Obsession Perception #15: Nerd Expression Through Tattooing
Hello everybody! Welcome back to the 15th installment of Obsession Perception. This week I’d like to talk about a topic very near and dear to my heart. As some of you may have heard me briefly mention, when I don’t read and write about comics or spend my free time with my lovely girlfriend and dog, I’m working at my day job as a tattoo artist. I spend 60+ hours a week in a studio with four other people very close to me and I create permanent art to be worn on the skin of those who not only allow me, but also pay me to do so. I’ve been tattooing for 8 years now and that 8 years obviously has overlapped with my life long love of comics and most things nerdy. From time to time over these years I’ve been given the opportunity to combine these two passions into one by way of creating comic-related tattoos on people of many walks of life, some of which were previous friends that shared my obsessions, others on complete strangers that have either stumbled upon the studio I work at or purposefully seek me out specifically for my work and appreciation for comics. The art of comic books and the art of tattoos are not too far apart and the passion that the people have who take the leap to adorn themselves with their favorite characters is really second to none. So here we go with a very special column for me, Obsession Perception #15: Nerd Expression Through Tattooing.
I love tattooing, it’s truly my dream career. I get paid to be creative and make art that means the world to those who wear it. I’m ever evolving to become a better Tattooer and artist every day so any tattoo that walks through the door is important. However, there are certain types of tattoos I really have fun doing, whether it’s for the challenge they provide or if I’m specifically into that particular subject matter. Comic book art and tattoo reproductions of them appeal to both the challenge and my care for subject matter. Translating art from great comic artist like Michael Turner or Sarah Pichelli (specifically her Miles Morales/Spider-Man I recently did) is alway challenging because the artistic rules of application differ for tattooing from most other mediums. In tattooing you have to consider the fact that you are applying pigment to ever changing organism that is intended to not only be there, but look good and age well for the duration of the life of the individual wearing it. Comic art often times has very tight fine detail and shading built through crosshatch shading and strategically placed black shading. The foundation of tattooing, while built on the color black isn’t as flexible as it may be on paper, the finer cross hatching, and tiny spacing in between black shadows and color doesn’t always hold up over time in tattoos. The smaller the gap between black lines or fields of black the more likely it is to blur together over time and become an unreadable mess. So it goes without saying that there is always the challenge of being faithful to the original art while making adjustments to insure the longevity of the tattoo. A good example of the alterations is apparent in the Skottie Young Spider-Man I did where I had to make adjustments to the small black inking that make up the wrinkles in his legs and arms. I also gave it a bit smoother of a blend of blues and made the brightest blues a little lighter and brighter so it doesn’t look muddy in the skin as it ages over the years. There are slight changes to the very fine lined webbing so there is enough spacing to allow the lines to age without merging into each other. I feel my love and knowledge of comics and these characters (especially Spider-Man, I really love Spidey) allows me to do the translation to skin justice in most cases. The challenge is always welcome. I enjoy reproducing a visual style that I have always found appealing without the pressure of doing portraiture. I’ve never been attracted to tattooing realism or portrait like images so comic art allows me to scratch the itch of translating pre-existing art without the pressure of making an exact and rigid realistic copy of a photograph.
I’ve been lucky enough to tattoo various Spider-Men on people five times, I’ve also done a Lego Batman, Wolverine, Sabretooth, The Watchmen smiley face pin, several Star Wars characters including Boba Fett (he’s technically a comic book character) and various logos and symbols representing all of the above and more. All these have been a blast, but it’s always an extra feather in my nerdy cap when I have the chance to tattoo characters or imagery from more obscure independent comics. I’ve been lucky enough to do tattoos from Locke and Key, Rat Queens, and even Lying Cat from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga. These have all been fun because there is always the need to explain what they are to the average non comic reader when they see the photo in my portfolio, affording me the chance to talk about the comics I love, even if it’s with someone who has no real idea what the hell I’m babbling about.
On the opposite end of the tattoo machine I’ve been the recipient of several comic book, video game, and generally dorky tattoos. These include a pair of keys from the aforementioned Locke and Key, as well as a huge Spider-Man on my thigh that, though still in progress, is one of my favorite tattoos that I’m more proud of than most. As a fan and avid reader of comics they play a big part in my life. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s most important creation not helped teach me to read in general it has taught me a lot about perseverance in the face of a challenge and of course responsibility, so I dedicated a big portion of my pasty skin to express my love for old web-head and I wear it with pride. For fans like me and those I’ve tattooed these images on, it’s more than just a closeted hobby we do to kill time and it only feels natural to wear them and display them boldly as a part of us and an extension of our own personalities.
I know at least a couple of my fellow www.all-comic.com writers and editors have comic tattoos, so what about my readers here? What super hero tattoos do you have, if any? Which ones would you get? Do you have plans on expressing your inner nerd on the outside? If so let me know in great detail in the comments! For anyone that wants to know I provide my tattoo services at Brass Monkey Tattoo in Spring Hill, Florida and my most recent work (comic related or not) can be found on Instagram @biggietattoos. As always, come back next week for the next edition of Obsession Perception. I’ll leave you with a gallery of some comic tattoos I’ve done. Excelsior!