Monday, October 22, 2007

Carne viva

Well, check this out! This is a still-throbbing tattoo that was applied just yesterday to the right arm and shoulder of punk DJ, wrestling commentator, sometime Vampire MC and all-round firecracker the Fabulous Sebastian. I designed it for him only a couple of weeks ago, and here it is already, en carne viva. Wow.

I've only know Sebastian for a short time, but he has quickly showed himself to be the human incarnation of a devilishly raised eyebrow. An irresistible conversationalist, and a very fascinating creature indeed. So when he asked me to design a tattoo for him, I almost tripped over my nibs to get to the brush pen and have at it.

The request was for a skull. He's already got a very different-looking skull on the left arm, courtesy of Devil's Candy designer Eva Collado. I'd shown Sebastian a couple of my preliminary Hamlet pictures, and he liked the twisted black lines of Hamlet's "hair", so I decided to incorporate a variation of those lines into the design. As it turns out though, the lines in the tattoo design are very different to anything I'd envisaged using in Hamlet. However, I like them so much, that I'm thinking up ways that they might be incorporated into the book. The brush pen lends itself perfectly to these delicate swirls and mid-curve kinks, and I found that it led my hand quite unexpectedly into a whole new style. This is what the first version looked like:

When Sebastian showed it to the tattooist, he was told that the very fine "white" areas within the black would not work well. Apparently tattoo ink spreads in the skin over the years, so very small spaces tend to get eaten up by the black. I needed to get rid of some of the tiny white dots (a pity - I like them), and Sebastian also asked me to add some more curls at the sides of the skull, so that the design would wrap around his arm more.

To do this without the risk of messing up the original drawing, I laid a sheet of tracing paper over the top and did the new lines on that. My new Pentel fountain brush pen came in handy here, as its ink is waterproof and sits nicely on the tracing paper (the Chinese non-waterproof ink in my Pentel Aquash breaks up into beads on the surface). I then scanned the new parts, made a couple of small changes and added them to the existing scanned image, so the result looked like this:

And that is pretty much how it went onto the arm - apart from the enlarged tears which Sebastian said reminded him of prisoners!

It does look a little bit different when it's wrapped around a three-dimensional body - and it gives me the absolute shivers to see it there, on a living canvas! I have warned Sebastian that next time I'm up in Sydney, I'm going to take so many photos of him flaunting the tattoo that the ink is going to fade under the flash-bulb onslaught.

So, we're all happy. Sebastian has offered himself as my Muse (and there is some sort of resemblance to the Dane, I have to admit), and I've offered to design as many tattoos as he wants to bear. He's already asked me about starting on a second one...

I'm hooked. How could I say no?


spacedlaw said...

Funny enough, when I first saw the picture I thought it was a cat...
Our youngest kitten looks a little like that.
A fine tatoo.

"the human incarnation of a devilishly raised eyebrow"?
Sounds interesting!

Nicki Greenberg said...

It is interesting that you say it reminds you of a cat. The preparatory skull drawings for Hamlet were actually cat-creature skulls, and this would have been one too, except that the wearer specifically wanted a human skull. So, while I did consult a book on human anatomical drawing, I suspect the cat influence is still quite strongly present!

spacedlaw said...

Looking forward to the Hamlet book !

I meant to ask you:
How was the lettering done on Gatsby?
It looks quite intricate: I would hate to think somebody spending all the time doing this by hand and yet it does not look computer generated.

Nicki Greenberg said...

The lettering is all done by hand! All with a steel nib dipped in ink.

It was only when I'd actually finished the book that I discovered a great program called FontCreator. I used this to make a font based on my hand-lettering, and then used the font for the publishing info page at the front of the book and the acknowledgements etc at the back.

Very happy with the font - and will use it again in future! Maybe I will do a post about this...

spacedlaw said...

It looks great! what a colossal effort, though...