True Romance; Captain Gudvanner, 2006

Drawing on skin is very intimate and physical. The surface of the skin is soft to draw on.

The pen glides on the skin and transfers a soothing sensation on the person on whom I draw. The surface of the skin moves to the rhythm of breath. The moment is sacral and silent. The drawing process involves sharing and trust.

The skin is the outmost extension of the human body; the border between being and Universe. Through his or her skin a person becomes real to another. You cannot make a drawing closer to somebody than when drawing on their skin. The colour sinks into the skin and becomes a part of the body.

In my drawings on skin I use both water resistant and non-resistant colours. Some of the colours stay on the surface, some go deeper into the skin resembling an old tattoo. The skin can be as oily or as dry as it happens to be at the moment. I leave the skin unaltered and start to draw on it.

I have made these drawings since 1999. At first the drawings were abstract improvisations, I treated skin as a map where wrinkles and lines showed signs of life. The drawing almost already existed on it. I simply followed the shapes of muscles, veins, and wrinkles.

Now these drawings have become conceptual traces of my interactions with people. In 2006 I created a series of 35 photographs called True Romance which was part of the Norse Ferry Tales project. It originated in West Norway, where I lived aboard with the crew of the M/F Stryn-ferry for two weeks. During this time I drew on the skin of the crew, creating variations of classical sailor tattoos. The subjects for the drawings came from the men’s stories and their everyday life on the Ferry. The title True Romance refers to the romantic illusion which people have of sailors sailing the seven seas and tattooing their bodies in overseas ports. Surprisingly, most of these men aboard the M/F Stryn were former sailors but had no tattoos. Times are different. The oceans have changed into a never-ending 20-minute journey.

Nina Rantala

nr (at)