We recently had the pleasure of talking to Chris Jones about his love of Star Wars and his tattoos of characters from the beloved film franchise. Have a look at some of the interesting things this licensed Lucasfilm artist had to say about this intriguing intersection between body art and pop culture.
If you’re a Star Wars nut and a tattoo enthusiast, get ready to have your Death Star blown, because here’s a bunch of portraits by Chris Jones. He’s produced countless pieces inspired by the films, starting (just like A New Hope) a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Well, actually it was only in Wales, but you get the idea.
“I think the first Star Wars tattoo I did was a Rebel Alliance symbol, and I remember being so happy that someone was getting a Star Wars tattoo,” Jones says. “It was the first chance I got to properly nerd out for an hour with a fellow fan.” Since creating this nerdy little piece of body art, he has produced countless portraits of figures from the movies, even the less celebrated ones, and some of his tattoos are of obscure characters, such as Admiral Ackbar, Bib Fortuna, and beyond.
Jones’ experience as a hardcore Star Wars fan and a long-time tattooer gives him remarkable insight into how the rise of these geeky tattoos occurred. “I never got the chance to inject my love of pop culture into my work in the early days because it just wasn’t the kind of thing that people got done,” he says. “However, as comics and movies became more mainstream, just as tattooing did, everything fell into place, and now it’s like 90% of what I do. People are definitely a lot braver with their choices, and there are some real hardcore fans out there.”
Like all of the memorabilia and continuations of the series out there, the sheer amount of Star Wars tattoos that Jones had produced is mind-blowing. He’s even illustrated Jyn Erso on a client already, which is remarkable since Rogue One is yet to have been released, but that’s just the tip of the asteroid. “I’ve done some really obscure characters, like the whole Cantina,” he says. “It’s got the band, the bartender, and a ton of the aliens. I’ve also done a large piece with all the bounty hunters, even Dengar.”
He’s even done a portrait of Matt, the radar technician, from SNL’s Kylo Ren skit, which is a pretty deep, lightsaber-style cut, indeed. “I seem to remember seeing a ton of Kylo Ren tattoos pre - Force Awakens,” he says. “So, I’m not surprised at all [that] I had done a Force Awakens half-sleeve way before the movie came out. All I can say is thank god for HD trailers and social media.”
Jones remembers when the Star Wars tattoo community first started to officially take shape. “It grew out of tattooing at the Star Wars Celebration shows with the Ink Fusion guys — days of nothing but Star Wars,” he says. “It started off that we had to pay Lucasfilm 12% tax on any Star Wars tattoos we did at the show, but I think we gave them a bit of a run-a-round, so they made us start paying $200 up front for a license instead.” He and many of the other tattooists who do events like these say that they are some of the best in the galaxy to attend. “There’s only a handful of us that get to work the show each year, and it really is the highlight of each year for me,” Jones explains. “Also, it is a cool thing to be able to put on your business cards.”
Though he only has a few, including a large Imperial insignia around his ear, Jones says he wants to expand his own Star Wars tattoo collection. “I also have the Empire cog on the palm of my hand, a small rebel symbol on my neck, and a large emperor piece on my shin as well,” he says. “When I was younger, I was more about coverage and quantity than quality, so I am undergoing a lot of laser work at the moment to make room for a ‘Story of Vader’ sleeve.” Ever since he was a young Padawan, Jones has had a special spot in his dark heart for Lord Vader. “If I had the powers of a Jedi, I’d totally turn to the Dark Side,” he says. “They seem to have way more fun.”
Just like most other Star Wars super fans, Jones is extremely excited about the release of Rogue One and any other installments that the future holds. “It’s amazing. It’s going to fill a gap and tell a story that everyone has wanted to know for decades,” he says. “How did Princess Leia get those pesky Death Star plans? I can’t wait for the rest, too: the stand alone Han Solo movie, and hopefully Obi Wan and Boba Fett films.”
The fact that Rogue One will fill in this part of the overall narrative, however, is not what he is most excited about. “VADER, Vader is going to be in, it and I’m gonna wet my pants,” he says. “It’s also cool that it features another strong female lead. Plus, she’s a Brit.”
When it comes to tattoos and Star Wars, it’s difficult for Jones to say what he likes better. “They both go hand in hand for me, I watch movies while I’m working, whether it be tattooing or preparing a design, and I can totally lose myself in a movie the same as I can in a tattoo,” he says. “I’d have to go with tattoos though. Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment when you have created something that makes someone else happy.”
If you want to see more of Jones portraits of virtually every figure from Star Wars thus far, hit up his Instagram. He tattoos at Physical Graffiti in Cardiff, UK.