October, 2012, Issue #125 
Artist Profile: PAT FISH


In 1984 I decided I wanted to learn how to tattoo. I was casting about for a new occupation, in which I could do art full time, and it just seemed like a great way to make a living. I asked Cliff Raven to do my first tattoo; I liked the process, and him, very much, so I asked him to teach me, and he readily assented. I had a university art degree and drawing ability, so he focused on training me in the craft techniques of the medium and the moral responsibilities inherent in making indelible changes to someone's appearance 

At the same time I had hired a private eye to locate my genetic family; as an adopted child, I was searching for my heritage. I found out that I am Scottish - a member of Clan Campbell, descended from the ancient Pictish people known for being heavily tattooed. This seemed like a sign that I was supposed to celebrate becoming an ethnic person, and I decided to focus my tattoo career on Celtic and Pictish art. 

I opened my first Tattoo Santa Barbara studio in a bad end of town across from a sleazy bar, the only location I could find willing to rent to me. Years later I moved to State Street at Hwy 1, and after 18 years there I have recently moved to 2007 State, by the corner of Mission, on the edge of the beautiful downtown district. Santa Barbara is a lovely tourist destination, which sweetens the deal for my clients, who tend now to come from out of the area and can bring significant others knowing there will be plenty for them to enjoy on a visit. 

I am delighted that I chose to specialize in one specific area of tattooing; the Celtic knotworks of the illuminated manuscripts and the carvings on Pictish stones continue to fascinate me as much as they did when I was a child. On many trips to the British Isles and Ireland I happily do high cross and grave rubbings, photograph megalithic tombs, and visit museums - all creating an archive of material I can draw on for inspiration when consulting with my clients. 

In recent years I have been especially challenged to do Celtic tattoos that wrap whole body parts. The effect is of permanent body armor, so it particularly appeals to modern warriors, including military and police personnel. Starting with a piece of traditional knotwork, my employee, Colin Fraser, and I carefully measure the client and then morph the design into a wrapping pattern to fit a leg or an arm. Colin's computer graphic skills bend and adjust the pattern to a close custom fit, then I adjust it on the client to fit perfectly, and then I make it permanent. It is difficult to do, but the results are impressive. 

This kind of tattooing is quite unique, and I am honored that my clientele seek me out and travel long distances for it. For those who cannot travel, I sell my patterns online at www.luckyfishart.com, Every one of them is shown in the online store with a photo of the finished tattoo, and the immediately downloadable file includes both line art and shaded/colored examples to help a local tattoo artist make their own customizations.