Tattoos create living canvas

Louisville senior Jeff Toy has about 30 tattoos spread across his body.

Kaely Holloway

Tattoos come in all shapes, sizes, colors and styles. Many have come to view them as a staple of rebellion, making it one of their first big decisions on their own after turning 18. Some aficionados have taken that further, transforming their bodies into living canvases for the tattoo artist.

They’ve taken large portions of their body and adorned them with pieces of various sizes, paying tribute to loved ones, displaying original artwork of the artist or more common designs that are floral and skeletal, among other things.


Central City senior Walter Petit has somewhere in the range of 20 to 30 tattoos covering his chest, legs and slowly covering his arms.

“Once you get to a certain amount, people who get tattoos stop really counting,” Petit said.

Petit views himself as a tattoo collector, saying that most of his tattoos were not really his choices, but were drawings of pieces he saw in tattoo shops.

His favorite, a lantern done by local tattoo artist Atom Compton, was drawn by Compton and hanging on the wall of the shop. Petit saw it and immediately decided to get it.

“It’s like an art gallery almost. It’s an honor for me to wear some of these pieces,” he said.

Petit got started on tattoos by viewing it as a form of rebellion. He got his first one, a logo for the band Coheed and Cambria, at age 18, but it’s since been covered over.

Louisville senior Jeff Toy has been getting tattoos equally as long. He had been surrounded by an environment and family that had many tattoos, making his first tattoo less rebellious than Petit’s. His first tattoo was of Pac Man.

“I turned 18 and it was $13 tattoo day, so I got it,” he said. “A lot of family members had tattoos when I was growing up, and my uncles were in bands, so it was kind of that cool, punk rock thing I wanted to do.”

Toy’s left arm is almost a complete sleeve, and his right is half-sleeved. He also has pieces on his stomach, chest, back, legs and feet. Like Petit, he does not have a lot of purpose behind his tattoo choices, but does have one that is a tribute to his father, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He estimates that he has over 30 tattoos.

Toy, however, wants to work with disabled children and has limits on where he won’t get tattoos. His hands, neck and face won’t be tattooed.

“Having tattoos is not really a bummer, but in the professional field it is,” he said. “Kids don’t really care though. So far, it’s been a great conversation starter for kids about what tattoos I have and how many I have, and I don’t mind talking to them about it.”

Both Petit and Toy agree that getting tattoos is an expensive investment, especially over time. Toy estimates he’s spent around two grand on his, and Petit says this is his more expensive hobby.

“I ride bikes and get tattoos, and tattoos are definitely more,” he said. “You can build better relationships with the artist you see and get better deals, but it’s always going to be expensive.”