Bear & Sugar Skull Tattoo
My customer, for this Grizzly Bear and Sugar Skull Tattoo Design, had a really solid idea of what he wanted and came to me with a brilliantly complete brief including reference images and even a rough sketch for the layout. This half sleeve design would feature a mountain range behind a lake, a fisherman, snapdragon flowers and of course the grizzly bear and detailed sugar skull design.
Designing A Sugar Skull
Once again with this design I used the excellent high resolution human skull reference images from Media Militia. Remembering the effect a flower growing out the skulls eye socket had from my previous skull and flowers tattoo design I thought it would work perfectly in this one. Often sugar skull tattoo designs are flat 2D designs but with this one I really wanted to give it depth and a lot of detail to make it stand forward from the background.
Grizzly Bear Tattoo
The first concept for the Grizzly Bear actually ended up looking more like a Polar Bear just because I had not done any shading. When creating these concepts my main aim is to work out how each tattoo feature is going to go together and create a tattoo layout. But with my customers positive feedback on positioning in the second concept is where I start to refine each part of the design that my customer was happy with.
With my customer happy with the positioning of the bear and the skull you can see in the next concept below that I am starting to work out how the linework should look on the skull and the fur or shading should look on the bear.
The Grizzly Bear looked a lot like a polar bear in the first concept because the detailing of the bears fur is a tricky subject, putting too much detail into a tattoo design can cause problems for the tattoo artist as very detailed designs can be very difficult. I found the best answer to this is leave the detailing/shading of the bear up to the tattoo artist so the stencil outline of the bear is left as just that, a tattoo outline. The final drawing though is shaded up as I see fit. This way the tattoo artist can see what is being shown and will detail the bear as they see fit. After all the tattoo artist will know best how to create the effect we are going for.
Lake & Mountain Tattoo
Creating the mountains and lake just took thinking a bit outside the box. With the mountains this involved thinking about how the sun would shine down on them and where the shadow would be. With the sun directly above the Sugar Skull and Bear the mountain and lake are designed to wrap around the rest of the arm. So the mountains to the right of the sugar skull would have shadow on the far right and mountains to the left would have shadow to the far left. This left the centre mountain which would actually be at the underside of the arm with the shadow directly centre.
Designing the lake tattoo was probably more tricky as drawing water under any circumstances is a challenge. Often when drawing water we are actually just drawing a reflection. I decided to create the reflection of the mountains and trees by just reversing the image of the shadows. I then just drew out the reversed shadow in a series of horizontal lines to give the impression of reflection on a rippling surface.
Grizzly Bear & Sugar Skull Tattoo Design
This was a very enjoyable tattoo to design. I particularly enjoy creating sugar skull tattoo designs due to the fact I am taking something that is often considered morbid and turning it into something that honours the dead and is celebrated. Each feature of this design has special significance to my customer, even the small fisherman you might have noticed in the lake.
Thank you so much, blew me away. This is a very very significant piece for me and I appreciate how you put it together.