Tattoos photo album

LEFT ARM

Over time, I began to feel somewhat lop-sided having just my left arm inked. Furthermore, the darkness (both design-wise and colour-wise) of the half-sleeve tattoo was weighing me down on my right side. I am a Libran and looking back now, this was probably one of the first times in life that I was truly becoming very aware of ‘balance in life’. I realised I needed to add ink to my other arm to straighten me up (if nothing else it’s a good justification right?) Giving thought to a new design for my left arm, I felt that I also needed to balance out the death and horror with art of life and beauty.

My rose tattoo outlineI was again singing in a band at this time and Paul Stanley of Kiss had been my favourite singer for many years; his small rose design has always held some appeal to me. I again took further inspiration from Nikki Sixx, whose first tattoo was a black rose on his blank upper-arm. Roses are my favourite flower and decided I would have one of my own that would never wilt. Purple petals were chosen for a few reasons: 1) it has always been a favourite colour of mine, 2) it would give me more balance with its even positioning in alignment with the purple moon on my opposite arm, and 3) a purple rose was also the design featured on the cover of my band’s first CD release. I was looking for something beautiful and purple is a very majestic and opulent colour. There’s no greater sign of pure love and beauty than a rose; it is the ultimate floral symbol. It all felt right.

I felt the style of the dark and aggressive AJ was not the man to do this work; I was now keen to experience other studios and artists. An old friend of mine from the punk days – Dave Llewellyn – had served an apprenticeship and was now in my city (Perth, Western Australia) tattooing, having returned from working in Hong Kong. (Dave was also in the crowd the night I sang at my first gig) We hooked up and hit it off well again, sharing interest in music and tattoos. I talked with Dave about the type of rose I wanted and he inked it for me on October 15, 1999 for just $250 in a sitting from 12-4:30pm.

Dave was working out of The Tatt Shop on James Street in Perth; the shop also became a sponsor of my band SkinInc. We even recorded the sound of Dave’s tattoo gun as he pushed ink, using it at the start of our song Seven Needle Scratch; a song I wrote about tattoos as I was enjoying their beauty and reflecting on their addictive nature.

Dave Llewellyn working on my right armSeven Needle Scratch by SkinInc. Lyrics by Paul Miles: Now I need the sound of you shaking so fast, I don’t think I can last. Come flash me your art, custom-made designs. Set me up another of your sweet fine lines. C’mon and catch the seven needle scratch. Buzzing in my head, you really make me ache. My love for you is real, never fake. You made the choice, now shave away. But etch me forever ‘cause you're here to stay. C’mon and catch the seven needle scratch. You are what I need, you make me bleed. C’mon and catch the seven needle scratch.

Traditional Japanese tattoo art really started catching my eye as I explored tattoo ideas and styles. Wanting to continue work on my left arm, I discussed designs that would fit with my rose, and round out my shoulder in the same way as my other arm for balance. Continuing the flower theme, Dave showed me a design of a Chrysanthemum flower being blown by the wind – perfect!

Chryssies are symbolic of cheerfulness and optimism; traits that certainly fit with my persona. In Japanese culture, they are considered to be a noble flower, which also ties in perfectly with the majesty of my purple rose underneath.

The traditional Japanese black and grey swirls of the wind blowing the orange and yellow petals of the flower made an interesting visual piece of body art to me. There are also some cherry blossoms in the design and you can see the petals being swept by the sumie wind. This was all done in the one six hour session on November 11, 2000 from 11am for $500. It remains my longest session in the chair to date (we did yak a lot in between though).

I was loving the beauty of the traditional Japanese theme and wanted to complete this other short-sleeve with Dave as soon as possible; however I was moving across Australia to reside in Melbourne in six weeks’ time. I knew it can be difficult to find an artist willing to work into another artist’s design, so Dave suggested I look up an artist that he once worked for, trusting he would be happy to continue with Dave’s great work to date.

My Koi tattoo artworkAfter the relocation to Melbourne, I found the referred André Cleary in his Highline Tattoo studio in St. Kilda and introduced myself, telling him that I was a friend of Dave. He was willing to contribute further to my sleeve and was impressed at how far Dave’s work had come along. Design decision time again, but this time I was clear on what I wanted and again had sample Motley Crue pictures and material to provide.

