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.

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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.

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