Making His Mark
Digital artist ‘tattoos’ Hollywood icons
By Jessica Laskey
Have you seen the photo of Marilyn Monroe baring the skull tattoo on her shoulder? How about the one of Sophia Loren with the butterfly tattoo on her cheek? Or the one of Audrey Hepburn’s intricate chest tattoo?
If none of these images sound real, that’s because they aren’t. They’re the clever creations of Cheyenne Randall, a painter and digital artist who’s made a name for himself painstakingly photoshopping tattoos onto images of celebrities and sharing them on his Instagram account @indiangiver. (The tongue-in-cheek handle refers to both Randall’s goal of giving back to the community and the undertones of racism he still encounters as a Native American.)
The Minneapolis native has always had an affinity for tattoos—he sports several himself—and he would doodle on magazines as a kid as a precursor to his current high-tech techniques. He even toyed with the idea of training to become a tattoo artist in his 20s, but he traveled too much for his work as a carpenter to stay at one shop long enough to build clientele.
Randall was around art from an early age—his father was an artist and, Randall recalls, he “always had an easel set up.” In addition to his magazine masterpieces, Randall’s early work consisted of mixed-media collages on canvas, paper and panel inspired by his Native American heritage. But when he joined Instagram in 2012, everything changed.
“When I first opened my account, I was just like everyone else, taking pictures of my food and crows on power lines,” says Randall, who recently relocated from Seattle to South Land Park Hills after falling in love with Sacramento during a mural project. “I started to import images into Photoshop and manipulate them (by adding tattoos) and those posts really took off. People seemed to really enjoy what I was doing. So in 2013, I decided to focus on digital work.”
When Randall first started, he superimposed tattoo imagery he found on the internet onto photos of iconic stars like Munroe and Hepburn. But when the tattoo artists responsible for the imagery came forward to complain, Randall started using classic “flash” tattoos from the 1920s (think roses, anchors and skulls) instead to avoid angering anyone. As technology progressed, so did his ambition—after getting an iPad Pro, he started drawing original tattoos directly onto the photographs to make a digital mashup all his own.
“I manipulate the layers of the photo to make it look like the skin is really tattooed,” Randall says. “People think it’s just an app, but in fact it’s taken me hours and hours hovering over an iPad. This method has reinvigorated what I was doing before.”
It’s also brought Randall a lot of attention. Hollywood celebrities have reached out to him through Instagram to commission portraits of themselves tattooed in Randall’s signature style. And the artist does brisk business selling prints of his work through shops like HFA Print Gallery on R Street, which gave him his first Sacramento exhibition last July.
In addition to his tattooed icons, Randall also peppers his Instagram feed with the occasional oil painting, as well as his prolific #pastingthewest projects where he installs giant images using wheat paste (not unlike wallpaper) in private office spaces and on outdoor walls.
“I love that wheat paste is sort of temporary,” Randall says. “You can get it wet and take it down, so you have to keep your eyes open and spot it before it’s gone.”
Or find it on Instagram next to the photo of Barbra Streisand’s neck tattoo.