Watercolor tattooists who specialize in nerdy imagery are as rare as first edition Pokemon cards. One of these unicorns of the industry is Russell Van Schaick. Using a mixture of purposely sketchy linework and heavy color saturation, he reimagines figures from animated films, cartoons, and video games, ranging from Disney heroines like Snow White to Samus from Nintendo’s Metroid series. His tattoos in this dappled style capture the personalities of the characters on which they're based, making them dance, sing, and play across his clients’ skin.
As the owner of an extensive collection of dvds and other geeky memorabilia, Van Schaick is thoroughly versed in every piece of pop culture that Pixar, Dreamworks, and Disney have ever produced. He has a voracious appetite for the cartoons that captured his imagination as a kid, as well. “The classic ‘90s series are still in my regular rotation of shows that I binge on,” Van Schaick admits. “I just got done rewatching all four of the Angry Beavers seasons again.”
The countless hours that he’s invested in watching movies and playing video games have given Van Schaick an intimate understanding of how animation moves, and he’s channeled this kinetic aesthetic into his work. Using expressive lines that occasionally shoot off of his figures, he imbues them with a sense of movement, and the way that he makes color spill across their silhouettes gives them the appearance of the storyboards from which they originally sprung to life.
Van Schaick’s watercolor characters are a whimsical example of how style and subject can come together to make something as endearing as Stitch sculpting sandcastles by the sea. His work makes us wish every Don Bluth or Miyazaki flick could be recreated in watercolor. To see more of his body art, swing by his Instagram. He works at Hart and Huntington Tattoo Co. in Orlando, Florida. If you’d like to get on the long waiting list for one of his watercolor pieces, visit the shop’s website to set up an appointment.