Practice makes Perfect!

Which means in my case, that I'm not doing so well!

My brother asked me to illustrate a tattoo for him. Awesome! I was really touched that he would ask me to do that. So I start working on it. And working. And working. And…I think you get the idea.

I realized that I haven't done any "real" drawing in probably 3-4 YEARS. I've done some small sketches for work as different logo projects came up and done some for stock work. But most of that ends up refined in Illustrator. And as long as I can get a decent sketch scanned into Illustrator, I can usually refine it from there.

But not this tattoo. It's just looking too "clip arty". I don't have the skills to add all the wonderful detail and shading and personality that a good tattoo artist can.

Fortunately, I remembered that my friend Jennifer "Jenny Bunns" Young is a tattoo artist! (check out her website: and her blog: She told me to stop tearing my hair out and that since the tattoo artist is going to have to redraw everything anyway, what I've got is good enough to take to them. So I think that's what's happening next. I think Mike is happy with the general details and he's scouting out a good artist.

Here's some iterations. He wanted the tattoo to have 2 elements. A compass and an Ouroboros, or a snake eating it's tail. The compass was representing the Navy (which he's leaving in a couple days) as well as direction or guidance. The Ouroboros (don't ask me how to pronounce it!) represents the idea of your actions coming back to you. Being mindful of your behaviour/actions.

I started with the compass (since it was the easiest!).

We ditched the star and then came to this:

Which turned into this:

I then took a detour over here:

Which I like as it integrates the elements more, but it gets waaay too "dragony" and not enough "snakey", so we nixed this.

I went back to "drawing" and came up with this to help me get the face and some detail.

Brought that BACK into Illustrator and got to here:

You'll notice the compass changed (we could never figure out what to put in the circle after we took the star out) and we added a wave and star design in the center. The water symbolizes change, movement and the stars represent another form of guidance.

The current final version is this:

I've taken out the minor shading I had. We got rid of the clouds; they were too busy. I made the waves less crappy (though now they look like snow covered mountains to me, hopefully the tattoo artist can fix that!) and I've got the compass pointing down into the middle of the waves. I like integrating the elements together like that. The stars suck, again, I'm relying on the tattoo artists to interpret those in a more interesting fashion.

Overall, I'm happy. I'm disappointed with how LONG this has taken me and I really wish I could have done a nice, detailed, illustration. I might still try to do a pencil sketch and see what I can come up with, but I think this is enough for Mike to take and get something nice done.

Now I'm trying to find a sketch group to attend since I've become aware of bad my skills have become!

I'll post a final image whenever Mike gets his tattoo done and I can get a good image of it.