I was talking to Stuart at Fine Line this week, and I realised that this is actually the first time I’ve been taught to use a particular medium. Every other medium I use – acrylics, pen and ink, digital – I’ve learned myself. But tattooing is the first thing I’ve actually been taught how to do. So much of the style is familiar – outline, detail, shading, colouring-in; but the technique is completely new.
This week Stuart set me a Japanese-style peony as an exercise. The linework was relatively simple, although there was a lot of it; but it’s the colour that makes the piece. Last time, I found the weight of the gun alien and unbalanced – but today it seemed more natural. I was quite relieved – the one thing I thought I might find frustrating (perhaps too frustrating) is not being able to hold the gun well enough to do the sort of clean line I’m used to being able to do in other media. I still think I might need to eventually look at slightly different arrangements of gun and tube – something that fits my hand a bit better – but today it all seemed to sit snugly. I was pretty pleased with the linework. It’s not perfect, of course. Partly that’s because the artificial skin doesn’t absorb the stencil, so the moment you wipe away your excess ink, the stencil vanishes. Most of the top right of the flower I had to do more or less freehand over the faintest of traces of the erased stencil. Claire again reassured me that this artificial skin is nothing like the real stuff.
After the lining I did a bit of grey-shading on the leaves and a few of the petals. Used a 2 Grey, which I could get a nice soft edge-fade with. And when it came time for the colour, I got to use proper inks this time, so I had a good range to choose from – Sunset Red, through Golden Yellow to Bright Yellow. They were a little hard to see against the weird colour of the artificial skin, and the orange in particular stained the rubber horribly, making it difficult to see. I was also using a Maggie this time, which, with it’s chiseled profile, behaves differently to a round needle. Funny: when I’m painting, I usually prefer a flat brush – but today I thought I might have preferred to use a round. I think the round brush is probably easier for a beginner, and the Maggie possibly something you have to get used to using? We’ll see as I go along.
Anyway, fairly pleased with the end result. This took me about four hours – with tea-breaks and a bit of chatting. I didn’t fill in the leaves – I might do them in green next week, or I might just leave them grey; I think they look quite good like that. Next week the studio’s quite busy, so I might not get much time to practice. Instead, I’ll spend part of Thursday watching Rena doing a contemporary take on a rose and scroll, which will actually give me a chance to pay attention to what she does and take some notes on her technique. Looking forward to it!