Chris Shares Memorial Peonies for His Grandmother, Aileen

Here at Tattoosday, we're all about finding great ink on the streets of the greatest metropolis in the world, New York City.

But we also occasionally get mail from the tattooed who I have not met, but who want to share. I had a little bit of backlog from earlier this Fall and am finally getting to some of the generous contributions.

Chris sent me a photo of his tattoo in early October, along with a thoughtful and well-written history behind the piece. His story is fascinating, and his insight into the tattoo process is meticulous and, I believe, illustrative of how best to go about creating a design that imports significant meaning into the tattoo in question. I'll let Chris' words tell the story...


My name's Chris. I'm a freelance graphic artist who lives in the East Village. I stumbled across your blog when I was trying to track down an artist from New York Adorned - the one who did the tattoo I'd like to share with you. I hope you don't mind me just writing you like this, but I liked what I saw on your blog and I felt it would be a good place to share this piece.

I am originally from Australia SC, but I came up here two months later to visit my brother for a week or so. The first thing I did on the Sunday afternoon when I got here was head to New York, but I have lived in the US since 1990. I have not gotten to visit home the whole time I've been in the states, which means I've missed all my cousin's weddings, as well as my best friend's and I've missed being there when they had their first children. Not having been home in all this time also means I never got to see my grandmother again before she passed away in June of 2007, which was just the most horrible feeling. At the time of her passing I was still living in Adorned. I'd already set up an appointment before I came up and I'd set aside funds just for the visit, so I went over there and Damion Ross got started on my memorial piece. The piece was originally a painting that I did and Damion did some redesigning to make it truer to the style of tattoo that I wanted, so the end result is really the perfect tribute to my grandmother who loved her garden and flowers. The tattoo required two sessions and it cost more than any of my other work, but you really can't put a price on a piece that commemorates the life of someone so dear.

Just for frame of reference, I have been recovering from severe facial injuries for almost four years. At the time I made the trip up here to get the tattoo I was out of work and had no income, other than a measly settlement that a judge had begrudgingly awarded me for Social Security. I spent a sizable chunk of that settlement to memorialize my grandmother, even though I had no idea when I'd have income again. My point is that people should not be stingy when memorializing a loved one, because you're going to be carrying that reminder with you for the rest of your life. Do you really want to be reminded of how cheap you are? Give them prime real estate and wear it proudly.

Thanks for letting me share with you.


Damion Ross' work has appeared on Tattoosday previously here. And New York Adorned has been featured many times, as evidenced here.

Chris wrote me back and expounded further on the importance of really putting thought and effort into getting the perfect design and not settling for anything less:

Hey Bill,

I'm glad to be able to share my ink and story. I am working on getting some good coverage, but that's kind of hard to do when your income is extremely limited. I've collected images and put together designs for a number of years, but this was one that I wasn't prepared for at the time, nor did I have any idea that my next tattoo would be a memorial piece. So I set about searching images for my design - looking through numerous illustrations of Japanese floral paintings, as well as photographs of flowers and different types of traditional tattoo banners. I also made sure I did my research on the symbolism of flowers in Japanese art - both for flower type and colour, as these details are of great importance. When I'd found some good, solid reference material, I was then able to start on the design work.

I did a strong pencil sketch from a photo of peonies, the two most opulent blooms and capturing as much detail as I could. I spent a good number of hours sketching to make sure I had a good solid foundation. When I'd completed the sketch I scanned it and started to colourize it in Photoshop to make sure I'd have just the right colour scheme. Once I had that down I started painting what would be my first floral painting ever! I have to honestly say I amazed myself, as I wasn't even sure I could paint flowers, but my eye didn't betray me and the results were fantastic. That said, it was the digital version that I took to New York Adorned and it ended up being simplified considerably, but the image became more bold in its simplification.

So I would recommend putting a lot of thought and work into your memorial piece, but then let the tattooist do his (do I need to say or her in this day and age) job, as they generally know what they're doing. I'm attaching a (terrible) photo of the painting,

as well as the digitized version that the tattoo artist referred to. There's a drastic difference between the scan and the photo already, as I'd only sketched the flowers when I scanned the board. I took the painting in the direction I did to offer further interpretation and ramifications to the piece. I ended up selling the painting, though not for nearly as much as I'd have liked, consider the tremendous amount of work that went into it. Before it sold I had a tattooist contact me asking if I'd sell him a digitized version to use on t-shirts. I replied with very precise terms, saying that I'd already considered making t-shirts and prints of the design so maybe we could work something out, but then I never heard back from the guy. So if you see this design around - the one with the hand and scissors - it has been stolen and I'd be most interested to hear about, as I have not had the opportunity (read: the funds) to have anything printed.....

It isn't often that I receive such an in depth analysis of a tattoo from someone. It's clear that Chris being an artist has magnified his passion about this art form. I appreciated the opportunity to share his thoughts here with everyone on Tattoosday. Once again, much thanks to Chris for illuminating his beautiful memorial tattoo for us!