Bernadette: The Tattooed Lady

Galleries - Exotica

Bernadette the Tattooed Lady

Illustration: Tattoo


This is the story of Bernadette, the lady that is tattooed on my arm.


It all began a while ago, when I first got the idea that I wanted to get a pin-up girl tattoo but didn't want to settle on something that looked too much like flash.


At the same time, I also did not want a glaring design that drew away from the retro look I wanted. It needed to be a modern interpretation of a traditional tattoo.


So, one day I decided to just start with a theme -- and I knew damn well sure that theme was going to be a HOT SCI-FI BITCH!


I pulled out my sketchbook and did a couple of thumbnails of a pose of a girl on a rocket. Luckily one really popped out to me. That is sort of my personal tattoo rule and advice to anyone wanting to get one: You can't force it, it will be obvious that you want this on your body for the rest of your life because once you see the right design, it would seem wrong not to.


That was the direction this tiny sketch was going, so I blew it up on a photocopier to make sure I could trace the dynamics of the contours properly. That is always a problem for me when I try to blow something up by hand. It loses the fluidity.


Score one for the machines.


Tracing it out on notebook paper, I was able to ink it in detail and photocopy it at different sizes. Then when I started doing color tests, I saw the error of my ways. In a nutshell, I don't know jack about traditional pin-up tattoos. Sure, maybe if I were illustrating a panel for the Silver Surfer comic book, circa 1977, I could really hit the nail on the head. So the bitter reality was that I was completely incompetent.


And there the Rocket Girl was banished forever to the pages of my sketchbook until that right design would finally hit me.






It took almost another year for that design to finally hit me. I was on a job in Minneapolis, with a lot of night time to burn, and started doing research. Yes, research. I figured that if I wanted it to look good, I was going to have to remove as much of myself from the process as possible.


That said, it became more of a layout and collage. Over the course of a night, I downloaded about 100 different pin-ups from the Internet, and looked through them like a menu. When I found the pose, there was no question. I needn't look further for the girl, but to make her the HOT SCI-FI BITCH of my dreams. First thing I did was to change her hair. I've always had a thing for 'Cat Hair'. I think it goes back to a blind date I was once on and this chick had 'cat hair' and I was like -- NICE!




So I found some Cat Hair from another picture and then added some more clothes to her so she didn't look like a loose slut. It also added more of a space uniform feel, so it was a good direction. Of course I used my favorite color combination of Blue and White with an atom on her belly in homage to Captain Atomic.


Since I don't know jack about what's appropriate, I also gave her some nice Marvel comics super hero boots and gloves, and a space helmet with the 'Jetson's' flare on the top so she can talk with her friends when I'm sleeping.


The finishing touch, which oddly took quite a bit of it's own research, was to find a good ol' space gun for her to hold. I tried drawing one, but again, I'm an idiot and it was always too simplified looking and I was in a rush to get the girl of my dreams out the door. That problem was remedied with the two simple commands of 'copy' and 'paste'.


And there, before me, I declared her 'Bernadette'.




Now was the hard part -- finding a competent artist to jab a needle into me over and over again and maintain her HOT SCI-FI BITCH style.


Luckily I was on a job in Minneapolis at the time, because it is crawling with great tattoo artists that come with glowing recommendations. So, right upstairs from Bob's Java Hut (possibly the single coolest coffee shop in the country) was Uptown Tattoo.


There I met Nic Skrade, and he instantly recognized me as a neurotic fool. I came in with print outs of the design -- even going as far as printing one out with a 'flesh' pattern as a background so to communicate the colors I wanted to try to preserve.


He was totally cool, though, and recognized the fact that I had seen a lot of bad tattoos and did not want to become part of that group. A little bit later, he came to me with a line sketch that was EXACTLY what I was looking for. Capturing a modern take on a traditional pin-up.


A little over 3 hours later, there was Bernadette, in living color on my arm and I've been happy with it ever since.


The next tattoo I've been toying with is a HOT TATTOOED SAILOR BITCH for the other arm, but again, it's all about letting the design come to you and not to force it. Then there will be the mandatory trip to Nic in Minneapolis to make it happen the right way!