Friday, July 31, 2015

Oseberg sleeve–days 1 and 2

sketching on the bodyWhen I arrived on the island yesterday I spent some time with my tattooist Uffe Berenth, going over the themes which would shape my tattoo. This is the first time I’m having work done where artist and executor are one and the same, and for such a large canvas it’s really necessary for the topology to be taken into account. So, for the first few hours, I stand shirtless and arm-shaven as Uffe sketches over the natural lines of muscle and joint on my left arm, the natural contours eventually morphing into the major figures you see above and below.

The chief design inspiration is the Oseberg ship, a Viking ship found preserved in a Norwegian burial mound about a hundred years ago. and in particular, the set of “gripping beasts” which characterise the elaborate wood carvings on the ship. This Oseberg style is earlier than the Ringerike and Urnes styles used to create the “dog in surf” tattoo I had done early last year.

Uffe is working around that tattoo and the one below it – my armband done in Paris in 2006. Since I’m a big guy, the initial three day project is likely to spill into four, so I have a lot of “ouch” to get through to earn this sleeve.

End of day 1 - outline work doneAt the end of the first full day, all of the outlining, from wrist to shoulder had been done. It’s the end of this second day that the real genius of Uffe’s design and execution reveal themselves with the combination of Nordic dotwork and the elaborate texturing that fills in the bodies of these two beasts. The original Oseberg beasts are wolfish-to-ambiguous at best, but Uffe has gone over various malamute pictures to steer the profiles into a broader set.

…and speaking of malamutes, I’ve started imagining that Munson is lying on the floor by the table, spine pressed against the wall with legs extended. My phantom Munson occasionally turns his head to me, assesses the likelihood of a walk, and then resumes the slumbering position with a sigh.

1-2015-07-30 Bornholm
Midway through the second day I take advantage of some pain-killers and a book to drag my mind way from the pain. I’ve read through most of my other tattoos, but I need this external focus more than ever for such a long project. By the end of the day, the fore-arm is basically done, give or take some texturing around the inner elbow which is one of the more painful sites.

In the evening I’m taken to dinner with Uffe and family at a town a little way up the coast – it reminds me of a Cornish fishing village like Mevagissey, even down to the odour of fish and chips wafting across the harbour.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015


1-Denmark-Skane-BornholmOh look, I’m on an island. In the Baltic. Without a malamute.

I’m not sure which is more surprising: me being an island I hadn’t even heard of a month ago, or travelling without a dog.

On Monday, Gustav and I flew to Copenhagen for a vacation and to attend a family celebration. Unfortunately a brief long-distance trip meant leaving Munson behind, but he’s in good hands, and undoubtedly enjoying one of Sydney’s coldest winters in recent times. Our travel time, including Singapore stop-over was only 24 hours, depositing us in Denmark about 6am amidst a brief squall of summer rain.

For the next few days we’ll be apart – Gustav hopped onto the train to Sweden, and I have this side-trip to Bornholm until the weekend. Perched off the SE coast of Sweden and north of Poland, the island is actually a part of Denmark albeit connected to the Swedish electricity grid by one of the longest submarine cables in Europe. I got here via the 866 bus across the Øresund Bridge to Ystad (home to fictional detective Kurt Wallander) and then a ferry to Rønne on the island’s west coast.

I suggested to someone that because of its location and popularity during summer vacations, I was visiting “the Hawaii of the Baltic”, but was quickly corrected with a “so, not like Hawaii at all”. However I am not here to enjoy the Whitehaven-like sands of Snoegebeck but to get a tattoo in the Nordic style.

Time to sleep.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Munson’s Fantasia

Munson's chorus -line (1)Gustav and I were doing some shopping on King Street this morning, but our main destination wasn’t opening for another forty-five minutes, so I took Munson down to Sydney Park for a spell to fill in time.

We haven’t been there in a good while, partly due to time of year (it’s dark when I get home from work), weather (intermittently freezing) and public works (long fences blocking off regions of the park).

Munson was pretty excited to be there: sunny, cold and lots of space smelling of dog is his recipe for play.

I saw a minibus labelled “Zoomobile” across the main square and headed towards it. A display of small animals (reptiles?) was being set-up by folks from Taronga Park Zoo. The centre of the largest dog off-leash area in Sydney was probably not the best place to put it, and I got the sense that whoever organised this otherwise excellent outreach hadn’t really thought it through.  It was pretty close to where the highest concentration of dogs would be found, and at the crossroads of paths defining the main east-west thoroughfare. So, really really not a good spot. I clipped Munson’s leash back on to his collar and took him away from all the interesting little cages.
Munson's chorus -line (2)
We passed a tent making bird-costumes, and so we were not surprised to find people actually wearing them  a little further on. A cluster of photographers circled this trio of emus – Munson headed right over to say hello – cue much clickety click from the photographers as he posed with his chorus-line, almost a cosplay tribute to Fantasia.

I was quite surprised that we would do a spontaneous pose of this type as it’s really not his style. Bondi was the master of sitting in a picturesque location, inviting any number of excellent photos. I hope we look forward to more camera-love from Munson.

There was also a lady in a spoonbill costume hovering behind Munson, but they seemed rather disinterested in each other.

Avoiding the spoon-bill