Grown men, fighting over temporary tattoos.
That was the scene this Sunday morning, backstage at the production of The Final Solution at Singapore Expo Hall 8, an Easter production by City Harvest Church. The 16 cast members who played prisoners in the show were jostling for their spot of ink.
At the centre of the cloud of brawny chests and rippling arms was John Carlo Erise — just call him JC — an artist from Santa Rosa, Laguna in the Philippines. Working freehand, JC painted on realistic (though temporary) tattoos on the actors. It was quite a sight to watch life-like wolves, swords, roses and dragons magically come alive on the bodies of the cast with each fluid pen stroke coming from the artist’s hand.
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Trained in Fine Arts back in the Philippines, JC’s portfolio consists mostly of anime-style drawings, comic strips and illustrations. Although most of JC’s early artwork was centered on science fiction and fantasy themes, it covered an extremely broad range of subject matter, which saw him through his stints as game designer, poster artist and graphic designer.
So how did this artist become a tattooist? All he did was ask: “Can I help?” and he was quickly roped in to support the production’s makeup artist. A full-time freelance artist, JC (who doesn’t have any tattoos himself) revealed that working on the tattoos “without much training” had its advantages — he had no perceived limitations, and so his tattoos could be as outlandish and stunning as they eventually turned out to be. This very “no limits” mindset is what has sustained his interest in design these past five years.
Prior to his relocation to Singapore, JC was passionately involved in the Monstermash Playground Art Exhibition, which was held at the BlueWings Artspace in Quezon City in the Philippines. The exhibition, which went on between March and May last year, gave unprecedented exposure to JC’s artworks and even propelled him to prominence after he was featured on local television.
From a simple sketch to a finished tattoo within 15 minutes — JC’s gift swiftly yielded the darkly beautiful body art that the audience got to see. He even met some of the strange requests the cast members made. To turn the clean-cut actors into a realistic bunch of inmates, JC worked alongside the makeup artist for the show to create scars that complemented the tattoos. The actors had no problems getting into character.
It was JC’s uncontrived spontaneity that tossed him, temporarily, into the world of body art, bringing his talent and sense of aesthetic to an audience that might never have seen his work. If you like what you see, here’s more: JC’s online portfolio can be viewed at Deviant Art (www.mezaih.deviantart.com).