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Siberian Ice Maiden Tattoo

Siberian Ice Maiden Tattoo

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Siberian Ice Maiden Tattoo

Developing a design

Keeping in theme with my recent painting work, I tackled the Siberian Ice maiden tattoo. My interest in ancient man usually skews paleolithic, but this woman’s tattoos are amoung the best preserved examples of an animalistic imagery language. Buried in permafrost, her head and neck suffered some damage, but her body was well preserved. She had had her organs and soft tissues removed before burial, and had been stuffed with herbs and grasses to aid in the embalming process. She was part of the Pazyryk tribe that lived in the Altai mountains, they were a nomadic people and even had a group of elite women warriors. Though this woman, known as the Ukok princess, was most likely a revered holy person or story teller. Most women in her tribe were buried with other people, so archeoligist surmise that her being alone is symbolic of her being celibate in life. She was buried with rare and valuable objects such as chinese silk, and 6 fully bridled horses. After scanning the body with Mris and xrays, scientists have discovered she died of advanced breast cancer around the age of 25. It is widely reported that in 2010 a swizz taxadermist Marcel Nyffenegger reconstructed the Ice Maiden’s face, but it turns out he actually reconstructed a teenaged female warrior buried nearby. Regardless, It’s a really interesting process, using 3D printed skull bones. Mr. Nyffenegger says it’s about 75% accurate, having had to reconstruct her nasal bones and make a few educated guesses regarding tendon and muscle placement. (I’d love to do this with Anne Boleyn since theres no known depiction of her that is 100% confirmed to be her. Plus, her head’s already separated from her body, so that’s convientent.) Check here to see Marcel Nyffenegger’s work: http://www.praeparator.ch/150_d_rekonstruktionen.htm

While both her arms, and parts of her hands and fingers were tattooed I focused on the one depicted on her left sholder. Accoording the archeolgists working on this site, the most common place to start tattooing in this culture was the left shoulder, so its reasonable to assume this was her first tattoo. It depicts a deer with some say a griffins beak, some say it has a leaf in its mouth. The head branches out in an arching formation of horns and curved antlers, the back legs are turned up in what is known as a distress pose. What’s neat, and also completely frusterating about this time period is there is no 100% right answer. Personally I think they choose these animal icons as to imbibe themselves with the power and attributes of these animals. The deer symbol was one these people used frequently throughout their culture, so it was important to them whatever the truth behind the image maybe.

Before I even get to my linoblock, I spend some time working through my design on paper. Here’s four different sketches I did, tweaking scale and linework in each. Good planning is important in so many aspects of life, it’s just as necessary here.

Before I even get to my linoblock, I spend some time working through my design on paper. Here’s four different sketches I did, tweaking scale and linework in each. Good planning is important in so many aspects of life, it’s just as necessary here.

For this design, I ended up spreading it over two blocks, which is not ideal, nor something I usually do since precision really counts here. I had a 9in x 6in block, and I drew the design on there prolly 4 times. For a design thats so simple, getting the line arch perfect took some tuning. So once I got a nice fluid drawing of the body and I realized I’d have to skimp on the horns to make it fit. Expansion it is! I had a 4 in x 6 in block, so I lined it up with the top and finished up the horns. I used a large thick book to keep the blocks in place while i drew it out. The trickiest part is getting the blocks to perfectly match.

For this design, I ended up spreading it over two blocks, which is not ideal, nor something I usually do since precision really counts here. I had a 9in x 6in block, and I drew the design on there prolly 4 times. For a design thats so simple, getting the line arch perfect took some tuning. So once I got a nice fluid drawing of the body and I realized I’d have to skimp on the horns to make it fit. Expansion it is! I had a 4 in x 6 in block, so I lined it up with the top and finished up the horns. I used a large thick book to keep the blocks in place while i drew it out. The trickiest part is getting the blocks to perfectly match.

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Finished Block! I went up with the horn design, instead of more to left. My initial thought was to have it be closer to the original tattoo, and have it be more of a complete circle. Ultimately I liked the implication of the circle better, and also thought I could more easily incorporate other blocks I have into the design. For example I could do a set of fern prints in the negative space to have a woodland feel, then switch it out for florals and have a spring vibe.

Finished Block! I went up with the horn design, instead of more to left. My initial thought was to have it be closer to the original tattoo, and have it be more of a complete circle. Ultimately I liked the implication of the circle better, and also thought I could more easily incorporate other blocks I have into the design. For example I could do a set of fern prints in the negative space to have a woodland feel, then switch it out for florals and have a spring vibe.

Symbols vs. Signs: Puritan Burial Icons and Art

Symbols vs. Signs: Puritan Burial Icons and Art

Lino Block Printing on Fabric

Lino Block Printing on Fabric