Friday, July 27, 2007

2007-07-27 Lu Tatt -- What's better -- Red-and-Black, or Black-only?

A while back, I did a rough concept painting for a tattoo for a buddy of mine.

Last night, I got a bee in my bonnet, and decided it was time to do a version that Lu could take to his tattoo artist.

He's only going to see this tomorrow, but I'd love any responses nevertheless. Which do you prefer? The red-and-black one, or the black-only?

2007-07-27 Lu Tatt Black and White Cropped

In order to make this pic, I searched through IMSI's 202 000 MASTER CLIPS. It's a set of CDs I bought on sale years ago. It's got some of my favourite TIFF images on it... stuff culled from the Dover clipart libraries. Old fashioned woodcuts and engravings. Beautiful stuff.

Searching through, I came across dozens of images that might fit the world Lu was trying to evoke for his arm.

My key criteria in deciding on the images were:

1. The images all need to 'fit' together. They need to feel as though they're part of the same image set.

2. By the end of the process, the tattoo design would need to be inkable by a tattoo artist. This also means that the design would need to be copyable by the tattoo artist. Most tattoo artists don't like to use transfer printers to lay the design down on the skin. They like to trace it by hand. This gives them loads of control, and the ability to make the artwork their own.

3. I had to feel comfortable with the images myself. They need to be appeal to my own aesthetic sense.

So I dragged all of my shortlisted images into CorelDraw 10, where I assembled various rough options, discarding several as they landed on the page.

I lucked on a delicious metal tower, which I squashed down and cleaned up a bit.

The orb mounted on top of the tower is an old earth globe. The coupling device is the same orb turned upside down, with the legs used as a jewel clip, and the earth portion cut away.

The arms are from a Japanese print of a samurai warrior. I had to do quite a lot of hard surgery to get the arms at the right angle, with the right amount of muscularity. The one on the right had the arm detached from the hand and tilted radically.

The rope extending from the arms comes from a decorative border that I modified slightly. The rope will go all the way around Lu's bicep. In my actual working drawing, it's really long both ways.

The hammer and axe are two separate images that I've modified to get the lighting right. The tassles on their handles come from a set of curtain tassles on one of the CDs.

The rays radiating from the earth come from a stylised representation of the sun. I sliced out the smiley face in the centre, and stuck it behind.

And that was just the first stage!

Next came a whole bunch of me turning the grouped bunch of disparate elements into a bitmap (I converted to RGB), in fairly high res, but not overly so. Once I'd done that, I used Corel Trace with a whole bunch of modifiers on to simplify the image from the very fussy engraving-style that it had. Then I converted that to a bitmap, messed with it more, and reconverted it to vector art.

Finally, after all sorts of vector modifications, I was ready to go into the long third phase... Photoshop.

I played and played and played. And then some more. The playing involved blurring and filtering and layering and blending and painting and erasing and sharpening and blurring and and and and and. The interesting parts for me were the painting and the erasing.

I sent Lu a prior version of this, which was just black ink on skin. But there was something missing. And I couldn't spot what.

So I played some more. And thanks to a happy accident with a blending layer, I found myself able to make a red and black duotone. Red and black are two very reliable and durable tattoo inks, so that's why I chose those. I basically wanted to make sure that Lu would have no hassles getting this tatt interpreted and onto his arm.

If I were in the market for a tattoo with a tower on it, this would be a version I would be happy to have on my arm.

Let's hope it works for Lu when he sees it tomorrow morning. And let's hope even more that his tattoo artist finds it inkable!

This design was made on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet PC using CorelDraw 10 and Photoshop CS2. Snow Patrol and Arcade Fire were playing all the way through.

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