The machine hums and whines as it draws blood; a rivulet trickling from the wicked grin of a smiling Jack o lantern. He presses until she winces. He pauses to wipe. She stretches, adjusts. “Do you need a break?” he asks. “No, please, I can’t wait to see it!” she gushes, closing her eyes to accept the temporary discomfort for a permanent change.
Tattoo artist Chris “Blick” Blickenderfer, owner of American Tattoo in Verona, Pennsylvania, helps fans of the season transform their bodies into art. Using skin as canvas, he projects visions onto bodies.
Halloween is a major theme for ink.
Tattoos featuring skulls are a staple in the industry, including vibrant Mexican-inspired designs reminiscent of Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. As a fan of H.R. Giger, Blick has incorporated bio-techno aspects into his designs as well as allowing earthly remains to peek through organics and other foliage.
Haunting scenes enacted across a back or along an arm, nods to favorite horror movies, and genre books get creative juices flowing. It is hard to get him to choose a favorite. “I’m very critical of my work,” Blick admits. “Some of my favorites include a quintessential Halloween scene, a portrait of Reagan from The Exorcist, and a flamboyant Headless Horseman.
Instead of remaining in the cemetery, the dearly departed have left visible fingerprints on their loved ones. Many customers use their bodies to convey loving remembrances of their departed, their ink memorializing transformed lives. From initials and names to miniature footprints and portraits, people carry their grief in this personal way.
According to Pew Research (March, 2014), 23% of Americans in all legal age groups sport ink. For some, it is an expression of self. For others, it sets apart their beliefs. And for others, it is a celebration of their favorite things, including the Halloween season.