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Kristina Morgan is a longtime friend of CBR’s, and when CBR INK began to take shape earlier this year she was one of the first people we wanted to talk to. That’s because, for the last year and counting, Kristina has been working on a massive tattoo featuring characters from “The Simpsons.” To find out about her masterpiece, CBR Ink reached out to her for a discussion about the tapestry, its special meaning, and her views on tattoos in general. Please note, the photos are slightly NSFW.
CBR INK: Having seen a photo of the “Simpsons” tapestry on your back, I have to say it’s quite impressive. Where did the idea for this image come from, and why the Simpsons?
Kristina Morgan: My “Simpsons” piece is a tribute to my brother, who died in 1997 when he was 19. He was a big Simpsons fan, and we used to quote “The Simpsons” to each other all the time. For years, “Simpsons” quotes were always popping into my head. His favorite character was Lisa, and mine is Maggie. I wanted the pets in the piece because my brother and I are both animal people.
The scene was designed by my tattoo artist, Graham Chaffee at Purple Panther Tattoo. He modelled it on a Balthus painting. He thought of it when I said I wanted Lisa to be covering her eyes, as it is a sign of death. I also told him I eventually wanted to be tattooed all over, and he suggested putting Snoball and Santa’s Little Helper on my butt because it was more room and if we stopped at my waist I’d have to come up with a butt tattoo which would break up the flow. Graham is very good at putting together dramatic scenes rather than just sticking individual tattoos whereever they fit, which is a very valuable quality in a tattoo artist. The artist part is important.
How long have you been working on this, and how many steps are there between now and its completion?
We started in July of last year. He did all the outlining, then the shading, and we’ve recently had two sessions of color. A week ago we colored Lisa’s dress red, and yesterday we did the curtain and Lisa’s shoes red. Next week we’ll color Maggie’s clothes blue. We talked about making the border, a ribbon around the whole piece with my brother’s name and birth and death dates, and a poem called “Speaking of Loss” by Lucille Clifton, a gold color so it doesn’t get lost in the background. The rest of the piece will stay black and grey. So I have one or two sessions left. We work for 3-4 hours at a time, and we’ve done 7 sessions. For a piece like this, when we were doing the outlining we spent a lot of time up front placing the stencils on my back to make sure the placement was right. Since my back is curvier than a flat piece of paper, he had to make sure it didn’t look distorted on my back and worked with my body.
Was there any concern on your part that Graham would not be able to match the look and feel of “The Simpsons?”
I was concerned about finding a tattoo artist who could do characters from “The Simpsons” and capture the right look, but still add his own artistic flare. My arm tattoos were all done in Seattle (Owen Connell, Parlor F, is my Seattle tattoo artist.) When I moved to L.A., finding a new tattoo artist that I trusted and had an artistic style I liked was a little daunting. Graham is very talented as an artist and has the skills a tattoo artist needs, i.e. working on someone’s body rather than a flat surface. I was really happy when Graham’s initial drawings for the piece had perfect representations of the “Simpsons” characters. He does a lot of research online. The next piece he’s doing for me is of an Egyptian Goddess, Seshat, and he did a bunch of research on jewelry, clothes, hair, make-up, etc. that would be appropriate for Ancient Egypt. I was impressed.
What are your other tattoos? Any connection to the “Simpsons” piece?
Their are two tattoos on my back that I got in Seattle — a rat, which is my favorite animal, and a hedgehog, which is my brother’s favorite animal. My left arm is a sleeve of characters from “Alice in Wonderland” and my right arm is Ancient Egyptian images. I have a stalk of wheat on my chest which is a nod to where we grew up in Eastern Washington. I have a hockey girl on my left thigh. The back piece is very specifically for my brother, so it is special that way.
Lastly, what do tattoos mean to you, or more specifically, what do your tattoos mean to you?
Generally, I see my tattoos as taking who I am on the inside and putting it on the outside. I love that my tattoos are works of art that are incorporated into my body and I take them everywhere I go. I love that they are permanent, because most of life is not. I didn’t appreciate this when I was younger, but the tattoos I got in my teens and 20s keep me connected to who I was back then and where I came from. They give me a sense of consistency and physically concreteness to who I am. I am a committed and passionate person, and I think my tattoos express that.