FORT WALTON BEACH – Sketches of two women with bare breasts and a priest with horns hung in frames above Dave Clarke as he carefully sketched his own rendering of the grim reaper Wednesday.
Clarke, along with his client Keith Callow, worked as a team at Sacred X-Pressions Tattoo Studio on Miracle Strip Parkway as they brainstormed, sketched, discarded and re-sketched the deathly design.
“I chose a grim reaper because I like the concept that everyone dies eventually,” Callow said.
Clarke, a tattoo artist for the past 12 years, prides himself on turning timeworn tattoo ideas into personal and original works of art.
Where mom tattoos were once the craze, Clarke said tribal designs, arrows and infinity knots are what clients request most often. In the place of tramp stamps, he said, are the under-boob tattoos.
“I can’t tell you how many times people come in wanting cliche tattoos,” Clarke said. “Instead of giving them a tattoo that no one will ask them about or care to see, I ask them about memories or the reason they want the tattoo.”
Clarke said he then takes his clients’ memories and spends the entire day with them by his side as he unhurriedly sketches unique ideas onto his iPad Plus.
“I only do one per day because I don’t like feeling rushed,” he said. “The tattoo I give someone will be on their body for the rest of their life, so I want to make sure it looks good.”
Clarke said he asks every client he tattoos to come back so he can see if the tattoo needs any additional shadowing or touch-ups.
After spending over four hours on the sketch, Clarke and Callow came to an artistic agreement.
Instead of sketching the client’s original concept of a full bodied grim reaper, Clarke instead did a half-body design to highlight the detail of the skeleton and its scythe.
Clarke then got out his tools and laid the design on Callow’s skin. And, nearly seven hours after the two men first sat down, Clarke put the finished touches on the angel of death.
Callow, who now has five tattoos, said he plans to keep coming back to Clarke until his entire arm is covered by a tattoo sleeve.
“The tattoo is left for more room to grow,” Clarke said. “It’ll be really easy to add to it. He (Callow) was ecstatic.”
Brittany Garrity : Tattoo Zoo
At Tattoo Zoo on Miracle Strip Parkway, Brittany Garrity spent her day off Wednesday with an “iron” in hand as she tattooed to Disney’s “Moanna” playing in the background.
Garrity, wearing neon green lip stick and a backwards cap that partially showed the tattoo peeking through her shaved head, put ink to flesh as she tattooed her older sister’s upper thigh.
“I’ve officially tattooed all three of my sisters now,” the 28-year-old said. “I’m working on a mermaid that I designed. She gave me some ideas and then I sketched it out in my own style.”
On a regular work day, when she’s not tattooing family members on her day off, Garrity arrives at Tattoo Zoo at 10 a.m. She said, depending on the size of the tattoo piece, she will work on up to eight tattoos per day.
Her sister’s mermaid tattoo took over six hours to complete.
“I earned my (college) degree before becoming a tattoo artist, so I already had my own style and just adapted that into tattooing,” she said while working on the mermaid’s tail. “My style doesn’t fit into one of the tattoo realms.”
Garrity said art degrees aren’t what matters in the tattoo world. It’s gaining respect by other tattoo artists and clientele.
“Once you’re accepted, it’s like a family,” she said. “I don’t keep a lot of friends outside of the tattoo world because once you’re in tattooing, it’s a lifestyle that most people’s schedules and other lifestyles don’t mesh up well.”
Garrity said what gets her through the long hours, which is also what drew her into the industry, is having other tattoo artists to work with and learn from daily.
“If I would have followed my degree of illustration I would be working behind a computer right now,” she said. “This way, being a tattoo artist, I get to see my clients in person and know who they are.”
Edwardo “Lalo” Laneaverde: Island Ink Tattoo
Edwardo Laneaverde, or “Lalo,” put the finishing touches on the Greek phrase “Malon labe,”at Island Ink Tattoo Wednesday.
The tattoo, which means “Come and take them” in English, was the first walk-in of the day at the shop on Okaloosa Island.
“It’s been a slow start to the day because everyone is still recovering from the 4th of July,” Lalo said.
Lalo, a tattoo shop owner in Mexico City, currently holds a guest spot at Island Ink where he’ll spend the next two-months in the U.S. helping the shop during its busy season.
“Back home I’m booked out for the next six months,” Lalo said. “In Mexico City I only do large pieces. Over here I do a lot of walk-ins and smaller pieces because no one knows who I am.”
The 20-year tattoo veteran said he agreed to take the guest spot in Florida so he could learn new tattooing techniques and purchase updated equipment from the U.S.
Lalo continued working into the early morning hours, he said, as he tattooed any client who walked through the door.
Among the tattoos he completed during his workday were a large bald eagle, red roses and a large tribal print piece.
The artist said instead of going from a template or sketching an idea out, he prefers to freestyle.
“I’ll take a marker and just draw the ideas I have in my brain,” Lalo said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, so I never mess up. I just come up with an idea in my head and freehand straight onto the skin.”