LOST BEACH
The original title of this piece was “Lost Beach” and only concerned the upper arm, because, initially, the piece was meant to finish there.
But, as it often happens, the client later asked me to extend the piece down to the wrist. Now, with the addition of the scorpion, the flower on the elbow, the snake and desert roses I wouldn’t know what title to give it.
I will leave it as it is out of laziness 😀

But let’s take a few steps back.
This guy, with the hobby of singing and who is about to launch his first self-released album, asked me to create a half sleeve design that included a number of images referring to the album tracks.

He listed a multitude of elements and styles among which: an American traditional compass, the moon, a galleon stranded on a beach (always in this style), a Jimi Hendrix “if six was nine” lettering, a realistic tiger, a compass rose and many others.
Apart from the fact that American traditional is not really my thing, the design was a stylistic stew, impossible to translate decently into a half sleeve, definitely horrible to look at and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

Lost Beach draft 1 After my first denial, he told me that what he was trying to do was provide me with all his ideas so that I could filter them and create something in my own style. Given the initial confusion, we scheduled an appointment to discuss and elaborate the project in detail.
That day I started off with an explanation of my working method, my philosophy and why I avoid and/or disagree to some styles etc.
After having clarified the fundamentals, he flooded me once again with information from which I could create a design that could work.
In that hotchpotch of elements I began to link his ideas together in order to reduce the number of elements and create an attractive design that could tell a story.

My first idea was that of a tiger leaping in a moonlit ocean in which there was a compass, a stranded galleon in the background and a jellyfish whose tentacles, at his request, twisted around the elbow. He liked the first sketch a lot, at least until he realized that the tiger would remain hidden when wearing a t-shirt.
He wasn’t ok with it, for him it was crucial that the tiger’s muzzle be well visible even when wearing a t-shirt. This made me smile, I understand the desire to look good, but compromising a good project just to satisfy one’s vanity seemed a little too much.
The only way to save the project as it was was to enlarge it extending it to the forearm, but he didn’t want to know anything about it. So I began to rework the project.

Given his difficulty to visualize with drafts, I decided to take advantage of reference images I had on my computer in order to save time and give him a more concrete idea.
I managed to come up with something pretty attractive, the tiger was no longer in the water but on the beach, to fill the area around the muzzle we dusted off the idea to add flowers and vegetation that was initially set aside. The galleon was still in the background and the compass/moon was moved to the front of the shoulder as he requested. The moon/compass was also modified to satisfy another request. He absolutely wanted to include Jimi Hendrix’s “if six was nine”, but it was out of context, it didn’t fit in with everything else and it was too small to do something decent so I suggested turning East E into an I (If). With this simple stratagem the letters on the compass could have represented the much desired quote (E = If S = Six W = Was N = Nine). He agreed, but he still wanted the two numbers: 6 instead of South S and 9 instead of North N. I didn’t agree but accepted all the same, their size and placement were not that important and, after all, who really reads tattooed quotes? Nobody wants to read anymore, let alone read some tattooed initials 😛

Something very important for him was now missing, the jellyfish underwater.
There was no way of inserting it into this new context unless we were to exploit the inner arm, which in my opinion seemed like a stretch, but since it was of great importance to him I suggested a transition between leaves and seaweed. In short, the leaves around the tiger would be turned into seaweed to recreate a marine environment and the jellyfish would be placed on the inner arm. My training as an illustrator prompts me to create images that are believable but in this case the only way I could insert the jellyfish was using a sort of crossfade effect (the transition between two images that do not belong to the same scene).

The project seemed to be over but…
during one of the last sessions the client told me he felt something was missing around his elbow, it was an idea he had from the start and he didn’t want to give it up. He suggested a flower but after some tests it was clear to us both that it didn’t fit in with the rest of the composition, so we put the idea on hold in the hope of finding something suitable.

One day while surfing the internet I saw a flower that had a spiral pattern, so I suggested creating something similar by blending it surreally with the vegetation and water surrounding the jellyfish. The idea wasn’t bad but the shape it drew on the arm was definitely ugly, unless we were to extend the tattoo a little further. He thought it over and eventually agreed, so we added some extra vegetation and a scorpion (another element he wanted in the initial design), thus completing about a third of his forearm.

Once again, the project seemed to be over but at the end of this extension he decided to extend the piece down to the wrist by adding desert roses and a coral snake, or rather, a more aggressive reinterpretation of the latter.

If we had created a project for the entire arm right from the start instead of adding piece by piece the composition would probably be very different and definitely more organic, but, although my critical eye makes me notice some discrepancies, I must admit that the end result has a certain charm to it and I really like it.

After 13 sessions distributed over two years the project was finally over, but not his desire to get more tattoos. The next piece I will design for this client will be a biomech that I can’t wait to start 😀

Look at the images of the working process below.
Click on images to enlarge then navigate using arrow keys or scroll on mobile devices.