"My body is a journal in a way. It's like what sailors used to do, where every tattoo meant something, a specific time in your life when you make a mark on yourself, whether you do it to yourself with a knife or with a professional tattoo artist."
We all know that tattoos have a special meaning for Johnny. Besides he’s got a lot in 2012, so I decided to write a review of all JD’s tattoos.
1) Native American Head
Johnny’s first tattoo is a Cherokee Indian chief head on his right bicep, honoring his Native American bloodlines. “I started getting tattoos when they were sort of verboten in Hollywood… 1983, 1984. I was 17 when I got the first one [a Cherokee chief, to honor] my Indian heritage.”
2) Heart & Betty Sue
Johnny’s second tattoo, on his left bicep, contains his mother’s name “Betty Sue” inside a heart with some tribal flourishing. This tribute to Johnny’s mother—“the greatest lady in the world,”
Johnny told journalist Steve Pond in 1989—was done by Jonathan Shaw on May 31, 1988.
3) Wino Forever
On his right upper arm, above the Cherokee head, there's a banner with the words "Wino Forever". In original it was “Winona Forever” and was dedicated to his, at that time, girlfriend Winona Ryder. When they broke up, he had it altered by removing the last two letters. The tattoo was done in February 1990 by artist Mike Messina.
Native American Head, Heart & Betty Sue, Wino Forever (before and after) tattoos
A question mark with an x instead of a dot is tattooed on the inside of Johnny’s right ankle. It is the same question mark as in the Brave symbol. It was done by Jonathan Shaw in 1991. Johnny tattooed the same image on Jonathan Shaw’s knee.
5) Inverted Triangle
A Question Mark
Over the heart with his mother’s name he has an inverted triangle. The triangle was originally drawn by Russian painter Ilya Chasnik in 1925. Chasnik was part of a group which embraced the Communist ideal of producing art for the benefit of the worker and arranged many public art projects – maybe this tattoo has political meaning for Johnny. This tattoo was done by Jonathan Shaw, probably in the summer of 1993.
6) Skull and Crossbones
Johnny posing with Ilya Chasnik's picture. In the right you can see the original Ilya Chasnik's picture.
On the outside of his right lower leg, Johnny has a tattoo of a skull and crossbones with the words "death is certain"
Another Jonathan Shaw tattoo, done sometime between late 1993 and very early 1994, is a skull and crossbones with the words "death is certain" under it inked on Johnny’s outside right ankle. There's a story about this tattoo as told by Jonathan Shaw: "We were like a little gang then in the 90's ... Me and Johnny Depp and Jim Jarmusch and Iggy Pop. We even called ourselves the 'Death is Certain Club'. We all wore the same skull ring and we all had the same tattoo. A skull and crossbones with the words 'death is certain' that I did on us one night down in my little basement tattoo studio off the Bowery. Back in the day when William Burroughs still lived on the Bowery ... Everybody but Iggy got the skull and crossbones carved in their hide. The tattoo was actually his idea. Then he was the only one who didn't get it the night I did them all. He did write a song called 'Death is Certain' though, and he even put a big picture of his hand wearing our skull ring on an album cover ..."
7) Small Dots
The 3 small dots Johnny has inside of his left ankle. They first appeared while filming Pirates of the Caribbean-The Curse of the Black Pearl. Very little is known about this tattoo.
8) Gonzo Fist
On the front of his left shin, Johnny has a Gonzo fist with lettering above and below it, which first appeared while filming Pirates of the Caribbean 4, on June 22, 2010 in Hawaii while the lettering was added later that summer (we still don’t know what it says). But we know about the close friendship between Johnny and Hunter Thompson, the pioneer of Gonzo journalism. Once Johnny told journalist, “I feel he’s still with me. There are certain people in your life who have gone away, people you love, and you think about them every day.”
9) Number «3»
Skull and Crossbones, Small Dots and Gonzo Fist tattoos.
Between the thumb and the index finger of his left hand, Johnny has the number 3. . Based on photographic evidence, the tattoo was done sometime after February 1, 1994 and before March 21, 1994. Regarding this tattoo Johnny told Newsday’s Sean Mitchell in 1995: “I just have always felt very close to the number three, for some reason I like it. One night I was at a friend's house who's a tattoo artist and I said, ‘Put a number three on my hand.’ I don't know why. I just felt it. It's been a very important number for me.”
Besides he made this comment about a three in general in the Young Flix Magazine in April 1996: “Three is a sort of special number for me. It’s a very creative number. Triangle, trinity — you know, two people make another person. Three is a mystical, magical number.”
But on another occasion he was quoted as saying: "It's just a three, man, a friend just put it there one day while we were bored."
The same tattoo has Vanessa Paradis’ sister Allison on her neck. And the same 3 (in this exact font) appears in the film credits of the Brave.
