see the first two steps in the creation of a half sleeve that is building onto an existing tattoo. “Before” shows the existing work that we needed to work in and work around. The “stencil” is the freehand sketching and stenciled outline of the custom Phoenix, smoke and flames that will become the focal point of this piece. And “in process” means this story is to be continued once the piece is completed. Stay tuned…

Eagle Flight

Eaglets taking flight

Eaglets taking flight

Two weeks in the north woods does spirit, body and mind good. I felt blessed by an ongoing presence of Bald Eagles around me this trip, having the opportunity to observe parents encouraging their young to practice flight skills. I sat in the canoe for nearly an hour watching take offs and landings over… and over… and over.

Another particularly awe inspiring moment was experiencing one of the adult eagles soar low overhead, circle around, and then slowly and gracefully swoop down to forage a dead Walleye from the water surface not twenty feet from my canoe. What a humbling experience. Thank you, Eagle.

I always look forward to time spent in the north woods as time for unwinding and gaining a fresh perspective on whatever aspects of life are at hand. It is an added gift then, to experience wildlife so personally and then return to the studio and apply that energy and experience to a piece of art.

On Wednesday of this week I began a half sleeve of a Phoenix rising from the flames (which was an interesting experience since there was a tornado going on outside… at the time we didn’t know…). Creating this extensive Phoenix piece with the Eagles and the elements so immediate in my mind was inspiring. I look forward to finishing the piece. I’ll post photos soon. In the meantime, enjoy the Eagles.

Today’s Tattoo

WZCelticI always get excited about having the opportunity to tattoo a portrait. It’s a style of tattooing that isn’t often requested, is extremely challenging, and incredibly distinctive. When tattooing a portrait, it’s important to have multiple clear photos to work from in order to most accurately render the subject. However, as you’ll see here, even when working from one photo an accurate photo realistic representation is possible.

Indelibly Inking With Intention

John Troyer (AKA Dr Death) and Awen discuss Memorial Tattoos

John Troyer (AKA Dr Death) and Awen discuss Memorial Tattoos

Wednesday evening’s event provided thought provoking conversation and insight that I’ve been reflecting on in the days since. For example, how fine a line we walk when defining Memorial Tattoos as separate from tattoos that mark life’s various transitions. All transition requires an end as well as a beginning, and often times these include struggle and grief, along with joy and celebration. Another example; while some images are instantly recognizable as traditional memorial motifs, many others are not. How then are we to know, when looking at a tattoo, that it’s a Memorial Tattoo? We may not know… but we do know that the art being worn is meaningful. When we choose what is meaningful for us and then express that meaning by indelibly inking it with intention, we are transformed. Thank you to everyone who attended, and for your willingness to share your stories, your perspectives and for posing terrifically unanswerable questions!

Wednesday Evening… Hey! That’s Tomorrow…

Dr DeathJoin us for an evening of discussion
A Constant in History: the Memorial Tattoo
Wednesday, July 29 at 7:30 pm
West Bank Social Center
John Erik Troyer, from the University of Bath’s Centre for Death and Society, and I have discovered common ground in the subject of memorial tattoos, as both of our work is graced by the legacy of those we remember and miss. John and I have shared hours of conversation during his hours of getting tattooed, and we thought it would be fun and interesting to share a wider discussion on the topic. On Wednesday night, John will share a brief presentation (most recently shown in Edgbaston UK) followed by an interactive discussion.

We hope you’re able to join us!

West Bank Social Center, 501 Cedar Avenue South, Minneapolis 612.839.0810

A Shiver of Sharks

do not reproduce ©artwithapoint2009

I often describe tattoos serving as bookmarks in life. In this weeks blog I’m highlighting a beautiful example of celebrating a milestone and family. These shark tattoos mark a tenth wedding anniversary as well as honor the growth of this family from two to six over the last ten years… Happy Anniversary!

Join Us For an Evening of Discussion

Dr DeathJoin us for an evening of discussion
A Constant in History: the Memorial Tattoo
Wednesday, July 29 at 7:30 pm
West Bank Social Center
John Erik Troyer, from the University of Bath’s Centre for Death and Society, and I have discovered common ground in the subject of memorial tattoos, as both of our work is graced by the legacy of those we remember and miss. John and I have shared hours of conversation during his hours of getting tattooed, and we thought it would be fun and interesting to share a wider discussion on the topic. On Wednesday night, John will share a brief presentation (most recently shown in Edgbaston UK) followed by an interactive discussion.

We hope you’re able to join us!

West Bank Social Center 501 Cedar Avenue South, Minneapolis 612.839.0810