Tattoo Number 8 – Dandelions

Mother's Tattoo

UPDATE: Interview added of touch-up with artist 1.15.09

Location On Body: Right leg

Shop Location: Covington, Kentucky

How Long It Took: 12 hours

The Idea:

The main idea for this tattoo came when I was driving from Seattle to Cincinnati with the family over this past summer. I was listening to one of my favorite songs from high-school called Dandelions by Five Iron Frenzy. This is one of the few songs that I have been able to consistently worship to for 10 years. It’s not that I have not had songs to worship too, it’s just that most of the songs have come and gone, so this song has been different in that regard. To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure why I never even thought of this tattoo design earlier, but when I did it seemed like a no brainer. The simplicity of the images combined with the 10 year association was a lay up.

The Art:

Here were the problems I had to deal with:

  1. I was in Northern Kentucky (for 3 months) which is generally known for fried chicken and horse races but not necessarily top notch tattooists and artists. This was reiterated when I walked into a couple of shops and the shop owners said “whoa, where’d you get that work done? (referring to the heart cleaning tattoo) because I know it wasn’t from around here!”
  2. I was in the middle of my previous project and had never really started a new tattoo before finishing the old one. It turns out that the consequences of this were not that detrimental.
  3. I’m not sure if I have mentioned this in any previous posts but i can’t draw. One thing that kind of drives me nuts is that if I get the best idea in the entire universe in my head I might as well just let Seven go to town on my leg with a sharpie, like he did to our wall and desk because unless I can find the right artist who can translate my idea to paper or skin it’s over.
Original Art (you an see where he did the worked around the cross in the bottom left and right sides)
Original Art (you an see where he did the worked around the cross in the bottom left and right sides) CLICK TO ENLARGE

With these problems in mind I was content with waiting until the time seemed right. But in an interesting twist, my good friend Stephen, invites me to a shop he was going to visit to get a piece done. Being the good friend that I am I could not turn him down. Before I know it I’m describing my idea to this shop owner and he’s telling me about this artist that can put ideas on paper faster than anybody in more creative ways than anybody.

The Artist

One week later I’m sitting at the shop with Brian telling him about my idea. It was kind of cool because Five Iron Frenzy is a smaller band that Brian had, not only heard of, but he knew exactly what song I was talking about. I tell him that I’m looking for something that is more graphic looking as opposed to photo realistic. I want a lot of black but I do want to incorporate some bold colors. I want some movement. As a guy, getting any type of flowers tattooed on your body can be a touchy subject. I wanted to stay away from the bouquet look. I give this guy 10 minutes and he comes back with more of what was in my head than anyone in the last 10 years has been able to do. At first I was trying to be kind of polite but he says: “listen if you don’t tell me what you like and don’t like, I can’t draw what you want.” So I start off with less of that and more of that and more flowers and this and that. By the time that I left, he had a rough design concept that he was going to redraw before our appointment and he had my $20 deposit which was a $20 bill that he taped to the day of the calendar that I was scheduled for (The book was full of numerous other $20 bills taped to other days.) One of the cool things I remember about the art process was that Brian said something to the effect of “if you don’t like my art I want you to send me a picture of the tattoo when it’s done because I want to see how it turns out.” This was cool because it told me that he was excited about the project and not just the $$$. I think instead of saying any more about Brian I should just show you some pictures.

Brian's MySpace Profile
Brian's MySpace Profile

The Process:

All I really have to say is that we started at 4pm and ended at 4am. Brian’s longest previous tattoo session had been 8 hours. Twice during the process I had to take glucose tablets because I was shaking so hard.  Props to Brian to sticking with it. We had to finish it because I was going to be leaving for Seattle. At the last minute I decided to get the script on the bottom that says: “You see flowers in these weeds…”

The Product:

(click images for more detail)
Inside Back
Outside Back
Inside Front

The Inspiration

I didn’t spend a whole lot of time explaining the song and why it is meaningful to me. Instead I am posting the lyrics for you to read and a video which as the full audio for the song if you would like to listen to it. I think you will find that it is pretty self-explanitory.

In a field of yellow flowers,
underneath the sun,
bluest eyes that spark with lightning,
boy with shoes undone.
He is young, so full of hope,
reveling in tiny dreams,
filling up, his arms with flowers,
right for giving any queen.

Running to her beaming bright,
while cradling his prize.
A flickering of yellow light,
within his mother’s eyes.
She holds them to her heart,
keeping them where they’ll be safe,
clasped within her very marrow,
dandelions in a vase.

She sees love, where anyone else would see weeds.
all hope is found.
Here is everything he needs.

Fathomless your endless mercy,
weight I could not lift.
Where do I fit in this puzzle,
what good are these gifts?
Not a martyr, or a saint,
scarcely can I struggle through.
All that I have ever wanted,
was to give my best to you.

Lord, search my heart,
create in me something clean.
you see flowers in these weeds.

