So I have to say right-off from the get-go what a huge honor this is to be asked to write for the TAM Blog. I'm always proud to be able to interact and give back to the tattoo community. I was going back-and-forth on ideas and racking my brain in-between work, family, school and whatever else gets in the way for ideas to write about. I scrapped a lot that may surface later, but I want to just start my first one with my process of how I go about starting a tattoo –from the first sitting to the final sitting…
I have chosen to discuss this dragon backpiece I started on my friend Derek just a few months back. Usually when I start a tattoo I photograph the client and print it out to do my sketches on. This works better than just drawing on blank paper because you can see the shape and curves of the body and this will really help with the layout and to take advantage of "hills and valleys" of the back.
So in this particular piece, we wanted the imagery to be really dynamic and I chose to make the dragon pretty big and close-up. I did three to four sketches and took what I liked about each one and did a final thumbnail sketch. Drawing right on the skin was my decision for this one, getting the "bare bones" of the dragon on there and building off it as each session progresses.
The first session was just for lining and took around five hours. I always keep a disposable pen handy, to refine the drawing as I go.
The next couple sittings are getting the major background areas blocked in. There will be more dragon in there, but I don't want everything on the same plane, so parts of it will be darker and recede to the back. You can create your focal point this way, and I want the dragon head to pop more.
After the second session, you can get a better sense of the composition, as parts of the dragon are standing out more.
This is still a very early stage in the process, and I relate it to painting in a way. Start with the biggest brush and work your way down to the smaller brush… or mag in this case.
I have session three complete, another four hours. I like the value of the background it will be put to good use in later sessions with more of the dragon flowing through.
Looking forward to more time into this, and I will send an update soon.