Posts Tagged ‘Tattoos’


“Life is like a tattoo: we have a certain space available and that’s it. The more we fill it with negative elements, the less space will be left for the positive ones. Shape your life like a work of art as you would do with your tattoos, and keep the good in it.

Shape your dreams.”

Roberto Gemori


At the opening at the Principle Gallery on Friday, as I was speaking with some folks, I noticed a man standing just on the edge of the group, not part of it. That’s not unusual at openings. Sometimes at these things I get to tell stories about the work and people often step up to listen in. After the group departed, this man moved up and said he had something he wanted my opinion on.

His name was Kevin Jobe who explained he was a police officer there in Alexandria and said he hoped I wouldn’t be offended. He was such an affable guy I couldn’t imagine what he could do that would offend me.

He proceeded to pull up his sleeve and, lo and behold, there was the image of a Red Tree painting on his bicep. The tattoo artist had done a great job replicating the trees and other elements of my work, using their own technique for creating texture in the field rows in the lower part of the tattoo, which I really liked. It had the impact of one of my paintings for me.

I was stunned and couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I felt a bit awestruck as well as deeply honored that someone chose that image to permanently engrave on their body. I mean, how do you respond to that?

I told Kevin that I thought it was awesome. And I do. And it is.

He explained that it was still a work in process and he asked for my opinion on how he should finish the sea and sky. Not knowing the tattoo medium too well, I hesitated. It was like looking at a painting that’s it’s at a point where I am afraid of screwing it up because I am not sure which is the next right move. We discussed the possibility of using a swirled pattern in the sky, as I sometimes use in my work. The painting here on the left, Energizing Light, from a few years back has a pattern in its sky ( and possibly in the water) that I think might translate well to the tattoo without crowding out the Red Tree.

Any suggestions from my tattoo knowledgeable friends out there?

I am still very much honored by Kevin’s action though I will point out that I did feel slightly uneasy afterwards. I mean, that’s permanent! It’s not like he had a t-shirt made or carved a red tree out of an old 2×4. That’s his skin and it will most likely, pending a thresher accident on the farm, be with him forever. I have to admit that I felt a little pressure to somehow live up to Kevin’s confidence in committing that image to his skin. I worried that just meeting me might have him doubting his decision.

Hopefully, I can live up to his confidence. Thank you, Kevin, for showing me your work in progress. I am honored and still awestruck. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

On the subject, here’s a little song from the Dropkick Murphys about a tattoo. And the Roberto Gemori from the quote at the top is a well known tattoo designer.



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The Illustrated Man

Tattoo Art?When I was a kid I thought it would be pretty cool to have a tattoo.  A couple of my uncles had tattoos, a naked lady and a black panther among them, and I was always kind of fascinated by them.  They were older tats and kind of blotty in areas, the lines starting to break apart a bit.  But I still thought they were sort of cool.

When we moved in 1972 and I started junior high school in Elmira, a more urban setting than I had come from, I was exposed for the first time to the homemade tattoos that some of the rougher kids wore.  They were made by taking a pin or needle , wrapping it with thread and dipping it ink.  The thread would absorb the ink and would would deposit it under the skin as they poked their designs with the needle.  They were pretty crude.  A lot of crooked initials and “Mom”‘s . “LOVE ” and “HATE” on the knuckles- that kind of thing.  I was still fascinated but more in a “why the hell would you do that?” sort of way.

Years passed and I found myself working at Perkins Restaurant as a waiter.  When I first started I worked the overnight shifts, which were, for the most part, the province of the drunk and  alienated.  There were a lot of young adults who would come in and sit for hours, drinking coffee and smoking ( you could do that still) with no place else to go.  I came to know several of them and they liked me because I treated them well and listened to what they had to say. 

There was one guy who wanted to be a tattoo artist.  Tattoos were gaining popularity and you were starting to see them more and more.  He had bought some equipment and was practicing on himself.  He would come in and pull up his pant leg, showing me his calf.  It was covered in scrawls of unsure lines and letters and shapes.  It was awful, reminding me of the homemade tats from junior high.  I asked if there wasn’t a better way to practice, maybe an orange or something?  He said there was nothing like using the real thing.  

Over the years, I have seen some great tattoos and am always amazed that these people are so sure of who they are now and who they will be in the future.  As I’ve aged my view of the world is always changing, evolving with new knowledge and insights.  I would hate to have an emblem of who I was at age 18 emblazoned on my body for all to see.  It would be like being doomed to wearing a KISS ARMY t-shirt for eternity.

Tattoos have always been viewed as symbols of individualism, something that sets one apart from the crowd.  But as they become more and more popular, I’ve started to view them more as symbols of conformity.  It’s become so common that there I find myself less and less fascinated when I see one.  I still appreciate a well done tattoo that is composed well and executed with great care and really says something about its owner but I get a feeling from so many of them that it simply means that they are part of the crowd.  Almost as though they are being used to make the wearer blend in rather than stand out.  

So, I don’t have any tattoos and will never do so.  It would feel too much like conforming…

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