This gentleman walked into my shop and uttered the words that are music to a tattoo artists ears.
I had never before met this person and when he walked in last Thursday and began poking around my studio, I just assumed that he was simply browsing. Because of what he was wearing (a chefs coat) I couldn’t see any visible tattoos and figured that he didn’t have much work.
He looked at my books and asked me some questions about my availability as he had a small window of time to have anything done. As it turned out he was leaving in 5 days and of those five, he had one day to have anything done. He then told me that he had two full sleeves and the only open spaces left were his legs and back, the latter of which he was saving for a future piece. That was when I asked him what he wanted to get and he said those magic words, “Honestly, whatever you want to do is fine with me.”
Most people don’t know that these are the words that will often get you the best tattoo, since relinquishing control and letting the artist ‘do his/her thing’ ensures that the person doing the art will throw the best of their abilities into the piece. Of course you want to be sure that you trust the person and that you like his/her work.  I can count on one hand the amount of my regular clientele who walk in and give me such free reign, so it goes without saying that I was completely caught by surprise to hear a total stranger utter such things to me.
He told me that he wanted it to be sizable and that he wanted it to be ana’ole, those were his two criteria, the rest was up to me.
I started with the basics and asked him what brought him to Hawi in the first place. He replied that he was doing a short internship at The Bamboo restaurant, learning some of the culinary secrets from the largest and most popular eatery in town. He then told me how much he had fallen in love with the island and that he someday hoped he could move here (he is from Wisconsin). He told me that he loved going up to Mauna Kea and that his favorite beach was Waipio. He added that his favorite animals were the hammerhead shark and the octopus.
So with that information I came up with this piece which took 6.5 hours.
Beginning at the bottom I put the Waipio Valley. There are three waves breaking upon the beach signifying good fortune. Above that is a maka nui or all-seeing-eye, a symbol that steals ones enemies spirit in battle and is a warrior symbol. Above that is a paka with two tentacles (which belong to the octopus in the third paka above). A hammerhead shark sits above that paka. On its head are 8 hibiscus each representing a respective Hawaiian island. There are FS and waves on the sharks back as well. Above the shark is an octopus with one of its tentacles resting on the sharks head, a sign of affection, not of conflict, to convey the harmony between his two beloved sea creatures.
Moving upward above the octopus in the sun shining down on a snow covered Mauna Kea peak. A gust of wind blows in from the east, representing the trade winds and the fact that he keeps coming back to the Hawaii. All in all this piece was to express his love of the island that he hopes to one day make his home.

Peace!

equipment used: 5RL/9RL/15M

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