Working Hollywood: Tattoo artist Dickcherry has lasting influence


The artist and graphic designer known as Dickcherry doesn’t sport any real tattoos, but he makes temporary ones for characters in the supernatural thriller “Mama,” the action movie “The Last Stand,” and “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.”

“I can’t even keep a painting that I’ve created on the wall long enough to even imagine having something on my body for the rest of my life,” he said. “But I like the idea and the challenge of creating an image that will look good on human skin and will be a complement to the art form. Tattoo art is beautiful.”

Dickcherry, 37, gained an early affinity for art — from his school lunch bag. Born in Chicago as Lee Richard Gren, Dickcherry remembers his mother drawing G.I. Joe characters on his brown paper lunch bags.


PHOTOS: Hollywood Backlot moments

After graduating high school, he attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Inspired by Roy Lichtenstein paintings at the nearby Art Institute of Chicago as well as the work of Coop, Robert Williams and Kozik, and the band the Cramps, he expressed his burgeoning pop sensibility in large-scale acrylic paintings of pinups, devil girls and googly-eyed monsters.

At 25, he moved to Los Angeles with his then girlfriend and now wife, Jill Warner, and began designing rock posters and album covers under the artist name Dickcherry.

“Basically, I’m a huge ‘Batman’ fan, and I always liked the idea of having an alter ego,” he explained. “So basically the name Dickcherry is the alter ego I can use when I paint. My middle name is Richard, so I shortened that to Dick, and the first street I lived on was Cherry Street. It sounds taboo, and I like that.”

In 2009, a friend who worked at Tinsley Studio in Sun Valley contacted him to design tattoos for the Walt Disney Studios film “John Carter.” As the production wound down, owner Christien Tinsley noticed his talent and hired him as a full-time artist and graphic designer for Tinsley Studio and a retail company that sells temporary tattoos at Halloween stores and other outlets.

“A tattoo is a really quality way to explain something about a character,” Dickcherry said. “It’s amazing how many productions require a tattoo.”


House blend: Most of Tinsley Studio’s tattoos are what Dickcherry calls “industrial strength Cracker Jack tattoos, applied with water.” He adds that some of the tattoos have “a fuzzier edge, and that fuzziness is what helps the tattoo bleed into the skin and what makes it look real.”

VIDEO: Movie Sneaks

Suits you fine: For scenes requiring large numbers of inked-up extras, Tinsley’s tattoo suits offer a quick and easy option. “We can output the tattoo image onto a fabric that has a skin tone appropriate to the actor that it’s going on,” said Dickcherry. “As long as you hide the edges, you can make people believe that you’re wearing a fully-sleeved tattoo just because of how quality these sleeves and shirts are. It’s going to make it easier if you want an army of tattooed individuals.”

Tonal scale: Human skin is very different than a blank, white canvas. “The darker the skin, the less color’s going to show up on it,” said Dickcherry. “We had to re-create some tattoos from Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls for his double in an Adidas commercial. And you’ll find that a majority of his tattoos are just gray scale. Being that he’s darker, you can’t add as much color, because the color doesn’t show up as well. Whereas if you’re doing something on myself who’s more pasty and white, the color’s going to show up. Skin tone’s the biggest thing.”

The shape of things: Unlike canvases, human skin is rarely flat. “Whether it be for a head or a shoulder, a tattoo has to be able to bend with the body, and that’s taken into consideration in the design as well as when it’s applied by any makeup artist,” said Dickcherry. “For the recent release of ‘Cloud Atlas,’ we put a tattoo on Halle Berry’s face. We were lucky enough to have a bust of Halle Berry’s head, so we were able to size the image exactly to how it’s going to fit on her face. Drawing it directly on the face means that when we lift it off that face, we’ve accounted for the contours. So we’ll take a tracing of that image, place it into the scanner, scan it into the computer, and then it will be at size.”

Measure for measure: For January releases “Mama” and “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” Dickcherry created his tattoos based on simple measurements. “The lead in ‘Mama’ is Jessica Chastain, and she wears a large octopus tattoo on her arm,” he said. “We went off measurements that were sent to us in order to achieve the desired look. In the ‘Hansel & Gretel’ trailer, one of our tattoos can be seen on one of the witches. It is a snake that wraps around her body. This was a challenge, as we had to create enough pieces of a snake to wrap around her based on only a few measurements.”


Peace out: For “The Last Stand,” Tinsley Studio designed about 30 Army- and Marine-themed tattoos. But it wasn’t all tough-guy tattoos. “A couple ‘girlie’ tattoos were also created,” said Dickcherry. “One of the female tattoos was our answer to the Hello Kitty peace symbol image.”


VIDEO: The making of ‘Argo,’ ‘Les Miz’ and more

ENVELOPE: The latest awards buzz

PHOTOS: NC-17 movies: Ratings explained