Gently lifting hands to heaven,
softened by the sweetest hush,
a Father sings over his children,
loving them so very much.
More than words could warrant,
deeper than the darkest blue,
more than sacrifice could merit,
Lord, I give my heart to you

Interview from 14 months later

Because I still love the art, still love the idea BUT one of the leaves is a little bigger than I would have liked so there’s a little to much black on my leg I am going to rate this on the

Regret-ability Scale: .5 out of 10


7 thoughts

  1. WOW! I’m lost for words! …well almost.

    I know and love that song, and think that this is one of the best tattoos, let alone design ideas, that I’ve ever seen. I don’t know too many guys that would get a flower tattooed on themselves, but the sparse use of color makes it very masculine. The quote was an especially nice touch, even for a last minute addition…I guess half a day in the chair gives you a lot of time to think about it =)

  2. This is absolutely beautiful. FIF has been my favorite band for a long time and Dandelions is one of my most favorite songs ever. I want a tattoo with a similar look but on a smaller scale…I love it. The lyrics were a great touch too… There’s really no other words to explain it… =) Amazing. God Bless.

  3. wow. this tattoo is amazing. five iron has been (i won’t say was because i still love them just as much as ever, though i can’t say that ska is anywhere at the top of my list these days) one of my favorite bands for 11 years. the song dandelions is a beautiful depiction of this truth (and also, less importantly my 2nd favorite of their songs).
    again, i’ll say, this is amazing.
    and also, i can’t believe you sat in that chair for 12 hours. that is insane! my skin/body was so done after 2.

  4. holy crap. this is pretty weird. I’m at starbucks minding my own business and i look over at this chick sitting next to me and she has the old NIN (nineinchnails) style FIF (fiveironfrenzy) patch on her backpack. so i take my headphones out and say “you a fiver iron frenzy fan?” she gives me this look and says “yeah, i love them.” so then i say i actually have this tattoo on my leg from one of my favorite songs of theirs about dandelions (as i’m pulling up my pant leg). then she says “oh yeah, i actually have a dandelion tattoo on my back for the same reason”
    long story short, josh from slave to the needle did it who was the same person who did the bottom half of my sin/heart thing. weird.

  5. Wow… I googled “dandelion tattoo” and came across this. I want to get it for the same reason, it’s an amazing song. And a small world, it’s hilarious that you ran across that girl in Starbucks! I really wanted to design it myself, and was cheating by seeing if I could find other dandelion tats. I have great intentions, okay drawing ability, and minimal creativity so the whole design thing is not going so good. Well Brian’s design turned out amazing, congrats!

  6. Crazy. My right calf is covered in dandelions for a bunch of significant reasons, Five Iron Frenzy’s song being one of them. Our designs are actually kind of similar too, and my artist was also super inspired and excited about the design. Cool to find out you’re not the only one out there, eh? Mad crazy…. Anyways, best wishes- thanks for sharing!

  7. Hey Ben,
    Nancy Miller here – remember Walter and I? I came across this blog and read about your tats. I wanted to share this passage about dandelions with you. It’s from Lilias’ Trotter’s book, Parables of the Cross. She has an illustration with it. Love the song by the way. Blessings on you and your fam. Nancy

    Death to Self is the Way Out into a Life of Sacrifice.
    This dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals, and has reached its crowning stage of dying–the delicate seed-globe must break up now–it gives and gives till it has nothing left.
    What a revolution would come over the world–the world of starving bodies at home–the world of starving souls abroad, if something like this were the standard of giving; if God’s people ventured on “making themselves poor” as Jesus did, for the sake of the need around; if the “I”–”me”–”mine” were practically delivered up, no longer to be recognised when they clash with those needs.
    The hour of this new dying is clearly defined to the dandelion globe: it is marked by detachment. There is no sense of wrenching: it stands ready, holding up its little life, not knowing when or where or how the wind that bloweth where it listeth may carry it away. It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be given: a breath does the rest, turning the “readiness to will” into the “performance.” (2 Cor. 8. 11.) And to a soul that through “deaths oft” has been brought to this point, even acts that look as if they must involve an effort, become something natural, spontaneous, full of a “heavenly involuntariness,” so simply are they the outcome of the indwelling love of Christ.
    Shall we not ask God to convict us, as to where lies the hindrance to this self-emptying? It is not alone mere selfishness, in its ordinary sense, that prevents it; long after this has been cleansed away by the Precious Blood there may remain, unrecognised, the self-life in more subtle forms. It may co-exist with much that looks like sacrifice; there may be much of usefulness and of outward self-denial, and yet below the surface may remain a clinging to our own judgment, a confidence in our own resources, an unconscious taking of our own way, even in God’s service. And these things hold down, hold in our souls, and frustrate the Spirit in His working. The latent self-life needs to be brought down into the place of death before His breath can carry us hither and thither as the wind wafts the seeds. Are we ready for this last surrender?
    Do you ask “Does God really mean the emptying to reach so far as this?” Study the inner life of Jesus. “I speak not of Myself” He says. “I can of Mine own self do nothing.” “I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” His human self-life, sinless though it was, was laid down that He might live by the Father, and our self-life, defiled and worthless, shall we not lay it down that we may live by Him?
    But how? Again not by struggling and wrestling, but by dying to it in Jesus. “I am crucified with Christ”–I myself in the very essence of my being, I let myself go to that death, and by the mysterious power with which God meets faith, I find that He has made it true: the bonds are loosed and He can have His way with me.

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