Coyote: The Trickster

March 16, 2015

When I met Robbie last year, all I knew about him was that he was inking all of my friends and that Gael thought that he could definitely help with this crazy octopus idea that I had. By the time that tattoo was done, I had made one of those rare friends that defy the rules that erode normal friendships under the pressures of time, distance, and language. Roberto is a kindred spirit.

When I heard that he was leaving Melbourne on an epic road trip to Darwin, I urged him to visit. If not for more ink, than just to catch up and hear how the last year had gone.  When he arrived, I heard that he had only a few days to spend, I was certain the inking would have to wait. Robbie set me straight, “No bro, I’m here to finish your arm…”

I had sent Robbie a primer of trickster stories, and why they were relevant to me. I told him about this idea I had about how the coyote would be made of geometry, and bound by geometry. About how, in the end, it would refactor the lines of its cage into its corporeal self, liberating itself in the process.  I thought it was a nearly impossible tattoo.

Days later, we were at a party, talking about the design and it was pretty clear that, while he had been thinking about it a lot, not much drawing had happened. Irene assured me that Robbie had been pouring over geometries, that he wouldn’t talk to anyone. He was focused. When I relayed this all to Vick later, I surprised myself, saying “I think he might just draw it freehand on the day. I’m not worried. He’s got this.”

The day of the tattoo there were additional trips to the copier to scale the templates; “to make it just right.” Roberto showed me the lines, the concept, the coyote. I loved it. The centerpiece turned out to be a Penrose Tiling.  The Penrose Tiling is—in my opinion—the mathematical representation of the trickster. It  blows my mind a little, every time I read about it (which is often, because I really don’t understand the math yet).

The inking was done in a flurry of activity. Feasts were made and served, a pop-up party was formed to celebrate one of the housemate’s doing an important news piece, and many spectators dropped in just to watch and comment. This last aspect may have been my favorite part of the experience. Congruent with the trickster theme, the tattoo was an emergent process. The geometry was fixed from the outset, but the interpretation and the piecing was overseen by a sort of tribal council. Robbie and I made the biggest decisions, but many of the fine details were influenced by the passing comment or opinions of my friends.

The result is a design that fully reflects the trickster archetype in theme, process, geometry, and spirit. I am not sure what tattoos mean to other people, but for me each one of the 29 hours that I’ve spent under the needle has been impregnated with meaning, color and experience that harmonizes with my values. I feel incredibly fortunate!


  1. Comment by Wayne Robinson

    Wayne Robinson March 16, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    This is super impressive work. I need to get up to Queensland more often so I can see it in person. 🙂

    • Comment by Tucker Bradford

      Tucker Bradford March 16, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Totally!! It would be great to catch up!!

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