Tommy Lee’s orange Koi fish on his left arm had always impressed on me and now I had a space on my left arm that was screaming out for a traditional Japanese design – it was an easy decision. I told André that I wanted the water splashes around the fish to be in the same style as in this picture of Nikki Sixx’s arm, pointing to another colour picture in my hand. I liked the Koi’s symbolism of perseverance in the face of adversity and strength of character. The addition of a water tattoo would become my third of the four principal elements of the Universe, to go with my wind and fire already tattooed.

A further large Japanese design was needed to complete the work and after looking at a scroll with Japanese kanji characters next to Tommy Lee’s carp, I decided I also wanted a scroll with some Japanese characters. It seemed appropriate that the characters would spell out Motley Crue, so I looked for the Japanese katakana representation and double-checked the characters said what I needed them to. I took in an obi strip from a Japanese version of a Motley Crue CD from my collection and André drew it all up. It looked great. I had wanted a Motley Crue tattoo for some time but needed it to be something unique and somewhat unobtrusive. This was the perfect choice I thought.

A couple of stages of my Koi tattooI began my first session with André on August 17, 2001 at 5pm to complete the half-sleeve on my left arm. I paid him $420 at the end of the four-and-a-half hour session after he inked the entire carp, plus the outline of the waves, cherry blossoms and Motley scroll. The bright colours of the Koi were awesome and I was particularly struck by how beautiful the fish’s face is – I still love that!

After a good healing period, I went back on October 6. I waited while footballer Glen Bowyer (on crutches with a knee injury) had his lower-back tattoo finished, so I chatted with fellow footballer and West Aussie Jonathon Hay, who had some runes tattooed around his wrist before I took over his place in the chair.

André got to work at 12 noon by colouring the waves around the Koi. When it came time to colour the additional cherry blossoms, he asked what colour I would prefer them to be. My daughter’s absolute favourite colour is pink, so I that was my colour of choice for her. He then completed the Motley scroll and the fill of green bubbles around it at 3:30pm and I passed over $330 to him.

This completed my left short-sleeve of tatts in a total of 18.5 hours for a total of $1500. With a comfortable length sleeve on each arm now, I felt my body art gave me the balance I was missing before.

My Motley Crue tattooA few years later, I got to hang with Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee of Motley Crue, two sources of design inspiration for my own tatts. Less than a minute after meeting Tommy for the first time, his eyes kept glancing down at the Koi on my arm, until he interrupted our conversation and said, “That’s a nice carp.”

Dining with Nikki in 2004, conversation moved to tattoos and I showed him the stars on my arm asking if he recognised them. He immediately said they were the same as the ones on his back. I nodded and showed him my scroll and asked if he knew what the Japanese writing said. When he didn’t, I told him it says, “Dim Sims 20 cents each!” As we laughed, I told him it really says “Motley Crue.” He totally dug it.

On 15 August 2007, I was walking past Ricky Tattoo Studio in Wanchai, Hong Kong when I decided to get a souvenir of my first time in Asia. When Hong Kong was returned from the British rule to China in 1997, the new regional flag of Hong Kong was hoisted. The bright red flag features a centrepiece flower from the Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia Blakeana). The actual flowers are bright pinkish-purple, not white as on the flag, but I decided to get my petals coloured red like the flag. The small flower tattoo is on the back of my upper-left arm and ties in with my existing Japanese cherry blossoms. The studio owner Ricky inked it for me in about 20 minutes. I gave him HK$470, which was about $70 Australian for my memento.

Feeling the itch for more ink again, I decided to get more tattoos on my arms. This time I visited André Cleary at his Taboo Tattoo studio in the Melbourne suburb of Boronia on 6 March 2008. Here he spent two-and-a-half hours from 2pm inking some thick, black five-point stars around both my elbows. The stars are upside-down, which I've always preferred as it looks more rock'n'roll to me. I've previously used upside-down stars on the artwork for my band's album, and my business card also has two of them on it. (They're also used for the background design on this website.) I was really pleased with the work and happy to hand over $350 to him at the end of the session. My balance still feels in check since my arms are symmetrical.

I currently have 38.25 hours of work on me for a total investment of $3570. Will I get more tattoos? For sure! I often have ideas of new designs that will run through my head. I tend to let the ideas marinate a lot longer these days.

My left sleeve

>> See more pictures of my tattoos (and larger ones) in the Tattoos photo album.