Am I dreaming or am I awake?

If translating the client’s ideas and wishes into images is not always easy, doing it with a dream is even more complex.
A dream experience is a series of emotions rather than vivid images, and only those who have experienced it can be aware of it.
Furthermore, as with other ideas, the area chosen for a tattoo may not necessarily be suitable for the desired representation,
especially when the elements are many. Sometimes too many 😀

In this particular case the requested elements were the following (as per the client’s email):

  • A tree with dry branches except at the top where there are buds and leaves
  • A child
  • An element representing anger
  • Two crossing rainbows over the tree, coming from a cartoon-style missile
  • A viola (musical instrument)
  • Three runes

As if that wasn’t enough, other elements were added during the preliminary meeting 😀

Arm or Back?

The boy had thought of the back or, alternatively, the arm.

I would have preferred to work on the back, it would have allowed me to give a more dramatic setting to the piece and it would have made it more important and easier both to look at and to tattoo. Unfortunately, however, he already had two tattoos on his back that occupied almost the entire scapular area.

A cover-up of this size is unthinkable, especially if light colors and not many details are used on the area to be covered.

Too bad, the work would have been of greater importance, but unless the client underwent laser removal, which he wasn’t willing to do, it wasn’t feasible.

So we settled on the arm.

Disegno di Jerry Magni per una manica tatuata

How many elements can I put in a tattoo?

Those who are not in the trade are not aware of the fact that the design they want for their tattoo is not to be interpreted as a flat image, like a photograph for example. The design, especially if large and on areas such as the arm or leg, will envelop the body, like an image on a cup or cylinder, so there may be insurmountable limits.

If you want to insert a figure having a horizontal development in an area that develops vertically the limits should be obvious, but in my experience it’s something clients do not always think about.

Another thing that many people don’t realize is that the tattoo is not a print, which poses limits on the size of the achievable details, especially smaller ones. Not to mention that tattoos tend to change over time, another limit that clients often aren’t aware of, along with other obstacles that those who don’t draw can’t obviously know about.

Therefore, it’s always necessary to clarify these and other points with the client before starting a project.

The project takes shape

After having briefed the client on the various insurmountable limits, we proceeded to sift through all the elements he wanted, discarding the superfluous ones to concentrate on those that were essential for him.

A good dose of reinterpretation was also needed at this stage to best convey his idea.

Initially he would have liked to center the design on the tree, following the setting of the always excellent Doomsday Clock, but this setting did not combine satisfactorily with other elements that the client wanted to include: a girl on a swing; a boy sitting at the foot of the tree and a viola leaning against the tree trunk. Too much stuff concentrated in a very tight space since his arm is not that of a bodybuilder. Moreover, he would have an excessive concentration of elements on the outer arm and little or nothing on the inner arm, dividing the work into two areas without continuity.

So, we patiently reassessed all the elements and reinterpreted/revolutionized the composition several times until we came up with a solution that satisfied us both.

Final Drawing

The rainbows coming from the rocket’s reactor disappeared and were replaced by a sunset on the horizon.

The tree became a wood in proximity of a pond on the shore of which a wolf appears, which was part of the many elements suggested by the client the meaning of which I do not recall. The idea of ​​making it bright came to me thinking of the Harry Potter deer.

The girl came down from the tree to play the viola on a tree trunk resting in the pond.

The score, which the client had asked for during the preliminary meeting, was replaced with sheets of paper floating around the girl. He asked if I could draw the score on the sheets, but they were too small and would have required too much work for an unsatisfactory result.

The boy, who was supposed to be sitting at the base of the tree, was now sitting on the same trunk where the girl is sitting, while in the distance the rocket takes off against the background of an alien sky where three planets make a fine show of themselves at dusk.

The final result is quite distant from the client’s initial idea but covers the arm in a more coherent way and retains a dreamlike and surrealist note which was ultimately the desired main theme.

Translation on skin

I no longer spend much time describing the various sessions because, with the exception of particular techniques or empirical discoveries, I find it somewhat boring for the reader.

This client’s pain tolerance was pretty good so I didn’t find it difficult to work on him.

By virtue of this, as I always say: the longer the sessions, the fewer hours needed to complete them.

Overall, I am satisfied with this piece, but to be completely honest there isn’t a work that, once finished, doesn’t give me second thoughts. It is part of the growth process of every artist/professional figure who loves his job and wishes to create ever better work.

In this case, if I could go back, I would probably intervene in a different way on the girl.

For professional deformation I always aim for the credibility of the light and elements, so it was natural for me to make the little girl in shadow, given the light coming from the rocket behind her and the light reflected from the water that casts the viola’s shadow from below.

Since it’s a dream interpretation, being able to go back I would add an unrealistic light to make the girl brighter, but it’s still a detail, also because that element doesn’t occupy more than 10 cm and there isn’t much room for action in that area.

Apart from that I am very satisfied with the final result and most importantly the client is, which is what matters most 😀


Below you can find images of the working process and a video made one month after complete healing.