In the Cordillera Mountains in the Philippines, there are people called the Igorot, certain tribes of which traditionally wear tattoos all over their body. The art of this style of tattoo is dying; a woman called Whang Od, who lives in the tiny mountain village of Buscalan, is the last surviving fully-trained tattoo artist.
I learned a lot making this piece. I'm not quite where I really want to be with my art right now (to totally mangle a quote from Frank Herbert, the only true art of mankind is the art of discontent*), so I was happy to go back to something that required a lot of patience and craft. It was a slow start, and I made quite a few mistakes at first, but I got into 'the zone' after that.
One thing I did learn is that if you make a line with a Faber-Castell coloured brush pen and then immediately go over it with a Derwent Inktense watercolour pencil, you get a pretty amazing blending effect with a lot of richness and depth. But those pens dry really quickly, so you have to work fast and at the same time be patient: lay down a few lines, blend in, lay down a few lines, blend in.
I did the tattoos the same way I imagined them being done in real life: I rendered the bare skin first, then drew the tattoos in thickly with the coloured pencil, then went over it with the ink pen to make it solid and permanent.
The story came last. I got most of the information (as well as the photo reference) from travel blogs: here, and here, and here.
*the original quote goes like this (minus narration and contextual speech tics):
'Mankind has only one science.' 'And what is that?' 'The science of discontent.'