The Design Brief
Client came with an idea for a full sleeve and chest piece that would incorporate ornamental scrollwork, Bible verses, and traditional Christian symbols, all in full color. After an initial consultation, we decided to work on the left inner forearm first, and the client chose this text from the Bible, Galatians 5:22-23:
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
Planning and Design: William Morris & Company, England
We used Pinterest boards to collect ideas and samples of various styles of ornamental acanthus scrolls and scripts, as well as tattoo images that reflected these kinds of images. The client favored the artistic style of William Morris, a founder of the “Arts and Crafts” movement from late 19th Century England. His interior design firm, “Morris & Co.”, produced ornamental wallpapers, tapestries, fabrics, furniture, and many other interior design pieces.
Planning and Design: The Kelmscott Press
But William Morris also founded a printing company, the “Kelmscott Press,” whose books’ pages feature rich scrollwork in complex combinations of borders. The typefaces and graphics from the Kelmscott Press are still available for inspiration.
Planning and Design: Medieval illuminated manuscripts
At the same time, the client was drawn toward Medieval illuminated manuscripts, which were often hand-painted copies of the Bible and other Christian texts. We looked for ways to combine both artistic domains into the artwork.
Planning and Design: Final artwork for transfer
Over the course of a month, using various sourcebooks, together we built up a full concept for the piece. The client had digital graphic design experience, and so provided an image of the text based on the Kelmscott Press typefaces and graphic elements.
Session 1: Black line drawing (6.5 hours)
The first session was dedicated to transferring the artwork to his arm then working through the lines in black, with the finest needle available. The session ended with most of the design traced, and the client left to spend the next month healing.
Session 2: Choosing a color palette
We looked for the color scheme best suited to the design. Medieval illuminated manuscripts made use of a limited set of bright pigments—reds, green, blues, and golds—but the artists of the Arts and Crafts movement were also drawn to illuminated manuscripts, which they reinterpreted into their time. These richer hues seemed a better match with the William Morris design than the ealier, medieval palette.
Session 2: Painting in the color (8 hours)
The second session began with a thorough clean-up and finishing of the existing line drawing, and then we painted. The painting in of such intricate color is painstaking, and so after another period of healing, we will reconvene for a third color session.
Session 3: Adding more life and color (5 hours)
In the third session, we continued to extend the original color scheme, an completed roughly two-thirds of the tattoo.
Session 4: More headway on color (5 hours)
Another session, more progress, and further color design decisions…