Getting over some hurdles with a pretty cool piece.
I get commissions and I thoroughly enjoy them. Once before, many years ago, I was asked to design a tattoo. Subject matter wise, it wasn’t of much interest to me, but I knew I could do a better job than the design originally given to the person by an actual “tattoo artist”. The person was thrilled with the drawing and the way it translated to tattoo. That was probably something like 6 years ago.
Artistically, I have improved over those years, but the seriousness of someone valuing my work enough to have it permanently added to their body seems so much stronger. I think some of that is because I have some tattoos of my own now and mostly because of the short-lived tattoo apprenticeship I tried out. In fact, it wasn’t until I began this project that I realized the impact that the apprenticeship had on me, especially mentally. I noticed that my time in the shop had effected my work. I still draw the same way, my pieces are just a little cleaner and there is more symmetry in many pieces. I value what I gained in that respect. Mentally, it made me a little less confident in my work though. Being told that I needed to “re-learn” to draw wasn’t the easiest thing to take, especially at a time when I was finally finding my own style as an artist. I understood why I was told that, but as an artist, I felt as if I had been living a lie. Thinking I was finally coming into my own style, only to be told it I needed to draw like a tattoo artist. Honestly, I didn’t know how and figured I wasn’t cut out for it.
When I was again asked to design a tattoo, this time my initial reaction was “I can’t draw tattoos”. Of course, I didn’t say it, but I definitely thought it. After realizing that the person wasn’t asking for a traditional tattoo design, but essentially a piece of my work that will eventually become a tattoo, I relaxed a bit…emphasis on a bit. Starting it was another battle. I have a good number of pages in my sketchbook devoted to this project.
The task was to incorporate a skull with geometry and some sort of vining plant. As far as subject matter, I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable set of criteria. Yet, I had more hangups with this request than when I designed my first tattoo all those years ago. First, it was “I can’t draw like a tattoo artist”. Then it was, “I can’t do straight lines and geometric stuff”. Then, “I can’t make organic and geometric work together”. Then again back to my inability to draw tattoos. After days of fretting, sketching and doubting, I sat in my studio and stared down at a blank sheet of paper. I took a deep breath and said to myself “This person wants your work. He came to you because he values your work and your style, not how you copy someone else’s. He doesn’t want a piece of traditional flash, he wants to see what Sawyer can create given his criteria. This person wants my work because it is unique”. I’m not sure why that took about a week to sink in, but the pep talk worked. After getting over some major insecurity hurdles, I came up with something I really like.