10) Three rectangles
The next tattoo, three little rectangles on Johnny’s right index finger, is connected with the “three” theme too. The tattoo was done between September 6 and September 13, 1994. He once described them as “permanent phone doodles.”
11) The Brave Symbol
Number «3»; The same tattoo has Vanessa Paradis’ sister Allison. In the right-three rectangles.
A symbol used and seen in various scenes of the film The Brave, which Johnny directed and starred in, is tattooed on his inside lower right arm. The tattoo was done by Jonathan Shaw sometime after the 1998 Cannes film festival and before March 1999. You can read Johnny's interpretation of this symbol on following picture.
The Brave Symbol
Johnny wears the name of his daughter Lily-Rose Melody close to his heart. The letters are made up of little rosebuds and tattooed in ornate script. The tattoo was done by Jonathan Shaw in November 1999. In countless interviews since that date, Johnny has described the birth of his daughter as life-altering: “When Lily-Rose arrived, you know it was sorta like . . . boom!”
he told journalist Tom Shone. “You hit the pavement and it's strong beneath you and suddenly you realize, ‘Ah, that's what it's for. That’s why you care about integrity or doing things without compromise. It’s for that. It’s for her."
13) Jack and Flying Bird
Of course we all recognized Captain Jack’s tattoo. Johnny had it done after the completion of POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl sometime after February 2003 and before May 2003. The tattoo was done by Mark Mahoney. Johnny dedicated this tattoo to his son, that’s why it has some differences with Captain Jack’s tattoo: while Captain Jack’s bird flies away from his body, Johnny’s tattoo reverses that direction, so that the bird is flying toward him because, as Johnny told an interviewer in spring 2004, "You have to have it flying towards you. He's gotta always fly back to you."
Under it he has the name of his son, Jack.
14) Silence Exile Cunning
Johnny's tattoos dedicated to his children Lily-Rose and Jack. In the right you can see Captain Jack Sparrow's tattoo.
On the inside of Johnny’s lower left arm is a tattoo reading, in large ornate script, “Silence Exile Cunning”. This is from the book by James Joyce "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."
The tattoo was first seen at the MTV Movie Awards in June 2008. Later that summer, at the meet-and-greet after the Sheila Witkin Memorial Concert in Florida, Johnny told fans that he had gotten the tattoo in December 2007.
15) Three Hearts
In April 2009 during the filming of The Rum Diary in Puerto Rico, three hearts were noted on the inside of Johnny’s upper left arm. When Johnny was asked about the significance of this tattoo during an interview promoting Public Enemies, he pointed at each heart in turn and said "Vanessa, Lily-Rose, Jack". It looks as if the ones for Lily-Rose and Jack are attached to each other.
16) Sailor and 17) Waitress
Silence Exile Cunning; Three Hearts
First noticed in the press conference photos from the Kustendorf Film Festival 2010, both of Johnny's inner forearms appeared to have been tattooed with portraits. Probably, Johnny got them on December 20, 2009 at the shamrock social club on the sunset boulevard. There was info he was in there that day for 2 hours. In an interview with Patti Smith for the January 2011 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, Johnny identified the portrait on his right arm as Jim, his beloved grandfather: “We were very, very close, and I lost him. I was about nine. He was a wonderful model. He drove a bus during the day and ran moonshine at night. He was a Robert Mitchum type, a man’s man. He just said things as they were.”
During a press conference for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, he was asked about the tattoos on his arms. He identified the portrait on his left arm: "[It's] my mom. She was a waitress at the Holiday Inn in Kentucky. [This is] her waitress picture."
In one of his earliest national interviews, in Us Magazine in 1989, Johnny called his mother his “best friend” and acknowledged her hard work: “Her whole life she’s been a waitress, but I won’t let her wait tables anymore.”
18) Salve Ogum
Sailor and Waitress
The words “Salve Ogum” surround an image on Johnny’s left forearm. Ogum is an Afro-American deity. It is portrayed as a comic-strip character with a crown. “Salve” is Portuguese/Latin and means “hail” or “save”. Jonathan Shaw put the tattoo there in 2010, while he spent some time with Johnny in Hawaii. Johnny has never discussed the significance of this tattoo.
19) Skull and Crossbones
A skull and crossbones tattoo on Johnny's right inner upper arm was first noticed in photographs taken on August 14, 2010, when Johnny was finishing the location work on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in Hawaii.
Salve Ogum; Skull and Crossbones
The rook tattoo was first seen on August 10, 2011. It’s on Johnny’s left wrist, below the Salve Ogum tattoo. It is a rook, the picture coming from a card game called “Rook”, a game popular in Eastern Kentucky. Johnny changed the 2 in the card that the rook is holding into a 3 (his beloved number). Johnny identified this tattoo in a BBC Breakfast interview on November 7, 2011: "That's a Rook. Rook was a card game, an old-school card game that my grandfather played all the time. I remember him playing that very well."
