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“A full sleeve of a Native American Chieftain charging into battle. I admire their connection to nature and its gods. I want to make sure they are depicted as rugged, as living in harmony with nature means enduring chaos every day. “
Caesar’s Artistic Vision:
Kate had a pretty solid idea of her tattoo. She wanted to represent Mother Nature, or Gaia on her upper half-sleeve. She brought a lot of references that we ended up incorporating into her final tattoo. During the consultation in July 2009, we discussed how we wanted to manifest Gaia as a solid entity when itself was an abstract concept. With that concept clear, we began session zero immediately.
The challenge was in incorporating elements of air, earth, water, and the chakra system. These were also abstract, and we also wanted to preserve the femininity of Gaia while doing so. We settled on the female body, but without sexual features, save her chest. This human body would be the vessel for the chakra system. Each chakra element would be encased in a sphere of energy. We symbolized air with a spiral trail of butterflies in negative. wrapping around Gaia’s body. I realized that the water element was the key in beginning the path of flow for the tattoo. The figure of Gaia would arise from a body of water, and we would add fishes in negative to clarify. We also decided to add a molecular structure of the atom to symbolize the particles that make up the universe. Gaia’s magnitude would be seen with mountains at her hip level, and further emphasize the feminine with vines of flowers beginning at her hands and wrapping upwards. She would also have long flowing hair that would drape her back and provide the dark background to symbolize night. In order to merge her skin with the tattoo, we would plant flowers growing in a Victorian ornamental style behind her hair. And that would smoothen the transition of the upper half of the body into the tattoo like the water did for the lower.
We put the design together in Photoshop and I stenciled it. Kate scheduled her first inking session after her vacation, since too much fun in the sun would likely ruin a fresh healing tattoo.
We made solid progress on the first session, fully shading Gaia’s body, complete with mountains, atoms, and birds.
The second session was little special. Kate wanted to add a dragonfly on the other side of her arm, symbolizing change. Since it was continuous with the theme of nature and Gaia, I allowed it. I made a small prototype of the dragonfly on her inner bicep. I like to call this “chicken-scratch” because the ink is shallow and faint. This means that it can be merged in the foreground or the background. This is essential because there are no lines in nature. There are only hard edges and soft edges, because reality is three-dimensional.
The third session we flesh out the dimensionality based on the focal point of the composition. We shade in most of the tattoo, including the chakra sphere and the upper body. I add a touch of color to the dragonfly, which is something I rarely ever do.
We slowly start expanding the tattoo, adding water to the bottom of the tattoo, with fish and air bubbles, which adds flow into the piece. I increase contrast on the legs to better merge it with the water.
Since some parts are healing, I decide to work on new parts of the skin, stretching the back of Gaia’s hair and night around the back of the tattoo, wrapping around to the dragonfly. And I use this time to add in the stencil for the flowery ornamentation aboe Gaia’s head.
Now it’s time for some complexity. The dragonfly is not only in color but also presents intricacy in its wings. In order to present the illusion of transparency, I carefully navigate the non-geometric pattern of the wings and color in the green. All the while, I further polish the Gaia tattoo, adding details to flowers and the body. I also fused the black background with the green with a gradient of smooth lighter browns, which is a shade of yellow, then progressing away from the black into the brighter greens.
Keeping the imagery of femininity in this piece was a welcome experience. I had to work with the smaller surface area. I had previously considered spirituality a foreign concept but after hours of talking with her it gave me a different perspective on how to live life.