ChopTalk Magazine April 2010
Atlanta Braves Turner Field
Bodies of Art
By Patty Rasmussen
It was early last season, and pitcher Peter Moylan was doing what he always does during batting practice-- standing in the outfield shagging fly balls. Little did he realize that the wiry, heavily tattooed fan yelling at him was actually a world-famous tattoo artist that desperately wanted to give his arms a makeover! Not a pitching makeover, mind you, but rather just the appearance of Moylan’s arms.
Brandon Bond, the owner of All or Nothing Tattoo and Arts Studio, located in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, is also a die-hard Braves fan and season ticket holder. He was in the outfield bleachers when his professional eye caught sight of Moylan’s famous “sleeves,” tattoos that run the length of the arm from shoulder to wrist.
“They were bad,” said Bond, “And by bad, I mean awful. I yelled to him, ‘Dude, I can fix those for you!’”
Moylan looked back at the ‘heckler,’ and tossed a baseball which Bond promptly gave to a kid nearby. Eventually, the two men began talking to each other and by the following day, a promotion package from All or Nothing Tattoo was sitting in Moylan’s locker in the Braves clubhouse.
Since that meeting, Bond has tattooed not just Moylan but has also enhanced and added significant ink to Kris Medlen, Jordan Schafer, and Martin Prado. In less than a year, Bond’s reputation has spread like wildfire through major league clubhouses. “I’m tattooing guys from 13 different teams,” he said. “The ironic thing is that my wife and I bought the season tickets so I could get away from work, but it’s turned out to bring me even more work!”
Bond’s not complaining. A twenty year veteran of the business, he loves tattooing and enjoys the creative freedom players give him whether it’s enhancing a tattoo or adding new elements.
Certainly, tattoos aren’t for everyone, either because of religious or cultural prohibition or personal taste. Relief pitcher Takashi Saito said that in Japan many health clubs, saunas, and spas ban customers who have tattoos because of its association with the Japanese mafia. Nevertheless, in the U.S. and many other parts of the world, tattooing is perceived as a means of expression and has become more prevalent and mainstream in the past ten to twenty years.
“I think a lot of people started noticing tattoos on musical artists or athletes, so it was out there,” said Bond. “Also the quality of the art has gotten much, much better.”
In the Braves clubhouse alone, easily half the players have tattoos. Some are elaborate, such as Eric Hinske’s full back tattoo with half-sleeves and chest pieces done in the Japanese Yakuza style. Chipper Jones sported a Taurus astrological symbol on his left bicep for the past ten years, and added a right bicep tattoo this past off season featuring a deer head silhouette and the word “Hood,” his wife Sharon’s nickname.
New lefty relief pitcher Mike Dunn has a tattoo of a cross and baseball on his upper back between his shoulder blades. Married players have been known to wear ‘ring’ tattoos on their ring finger since they generally remove their wedding rings when they play.
But the tattoos created by Bond are in a different league altogether. A trained artist, Bond’s work could easily adorn a wall, either as a mural or on a canvas, but tattooing is the medium that captured his talent and for that, Moylan is grateful.
“I am quite tatted,” said Moylan.
In addition to his “sleeves,” Moylan also has the Southern Cross constellation, part of the Australian flag, tattooed on his upper back.
“My first tattoo was an eight-ball on my upper left bicep, pretty silly, I know,” he said.
From there Moylan added large swaths of dark ‘tribal’ designs, which covered the eight-ball, and his daughter’s names, Montana and Matisse, up the inside portion of his forearms.
“Tattooing is addictive,” he said. “You rarely see a guy with just one tattoo.”
Moylan’s early tattoos were impressive to the uninitiated, but Bond saw them as a non-cohesive mess.
“He basically had two full sleeves of patchy tattoos done by a bunch of different artists,” said Bond.
Moylan went to see him in July 2009 during the All Star break for his left arm ‘touch up.’ He wouldn’t have his pitching arm tattooed during the season. With little ‘blank space’ to work with, Bond set about creating a theme that tied the artwork together, adding new elements, like flowers and shading. He also added color and sharpened up edges of existing tattoos. One of the larger and most beautiful new features is a colorful fleur-de-lis on the underside of Moylan’s left bicep.
“Pete’s girlfriend Mandy is from New Orleans so that’s a nice tribute to her,” said Bond.
Moylan had three re-do session, each lasting between 10 to13 hours.
“While you’re there you think, I’ll never do this again,” laughed Moylan. “But once you’re healed up you’re already thinking about what you’re going to do next.”
For that sort of time commitment, Bond makes sure his makes sure his celebrity clients are well taken care of in his beautifully appointed personal studio at All or Nothing Tattoo. The studio has a private entrance and looks more like a living room than what comes to mind when you hear the words “tattoo studio.” It features warm colored walls and soothing recessed lighting, a wet bar, comfortable sofas, and several flat screen televisions.