A card game called “Rook”, a game popular in Eastern Kentucky.
Johnny and Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three got this tattoo in October 2011 They visited Depp’s favorite tattoo parlor – Mark Mahoney’s Shamrock Social Club, and Damian got a huge tattoo, while Johnny got the same tattoo in smaller. It is believed to be Wind over Heaven
from the I Ching, an ancient Chinese text called Book of Changes. Quoting Damien Echols this is the meaning: "What this represents is, whenever you’re facing huge obstacles, you don’t focus on them or you’ll lose heart and be defeated. Instead focus on just putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.” In a November 2011 interview with Douglas Brinkley, Johnny explained the significance of the tattoo: "Recently, right before coming to Austin, I went to Disneyland with Damien of the West Memphis Three. He had just gotten out of jail. He wanted to see Disneyland so I took him. Afterwards we went and got tattoos together. That's my way of documenting things in my life."
22) Harley Davidson Skeleton Key
This tattoo was first seen on March 29, 2012 when Johnny was performing at The Mint club in L.A. It resembles the Harley Davidson Skeleton (Skull) keys. The tattoo was also done by Mark Mahoney as many of JD’s tattoos. Damien Echols has a similar tattoo. The most interesting fact is that Damien and Johnny got their skeleton key tattoos at the same time but not in the same place! Here what Echols says about his Skeleton Key Tattoo:
"One was a skeleton key because for me, when I was a child, I thought that a skeleton key could literally open any door. So that if you ever got your hands on a skeleton key, you’d be almost unstoppable—no barrier could hold you back. It seemed like an incredibly magical thing. For me now, that’s still what it represents. That one we did simultaneously. He was in L.A. and I was in New York and we were on the phone at the same time both sending each other photographs back and forth, keeping track on the progress and everything else. I was at a shop on Franklin Street called Majestic Tattoo and there was a guy named Alejandro Lopez that worked there. He only worked there for a few weeks. … Now anytime I want something, he’ll come to my apartment."
23) No Reason
Damien and Johnny with Ching tattoos; Harley Davidson Skeleton Key
On April 24th, 2012, at the CinemaCon, the words “NO REASON” on Johnny’s right inner wrist were first seen. This is a reference to Marilyn Manson’s song “Overneath the Path of Misery” on Manson’s Born Villain CD, in which the words “No reason” comprise the refrain. And, of course, Marilyn Manson got the same tattoo but on his left wrist. One of Born Villain’s tracks is a rousing cover of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” featuring Johnny Depp on guitar.
24) Brother (Theban)
Marilyn and Johnny have the same tattoos "No Reason"
Johnny has an elaborate circular tattoo on his upper right chest which was designed by Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three. This tattoo, inked by Mark Mahoney, says "Brother" in Theban symbols around the outside of the circle; the runes inside spell Johnny and Damien’s names. Johnny got it in May, 2012. Damien has an identical tattoo. Johnny discussed this tattoo with John Carucci of the Associated Press. Touching the tattoo on his chest, Johnny confirmed that Damien had designed it, saying,“It's one of my all-time favorites, and it means quite a lot to me.”
25) Little guitarist
In the right you can see a picture of Damien’s "Theban" tattoo, which seems to look slightly different
On the back of Johnny’s upper left arm there is a line drawing of a boy wearing a baseball cap and holding a guitar. This cute artwork is by Johnny’s son Jack; this fact was confirmed by Jack’s godfather Bill Carter. Bill got the same tattoo and Vanessa Paradis has a t-shirt with the drawing.
26) The Crow
Johnny has a black crow tattooed on the back of his right hand. Johnny had the tattoo done in Toronto on September 9, 2012. Damien Echols, Bill Carter and some others also have identical crow tattoos on their hands; Damien tweeted, “It's our celebration for a great reception for West of Memphis.” Bill Carter’s song “Anything Made of Paper”
is featured in the film (the documentary West of Memphis), and he traveled to Toronto to play a by-invitation-only celebratory gig after the screening on September 8, 2012. This Crow tattoo is a nod to the 1994 movie “The Crow” about a man who is murdered, but comes back to life. It’s a theme Echols says he explores in his book, where the story of his life after death row unravels.
27) Inverted Z (flash)
Bill and Johnny with their "Little Guitarist" and "Crow" tattoos.
The "Z" or the "zigzag" tattoo on the back of Johnny's left hand was first seen when he performed at The Mint on 25th May 2012. It appeared a short time after Johnny's honorary adoption into the Comanche Nation on 16th May 2012. A few days earlier, on May 22nd, Damien Echols tweeted that he had gotten a similar zigzag tattoo on his left hand "in honor of my dear friend who was brought into the Comanche Nation."
