Caffeine tattoo commission for Scicurious

A few months back, blogger Scicurious of Neurotopia asked me about designing a tattoo to celebrate her PhD. Sci was specific on the subject matter: caffeine! She knew she wanted something one-of-a-kind, black-line, and possibly tribal.

Most of the commissions I've ever had have been through people online as opposed to people in my own community. While this is the first pseudonym-anonymous blogger I've worked for, I wasn't concerned. Besides the fact we've met in person, you can tell a lot of things about bloggers from their writing, and the way they're held in the blogging community. I expected this commission to be a lot of fun - and it was.

The designs went through a lot of versions. Here's a look at some of them. Click to enlarge.

These are from the first few sketches. I called the top one 'droplets' and the bottom one 'scanner' : For a design like this one below, I was basically trying out a variety of lines and shapes to see if any struck a chord with Scicurious: I went for something a bit Tim Burton-esque here, and ended up with something with a hint of Celtic knotwork. I really like this type of line. But maybe for a different molecule. The development of the droplets idea. A more jewellery-like design. Playing with the bonds and chemicals. On many of these, I had the chemical diagrams a bit off, but Sci knows her stuff, and made revisions easy. Droplets develops more. Sci asks for the nitrogens to resemble "n's" since there's a hint of an "o" in the oxygens. The nitrogens were tough to pin down! To make sure we weren't missing something from an earlier iteration, I sent Scicurious this batch of nitrogen designs, with some new ones on the right. By this point, we'd pretty much pinned down the rest of the tattoo, and I'd switched from pencil to Photoshop to make the swapping of the nitrogens easier. The doodles on the left are done with my Intuos 3 tablet in Photoshop. I was feeling stuck, and the loose drawings helped me get back into the design. Just throwing things at it, to see what worked. I sent the image to Sci and whaddaya know? She loved one of the doodles! And here's the final! Congratulations on your PhD, Dr. Scicurious! And thanks for a terrific collaboration-commission!

(Links to the final at Scicurious's Neurotopia and Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium.)

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

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