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Caesura

Caesura

Caesura: a pause or interruption, in music, a conversation, a poem, a building or other work of art. And what is a life but a work of art in n dimensions?

The design is simple, elegant, bold, and technical. A pair of short parallel lines extending off the top of the musical staff. The staff need not be literal—the conventional apparatus of musical notation was optional, putty to be played with. Months ago, I drew on my arm with a magic marker: a set of five parallel lines snaking up my forearm, with the caesura pointing toward a spot between my elbow and the crook of my arm. It wasn't precise, but it was enough to persuade me the idea was good.

In principle—in the rough—it worked. It flowed with the other work on my arm, all black, all musical in concept, though mostly non-literal. I am working on a sleeve, not in the usual way, designing it and then executing it as I am able, but element by element. When a new idea or life event suggests itself in a musical mode, I play with the symbology until the right image comes out and I design it a place in the overall architecture of my brachial anatomy. The sleeve slowly comes together, like a jigsaw puzzle that I design, piece by idiosyncratic piece.

The caesura would fill a large empty space on my forearm. The lines of the staff would snake up my arm, parallel to the birds morphing into musical notes, following the curve of muscle and bone. The forearm is an incredibly complex piece of machinery, fluid and curvy yet powerfully mechanical. I wanted to capture both of these aspects and simultaneously to fill in a significant space in the developing sleeve. People had begun to suggest that I was collecting enough tattoos that my arm was beginning to look like a sleeve. After this piece, there would be no doubt.

I went to Jeff Pitt, at Read St. Tattoo in Baltimore. He has done most of the other work —and all the best blackwork— on my burgeoning musical sleeve. He is superb at getting a clean, sharp line. The basis of a tattoo, and yet so rarely achieved in satisfactory form. One can argue about who should do your old-school sailing ship or your Japanese koi, but for technical blackwork in Baltimore, Jeff's the man. Best of all, he works with me. We tend to spend far more time laying out the piece than actually tattooing it. Most of my designs are either pretty straightforward to actually ink, or at least they don't use a great deal of ink. He grudgingly admits he likes working on me: he doesn't enjoy the tattoos I bring in, he says, but he finds them satisfying.

The trick this time was to get the five parallel lines straight and even, and then to get the curve right. Jeff first drew a line on my arm with a magic marker, then traced it onto paper. Then he redid it and cleaned it up, resulting in one good line, pretty straight but having a gentle curve at the back, corresponding to my forearm muscles. Then he cut along the line and retraced it five times, a quarter inch apart, yielding five parallel lines. These he made into a stencil. It took 3 tries to place the stencil. Compared to the birds, that was nothing. The line he came up with was almost straight, though it had a sinuous curve, corresponding to the swell of my forearm muscles. But when applied to my arm, it created a sinuous, luscious curve.

The tattooing itself only took 40 minutes or so. He executed the lines and then when they were right he put in the caesura itself. The thicker lines of the caesura were significantly more intense than the thin lines of the staff. The caesura bled a bit, which was appropriate, as it symbolizes the break in my life, which definitely drew emotional blood.

The result looked better than I imagined. Although it took a short time and used very little ink, it takes up a lot of space on my arm—it's a big tattoo. It dramatically changes the look of my arm, and it follows the curvature of the muscles really appealingly, I think. This is a tough tattoo—it's nearly straight, but not quite, and although it looks really clean and straight, it curves as I flex my arm. Jeff's a master at this sort of thing and I recommend him for any technical work you may want done.

My musical sleeve is nearly finished. I think I may be done with the heavily symbolic part of the sleeve. Now maybe what I need is a purely playful, aesthetic tattoo to fill out a big space left on my forearm. I'm out, it's time to play. Not everything has to be so serious. And yea, tattoos are a terrific way to express such things.

Details

submitted by: Anonymous
on: 02 Nov. 2009
in Tattoos

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Artist: Jeff+Pitt
Studio: Read+St.+Tattoo
Location: Baltimore%2C+MD%2C+USA

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