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

Blue Bridge Theatre
Stratford star teams up with Blue Bridge Theatre

A New Take on a Perennial Favourite

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Stephen Laidlaw, prepator with Nanaimo Art Gallery, hangs a photograph of Anna Wong, a B.C. print maker whose works are on display at the gallery. The exhibit opens Friday, Dec. 4, and runs until Feb. 7. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores life work of overlooked B.C. printmaker

‘Anna Wong: Traveller on Two Roads’ features more than 70 art works and personal belongings

Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus released their first joint album, <em>The Invasion</em>. (Photo courtesy Raymond Knight)
Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus release first joint album

Duo plan elaborate live-streamed CD release for ‘The Invasion’

Next month Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases his solo debut album, ‘Wildlife.’ (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases solo debut album

New record ‘Wildlife’ about taking chances and going through changes

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

Most Read