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As Temperatures Rise, Body Art is on Display

By Ben Fractenberg | July 18, 2011 7:06am | Updated on July 18, 2011 8:19am
Mark Durant has the words
Mark Durant has the words "family" and "for life" tattooed on his forearms.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

MANHATTAN —Body art is meant to be seen, and summer is the time it gets uncovered.

As temperatures soar, New Yorkers' stripped-down wardrobes expose limbs and torsos adorned with tattoos showing imagination, great personal meaning — and even the results of some regrettable impulsiveness.

DNAinfo found ink-covered skin from TriBeCa all the way to Washington Heights.

"In the summertime you get to show them off," Harlem resident Mark Durant, 27, said of his tattoos — forearm-length artwork on each arm reading “family” and “for life.”

While he loves to display his ink during the warm months, he said his body art requires more maintenance in the summer.

“You have to take care of them differently [in summer],” he said. “The sun can affect them.”

Durant said he makes sure to put sunscreen on his tattoos to keep his skin from peeling or the ink from fading.

The summer is also a hot time for tattoo artists.

Jason Delgado, 29, who opened Gun Metal Tattoos four years ago on St. Nicholas Avenue between 187th and 188th streets, in Washington Heights, said summer is his busiest time.

Delgado inks clients with classic designs he creates such as stars and hearts — and says there are plenty of young women who come in to ask for a tattoo with their boyfriends' name, which he advises against.

But he mourns a wave of would-be clients who come in with a lack of creative ideas for tattoos — a trend he blames it in part on the Internet.

“Google has been the worst thing for tattoo artists,” Delgado said. “You may fall in love with [a design] that’s already been done. If it’s on the web, it’s not original.”

Delgado went on to say people who get tattoos in the summer should be careful with how they treat them.

"The newly-developed skin on a tattoo has not developed natural UV protection yet," he said.

"The sun will damage the tattoo and break down its ink properties, giving the new tattoo a premature aged look. It is highly advisable to use some sort of sunblock when in the sun."

East Village inker Steve Pedone, of Fun City Tattoos on St. Marks Place, said he’s noticed an increase of classically American, Sailor Jerry-esque designs.

New Yorkers brag of their tattoos — which include everything from their favorite books and artists, to their favorite relatives.

Linda Suarez, 23, inked symbols from the Harry Potter series on her leg to show her devotion to the boy wizard.

Komlan Degboe, 23, showed off his tattoo as he hung out at a TriBeCa café on a Monday afternoon — a picture on his upper arm of a lion wearing a crown which bears the letter “J” on the front in honor of his mother, Jeanine Degboe.

Degboe said his mother brought him over from France to New York six years ago, helping him start his career as a fashion designer.

"When you think about someone strong and ready to do anything when it comes to her kids, you think of a lion," said Degboe.

Caitlin MacDonald, 20, showed off an interconnected “G” and “J” on her foot while wearing a pair of sandals in Chelsea recently,  honoring her favorite hardcore band, Glassjaw. She said the design was done by her aspiring tattoo artist friend, 19-year-old Angelique Butler. 

“My friend started tattooing,” said MacDonald, who was willing to be the artist's guinea pig as long as she promised to “keep it small.”

Kayla, 23, has a tattoo of Betty Boop just above her knee, done using needlepoint by an ex-lover who passed away. Kayla was playing banjo and panhandling on First Avenue and St. Marks with her traveling buddy, who goes by the name Doug E Fresh. She said they were in town for a few weeks before heading by train to Montreal.

Even those with tattoos say sometimes when the summer comes, their tattoos feel brand new.

"During the winter you kind of forget you have tattoos," said Eric Martin, 22, who works in the East Village. "In the summer you look down and say, 'hey, my arms are covered.'"

Check out DNAinfo's slideshow to see some of Manhattan's tattoos.