|The Art of Procrastination
By: Dave Tedder
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So I'm sure all of you have attempted to use markers at least once. Most of you are probably fairly competent at it if you're anything like me. And by like me, I mean if you're the type that likes to wait until the last minute for whatever reason you see fit to use that day.
My favorite excuse is because I like to roll off the cuff, I like to give my client the freshest idea I have. Another good one is, free handing a design on skin allows me to construct the image according to the body's natural flow. It allows me to use the musculature to my advantage. The advantage of this excuse is that it just happens to be true. Truth be told though, there are numerous reasons that I prefer to draw directly on the skin, and all of them have their own unique merits.
Yes, I do like to give my clients the freshest ideas I have, today's plan, not yesterday's leftovers. Yes, I do like to use the natural flow that the body creates and incorporate it into my tattoos. And yes, I do like to make my clients realize how much energy and effort it takes to create a work of art from scratch. But more than anything, I like the feeling of satisfaction that I get when I look at an insanely complicated piece that I just finished, and I know that it all began with a few sharpies and a trusting canvas.
Don't get me wrong though, I'm not trying to encourage all of you to go out and draw every tattoo you do on with markers. Far from it. I only draw the images that I feel comfortable enough to draw on skin. You do have to remember that the tattoo process isn't all about you. Your canvas should, and does, have some say on what goes down in the end. Me, I always try and stay on my toes. I feel that if I push myself slightly outside of my comfort zone, I create the best art. Not going too far outside that zone is the key though. The last thing you want to do is get lost with a red marker 30 minutes into drawing on somebody's arm. I've had it happen, more than once, and I have to tell you, it's not very good for your ego. If I was to show you some of the tattoos that came out of my first year free handing, then I assure you that you wouldn't finish reading this tutorial. Fortunately for me, I'm only showcasing the present here, and I'm sure my past will live to haunt me some other day.
Now let's get down to brass tacks. The reasons why we use markers are neither here nor there. The fact is, we use them, and all of us could use a few more tricks in our repertoire. Hopefully this little tutorial will help you in some way. And if not, I'm sure that explaining my process will help me in some extremely useful manner. It always does.
Of course I always begin with prepping the skin. Use whatever method you like best. I like to lather with green soap and shave with the grain of the hair. I know a lot of you like to go against the grain, but if you shave in the same direction that the hair grows then you'll learn that your client will be able to sit for a few hours longer. Less irritation means a more capable canvas. After wards I like to prep the skin for markers with a very light coat of Dettol. Just a sprinkle from a spray bottle, then I wipe the excess off. I've found that if you use too much the skin becomes very tacky and most of your marker ends up sticking to your gloves. After I Dettol the skin, I like to let it sit for about 5 minutes before I begin with the markers. This gives the Dettol time to dry and really allows the markers to stick to skin, even through the roughest of wipes.
So once I have a nice shaven, prepped piece of skin to work with, I'll spend about 5 minutes or so staring at my blank canvas. Trying to visualize what I'm about to create. Once I have a general idea of what I want to do, and the shapes that are needed to create this image, I begin to rough out the most basic of shapes with my lime green sharpie. If you ever read "How to Draw the Marvel Way" as a kid then you will know exactly what I'm talking about. In this instance, I made an S-curve for the general shape of the carp, a slightly phallic shape for the head of the fish, and then I boxed out the basic shape of the carp. I try and keep as many traditional tricks as possible involved, while still maintaining a sense of my own style. But this is all personal preference. You create the images you choose. If you want to draw a tuna sandwich violating gyro with a bottle of mustard, that's your right, as long as your clients knows the deal before you begin.
After I box in the roughest of shapes with my lime green, I like to stare at the piece as a whole for a few minutes before moving on to red. This allows me to find the best lines, and figure out if what I'm doing really flows with the body or not. By the time I move on to the red sharpie, I like to have a fairly concise understanding of what I'm trying to accomplish. So I really take my time when choosing my lines and I lay down my red like I mean business. In this particular case, you can tell that I built up the image that I had already created with green, and then I added a few of the "stunt" lines with the red. I like to add a few of the details with the markers, even though I don't need them, because it helps the client visualize what you're going for. I know that it adds a few extra minutes to your design, but it helps you prevent having to explain yourself when they check out the design in the mirror. It's also in this stage that the waves become more than just chicken scratch, and the foreground and background really start to interact with one another.
For most of my return clients, this is where the markers come to an end. At this point I like to have a keen enough understanding of the design that I'm able to roll with it right off the red. But for all of my new clients, I like to go over the design one more time with purple and emphasize the main bold lines. I don't go into the entire image again, just to retrace what I've done, but I do go over all of my boldest lines with purple, and figure out any confusing parts that may be left over from the red. This lets them see the image just a little more clearly, and gives them just a little more confidence in your design. It also helps their eyes distinguish the difference between your main lines and your "stunt" lines.
The real beauty comes after you finish your marker sketch though. About 80 percent of the time, your client will walk over to the mirror take a good long look and try and figure out heads or tails of your image, then look at you and say "You're the expert..." Just a little bit too embarrassed to admit that they can't fully see it, and just a little bit too anxious to admit that they don't want to sit for another hour while you draw something else on them.
The most important part of the entire process comes after the drawing though. The confidence to execute your design as competently as possible. If you're going to put on your big girl panties and draw something huge on the skin with markers, you need to be able to pull it off with expert precision. If you don't, you help the rest of us take two steps back, when all we're trying to do is progress this thing called tattoo forward. What I tend to do at this point is lay down all of my bold lines first, being careful with the rest of my stencil while I dance around my "stunt" lines. Then I switch to my tight liner and knock out all of my lightest wash lines, since they are mainly water. After that, it's my tightest black lines, like the waves in this piece, followed by my darkest wash lines, like the lines in the fins, and the "stunt" lines in the head. Then I finish it off with my medium wash lines, like scales and all of the other lines that I want to almost disappear.
After that, the line work is complete. From this point forward you treat it like it's any other tattoo. You hide everything you screwed up and make magic happen. That's a whole other set of tutorials for a different issue altogether. I hope you're able to take something away from this, I know I did, and if you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave MF Tedder
All or Nothing Tattoo Studio and Fine Art Gallery
2569 South Cobb Drive
Smyrna GA, 30080
All or Nothing Tattoo
2569 S. Cobb Dr.
Smyrna, Ga. 30080
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