Inked up at Urban

A tattoo is a piece of art that you’re forever making a part of your body. Every tattoo has a story behind it and inspiration behind the art. Some people’s tattoos have deep and personal meanings, while others simply get designs they like. In a school with such a focus on the arts, what inspired some of the tattoos worn by the Urban community? These quotes have been shortened and edited for clarity.

What does this tattoo mean to you?

“It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted a sleeve. I wanted more than one [tattoo], and I wanted it to be a complete piece. So I waited until I knew all of the components that I wanted before I got any of it done. It’s a series of things that have marked important parts of my life. They’re mostly nerdy things. There are pieces of significance to various things that I’ve studied throughout my career and new things that I have learned throughout time. I started developing it when I was in my early 20s, and I didn’t actually start [getting] it until I was 30. It took about ten years to really solidify exactly what I wanted and how I wanted it done. Then to find someone that I trusted to do it.
I started with a couple of smaller pieces. One is a series of bubble tracks. [A pattern created by electrically charged particles passing through a superheated liquid solution]. So it is about how particles decay and really helps us understand the very foundation of our existence at the atomic level. They leave a path of bubbles behind them when you shoot a particle through like liquid hydrogen. That is the whole backside of my calf.
There are some stained glass windows that I had to design for an art class. And I have taken outlines of those and brought those into the design, as well as nerdy little things like the Picasso penguin outline because I really love penguins, that’s been something that has carried through since I was four years old. [I included] various things that I just thought looked kind of cool, that wound up having power in my life. One of the nerdier parts is Doctor Who related. I really deeply love the movie Arrival and the inkblot things. Bringing together certain parts and just figuring out how the wraparound would work and how everything would be brought together was a huge part of the process for me.”

Where did you start with the design process?

“I really want these bubble tracks. They’re really cool. And I [didn’t] just want that because it felt incomplete to just get [the bubble tracks] done. So I wound up expanding it and being like, ‘Okay, so if I got the bubble tracks, what would I want with it, [and] what visually ties that to these other things that I’m interested in?’ [I wanted to incorporate] the sketches I [had] done in college, and various other design elements that I had played around with that I really liked. And then I sort of went to the guy and say, these are the components I really want, and here’s how I want it laid out. He was able to [arrange it for me]. That was a hugely important component to me because I had arranged things a little bit differently. But when he took a hold of the art and did his thing he was able to bring in other elements that really tied it together that made it something I really love.”

Kelli Yon

What meaning does this tattoo have to you?

“It was my 20th marriage anniversary. I woke up and I had a really busy day, and my husband said we should get tattoos to celebrate our anniversary. I said, ‘that’s a great idea, I have a window between such and such an hour.’
And he said, ‘I’ll call my friend and see if I can get us in.’
[I asked,] ‘What should we get tattooed?’
He responded, ‘I don’t know, let’s ask Nika.’ So [my daughter] Nika went through a book of flash [tattoo designs, as often seen on the walls of tattoo shops] — my husband is a painter and a drawer — and picked out three different tattoos that she liked. Then on the way over there, he showed them to me. We decided to go with this one because it has to do with ceramics, containers and this sort of loving gesture. It felt really appropriate for our 20th wedding anniversary.”

Evan Rockwood-Wetherell

What does the tattoo mean to you?

When I started thinking about tattoos I looked at a lot of reference images on Pinterest. I didn’t pick something straight off of Pinterest, I picked a vibe of a medieval tapestry-looking thing. Then I made up some story to make my mom feel a little better about me getting it. But the truth is I just liked the design and I was excited about it. I think that’s a lot of what it is, it’s art. The point of it is that its art doesn’t need to be some profound thing. I love it. I love it.

Is it inspired by the Books Inc. logo?

I actually had never seen the Books Inc logo before I got the tattoo. I would say if I could do it all over again, I would have picked something a little different and that had less of a resemblance to the Books Inc. logo. Or honestly, maybe I should just commit and get the real Books Inc. logo.

How did you choose the style?

When I was like seven I used to do a lot of sketches just with ballpoint pen, just black and white. I’m not good, I’m not a profound artist or anything like that but it’s just something I enjoy and that kind of color scheme is something I think looks really good, especially on skin.

Chris Williams

Why did you get tattoos?
“They all tell a story. The only reason I have tattoos is because they all mean something to me in some way, shape or form. They all tell a different story. They all reflect where I was at that time. And I think that for me, getting tattoos symbolizes something about what I’ve learned or something I want to take with me.”

What does this tattoo mean to you?

“[It’s] from the Adinkra alphabet of West Ghana. If you’ve heard of the Sankofa, that’s kind of where it comes from. Sankofa means to return and get it. So these all mean something to me like you look at your past to bring towards the future. This is the ram’s horns, to me it represents balance, equity and equality. In a lot of ways, it’s very symmetrical, and at that time of my life, I needed a little more balance. It was right before I moved. I didn’t know I was moving to California yet, but I was still in New York and I went to get this tattoo, and I didn’t eat. Thank goodness I was there with a friend because [the artist] started the outline and it was right on my veins. So [at first I think] this is fine. Then all of a sudden, I started to feel really faint. I started to lose a little bit of consciousness there. If it wasn’t for my homie who [went out and] got me a Coca-Cola… I felt like a video game character that smashed half of the coke and slammed it down. We did all the filling and things like that and it just went really quickly, and I was like, ‘It’s time to eat.’ So I remember I almost died getting this tattoo. [So], pro tip, eat before. It’s very important to be full.