Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Karashishi and Peonies (#2)

Another really fun piece I've been working on and am getting very near to completing...
I've been absent from updates for the last year, so we'll just skip ahead to where we are now.  This has been done over the course of a few 2 to 2 1/2 day in a row sessions, as he's traveling quite a ways to come get tattooed and we're doing our best to maximize the time together (and it certainly helps that he sits like a rock and is able to endure that many hours in a short amount of time...especially with a style of tattoo like this that is so thick and dense).
We actually did his other arm about a year ago with a similar schedule...four trips total I think.  It was also a karashishi (or foo dog as it's more commonly called) and peonies that you can see here.  I was really into it, as it was his first ever tattoo and he chose to go with a large traditional themed piece (as well as just being very into the subject manner).  It's slightly more common these days, but still fairly rare that a first time client with no tattoos puts a bunch of research and though into images and artist selection, and commits to starting their tattoo life with a very involved piece and even having thoughts of large cohesive coverage in the future.
As we were winding up his first arm, he mentioned wanting to get going on the next one.  I was happy that he was ready to keep going, and super into his idea of keeping the theme together with another shishi and more peonies.  
Firstly there's the uniform look.  I really admire the restraint of not wanting to do another animal or motif on the other side in favor of the pair.  Shishi are often seen in pairs, mostly as statues or architectural elements guarding the entrance to Shinto shrines.  The idea was to try and do a visually balanced set as sleeves.  On the first arm the shishi is blue (cooler color), facing upwards, and has its mouth open (more aggressive looking).  On this new arm, it's tan (warmer color), facing downwards, and has its mouth closed (calmer looking).  Sort of a yin yang kind of thing, and they're making eye contact with each other when the arms are lined up together.  I also tried to get some of the background elements to match up a little (without being overly deliberate) when the arms are together, so it also has a feeling of one large tattoo split between two arms.  It's been a great reminder to me that when laying out a tattoo to think of the body as a whole, not just these separate pieces that won't go together if the client decides to start connecting everything (which so many inevitably do, and wished they had planned further ahead).
The other reason I was so excited to start this new side is that the design and feeling of the first was still so fresh in my head.  It's very cool and unique to do a set of sleeves with a matching theme one right after the other.  Myself and the tattooer friends I do have are constantly striving to improve and evolve, so what I do in a year or two from now will look similar to, but hopefully slightly different than what I'm doing now.  I'm often looking at past work and thinking about what I could do to improve it or what I might have changed.  Getting to do both these pieces at the same time gives them the strongest chance for aesthetic uniformity, and I'm hoping lays a good foundation for the backpiece he wants to start next...

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