How Many Words Is That Tattoo Worth?
Be it the symbolic stamp of a life-altering experience, the constant reminder of a lost love, or just the product of some late-night revelry, every tattoo shares one thing: a story. San Francisco illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and Rumpus managing editor Isaac Fitzgerald have made it their mission to condense these stories into the delicately drawn, concisely potent posts that comprise Pen and Ink — a blog of illustrated tattoos and the tales behind them.
But what’s their story? We talked to Wendy and Isaac about their tattoo philosophy, and how life, in essence, is really mastering the art of the mistake.
Who’s idea was Pen & Ink?
WM: It was Isaac’s.
IF: It was Wendy’s.
WM: Isaac, stop. It was yours.
IF: OK, well, I knew Wendy’s art from working with her on The Rumpus and have always been in awe of her amazing ability to capture a story with her drawings. Most tattoos, to me, represent some form of narrative, so when I thought of trying to capture the stories behind peoples permanent ink scars I immediately knew that Wendy had to be a part of it.
So you’re creating art from art.
WM: Yes, and we’re celebrating the big stories behind the little things we often dismiss, overlook, take for granted. Everyone’s got a story. We want to share them.
What’s the posting process?
IF: Folks submit a picture and a story. With each submission, I edit the story and Wendy creates the final piece using the picture.
WM: Yup, what Isaac said. I use pen and watercolor for the final art, eliminating any other tattoos except the one we are featuring.
Any bizarre submissions?
IF: Head tattoos and butt tattoos are my personal favorite. We have yet to get any face tattoos, but I’d love for us to do one.
WM: I’d say it’s less about the where, but more the what, that grabs me. Some of the stories have been so personal — some really tough — and I’m just so impressed by people who put their experiences out there like that.
Do you have any tattoos?
IF: I have nine. The most beautiful one is a bear skull on my left forearm, but my favorite one is a homemade tattoo that reads “Forgive Me.”
What’s the story behind “Forgive Me”?
IF: Well that’s a long story … or a short one, depending on the moment. In short, the idea was some grasp at Catholicism, forgiveness and the Holy Trinity. It’s kind of hard to remember, though, because of all the whiskey.
What’s your tattoo philosophy?
WM: No regrets. When people ask me what one of my tattoos means, my standard response is, “A youth well spent.”
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