Lee Dotson – Tattoo Story

I’ve wanted to photograph Lee ever since he showed me his recently completed tattoo at a friend’s housewarming party. He designed it himself, and the artwork fits his personality perfectly. You can check out more of Lee’s art and character designs at his personal art site here.

I thought about my tattoo for about seven years during which I prototyped out various designs by way of placing them on characters that I was designing for various video games at the time. From a design stand point the tattoo is an amalgamation of my influences as an artist. I’m largely a digital artist a love affair with art noveau, high contrast design work, technology, and things that go bump in the night. The application of the tattoo itself was done by the wonderful Idexa Stern at Black and Blue Tattoo who not only did an amazing job of making sure everything lined up and sat correctly on my body but also made the three months we spent together working on the tattoo more of a journey than a mere technical process.

While the pen nib on my right arm is the only directly symbolic portion of the tattoo it relates to who I am on several levels. The piece is largely hidden on a day to day basis because in many ways I’m a private person and I like being able to choose where and when and with whom I share various parts of myself. I love art and music that is layered and complex and I love that I now have this hidden layer that only people who are close to me know about. I realize that having photos of my tattoos on the internet runs somewhat counter to this idea but that highlights two other aspects of the tattoo that are important to me. The first is that a couple years ago the idea of shirtless pictures of me on the internet would have been absolutely mortifying so I love the fact that having them has made me more comfortable with myself. Secondly, I think it’s important to remember that the rules we live by are our own creation and as such we can change them and break them whenever we see fit.

Tattoo Story: J-Bird

“Everyone deserves a chance to fly”

This was my very first tattoo. It’s a quote from the musical, “Wicked”. Its sung at a very pivotal point in the musical where the “wicked” witch defies all odds and flies, even when there are people trying to stop her. This quote reminds me that even though people may try to bring me down, I know I can defy their expectations and just be myself. If I don’t at least try, they win.



My best friend Mo stuck and poked me right before I moved for the Bay. Not only did it symbolize our friendship but it also symbolizes that no matter where I end up, that compass will always keep me from getting lost.

Crane Tattoo

My grandfather was the first family member to pass away. I remember it was so hard for me to cope with his death that getting this tattoo in his memory was the only thing that helped ease my pain. I remembered my grandfather used to play with these Japanese playing cards. When he played, I remember as a child how that was the only time I really saw him smile and really enjoy himself. I took an image from one of these cards and did my own drawing interpretation of it.

When I started to identify as “Queer”, not just as a “Lesbian”, is when I got this tattoo. I couldn’t have been more proud of how much I opened my heart and my mind to infinite possibilities of sex, gender, identity, and love.


Live in San Francisco and have some ink you’d like to show off, or are a tattoo artist who just finished a really cool piece? Contact me about a shoot. I’m always looking for people with creative and interesting tats to work with.