Victoria man’s passion for Blue Bridge goes skin deep

Cort Watt and tattoo artist Ory Pereira turn old ink into heritage memorial

Cort Watt had his original skull tattoo transformed into a brilliant sunset Blue Bridge scene by artist Ory Pereira.

Cort Watt had his original skull tattoo transformed into a brilliant sunset Blue Bridge scene by artist Ory Pereira.

Cort Watt and tattoo artist Ory Pereira turn old ink into heritage memorial

This week marks the beginning of the City of Victoria’s heritage documentation of the Johnson Street Bridge, but one Victorian has taken historic pride to a whole new level by getting a full-on tattoo of Old Blue.

Cort Watt, 24, just finished the last touches on his masterpiece only months ago — a finely detailed representation of the Blue Bridge, situated prominently on his right bicep. The tattoo, which took a total of five months to complete, was the work of local artist Ory Pereira. In what Watt describes as a painful set of 10 two-to-three-hour sessions, his original skull ink was transformed into a brilliant sunset bridge scene.

“I wanted something that would represent my hometown pride and I always thought of the Blue Bridge as the centrepiece of the city,” Watt says. “It represents age and has that classic look, and there’s nothing better than that bridge on a sunny day.”

While Watt conceptualized the idea for the tattoo years before the bridge underwent its recent removal controversy, he used the skull image already on his arm to appropriately turn it into a ghostly memorial. Watt was pleased about the amount of detail that went into the image, and learned that Old Blue isn’t as simple as she seems: her colour is a mix of blue, white and a bit of aquamarine.

Pereira, who has been a tattoo artist for seven years and now owns Empire Tattoo, says that while Watt’s tattoo wasn’t the most challenging concept he’s ever worked with, at first he wasn’t sure it could be done.

“It was kind of an unusual request — Cort wanted to take a landscape and turn it into a traditional-looking tattoo … but I always appreciate a challenge,” Pereira says. “I believe the mark of a good tattooist is someone who is able to take a client’s concept and a limited amount of space and make an art piece out of it that really works.”

Watt has lived in Victoria all his life, and uses the bridge nearly every day for his work at a heritage company. While he says it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else, he will be choked to see the bridge go.

“I voted ‘No,’ on the referendum and was pretty devastated to see the results,” he says. “The new bridge won’t have the same stature. It’ll be more like the Bay Street bridge, and I don’t think some space-age thing going into Market Square really fits the city at all.”

Watt says he has no plans to get the new bridge tattooed on his other arm, though he has found other ways to personally commemorate Old Blue: he has a 1905 print of the bridge in his living room and has spent some time just hanging around the bridge, enjoying her remaining days.

“My grandma is 98 years old and still with it, and we go downtown on drives sometimes and she can tell me all these stories about what life used to be like in Victoria, and what things have changed,” Watt says. “This bridge has a lot of history that it won’t be able to tell us when it goes.”

The city itself has picked up on this knowledge. Last Friday, July 22, photogrammetric documentation of the existing bridge began, which involves taking photographs of an object in a way that can capture exact geometric measurements. The technique is used in engineering and architecture as a way to document existing structures so that scaled drawings or three-dimensional models can be created, should a structure fail to exist. Similar work has been done in Victoria for the Parliament Buildings, St. Andrews Cathedral, the Metropolitan United Church and the Belmont building.

While Pereira says he doesn’t have as strong feelings toward the bridge as Watt does, he thinks removing Old Blue doesn’t fit with the rest of the city’s values on heritage preservation. And take it from the man who knows a thing or two about remakes, Pereira says the city would have been better to revamp the old bridge than start anew.

“It’s a lot easier to rework something that doesn’t fit, or doesn’t look good anymore than it is to scrap it and create something brand new,” he says. “That works for just about anything — it’s a lot less time, money and pain.” M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Sooke Fine Arts Show will be online again this year, showcasing unique artworks from Vancouver Island and B.C.’s coastal island artists from July 23 to Aug. 2. (File - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke Fine Arts Show goes virtual for second year in a row

Art exhibition and show set for July 23 to Aug. 2

Vancouver Island Symphony conductor Pierre Simard is releasing his new synthwave album ‘Plandemic’ on March 5. (Photo courtesy Olivia Simard)
Vancouver Island Symphony conductor releasing side-project EP of electronic music

Pierre Simard, recording as Plan Omega, presents ‘Plandemic’

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
Vancouver Island children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s close connection to director led to rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

Arts Laureate Barbara Adams joins artist Luke Ramsey and Mayor Kevin Murdoch in front of the Parade of Play mural at the Oak Bay High track. (Black Press Media file photo)
Curtain draws to a close on Oak Bay arts laureate’s term

Barbara Adams has been a champion for arts in the community

Steve Bick is coming out of his COVID cocoon with a curated compilation of original tracks by West Coast musicians. (Submitted photo)
Curated album showcases West Coast musicians

‘Locals Only – Volume One’ features an eclectic mix of tunes from musicians living on the Pacific Rim

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

West Coast-themed metal art by Nanaimo artists Hayley Willoughby (pictured), her father Jack and partner Blair LeFebvre is on display in the window of Lululemon at Woodgrove Centre from now until March 13 as part of the store’s monthly local artist program. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Metal artists present cross-generational show at Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Work by Hayley Willoughby, her partner and father on display in Lululemon window

Vancouver Island Symphony principal violinist and concertmaster Calvin Dyck is among the musicians performing in the upcoming Salmon and Trout concert. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Vancouver Island Symphony will make a splash with fish-themed quintets concert

Performance was to take place in November but was rescheduled due to COVID-19

Nico Rhodes, Lucas Smart, James McRae and Kosma Busheikin (from left) recorded their set for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival’s online video series at the Harbour City Theatre in December. (Photo courtesy François Savard)
Music starts next week at online Nanaimo International Jazz Festival

Ten free, virtual performances to occur over three weeks in March

The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
 The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
Victoria calls for artists to fill Commercial Alley gallery

Competition open to artists in the Capital Regional District

Cowichan Valley author Teresa Schapansky’s books for young readers have become a phenomenon on Amazon. (Submitted)
Cowichan author tops Amazon charts

Award-winning author Teresa Schapansky learned of a need for low-level readers in the classroom

Most Read