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The Perks of Having Creative Friends!

A dear friend of mine asked me to design a tattoo for her. Something a bit left of field for me, I must admit!

How hard could it be! I'm so used to creating images for paintings or wall prints but a tatt....

She'll be right, I got this...

So here is how it all begun:

"Sooo if you get bored at some stage, here are some ideas for what Id kinda like in a tattoo. Im pretty keen to see just what you come up with as well if the style doesn't suit you because I think in general your stuff might be a bit more structured whereas this is all rather loose lines. Im open to ideas . So I'm aiming for something probs about 15-20cm long and 10-15 wide just as a general idea cos I want it on my hip. A jumping fox is what I'm going for. Have you ever read the The Little Prince? For me foxes are all about looking for the positives, being curious and adaptable. A jumping fox always looks so happy and playful."

"Also the idea of looking at an image and not seeing what it is straight away or it looking like something else is something Id like to incorporate. Something like this..."

"How its a picture of a guy falling in the water but the water is actually a fox. But i was thinking more like map elements ie compass, world map, contour lines something like that"

"Perfect brief! I think I can rustle something up!"

"Cool! Thanks Nat! That would be so awesome! As far as colours and stuff goes plain black lines are all good but i do like the idea of water colour splashes."

*Literally our Facebook convo!*

So I got to work...

What's "The Little Prince"? - Just the cutest story you could ever read!

A pilot (the narrator) is stranded in the desert and meets a young prince visiting Earth from a tiny asteroid. The young prince tells the narrator stories of the places he has visited. Every character from every planet relates to different morals/observations about life and human nature.

Read more about The Little Prince here

I took two key parts from this story for my drawings:

1. The narrator once drew a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant in its stomach; however, every adult who saw the picture would mistakenly interpret it as a drawing of a hat. Whenever the narrator tried to correct this confusion, he was advised to set aside drawing and take up a more practical or mature hobby. The narrator laments the crass materialism, absence of subtlety, and the lack of creative understanding of adult society. The narrator feels he could have had a great career as a painter, but that this opportunity was crushed by the misunderstanding of adults.

You will see how I use this concept through out my drawings. Each fox shape is slightly deconstructed. Not your typical fox drawing! All the other elements make up the shape of the fox.

2. The relationship between The Little Prince and the Fox. They become very close friends and the fox teaches him a lot about friendship and bonding. According to the fox, unless you build a relationship with a person and get to really understand him or her, that person will remain indistinguishable for you from the hundreds of thousands of people in the world—and you, too, will not be “unique” or special to him or her.

The fox brings all the pieces of the image together. He binds all the different parts of my friends life together within the drawings I have created. Each element of her life is built up in layers through out, around and inside the fox.

And then with that I started drawing.....

"Hey Mate!!"

"So last weekend I did some sketches for your tatt. I sketched out four designs. I read the plot of The Little Prince, sounds like a really interesting concept. Each sketch includes the jumping fox and some sort of map/landscape element."

"The first sketch is geometric to contour lines. If there is a certain contour map you want to use let me know."

"The second sketch uses a compass as the main structure where the lines of the fox merge together."

"The third sketch I tried to imitate the sketch of the elephant inside the snake as told in the story. I used the bottom outline of the fox to divide a circle. The top half of the circle I just roughly wrote the quote "It is only with the heart that one can see what is essential to the visible eye". The bottom half of the circle is a landscape. I figure if there is a certain landscape you would like to include, let me know? When you first look at it you see the circle and then if you look harder then you see the fox. Kind of like how the adults in the story see the hat but the narrator has actually drawn a snake eating an elephant."

"The last sketch is based on map drawings that are drawn in layers as an exploded view of different elements. This one is a mixture of geometric elements, block colours, a 3D landscape, and a street map. So I thought I would stop drawing and get some feedback to see if I was on the right track and then refine or merge the ideas based on what you say... So what do you think so far?"

Then it was time for the feedback... This was only going to go one of two ways! This is where the friend/client barrier blurs! They are either going to love it and everything is all good, then you can breathe a sigh of relief and know that you will still continue to be good friends....OR she hates it - and doesn't know how to break it to you OR she HATES IT and tells you straight up to your face and your creative soul is crushed and you will never be able to do something for a friend again let a lone a real client!!!!


"Wow Nat! These are so beautiful! I particularly love the compass and the last segmented one! How long did this take you?"

RELIEF! I will keep her on board - don't need to axe her off my friends list (Jokes!)

"Not too long. Just worked on it solid for about four hours. Those two are my favorites too. Do you think I should try merge them somehow? Is there a landscape or map you want me to use on the fox? Something that means something to you?"

"4 hours! Wow thanks Nat! You are super cool . Yea if you have ideas for merging them I think that could end up pretty epic. I like the simple lines of the compass. Ill try send some cave maps, not sure how good you will be able to see them!"

Oh did I forget to mention my mate has an awesome job as a cave guide at Waitomo! This is a huge part of her life so it needed to be a part of this design.

"Cool. I will use them. Is there any landscape that means something to you that I can add to the middle of the fox?"

"Mmm i don't have a particular landscape really. Waitomo farmland with limestone outcrops?"

So with all that feedback I merged everything together an here is what I came up with.

"Fox sketch revised - I have created another version of your tatt based on the feedback you gave me. I have added a landscape of the Waitomo cliff faces which merges into the ceiling of the glow worm cave. You will see the boat sailing underneath the glow worms, in the cave, on top of one of the West compass point. I have included one of the maps you gave me in the front end of the fox. The fox is jumping into the East point of the compass, into a different world, another adventure. The moon is the central element...not for any reason lol. A paper plane travels around the compass and transforms into bird free of the restrictions of the perforated map lines, able to travel as it wishes. I have kept the fox exploded into different layers based on the exploded views of map layers in geography. Let me know what changes you want made to this one?"

And just like that it was done!

If you are interested in working with me or want something like this created for yourself or a friend - Get in touch.

#Tattoodesign #Illustration #Art

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