I’ve been working on this tattoo for… well, 15 or 20 years now, technically.  I knew I wanted one that long ago and I decided that I’d get one….  I just wasn’t sure what, exactly, so I waited until I was absolutely certain.

I started getting ink sometime last summer.  The wolves came first.  Once I moved back to Chicago, I began to work with a local tattoo artist here and an illustrator over in Rumania to get the background put together.  In February, we began to lay down the ink at Tatu Tattoo on North Ave.  [Note: since then, Brian’s moved to Insight Studios on Milwaukee Ave.]

Brian Clutter is my artist and, recently, also a MySpace friend.  Great guy.  Consummate artist.  Soft spoken, unassuming.  Deep, quiet strength.  Much more intelligent than he lets on and definitely a man of heart.  Life has brought him much wisdom.  Much of it, he earned the hard way, not unlike myself, though our paths have certainly been different.  In truth, I’d never even talked to another artist about inking me after my childhood friend Shawn began the job last year.  I just walked into a tattoo shop and there stood  the right guy for the job.

We’re at least 40 hours into it now.  Probably 50.  We’ve lost track of how many hours, week after week, I’ve sat in that chair.  It doesn’t really matter.  It takes as long as it takes, as far as I’m concerned.  Not a simple process.

We took a photo of my back with the wolves on it, then printed it out and Brian began to draw the background and foreground onto the page.  Once that was finished and approved, he put it on my back.  The outline was done within a visit or two.

Then began the painstaking art of coloring.  The sky alone has 4 or 5 different shades of “blurple”, as I call it.  The river has 4 shades of blue, plus whitewater, laid over in deep gray to darken it.  Trying to capture the sky, the water and the snow on a moonlit night and transfer it to human flesh isn’t very easy at all…. and I greatly admire both Brian’s patience and his skill.

We have our artistic differences, of course.  Brian’s a color man, and dying to infuse that talent into my back flesh.  I, on the other hand, am colorblind, and would much rather recreate an Ansel Adams photograph.  WE come from opposite ends of the spectrum, and we create our place in the middle.  In the end, the finished product will have been born neither of my mind, nor his, but a meeting of the two… and I have no doubt we will end up with something uniquely beautiful.  I think all tattoos should be this way, and thankfully, so does Brian.  Unfortunately, most people don’t put much thought, time, or effort into theirs.  Brian will get his colors in there, I’m sure, but as I said earlier, this is a nighttime scene in winter. colors are muted and dim in the moonglow.  The sky, however, will give him a place to showcase some of his color skills.  I’m sure Brian will eventually get his way and be allowed to add some deep greens into the evergreen trees, as well.

The river alone had to be tattooed over itself 3 times to get the effect.  The mountains, once outlined, had two more sessions to fill them in: one for the rock colors… and one for the snow.

We estimate another 16 hours before we’re through; that is, until we get as far along as we originally thought we meant to.  Today, the wolves will get some color, although I don’t think we’ll get them all done.  The first will be an Arctic Wolf, in honor of my Balto.

The next three will be an American Gray Wolf, a Timber Wolf(both native of Minnesota and Wisconsin, where I was raised) and Norwegian Gray Wolf from my ancestral homeland. (Norway has but 20 Gray wolves left.  Sadly, the government of Norway has recently decided to kill 5 more of them.  Meanwhile, Minnesota and Wisconsin alone has thousands, due to our reintroduction programs.)

The mountains themselves are the Canadian Rockies near Banff/Calgary, Alberta.  Possibly the most beautiful range in North America.  Also, the home of my recent wife.

The sky, once all the stars are finished, may also include the big dipper(Ursa Major) and eventually I’ll consider adding the Northern Lights(aurora borealis), which will be laid over the top at a later time.

Here’s where we are as of Aug 23.


“The Northern Breed”

“Northern Breed”


As you’ve seen, all this tattooing has really put a damper on my getting a decent tan this summer.  Perhaps next year.

More to come.