Wednesday, November 3, 2010

3/3 less depressing?


I've previously talked about the amount of prep time I was trying to put forth towards my tattoos. But what I failed to note is the amount of composition drafts and piles of reference used to even get to the point of starting on a final idea.

I have not only thousands of random photos, paintings and sketches I've found and kept for some reason. Some little thing that jumps out at me. Maybe the hue of a sunset, the filigree on an old sewing machine or knife.

But also tons of self produced reference. I talk to people at the studio very regularly about not googling "flower tattoo" but rather "flowers". Using some one elses tattoo as reference is using a starting point that has already been filtered threw some one elses mind, ideas, and skill. Start as fresh as you can!

I try to take that as far as I can as often as I can by creating my own reference material. All you tattoo people out there know when you see that sugar skull girl or that battle worn skull that Josh, and Nikko, and Nate and every body that's ripping there tattoo is using the exact same reference photo. Mike D. Touches on that a little in his keeping it real book/ DVD about trying to find your own fresh reference. It'll be worth all the effort when your joker tattoo doesn't blend in with all the others.

Any how I do this a few ways all of witch involve seeing your reference in real life. Wether I make a quick sketch, cell phone photo, or a purposely lit composed photo.

From flowers to rocks, seeing it first hand unlocks doors in your mind that a pic off the Internet just does not.

Examples that come to mind, when working on drawing koi I went out to catch a great big carp to look at and photo first hand. There are differences between a koi and a carp but it's close enough. Any how, moments after pulling it out of the water I saw so many little details that explained so much of what I'd seen in Japanese tattoos. Why in old tradition japanese tattoos does the koi have these weird W shaped scales behind the head? Because they do!

Example two, I was in NYC at the met a summer or two ago and came across there display of a Japanese garden complete with giant crazy looking rocks. I had always assumed much of the Japanese tattoo style was just that, stylized. But turns out in japan they actually have big crazy looking black rocks! So many little details and things seen in real life unlock answers to questions that would have taken  hours apon hours of sketching to figure out how to make it look right. There it is right in front of you! Things you'd never have even thought of!

My trips to the northwest reveal to me dozens of new bright and amazing flowers I'd never dreamed of existed. Now in my folder of amazing flowers to add to my compositions when you just can't bare to do your billionth tiger Lilly tattoo.

My final example explains my top photo. Skulls! I've drawn skulls for decades! Referencing other artists and piles of photos, and yet when my girl friend handed me a complete skull it was like a football stadium sized light went on in my head every time I twisted or turned it! It answered questions I didn't know I even had inside of 5 minutes of looking at it. Having it to turn, pose and light has become amazingly beneficial to my current work.

So take the easy road to awesome work and go take a walk with a camera, catch a fish, look at rocks!

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