Tattoos and Blues


Fountain pen and watercolor in (open) sketchbook 6 X 12″, CP Fluid w/c paper

We intrepid urban sketchers thought we’d met our match when we entered the room at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa to sketch the Tattoo and Blues Festival scene (in our comfortably sensible clothes and un-decorated bodies.

The first thing that hit us was all the skin being needled and inked under bright lights. Second perhaps was the lack of cover for such as us, who prefer a silent corner vantage point to sketch out of the frey. There were more realizations too, and after a walk-through we congregated in the lobby, light headed, wobbly, and wondering if maybe this wasn’t our scene.

However. . .



There was nothing for it but to walk up to some pair and ask to sketch them. So, standing in the narrow aisles with people walking by and checking out the portfolios of the tattoo artists, we did what we came for. No one refused us and all were friendly and even seemed grateful to be sketched. I spent my time sketching in ink and added color later at home when I could sit down at a table!


I couldn’t help wondering, so I asked,  “Does it hurt?” and was surprised by the answer a couple women gave me “Not much.”  I picked the ones who seemed to be relaxed and enjoying it. And later as I looked at the sketches I could see that a woman could feel some pleasure at having a male artist adorn her in such a personal way. The above tattoo in process was a reference to coffee, which this girl says she drinks a lot.


These two women were enjoying conversation while the art-making was in progress.

At some point I realized that sketching tattooed people was twice as labor intensive as non-tattoed people because of all the extra design work.

I was also quite impressed by the level of intensity and commitment of the people doing this work.


There was also a blues group playing in the bar.  The amps were quite loud, so we didn’t last long there. For a few minutes I was enjoying the rough sketching in low light with the Sailor Bent Nib fountain pen, which is best I think, to capture motion.



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