As It Happens

This London artist is giving himself a new tattoo every day he's home during COVID-19

Chris Woodhead's body is a living record of life under quarantine with tributes to health-care workers and Tiger King.

Chris Woodhead’s body contains tributes to health-care workers and Tiger King 

London tattoo artist Chris Woodhead is giving himself a new tattoo for every day of the coronavirus lockdown. (Submitted by Chris Woodhead )


Chris Woodhead's body is a living record of life under quarantine.

When the London tattoo artist closed up shop last month, he didn't put away his needle and ink. Instead, he started practising his craft on himself, giving himself one new tattoo for every day of coronavirus lockdown.

"I try and keep it fresh. I try and keep it new. I try and keep it clean," Woodward told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"It's ever-evolving, so I don't regret any."

Toy Story, Tiger King and the NHS

What he tattoos depends on what's going on that day — in the news, in his home, or in his head. 

Some are poignant displays of gratitude for front-line workers. Some are reflections of his boredom and frustration. Others are simple nods to what he watched on TV that day.

"Me and my wife watched Toy Story this afternoon, and it inspired me to tattoo a cowboy hat on myself for Woody," he said on Tuesday, his 43rd day at home. 

On his 43rd day at home during the coronavirus lockdown, Woodhead watched Toy Story and gave himself a cowboy hat tattoo. (Submitted by Chris Woodhead)

He also gave himself a tiger tattoo after bingeing Tiger King, the Netflix documentary series about the wild world of big animal owners in the U.S.

"The whole world seemed to be watching the same TV show whilst they were locked in their house, and all we had was Tiger King, you know?" he said. "It was so powerful and so important."

The tattoo he's proudest of is the three letters on his chest — NHS for the U.K.'s National Healthcare Service.

Woodhead says Britain's public health-care workers "have been the absolute backbone of helping us kind of try our best to get through these times."

The NHS tattoo on his chest is a tribute to front-line health-care workers. (Submitted by Chris Woodhead)

One of his simpler pandemic tattoos is perhaps his most relatable: The words "When will it end?" scrawled haphazardly on the sole of his foot. 

"I'm thinking about writing on the other foot, 'See you in hell,'" he said. "Because I don't know when [it will] end."

The tattoo on the sole of his foot reads: 'When will it end?' (Submitted by Chris Woodhead)

All of Woodhead's pandemic tattoos are drawn using a simple needle and ink, which he says is "as old-school as it gets."

"It could be done in prison. It could be done in the woods. It could be done in Alaska. It could be done anywhere," he said.

"I think there's something really beautiful about not relying on anything other than just the application of needle and ink."

Filling the 'negative space'

The greatest challenge, he says, is finding room for the tattoos on his body. 

Before the lockdown, he was already covered in ink. He's not even sure exactly how many tattoos he has, but says it's "around above the thousand mark."

"I think once you start building tattoos on your body, you just see the negative space rather than the filled-in space," he said. "I enjoy filling the space."

But he's still saving room for one tattoo in particular.

"My wife is pregnant. We've got a little boy on the way," he said. "So I'm definitely saving some space to write my son's name on me in some way."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Morgan Passi. 

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?