Tattoo Number 7 – Heart etc. Part One

Location On Body: Left shoulder to elbow wrap

Original Art by Justin mailed while in the army (click to enlarge)
Original Art by Justin mailed while in the army (click to enlarge)

Shop Location: Seattle

How Long It Took: About 11 hours  one 5 hour session, one four hour session and a 2 hour session

The Background 

The concept of this tattoo was one that I came up with close to 7 years ago. This is when we started to attend the worship service at Grace Seattle. At the time, the head pastor, Tommy the tattooed ex Army ranger made it his duty to preach the gospel to everyone each week. His catch phrase was “I’ll stop preaching the gospel when you stop forgetting it.” Well, I never stopped forgetting it and he never stopped preaching it. By this time in my life I had heard “the gospel” thousands of times but I had never heard it like this. When I walked away from one of Tommy’s sermons I have never felt so completely meritless and yet so completely loved. I remember during communion Tommy and Dave would look you in the eyes and say “through Jesus you are adopted, accepted, free, and forgiven.” At this time in my life these words started to mean something to me. My time at grace, especially my first three years, was a very monumental time, looking back into my story. It was there that I started to connect the feeling and knowledge of Jesus loving me and me needing him with all of these stories that I had heard in sunday school.

Rev. Tommy the Army Ranger
Rev. Tommy the Army Ranger

I’m not really sure what came first, me looking for a tattoo idea or the picture that came to me. Either way I started to think about the image of a heart that was being cleaned by blood. Slowly the image started to evolve, in my head, and I could picture the top part of the heart being all shiny and new and the bottom of the heart being all gross and decayed. The first thing that happened is that my brother did a sketch that was really awesome. The problem was that he was in the army and I could never get him to finish it. The picture was of a heart that had blood being poured on it and the top was all clean and smooth and the bottom was all stitched and had worms growing out of it and there was this black goo that was draining off of it. The main hang-up I had at this point was that I could not figure out what I wanted the blood coming from. If you’ve been reading this blog at all you should know that I didn’t want the blood coming from a cross or fish and I was looking something that would be deep in meaning yet more subtle in symbolism because I didn’t want to take the easy way out artistically. During the course of the next three years I probably told  10-20 people about the idea looking for ideas for the source of the idea. Then one Sunday about a year and a half ago we were singing this Hymn at Grace:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!



Finally I had the idea. The blood would be coming from an ocean that is a symbol of the depth of the love of Jesus. When I told the artist he was like: “Uh, you want a ocean of blood” and I’m telling him, “No, I want there to be an ocean that has blood coming out of it…” to which he responded: “So, uhh, you want an ocean of blood..” So I tried to explain a little bit of the theological background to which he replied: “Cool man, I’m sure it will be bitchin!”

Click here to read part two


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