The work was done all by hand over eight hours in a couple of sittings. Beyond the logistics, the stories behind the tattoo are what's really compelling. Johnny wanted a tattoo to celebrate his thirtieth birthday and here's the inspiration behind it, in his own words:
appreciated the beauty of animal skulls, and it seemed an appropriate
symbol of adulthood because of the obvious connection with hunting. I
also liked the connection with the Norse rune Algiz, which I have
tattooed in red ink on my left big toe.
Above all, I knew that
the tattoo would look fucking cool. I think that the cliche about
knowing when you are in love also applies to finding the right tattoo
design--you just know when it's right.
I chose Clare because I
have held her artistic abilities in extremely high esteem for a very
long time now, since before she started tattooing. One of her great
strengths as an artist, on skin or on canvas, is that she has an amazing
gift for depicting natural forms, whether that be as a painted portrait
or a tattooed butterfly. The stag skull was a departure from her
normal style, but once we had discussed the idea and she'd done a few
preliminary sketches, I knew we were on the right track.
agreed that hand poking would be the best way forward for the tattoo,
both in terms of allowing Clare to get as much detail she thought the
tattoo needed and would hurt less for me. Having both machine and hand
poked tattoos, I can safely say I prefer hand poking--it feels less
traumatic and spares you the incessant buzz of the machine. However,
despite the relative ease of hand-poked tattoos, I still found the
tattoo extremely painful in places, which was in a strange sense what I was looking for: a big, bewildering experience that would push
my limits beyond what my experiences had previously led me to believe I
could handle and to be left with an amazing image on my skin at the end
of it to mark my thirtieth birthday."
I like these kind of stories. But I'm nosy and wanted more.
Considering the large work, I asked Goldilox about her process in hand-poked tattoos and surprisingly, she told me that she had only been tattooing by hand for about a year (she had been using a machine since her start in the art). Goldilox is a self-taught tattooist, originally from rural Wales and now working at Painted Lady Tatoo Parlour in Birmingham, UK. She's has worked in many artistic disciplines: pin-striping cars, sign-writing, airbrushing, sculpting, drawing, painting, and sewing (among others) and so working by hand in tattooing "feels right" to her.
Here's more on what Goldilox said about her hand worked tattoos:
"I started tattooing by hand initially on myself. It felt intuitive. The fine lines I could create using just a needle just inspired me. My artwork has always been intricate, and tattooing like this felt like an extension of this...a very natural progression, and within no time at all, all my clients wanted hand-poked work...
To me, another wanting my artwork on their skin is an immense honor, and I feel that tattooing by hand,adding every minute dot one by one in the same way it has been done for millenia makes the tattoo all the more precious...it adds a certain magic!
I like working with color. Many hand-artists avoid it because colored inks have less saturated pigment so it takes a lot longer than black to actually get the color in the skin--but I like challenges!
I draw lots of my inspiration from many sources-old Victorian botanical plates, mehendhi art,Islamic geometry to name a few.I really love reinterpreting ancient artwork into the modern day using what is essentially an even older technique."