Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama owns a piece of T.J. Wells’ heart.
And of his leg.
You may have heard of wearing your heart on your sleeve, but your political convictions on your calf?
That’s what Wells, a culinary arts student-to-be at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, has been doing since May 12, after the Illinois senator made a lasting impression on him during a May 4 speech at Headwaters Park.
On May 12, Wells went out and got a full-color portrait of Obama tattooed on the back of his right leg – a place that was chosen, he says, because he can cover it or show it off, depending on how he feels at the moment.
“It’s the first politician that I watched that I felt I could believe. Every politician seems so rehearsed and practiced that it’s not real. I watched him, and I saw the passion in his voice,” Wells says. “It was fun seeing a lot of younger people there, and there was a lot of energy.”
Wells got together with tattoo portraiture artist Ryan Hadley of Studio 13 in Fort Wayne to create the tattoo. Hadley used a campaign photo from a cover of Time magazine as a guide.
Wells, a tattoo virgin until his recent three hours under the needles, says he knew of Hadley’s skills because a friend, Cameron Green of Fort Wayne, had Hadley tattoo two portraits of Civil War generals for him.
“I’ve never seen anyone who could do full portraits like that,” Wells says.
Wells says he got the tattoo not only because Obama might become the history-making first black president of the United States but also because he wanted to commemorate the first time he has been able to vote in a presidential race.
He calls casting his vote for Obama in the primary “kind of exciting because there were people 35 and 40 years old, and they were voting for the first time, too.”
Wells says he’s never heard of anyone else getting an Obama tattoo. Hadley, 30, is proud enough of the one he did for Wells to feature it on his MySpace page.
As for the candidate himself, Obama came down strongly on the issue of tattoos during a campaign stop last week in Oregon.
He’s personally against them. Kinda.
“Uh, I cannot imagine any circumstances in which I would get a tattoo,” the candidate told a reporter from Portland’s alternative newspaper, the Willamette Week.
According to www.swamppolitics.com, the reporter had asked: “If you had a tattoo, what would it be of and where would you put it?”
Obama then hedged, saying if he were at gunpoint, “then I suppose I’d have to have (my wife) Michelle’s name tattooed. Somewhere very discreet.”
But Wells was eager to discuss his own ink.
So how did you come up with this idea of an Obama tattoo? Are you politically involved?
“I always wanted one from the first time I saw one. I thought of other stuff, but I’m a young person who’s interested in politics and what’s going on, and … I thought, ‘Why not?’ Actually it was almost like spur of the moment. We, my friend (Cameron Green) and I, were kind of joking around about it, and I said, ‘I should get Barack Obama on my leg.’ We were texting, and the next thing I knew I was in the shop making an appointment.”
So how did your tattoo artist actually do it?
“When I went in, I knew exactly what I wanted. I had this cover of Time magazine, and he worked out a pattern and then he makes like a temporary tattoo, and that gives him his lines. From the time he put needle to skin was about three hours, and all he talked about was how fast we were going. … I didn’t talk to him a lot. I was trying to fall asleep. But I know he’s an Obama supporter, so I think he was pretty keen about doing it.”
Isn’t having a portrait of a black presidential candidate on you for life a little unusual?
“Well, I think it’s a good chance that he’s going to be president. I think it’s definitely possible. I think that he kind of represents us moving away from that (racial stereotype) as a nation, for going into the future. Not to puff myself up, but anybody who would get a tattoo like this or who would vote for him, that means race doesn’t matter anymore. He has just as much right and just as much ability as any white person, or any person, to run.”
What if he loses?
“If he loses, I still think he’s a good man and that he stands for something. So it doesn’t bother me if he doesn’t become president.”
Do you think you’ll get another tattoo
“I don’t think I’ll get another portrait, but it’s fair to say I’d get another tattoo. … I really like it. … And most of my friends are just kind of stoked about it, too.”