Well, I'm reconstructing this from over a year ago. We'll see how well I remember what I did.
My friend asked me to design a sketch with her roller derby moniker as the inspirartion. She goes by the Bel Air Bomber. I started doing some really rough, blocky sketches in illustrator. I really had no concepts right away. Sketching in AI can be easy because you can slide or rotate things around, but honestly, nothing really beats sketching with pencil.
Couple more loose warmup-y things...I wasn't sure if I wanted the girl to be flying, or skating. Still fleshing out the idea. I liked the feel of this
with the big foreshortening on the skate.
Probably not going to be a super-heroine, but what the hell, keep sketching...
This is an ok idea, but it feels less like a tattoo and more like a portrait in a magazine. Next.
Then I got the idea that maybe the Bel Air Bomber was dropping Chevys from like a WWII bomber or something? If I'm doing something like this, I'll use a modeling program like Sketchup. It's google-powered, so you can easily search for models that other people have uploaded. I can draw cars, but it takes forever, and I like the ability to change the focal length on the car, maybe get all fish-eye on the visual angles... the models are never exactly what I need, but they are a really good starting point.
One thing to note when drawing cars that aren't on the ground (or cars that are in mid-air during a big chase scene), the suspension (wheels, axels, etc) will hang much lower than when the car is on the ground. The suspension's job is to push the car away from the ground, if there's no ground, the wheels will be pushed away from the body.
You'll notice here that I'm working inside a blobby shape that looks roughly like a slice of bread. That is the shape I get to work with on this half-sleeve. My friend has a large, gorgeous tattoo of a dragonfly on her back, flowing a bit over shoulder. I don't want to mess with that, but I do want to take advantage of the her arm-muscles. This is on her left arm, so I'd like it to flow around the shoulder muscle and flow out through that nice area over her triceps:
Hmm... Maybe the bomb has already dropped, and she's posing on the wreckage?...I can make some nice flows with the smoke..?
Nah. The car needs to be sexy, not junked. Plus this has no motion in it. Literally dead-stopped, and what happens with the junk at the bottom? I don't like piles of junk without purpose, it feels like scribbling to fill up space, and this is someone's body. I'm not making a tattoo artist scribble, just because I was lazy. Next!
I like this flow...
This is where it started to come together. The body flows nicely over that tricep area, and I can make some nice flows in the sky, using the clouds and parachutes. And one big central parachute to sit on the shoulder muscle. Not bad.
Here's the quickie thumbnails for this idea, probably about an inch or two in size. There was a real sense of joy in that posture, defiance of gravity. I like to have that in my work.
Her jersey number is 57, as in '57 Chevy,' so let's see if we can get that in there as well...way at the top you can see the silhouette of a B-52.
In the end we decided not to go with the 57, it was just too much, so I kept going with the illustration, keeping the colors really simple and the linework very thin. I like tutu's and goggles on my derby chicks. Not sure why. I just do.
I was pretty pleased with myself. That is, until the tattoo artist got to see it and had an objection. What I hadn't understood is that tattoos always, as a matter of course, always face forward. It's just not done, to have a figure on an arm that faces backward. So we had to rework it. I thought I'd have to start from scratch, but luckily we were able to just turn her head to face forward, I redrew her head and we all agreed that we liked the new one much better.
Here's the almost-final, on her. Still needs some background color. The artist is Jeremy Lee at The Tattoo Project on Highland Street in Worcester, who is doing a fucking awesome job! I couldn't be more proud to have had a hand in it.