Exquisite Canvas

Three talented tattooers from East Side Ink use art to have a conversation without words

The surrealist artists of the early 20th century used to play a game called Exquisite Corpse, in which one artist would start on a drawing, often of a person, and then pass it off to another artist, who would add his or her own flair and then give it to another artist, and so on until the work was completed. To bring the concept to skin we invited three tattooers from New York City’s East Side Ink—Josh Lord, Jon Clue, and Lara Scotton—to fill a living canvas, model Elli Stefanidi. The tattooers did not consult one another about the artwork until they started adorning her, and they did not see the model until the day they showed up at the studio. The goal was to capture art and inspiration in its truest form.

For five hours, the three artists worked simultaneously, using Copic markers and paint (tattooing that many body parts simultaneously would be too much trauma for the human body). They started on different body parts but met in the middle, showing not only the cohesion in tattoo art but the versatility and talent that can be found in a tattoo shop the caliber of East Side Ink. Working separately but together, they transformed their pristine canvas (save for a small tattoo they had to cover up) into a gallery-quality piece. Throughout the process they talked little; the conversation was through the artwork. The only exception was when Clue explained that the Latin script he did on the model’s arm translated roughly to “Bring the noise. Up with chaos.” The finished product, shown here, is a dialogue of body art at its purest.

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