Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
A Cultural Experience In Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa By: Mandy J Watson on 9 February 2012
Category: Culture > Features
Tags: #tattoos Comments View Comments


In this, the long-awaited second part of Rich Mulholland's tattoo experience, we visit tattoo artist Derek Baker's studio in Cape Town to watch the action and learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. Once again there's blood, colourful language, and art... which pretty much describes a day in the life of most South Africans....

Please note that some of the visuals towards the end of this collection may not be suitable for sensitive people.

Last year I ran into Rich Mulholland at the Southern Ink Xposure tattoo convention as he was about to sit down with tattoo artist Derek Baker from Metal Machine Tattoo & Body Piercing in Cape Town, South Africa, to have an elaborate tattoo done on his right arm. I documented the entire process, which became Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 1. (If you haven't read it yet, head on over there before continuing here with Part 2.)

Derek worked on the tattoo for four-and-a-half hours at the convention but then had to stop when the convention ended for the night. He had completed most of the work, bar an open space at the top - the design for which Rich was still contemplating so there was no rush to get the tattoo finished all at once.

Rich made an appointment to have the rest of the work done a few weeks later at Derek's studio, and I joined them to continue the documentation of the process. This time it only took about two hours: one for planning and preparation, and one for the actual tattoo work. During the course of the afternoon various people dropped by to say hello and have a look at how the work was progressing. (You'll see them pop up from time to time in the video, which is embedded at the end of the article.)

Planning And Preparation
Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Rich has had mockups of the design made, which he shows to Derek. They include the "74" symbol from a Hydro74 typographic logo. Derek sketches this on to Rich's arm in the open space of the unfinished tattoo to see exactly how it should fit and what it will look like. (The "74" typography is from a larger design that you can see at the end of this article.) Rich has chosen this design not just because it's by Hydro74 but also because the number 74 has special significance to him.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Derek works freehand (and quite quickly), just occasionally referencing the image on Rich's computer.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The final part of the tattoo comprises two parts - the "74" and a rising sun with bursting rays - that will be combined to form a new image. Derek works out the size and shape of the sun, based on some examples Rich has shown him, which is then printed as a transfer.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Derek cleans the "74" sketch off Rich's arm and then places the rising sun transfer in place. Everyone decides that the first attempt is a little too high, so he removes the transfer and places it slightly lower down.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The transfer is now in the right place, so Derek puts on gloves, in preparation for setting up his workstation, and re-sketches the "74" image on top of the rising sun, in preparation for starting the tattoo.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Derek finishes the "74" and fills in the sun rays, alternating between red and no colour.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Derek's finished sketch. One of the requirements, which you can hear Rich discussing in the video embedded at the end of the article, was for the "74" to be in three dimensions, rather than a flat design.

Setting Up The Workstation
Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Hygiene is very important. Derek prepares his table by cleaning it with a disinfectant spray and then placing a piece of clingfilm on top. Next he tapes down a piece of cloth, on top of which he will place his tools and the inks.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Next Derek threads the head of the tattoo machine through a piece of protective plastic, which will prevent ink or blood from potentially splashing onto it.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Derek threads the tattoo machine and its power cord through the plastic. Derek has continued to use this tattoo machine, the Cheyenne Hawk, since he first started experimenting with at the tattoo convention. He's found that it makes a huge difference to the work, and customers have agreed with Rich that it makes for a far more pleasant experience. The only drawback is that the tips, which are discarded after each session for hygiene reasons, are very expensive and this has increased Derek's daily operating costs considerably.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The table is prepared with all the tools Derek will need: pots to hold the ink, tips for the Cheyenne Hawk tattoo machine, and Vaseline. Derek has a system for his pots and he places them in specific configurations so that he will know, immediately, what colour, and what tint of the colour, is in each one, without having to think about it.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The inks are prepared. Although they all look the same the row of black inks actually comprises different dilutions in each pot, resulting in various shades of grey. On the right are two shades of bright red, plus a darker red and a white. Each pot is stuck to the cloth on the table with a little bit of Vaseline to ensure that they aren't accidentally knocked over or moved around as Derek works.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
These are just a few of the inks that Derek has in his collection. They have creative names such as "Persian Red", "Dragon Red", and "Rubber Doll".

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
All the inks have been sterilised by the manufacturer and have an expiry date on them, as well as a list of ingredients and lot and batch numbers.

On To The Tattoo
Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The tattooing begins. Having set up a sterilised workstation, Derek puts on new gloves and begins to work on the "74" of the design, using the Cheyenne Hawk to work the various tints of black ink into Rich's arm. He is working on top of the sketch that he made of the "74" and the rays that were applied via a transfer.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Derek finishes the "74" design. He has used a red pen to mark the background rays that will be tattooed red so that he doesn't make a mistake once he starts the work.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The tattooing in red begins.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Derek is now halfway through the work on the red rays. As he works he continuously wipes the area to remove excess ink, as well as blood as Rich's arm has begun to bleed around an area of black and red shading. Derek uses a deep red at the top of the rays, which is mixed with the black shading from the previous work on the design, and a bright red at the bottom of the rays to give a flaring effect.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The red areas have now all been filled in, so Derek switches to the white ink.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The white ink is used to add subtle highlights and depth to the design.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The design is almost finished - there is just a little bit more work to be done. If you look closely you can see the spots where the white ink has been added.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Derek finishes the design by adding more red ink to the background rays to enhance the flaring effect.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The tattoo is almost finished. The entire process, including sketching the design on Rich's arm, discussions about placement of the various components, and preparation and setup, has taken about two hours. The tattoo work has only taken about an hour, which is a relatively short amount of time - some projects can take six to eight hours to complete, and even bigger ones have to be split over a few weeks, or even months.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
The finished tattoo.

Rich Mulholland Gets A Tattoo: Part 2
Once the work is complete Derek seals Rich's arm with bandage tape to stop it from bleeding, give it time to heal, and prevent it from picking up an infection.

About The Design
Rich obtained special permission from Orlando, US, artist Hydro74 (Joshua M Smith) to use his artwork for the tattoo. (Don't, however, try this at home as Hydro74 doesn't do tattoo requests.) You can find out more about it in Part 1 of this article (be sure to watch Part 1's video as well, where Rich discusses his choice) and you can view much of Hydro74's work at his official web site here.

To fill in the open space that forms the back of the mask design Rich chose to use a typographical "74" that Hydro74 had incorporated into one of his other artwork, which you can find on on page 21 of the Hydro74 2010 Look Book:

Hydro74 2010 Look Book: Page 21 ]

The number 74 is of special significance to Rich, and it also forms part of the artist's handle, so it has a dual meaning. The rising sun and rays behind the "74" are a separate component that was put together from rough examples found on the Internet.

And Now, For The Second Part Of Our Feature Presentation...
(In Which Even More Information Is Imparted Through The Use Of Live-Action Amateur Cinematography)

YouTube link ]

(If you'd like a closer look at some of Wayne Morris' tattoos, there is a portrait of him here by Luke Daniel.)

Special thanks to Derek Baker for letting me sit in on two sessions and observe and record the entire tattooing process. His contact details are below in the "On The Internet" section if you are interested in engaging his services, have questions about tattooing, or wish to see some other examples of his work. His shop is in Cape Town but he regularly travels the international exhibition circuit so it's likely that he soon could be in a city near you. Thanks also to Rich Mulholland, who once again allowed me to stare at his arm for a few hours, as well as point multiple cameras at the action.

On The Internet
Derek Baker:
Official Site | Facebook
Metal Machine Tattoo & Body Piercing:
Official Site | Facebook

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