Skin/Skóra: making a maquette for Misz

I already have a wolf maquette to help me create one of Misz Ajdacki’s tattoos for Skin/Skóra…

… but decided that I’d need a bear maquette too, to aid me with the design that will mirror the wolf on the opposite shoulder.


Not quite finished yet, but here it is in process. The white paper shapes are the patterns I’ve devised, and the blue ones are the finished pieces worked in pencil. The maquette is held together with many sliding attachments on the reverse, to give me lots of flexibility with regard to positions it can be moved into. There is a profile head as well as a full-face.

Once the maquette has been completed, then I will begin exploring poses for it prior to making sketches to present to Misz.

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. (-;


There are currently eight collaborators committed to this project. Each collaborator will work closely with me, and each has chosen a tattoo theme. I will endeavour to make designs based on these themes to everyone’s satisfaction. Once the tattoos have been inked, the last stage of the project before the exhibition, will be for me to create a series of portraits of the participants, each displaying the bespoke tattoo that was the result of the collaboration. This post marks the start of a process that will show all aspects of the work, from start to finish. I will be announcing the participating gallery in the next few months, together with the date of the exhibition. The idea of the exhibition came about during conversations I had with Maciek Siudut from Poland, who asked me to design a tattoo for him. Three of the seven contributors are from Poland, and four from the UK. Hence the title: Skin/Skóra.

Maciek Siudut

Mateusz Tyburski

Bran Dearling

Nicky Arscott

Misz Ajdacki

Rosie Bowery

Phil Cooper


Nick Yarr

My friend Mathias van Soest in the Netherlands, a frequent visitor and commentator at the Artlog, has left a question in the comment box of this post that I think I would do well  to answer here, where everyone is sure to see it. Mathias has asked what I am quite sure many will be thinking.

Mathias: It sounds like a very nice idea, Clive, but could you explain why you need so many people for this project? What are they all doing? What are their contributions? Maybe there are specific problems when you design a tattoo? Anyway, good luck.

Clive: At the end of the project there will be an exhibition. For that I will need to have works on the walls, and in this case those works will be the seven designs, the seven portraits of the tattooed contributors, and the support material of preparatory drawings and collages. There will also be, of course, the photographs of the tattooing processes. This is what Maciek, Mateusz, Bran, Nicky, Misz, Rosie and Phil have agreed to contribute. They tell me about their lives and the ideas they have for their tattoos. One to one with me over a period of weeks, and maybe even months, each man and woman contributes an account of what he/she wants me to represent in the images that will be inked onto the skin, and the reasons for them. Their stories are complex, and the meanings underlying the designs intensely felt. The process of listening to them is moving and revelatory, and of course, intimate. The artworks are really just the physical evidence of the journeys we will all be taking together. I have never worked in this way before, and the people who are helping me have never done anything like this before. There have been lots of conversations. I had to be sure that all concerned were entering the project in the right spirit, and that the processes were fully understood and engaged with by them. The participants understand that intimate though those processes may be, everything will be seen and experienced by those who watch us online, and later, in the exhibition itself. It was not a project for everyone, but these brave seven are the ones who have elected to come on the journey. It’s their histories, their passions and their expressions of themselves that will be at the heart of this. They will tell the stories in their own words. I’m the listener and facilitator who will help them to realise their images into a reality.

There is a Pinterest board that will be the easy-access image archive for the Skin/Skóra project as it unfolds. Find it HERE.