Skin/Skóra: Miszek and his beasts

Misz and I have been talking tattoos. Some years ago he and I talked about making a tattoo for him based on my explorations of Hervé and the Wolf. Somehow we never finished those conversations. But here we are, a few years on, getting down to the business in earnest.

  • Clive: Misz, have you had a moment to think any more about your tattoo? I’d like to get the creative process started. No rush, but have it in mind.
  • Misz: Of course I have. I even printed the pictures and cut them out and started sticking them to random parts of my body (such fun!). Till saturday I’m just swamped in wool and orders so I’ll try writing something sensible during the weekend. I love the wolf – it’s exactly what I dreamt of and it hasn’t changed. Please give me couple more days
  • Clive: OK. Well bear in mind that however you think you’d like it, I’ll be re-drawing and if need be recreating the wolf for you. (I need to render it on paper to get in the shadings and detail for the tattooist.) I’d be interested in seeing any photos that explain what you have in mind. This is after all a ‘bespoke’ tattoo, and can be exactly created and fitted to your wishes. (and your body) Take your time. No rush. I just wanted to reassure myself that you were ‘on the case’. (-;
  • Misz: I’ve been carrying the wolves in my head for the past few days. I think I want two animals. May I?
    I want a wolf and a bear on my shoulders (there’s a picture of a guy with swallows tattooed on his shouders attached so you know where exactly).

  • I’d like them both to be inscribed in a 2-3″ big circle (not exactly a circle but a roundish shape so they both correspond somehow).
    A) the bear could be a sleeping bear but I’m not sure if the sleeping bear wouldn’t just appear as a furry ball – what d’u think?
    B) the wolf – the wolves you sent me are superb – the sitting one has the right shape…

  • …and the cuddly one has a perfect face expression – I love the way he presses his head against Hervé –

  • I’d like to keep that – as if the wolf was trying to comfort or simply just drag you to the woods to have some fun. I’d like to keep the colours- all shades of blue.

I began making a drawing of a wolf to sit on Misz’ right shoulder, using the crouching, ‘tail up’ position of the maquette image I’d e-mailed him that he’d indicated he’d liked, though I changed the position of tail to run down the front of his arm.

He wrote back to me. Misio Nuna and Fisia are his dogs:

  • Misz: I’ve spent hours thinking of the tattoo today.
    The shape you drew is perfect for perfect shoulders. Mine are human :—) and I know that the wolf is walking in a sneaky manner, but for a second I saw Misio Nunu or Fisia!

  • Misz: I’d like the animals to be inscribed in a circle (the outer outline) as much as possible so I thought of round shapes of the wolf and the bear – maybe a sleeping wolf and a mischievous fat bear. Your wolf with huge paws is perfect – he could serve as my bear (just cut the legs short. :—)


Misz has given me a big headache here, to create the likenesses of two mammalian species that must be contained within roundels. With no irregular outlines to emphasise their differences, e.g. the long, brush tail of the wolf against the stubby tail of a bear, they could end up looking like two balls of fur. Perhaps he will allow some latitude with the shapes, or I may be able to create negative shapes within the roundels that help better ‘form’ the animals. Misz has sent a reference of his dogs curled up asleep. To me they just look like a pair of charred kidneys

Time to wedge my thinking cap securely down and to start being creative. This is clearly my challenge of the weekend. I’m off to research medieval misericords, which often contained animals within roundels. Perhaps there will be some solutions or inspirations there.


This morning’s update from Misz:

  • Misz: Important message:
    Only the main shape has to be round
    there might be bits sticking out – like tails or other parts!
    Off to the workshop – there’s a headless bear waiting for me there
    Good Saturday C
  • Clive: Oh, good. That will help. Excellent. I better understand now. Thank you my little furry friend. (-;

15 thoughts on “Skin/Skóra: Miszek and his beasts

  1. Pingback: Skin/Skóra: making a maquette for Misz | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. Hello Clive,

    I was just looking at these fantastic Haitian images yesterday and I read your post today. Many larger Haitian metalworks are round because of the predefined bottoms of the oil drums from which these are derived. However, the circular form and allover ornamentation reminds me of both your sense of design and the graphic impact of body art. They embody a sense of completeness and wholeness that is innately satisfying.

    • Sean, how beautiful. I hadn’t known about this genre of work, but now I shall explore. I am reminded by them of the roundels, misericords and corbels of the middle ages. Thank you for pointing me in such a rewarding direction.

  3. Loving this process Clive. I have no doubt you will work out a way to define the circular animals without too much difficulty, even though I agree the photo of the two dogs does indeed look like a pair of charred kidneys! 🙂 I am glad that Miszek pointed out a reservation about the posture of the dog with tail raised, as I was thinking along similar lines… except that I was put in mind of the bum-drag of a dog with worms. (It’s the vet’s daughter in me. Sorry. Ha ha!) It’s all looking very exciting. I’ll follow with great interest. I also found something you might like on the weekend, which I’ll scan and email to you.

    • Judy, your e-mails came through, and they were delicious! Thank you.

      Yes, I took the points about the wolf’s posture. Funnily enough, in paintings I get away with that kind of intentional strangeness, but you and Misz are right about the inappropriateness of the posture for a tattoo design. Decontextualised from my usual wolf work in the Hervé series, this one did look as though he was suffering an attack of worms/needing a desperate evacuation. Much obliged for the warning! (Tee hee)

  4. Clive, your interaction with Miszek about his tattoos – and the element of comfort and protection he describes that he wants from his beasts – makes me think of Phillip Pullman’s “Dæmons”. These are described as “the external physical manifestation of a person’s ‘inner-self’ that takes the form of an animal”. Max Belkin, Ph.D, writes of tattoos: “Their colors, shapes, and symbols pulsate with memories, meanings, and emotions”. Having trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I am already intrigued by the many interesting psychological aspects of Skin/Skóra, as well as the artistic ones. I eagerly await your next post.

    • I’m a big fan of Pullman and his notion of Daemons, which resonated deeply with me. Not really surprising that he hit the spot for the man whose regular themes include Saint Hervé and his Wolf, Saint Kevin and his Blackbird and the prophet Elijah and his Raven.

      And how am I not going to love any man who writes so movingly of a ‘gay’ angel!

      Glad to know that you’re liking what you’re seeing.

  5. Wonderful! I think the challenge for this is perhaps going to be in the tones, with such a circular tattoo?
    Looking at misericords is a great idea, the circular ones remind of the carvings in Lacock Abbey;

    They’re sort of forced wonderfully in to circles. The photos on the internet aren’t so great, but they really are fascinating.

  6. Great idea to cut out images and stick them onto the skin , it could really show how the design is working with the shape of the body, I’ll try that myself! Good to see that Misz has chosen a wolf, your wolves are so full of character Clive they look perfect for adapting to a tattoo – can’t wait to see what you make of a bear! That sketch you made of the wolf on the shoulder is beautiful – what a great project 🙂

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