“The “Z” or the zigzag is a common Native American symbol. The straight horizontal line in Native American glyphs represents movement upon Mother Earth and closing connections with Father Sky. If the center line of the Z slants left it indicates the path of the soul – the journey the spirit takes and the walk that is made on within the spirit. If the middle line in the Z slants to the right, this indicates forces that call loudly to a person’s soul – passions or issues that compel a person to take a chosen path of life. The two horizontal lines (top and bottom – connecting the middle slant line) indicate the journey of life and the understanding as we walk upon the grounding plane of Earth – we are also living the life of Sky. These lines definitions are common to Plains Native Peoples of North America.”
28) The Snake
Another new tattoo honoring Johnny’s Native American roots and his adoption into the Comanche Indian tribe is a snake symbol inside a black oval on Johnny’s lower right forearm. The tattoo is above the crow and below the lettering that says “Jack.” The snake is a positive symbol in Native American culture, signifying transformation and renewal and conveying healing primordial energy. Johnny has not only a tattoo with this symbol but also a necklace. He got this tattoo between September 19 and September 29, 2012.
29) Comanche Shield
Another new tattoo celebrating Johnny’s adoption into the Comanche Nation is a large drawing of a Comanche shield on his right calf. The red-and-blue shield features four black feathers dangling from its rim. The tattoo was first seen at the Comanche Nation Fair in Oklahoma on September 29, 2012.
30) Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil)
Inverted Z (flash), The Snake & Comanche Shield
This massive tattoo covering Johnny’s back is considered to be done in April 23rd, 2012 together with Marilyn Manson. Darryl Sterdan from the Toronto Sun wrote this in the April 26th issue:
(…)The shock-rocker and the Hollywood superstar inked a new chapter in their longtime friendship by getting massive matching tattoos on Monday, Manson says.
“We both got the same thing,” he says. “It was quite painful but enjoyable. It’s a giant tattoo of a tree and a skeleton that covers my whole back. It’s from Flowers of Evil by Baudelaire. It’s one of my favorite books.”
Unfortunately there is no clear image of this tattoo yet but we can see it on the photo while the reshoots for “The Lone Ranger” were done the end of September 2012, where Johnny was in his Tonto costume. See link
to get an idea what it looks like.
31) "Man is a giddy thing"
Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil)
On the inside of Johnny's left upper forearm is a drawing of a faceless man in a jacket with the words "Man is a giddy thing" underneath which look like a very similar font or typeface as the font Johnny uses in typed letters on his Infinitum Nihil letterhead. It was first noted in photos from the June 19th 2013 Santa Fe press conference for The Lone Ranger. Johnny explained in an interview while promoting the film in Russia that his son, Jack drew the image
Although Johnny hasn't yet explained it's significance to him, "Man is a giddy thing" is a line from Shakesphere's Much Ado About Nothing.
It refers to man being frivolous and impulsive, and in the context of the play, especially in affairs of the heart. The second version of the significance of this tattoo to Johnny is that the words "Man is a giddy thing" are also a line from a Mumford & Sons song called "Sigh No More".
And Johnny is known to be friends with the group. See link
32)"Come with me...Slim"
The words "Come with me...Slim" on the side of Johnny's right elbow were also first noted in photos from the Sante Fe press conference for The Lone Ranger. Unfortunatelly Johnny hasn't explained this tattoo yet but there is much talk of the significance of these words. According to one of the versions the words "Come with me...Slim" were signed by Amber Heard in a pen and Johnny's gotten it tattooed. The source says: "The name "Slim" may be a nickname he has given her. When he first saw her, Johnny said Amber reminded him of Lauren Bacall from the 1940s. Lauren Bacall played a character named "Slim" in Johnny's favorite movie "Withnail and I" - which in interviews at the time of The Rum Diary, Amber conveniently said was one of her favorite movies too".
I decided to check this information and found that the actress Lauren Bacall didn't play any character in "Withnail and I" but she actually has 2 characters named Slim: one in a movie called "To Have and Have Not" and the other in "Prêt-à-Porter" (in English: "Ready to Wear"). So this version seems untrue.
The 2nd version is Literature
. Johnny loves books and is an avid reader. That we know for a fact. "Come with me" is also a famous line in literature. It’s from a novella "Of Mice and Men" written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck and it’s spoken by a character named Slim.
Anyway let's wait for an official explanation of this tattoo and as soon as it comes out I'll be posting))
"Man is a giddy thing" & "Come with me...Slim"
That's all for now)) Hope you liked it! I'll update the article as soon as Johnny makes a new tattoo ♥