Sunday 24 May 2015

Painting The Tattooed Lady

The Tattooed Lady has landed! Friday night saw the launch of HOME's opening exhibition The Heart Is Decietful Above All Things where my art work got her first airing. I am very pleased to say she is a big hit and throughout the night people were getting covered in my tattoo transfers depicting tales of love and regret! To see more photos from the private view and maybe spot yourself sporting a tattoo visit this project's facebook page.

I had wanted to keep most of the details about how The Tattooed Lady would look under wraps until the show, so now that she is up and running I thought I'd share with you the painting process of the tattooed lady herself who appears on the machine.

From the start I knew I wanted her to have a 1920/30's look, not quite flapper girl but moving away from the belle epoque. I trawled through my books about vintage Hollywood and fashion and also began to search the internet to find the right face. The face was very important because as this entire project was inspired by tales of love and regret I wanted the lady to have a hint of melancholy.

I very nearly settled on an image of Gloria Swanson looking dashing in a gypsy headscarf but then I stumbled across a tiny black and white image of a beautiful unknown vintage lady with just the right look in terms of period but also with the most lovely pensive expression that held a hidden story of its own.

So began the design for the painted panel: I kept the lady's shoulders and neck bare in order to show off the tattoos she would be covered in and then built up an art deco style pattern around her that would allow me to comfortably fit in the text I wanted: LOVE, REGRET and BECOME A LIVING WORK OF ART. This last phrase was inspired by the posters I'd seen advertising real tattood ladies who were marketed as living exhibitions, a curious idea to our modern minds but one I really enjoy!


Once I was happy with the design I began to paint and here's how that process went:

I painted this image directly onto a wooden panel and found that the wood acted very differently to the canvas I am used to. It tended to suck up the paint (even after several layers of primer) which made blending more time consuming. However once I'd layerd up enough paint it began to react much better and take the colours and consistency.

I chose tattoos that would look both simple and striking and fit the shapes of the lady's shoulders, neck and chest

All inked up!

Here is the lady sitting where she was intended in the machine. You can go an visit her and bag yourself a tattoo transfer to boot between now and 26th July at HOME!

Sunday 17 May 2015

The making of a machine!

So much has happened since my last post about my project The Tattooed Lady, so let me fill you in briefly on just some of it!

The Tattooed Lady is my most recent art project and is a vintage style penny arcade machine which dispences tattoo tranfers. In this post I'll talk about the machine itself and I'll do posts about the transfers and the painting of the Lady to follow.

I wanted a 1900's feel to the work landing somewhere around Boardwalk Empire era, not quite art noveau but heading towards art deco. Some of my inspiration came from original end of the pier machines like this:

You can see further inspiration and my rough drawings for the machine HERE

Being made up from an old wardrobe I found at a secondhand furniture warehouse, the Lady was then constructed to my specific design and dimensions by Tom, fantastic carpenter to the arts, who did a brilliant job of making my vision a reality:

 (See the sign written panel being created HERE)

These parts from the wardrobe (one of the reasons I chose it) were put to good use in the final construction on the machine to add period detail and interest.


Ta-daa! The machine exists! You can compare and contrast with my drawing above to see how spot on it is!

Next was the job of fitting lights and a bell which will 'DING!' everytime a transfer is dispenced. Enter Steve, from Manchester's Owl Project, an expert in electrics.

I wanted the sort of bulbs where the filiment would show when lit and a bell that made me think of a 'test your strength' machine from a fairground.

After much consultation on what would actually work Steve made was able to fit lights that have made the machine come alive! I was so thrilled when I entered his studio last week to see the Lady beaming and lit up, it was so exciting!


I have painted a panel to be fitted onto the upper body of the machine of a rather lovely vintage tattooed lady and will share more details in my future posts. In the meantime, if you'd like to get a sneak preview of what she looks like head over to the project's facebook page: The Tattooed Lady: Tales of Love and Regret 

The Tattooed Lady will be shown as part of The heart Is Deceitful Above All Things at HOME 22nd May - 26th July