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The unnecessarily detailed account of my new, long-awaited, custom Paul Soupiset tattoo

In October 2009, while attending the Christianity 21 conference in Minneapolis, my friend Mike Stavlund offhandedly composed and sent the above tweet.

First, a little bit of context: Christianity 21 was a gathering of emergent-type Christians (put on by JoPa Productions) exploring the Christian faith in the twenty-first century. The event featured twenty-one speakers presenting on different topics for twenty-one minutes each. Aside from the great speakers, there were a number of things that made the conference unique and engaging — two of which led directly to my latest tattoo.

The first is that before the event began, a dedicated Twitter hashtag (#c21) was set up so that those at the event could easily participate in real-time conversation. Anyone appending “#c21” to a tweet knew that those at the conference (and even those absent) would be able to see it. During nearly every session, I’d invariably multitask: Ears attuned to the presentation and eyes darting back and forth between the speaker and my laptop displaying the continual Twitter/#c21 conversation.

The second is that Christianity 21 featured artist Paul Soupiset as a live-sketcher during every single session. While the speakers were on stage, Paul took notes in his moleskine with marker and watercolor, and the whole process was projected on a large screen at the front of the room for all to see. During the event I made a crude time-lapse of his live-sketching, which you can see below:

So during one of the presentations, while Paul was sketching, Mike Stavlund sent out the tweet at the top of this post.

Now, I’ve followed Paul’s work for quite some time. In 2007, he donated a custom watercolor sketch for my website redesign giveaway. And I’ve watched with joy as Paul’s talents have been utilized by Sparkhouse’s re:form curriculum. So it was with almost zero hesitation that I half-jokingly-half-seriously responded to Mike’s tweet:

Turns out he was serious. After the session, the three of us gathered to hash out the details. I swallowed my pride and said that $500 was probably a bit high for my budget, but that I’d be able to swing $300 (this is just for the artwork, not including the cost of getting the actual tattoo). The arrangement was this: I would make a $300 donation to Compassion, send Paul the receipt, and the artwork design process would begin.

A few months later, I was able to make the donation and the design process began. I sent Paul a rambling email which included this line “I would like an icon of Christ bookended on the top and bottom by a greek phrase from John 1:16 – ‘grace upon grace'” and a terrible mockup I had drawn on a whiteboard (click image for larger version):

A few months passed (hey, we’re both busy guys) and I sent him another email.


I realized a grave error in my previous emails. In icons of Christ, his hands look different than icons of the saints. Attached are two pictures that show you what I mean.

From an online source: “In his left hand He holds the Bible. His right hand is raised to bless in the manner of priests in the Byzantine tradition. The first two fingers of the right hand are joined, symbolising the two distinct natures of Christ. The other two fingers touch the thumb, symbolising the Trinity.”


Attached was this image:

In March of 2010, I received an email from Paul containing not only the final design, but several of the preliminary sketches as well. I could hardly contain my excitement as I browsed through the artwork he sent me. It was — and is — perfect (click image for larger version):

Then, well, life happened. In May of 2010 I met Libby, promptly fell in love, and pretty much forgot about the tattoo for a while.

But soon after Libby and I got engaged and started planning the wedding, honeymoon, &c., we began talking about getting tattoos as “wedding gifts” for one another. I would of course get the Soupiset masterpiece tattooed on my right forearm1 and Libby would get her maiden name, Lennon, on her wrist. So we scheduled our appointments for a week after our honeymoon: May 27, 2011.

The actual tattoo was done by a veteran artist named Jack at Skin Kitchen in Des Moines.

After about 2.5 hours, I stood up from the chair, walked over to the mirror, and marveled at my new, long-awaited, custom Paul Soupiset tattoo (click image for larger version):

To Mike and Paul: A hearty “thank you” for making this happen. I couldn’t possibly be more happy with how it turned out.

  1. It did take a little bit of convincing for Libby to be “on board” with getting the tattoo on my forearm — she originally thought my upper arm/bicep area would be a better choice. 

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