This work is completely different from what the client initially had in mind for his arm.
In February 2012, he contacted me asking me for a sort of “climbing” tribal, designed by him, that would cover his entire arm. I think that showing the drawing is enough to make you understand why I dismissed that project immediately.

After this initial rejection we met to better discuss the reason for my refusal and how, in my opinion, we could instead have evolved an important project such as a full sleeve. In this meeting it was quite simple to make the client understand that for a work of this size it was preferable to work on something far more attractive than a number of black lines. So we arranged for a meeting to be dedicated to the design.

We spent the entire day talking about preferences, suitable subjects etc.. One of the first names to be mentioned was that of M.C. Escher, one of his favourite artists and whose work I also find fascinating. I took from my book shelf a few books about the Dutch artist and after evaluating several potential images and compositions, from Ascending and Descending, Waterfall, Belvedere, Relativity, House of Stairs, to his geometric and non-geometric patterns, the choice fell, due to its vertical development, on Up and Down dated 1947. However, I didn’t find the way the work ends at the top suitable for the purpose of closing the design on the shoulder, so I decided to focus on one of the last studies by Escher for that work instead.

In that study, the upper part ends with an entirely visible building that allowed me to have a central element on the shoulder leaving the task of shading to the sky around it. I also found more challenging working on a sketched and little known project rather than trying to rework a famous work.
The next thing to do was decide how and how much to change the design to make it suitable for our purpose.
Looking at the drawing, thanks to a recent trip to Venice, I thought that the main street could become a channel of the lagoon city and the bridge on the right side of the drawing could become the famous Bridge of Sighs, while at the bottom we could have the base of the building resting on the sea, closing the piece with water splashes on the wrist. Finally, the sky visible from the arches of the bottom building would have melted perfectly with the sea at the base of the upper building, I thought I would be able to include a few gondolas here and there but there wasn’t enough space left so this latter option was discarded as well as the Bridge of Sighs. While the idea of ​​the “never-ending” staircase that revolves around the arm was a stroke of genius that I am sure the Master would have liked.

All that was left to do was find the right atmosphere. At that time I was fascinated (and still am) by the work of Russian painter Evgeny Lushpin and found that an atmosphere similar to that of his paintings would be perfect for a work like this, I showed the client some pictures and he immediately agreed with me. All that was left to do was work on the design. Since we had thought of Venice, the buildings couldn’t but have the same architecture of those of the Serenissima.

The client was excited about the project, Escher is one of his favourite artists, Venice is his favourite city, water is the element associated with his zodiac sign, and he particularly liked the idea of opposites: the buildings as a representation of strength, durability and stability as opposed to water which is moving and changing, day and night, the cool colours of the exteriors in contrast to the warm light inside the buildings and the two perspectives opposite each other, the Zenith of the first is the Nadir of the second.
The clock was the solution to fill in the space on the elbow, that I didn’t know how to connect to the rest and for the client it represents a sort of reminder to seize the moment “because time does not wait for anyone.” The position of the hands, as well as being the client’s time of birth is a fun play on words that he likes: 2:20, twenty past two, is “due e venti” in Italian, that can also be read “due eventi” (two events). A great title given the meanings that are more or less hidden, but I preferred to avoid it given the impossibility of recreating the same play on words in English.
For that clock, once again, I used as reference and inspiration the work of Eric Freitas .

UP & DOWN (Escher Sleeve)

An ambitious and fascinating work to which he asked me to include one of my KATZ at the bottom, representing a confident yet enigmatic look to the future. As he said: “It’s not clear whether it’s looking at the sky, the clock or if it’s trying to figure out the mess around him”.

An unusual, ambitious and extremely complex work. With my background as an illustrator I have an excellent knowledge of the Macromedia Freehand software (never worthily replaced by Adobe Illustrator) which came in very handy in redesigning the buildings accurately changing their architecture, hard work that took approximately 35 hours, and there was still the colouring and the addition of other details to do.
The lines were ready to start tattooing, so on June 20, 2012 we began to outline the basic lines, a job that required almost 5 hours in order to outline all the windows, balconies, bricks, arches, beams, etc.. A few weeks later, in the second sitting, I worked on the clock (pictures of that session went lost unfortunately) and the client and I agreed to schedule more appointments as soon as possible.

Unfortunately the months passed, new work commitments added up to the existing ones and it’s not always easy to keep track of all the work in progress. But after a few months without having heard from him I tried to contact him but didn’t get any reply. I however carried on colouring the design and tried to get in touch with him other times during the course of the following months, with no response yet again. I was now sadly resigned to the idea of having to enter this client in the “missing clients” category, the kind of client who starts something important and then vanishes into thin air without giving any explanation. I know that over the course of months, sometimes years, things change, other priorities demand our attention and maybe a tattoo related project can be put aside and postponed to a later date, but the respect for those who dedicate body and soul to a project designed especially for us requires at least a short notification message.
Luckily, in May of the following year (2013) he reappeared, removing himself from the “asshole” list 😛

UP & DOWN (Escher Sleeve) 1Unfortunately, due to my schedule and his priorities, from May 2013 to the same period of the following year we were able to do only 3 sittings, but better a slow work than an unfinished work 😉

From mid-2014 we were able to schedule appointments on a regular basis, and finally, after over two years, I was finally able to finish this work before having to switch to another calendar. On November 7, 2014 (some 33 months later) the work was completed.

A complex, detailed, unusual and challenging work that I was sure would end up being one of my favourites when I started, and although it’s been almost three years it continues to be one of my favourites, although I must admit that on such complex projects I could spend endless hours refining, readjusting, enhancing, accentuating and so forth; but an artist must also know when to put an end to his work.

Look at the images of the working process below.
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