Once in awhile, people seek my permission to use one of my illustrations as the basis for their tattoo. Most recently, Shumpei Maruyama asked about using my illustration of the ocean sunfish (Mola mola) for some skin art. Shumpei is a PhD candidate in Integrative Biology who is studying coral-algal symbiosis, but has long had an interest in the Mola mola because “the name is goofy as heck, they’re enormous, they classify as plankton in certain contexts (because they drift) and they just look funny.”

The Mola mola certainly is a remarkable species. When I began research for the illustration, which was to accompany an article in Sport Diver magazine, I recall being amazed by their size. Visit this link to see a couple images of ocean sunfish next to divers for scale. They’re the heaviest bony fish in the world, and they sure look strange.

Ocean sunfish illustration Mola mola
Ocean sunfish illustration © Emily S. Damstra

Ocean sunfish are wonderful creatures, but Shumpei had another reason for wanting to permanently display one on his arm. A friend who shared Shumpei’s interest in marine biology and the Mola mola had recently passed away. That friend, Umi Hoshijima, had once written about himself: “He one day wishes to bask in the sun alongside the Mola mola, drifting along without a care in the world.” Shumpei felt that a tattoo of the ocean sunfish would be a fitting way to memorialize Umi.

Ocean sunfish tattoo
Shumpei Maruyama’s Ocean sunfish tattoo, based on illustration by Emily S. Damstra and inked by tattoo artist Delan Canclini. Photo provided by Shumpei.

I’m pleased to know that Shumpei found my work to be worthy of such use.

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