My boss, Jeff – well, my boss’s boss’s boss now, but nevermind – my boss just walked up to me and gave me an action item. “Get a backpiece,” he said. The backpiece. I tried to find this on wikipedia and couldn’t (I should go add a page for it). Best I could do was […]
My boss, Jeff – well, my boss’s boss’s boss now, but nevermind – my boss just walked up to me and gave me an action item.
“Get a backpiece,” he said.
The backpiece. I tried to find this on wikipedia and couldn’t (I should go add a page for it). Best I could do was a page at BMEZine. They state it simply enough as ‘a large format tattoo substantially covering the area of the back from the nape of the neck to the buttocks, typically of a unified design theme or concept.’
That’s not the whole story though. Because for those of us who are largely covered, or plan or hope to be largely covered, the back is the showpiece, the feature. It’s The Tattoo.
The body is a strange canvas. It’s curved and elastic, it ages, it changes. It moves. This makes it a difficult surface upon which to paint a masterpiece. It’s both what makes tattooing so alive, so beautiful, and what makes the tattooists’ job interesting and difficult.
How often – monthly, weekly, daily – are they confronted with a request for a tattoo that simply won’t work in the chosen spot? Tattoos that are too big, or are the wrong shape; things that will break up or distort due to the skin’s motion. Things that don’t line up with the bone structure or muscles. How often does a customer come in with a design for a band that may work on a football player’s heavily muscled arms but which won’t fit on a bony bicep; which may work on a giant Samoan calf but won’t fit on a slender runner’s tapered leg.
The body isn’t symmetrical; arms and legs are not cylindrical.
Thus the tattooed, and the tattooist, try to fit what is desired, envisioned, requested, onto a space that isn’t the same as the artist’s canvas, the computer screen, the sketch-pad. We must wrap the last supper so that Bartholomew is next to Simon; we must turn the Aztec calendar from a disk to a curve, like a swordsman’s shield. And as artists, tattooists must also be 3-D modelers, turning a flat-rendered design into something that wraps and winds and lives in three dimensions.
But there’s one place that isn’t so much like this.