When Medlen made his first pilgrimage to All or Nothing during last year’s All Star break, he whiled away the hours in the tattoo chair watching an entire season of the Sopranos on DVD.
Medlen arms were significantly tatted, “half sleeves,” from shoulder to elbow, when he visited Bond’s studio.
“I got my first tattoo in the off-season in 2008,” he said. “I was living in Newport Beach, California, and my roommate was going to get a tattoo. I’m a go with the flow kind of guy so I got one too.”
Medlen’s tattoo was a koi, a Japanese carp, and a traditional and popular tattoo. Koi generally symbolize courage and overcoming challenges to attain your goals, but symbolism wasn’t behind Medlen’s thinking.
“Koi are super trendy so I guess that means my tats are too,” he said. “But I did it for the artwork.”
His original tattoos, which were just the outline, or ‘black work’, of the koi, took about six hours a piece and were, in his words, “nothing special.”
When Medlen heard about Bond he decided to have him add color and other flourishes to take his existing tattoos to the next level.
“It took three sessions to get it finished,” recalled Medlen. “A fourteen hour session during the All Star Break, a twelve hour session at the end of the season and six hours just a few days before camp.”
Medlen is pleased with the finished product, the formerly non-descript black ink tattoo now looks like a true Japanese-inspired tat featuring a colorful koi swimming in blue waves with coral colored leaves.
Schafer currently sports half-sleeves reflecting an Italian Renaissance influence, but that’s not how his tattoos started. Schafer came to Bond with two quotations tattooed on his left shoulder and bicep. One, which a friend sent him during the lowest point of his life: his 2008 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s performance enhancing drug policy, reads, “Our scars become the marks that push us to greatness.”
The other quotation attributed to a number of sources from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Confucius to Vince Lombardi reads, “Our greatest glory is not in rising but in the rising after the fall.”
There were other unimpressive elements to his tattoo, stars and banners, but with Schafer’s arm, Bond had a little more room to express his artisanship.
“Jordan came in with more blank space than the other guys,” said Bond. “That gave me a lot of room for creativity.”
Bond keeps hundreds of files with thousands of images on his laptop computer. He looked through these while formulating a plan for Schafer’s left shoulder, eventually taking his inspiration from Michelangelo’s famous ‘Pieta’ sculpture and a portion of the fresco from the Sistine Chapel called, ‘The Creation of Man.’
Schafer didn’t want color, he wanted all the work to be black ink, which gives the piece a distinctly ‘old world’ feel.
The finished piece is stunning. It features delicate swirling clouds and two angels, male and female reaching out their arms to each other, the serene face of the Madonna on the underside of the bicep, scrollwork with aged and curling edges surround the quotes, and stars framed in angel’s wings appear to point heavenward. The attention to detail is breathtaking. Shading gives the work movement and dimension and it’s easy to imagine the same piece laid out flat on a canvas hanging in a gallery.
Schafer was so pleased with his left arm that he had the right one done with many of the same motifs along with a Bible verse, Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work out for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose,” two spikes forming a cross and the quotation, “Hard work demands respect.”
Schafer estimated the total time tattooing was between 30 and 40 hours, all performed in increments, of course.
By contrast, Bond’s tattoo on Prado, also done during last year’s All Star break, was a walk in the park.
“It was the smallest tattoo I’ve done in probably six years,” said Bond.
Prado got a black ink Florentine-style cross, probably 7 to 8 inches in length tattooed on his left bicep. In the center of the cross is a star with a script “M,” in honor of his two grandfathers, Martin and Manuel, for whom he’s named. The cross looks as though it has wings, and there are rays of light over the top point.
Prado was concerned about his ability to swing a bat after he got the tattoo but was reassured that his arm would heal up just fine, and in fact, he never missed a beat after getting it.
After care for a tattoo varies according to the artist but Bond recommends his clients keep the tattoo out of the sunlight, wrapped in plastic wrap for several hours, then clean it several times a day with mild soap and warm water, and finally lightly apply a special ointment called H2Ocean. The ointment is used until the tattoo begins to peel, like sunburn.
Moylan made a promise to Bond last year as he was having his tattoos enhanced. “He wanted to know when I was going to give him some blank skin to work on,”said Moylan. “He gets to have my back, but he’ll have to work in the Southern Cross.”
And Moylan is giving Bond absolute artistic control over the art.
“I have complete trust in him,” said Moylan. “I’ve seen what he’s done and it’s fantastic. I know he’s going to come up with something amazing.”
Priority one for Bond, though, is finishing up Moylan’s right arm which can’t be done until the end of the season.
“Which will hopefully be after October,” said Bond, the true Braves fan. “I’ve already begin plotting what I want to do and whenever the season ends, we’ve booked four days in a row. We’ll tattoo non-stop before he leaves for Australia.”