Blog / 2016 / “It Is the Time You Have Wasted on Your Rose That Makes Your Rose So Important.”

November 17, 2016

When my friend asked me to design a tattoo for him, I was flattered but also confused. On the one hand, I understood why he was asking: we’d been friends since we were teenagers, he’d seen me work at my art for years, and I’d been a professional artist for a while already. On the other, we were talking about a drawing that would exist on his body forever.

The process of creating the design wasn’t all that inspiring. My friend’s commitment to my art weighed on me. He was going all-in on my work—literally putting skin in the game—and that made it hard for me to feel like I had a real say in what the image would look like.

In the end, I was more a skilled hand interpreting his vision than anything else, but I’m still glad he asked me. It helped me work out how I felt about designing tattoos, while also bringing into focus what defines an artist versus a graphic designer. Furthermore, letting go of control of the image also played a part in formulating my 2014 TEDx talk and all the uncopyrighting advocacy that I do.

rose marker art
Gwenn Seemel
Rose
2016
marker on paper
6 x 6 inches

More recently, I made this drawing. When Antonella Raimondo saw it, she asked me if she could use it to make a tattoo. I was happy to say “yes” but doubtful anything would come of it, because I’d had many similar requests over the years, and, as far as I know, all of them came to nothing.

Antonella Raimondo art
tattoo by Antonella Raimondo and Giuseppe Romanello

But Antonella wasn’t messing around. She created her tattoo’s design and Giuseppe Romanello of Inkfact Tattoo Studio tweaked it and then inked it. In some ways, my feelings about this tattoo are the same as the one I was asked to design eight years ago: neither piece belongs to me at all. In other ways, my reaction is, different, because, instead of getting all analytical, I find myself in a storybook.

In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s storybook, to be precise. The Little Prince has just discovered that the rose on his tiny planet is not the only one in the universe, and he is having trouble adjusting to this new reality. His friend provides perspective: “it is the time you have wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important.”

What’s true of the Prince’s rose is true of art. It is the time I wasted on my rose—the half hour I spent drawing it—that made it important to me. I am the only person who shared that particular moment with the rose. That’s special and something I try to remember every time I create a work of art, but, in this case, the special goes further. Because when Antonella wasted time on the rose as well, she made it more important still—for herself, of course, but also for me.

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