Living canvas

Jon McCann and Absolute Tattoo

“Aaron” poses with his angels and his demons.

“Aaron” poses with his angels and his demons.

Photo By David Robert

Absolute Tattoo is located at 620 Ryland St. For more information, call 324-2223, or visit

Absolute Tattoo is owned and operated by Jon McCann and is one of the dozens of places in the Biggest Little City with talented ink-slingers who can create and perfect virtually any design a person could possibly want to adorn their epidermis, limited only by their imagination.

A little off the beaten path, Absolute Tattoo is a clean and relaxed tattoo parlor, specializing in custom color work, as apposed to black and gray. They hold dear to a “no flash” policy, meaning they’re not just another trace-and-fill establishment. McCann says if you’re looking for a dolphin on your ass or some forked tribal nonsense on your sacrum, don’t bother. There are plenty of other places on the strip that specialize in tramp stamps.

“Aaron,” who didn’t want to be identified by name, has just finished getting a major chest piece and back mural, which has taken over a year to complete, some three to five hours per session and no less than 10 different sessions. Aaron’s first appointment was Dec. 5 of ‘06, and the work has just been finished.

The tattoo covers more than half of his torso, stretching from his left chest and abdomen, under the arm, around to the middle of his back. It depicts an angel impaling a demon, which represents, to him, an internal triumph of good over evil. The colors are clean and the image is elaborated by a cloudy mountain scene at night, with a full moon hanging in the backdrop.

The placement of the tattoo was very specific to Aaron, who didn’t want to show off the work. He could wear a regular T-shirt and nobody would know half of his body is inked-up.

“It’s personal,” he says. “I don’t need everyone to see my tattoos. I want to continue with school and eventually get a real job, so it was important that the work could be covered up. I don’t want my art to interfere with my life.”

Primarily Aaron says that he got the tattoo because he thought it was “artistic,” though the subject of his tattoo was also very important, “A tattoo is a way to deal with life for me, to survive pain and to be able to draw strength from the work.”

The idea for the work originated from a picture Aaron had liked. He approached McCann with the picture, which the artist used to create his own depiction of a Doomsday Battle.

McCann says he doesn’t like his work to be influenced too much because it will interfere with his artistic freedom, so he formulated the tattoo by studying different depictions of angels and demons until he found the images he liked. He forged a rough sketch that Aaron finally approved. Then, Jon had to get the measurement of the image to coincide with the scale and placement on Aaron’s body. Only then did they set to work on the actual tattoo.

“I always charge less for the beginning of a large work, though most shops charge more for it,” McCann said. “The outline is the hardest part, but once it’s complete on a person, they are as committed as they can be, so it is best to set the hook at the beginning.”

McCann explained that it is the healing process that makes any large tattoo take so long to finish, causing the work to be done in segments. The standard wait in between sessions is 10 days, leaving time for the body to heal.

McCann says on big pieces, it’s usually better to get the work done in the winter, because you’re less likely to go swimming or allow the tattoo in direct sunlight. This keeps the colors staying their best and also helps to prevent infection.

Jon says that it’s a little bittersweet to finish a large work, as he might not ever get the chance to see the work in person again.