A big project is always an artistic as well as a human experience. Spending a long amount of time working on someone’s skin gives you the opportunity to talk about an infinite number of topics, often finding points of agreement and sharing, saying that a friendship is developed is perhaps too much but surely a mutual understanding is achieved. Understanding that of course already has solid foundations when the client trusts you and you know that you will give your best to offer the best possible result.
I had already done a large work on the arm of this client, so he already knew how I worked and he was sure that I would be able to make the most out of what he wanted. The idea was that of a dragon protecting a woman from external negativities. The dragon represented the client and the woman his wife. He suggested the idea and, as it often happens when I have to work on a large project, I think about it for a long time and I jot down a myriad of sketches that often get thrown away until I finally find the right idea.
The idea came one evening when, instead of focusing on the project as a whole, I decided to focus my attention on the woman. She had to be ecstatic and totally at ease in the arms of the dragon. The idea of the red cloth held in one hand, almost nonchalantly, as if to let it fly away intentionally to reveal herself and the hand that strokes the dragon’s claw, were two elements that in my mind would have made the image romantic without making it too corny.
The dragon had to be blue, to satisfy the client’s preferences but also to create a contrast with the red cloth. The final dragon is completely different from the one I initially drew.
To have a perfect idea of how the finished result had to look like, I made a general draft which required several nights of study. I only made the stencil for the woman, claws and head of the dragon. Everything else was drawn freehand on the client’s skin, including the black background made of surreal skulls representing the “external evil forces”. I also had to take into account an old tattoo, almost a black blotch, that had to be covered. Nothing too problematic really, given the size of the entire work.
The making of the stencil and drawing on skin took about 3:30 hours, the outline about 5:30 hours.
The following sitting was dedicated to the background made of surreal skulls. When the time to start colouring the dragon came I was far too optimistic, I was almost certain that I could colour most of the dragon in one or two sittings. I had not taken into account the number of scales that covered it and that had to be coloured and shaded one by one … I didn’t count them but I’m sure they are hundreds!
At the time of this writing we have reached a total of 5 sittings of approximately 6 hours each.
Now, for various reasons, the tattoo has been on hold for some time but we will carry on soon, and as with all projects of this level, I can’t wait to see it finished and healed.
Look at the images of the working process below.
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