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 Royal B.C. Museum has added a tamba dining set, used by a Punjabi man on his voyage to Canada in 1927, to its ‘100 Objects of Interest’ online collection. (Courtesy of Royal B.C. Museum)
Punjabi dining set added to Royal B.C. Museum’s ‘100 Objects of Interest’ collection

Set used by Indar Singh Gill on his voyage from Punjab to Canada in 1927

Victoria-born musician Bryce Dane Soderberg took to Instagram Monday to call out the Greater Victoria School District on its proposed cuts to elementary and middle school music programs. (Bryce Dane Soderberg/Instagram)
Victoria-born Lifehouse vocalist calls out SD61 on proposed music cuts

‘It will be a big loss to future generations’ Bryce Dane Soderberg posted to his Instagram

Ballet Victoria is honouring Rosemarie Liscum, the president of the board of directors who was instrumental in the building the dance company. Liscum died earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Ballet Victoria)
Rosemarie Liscum remembered as dedicated, instrumental builder of Victoria Ballet

The president of the ballet company’s board of directors died at the age of 59

The CVAC Fine Arts Show is always something to see and 2021 promises to be no different, as they adopt a fully multimedia approach. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Fine Arts Show goes multimedia for 2021

The show, which runs from May 1-22 will be available both in person and online.

Dinner After a Death, a painting by Sooke artist Bryan Cathcart is part of a collection featuring his work at the Outsiders and Others Gallery in Vancouver. (Contributed - Bryan Cathcart)
Sooke artist finds creativity by expanding artistic horizons

Bryan Cathcart, 26, featured at Vancouver gallery

Viking-inspired fantasy writer Joshua Gillingham of Nanaimo and Seattle-based Islamic science fiction editor Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad are co-editing ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star.’ (Photos submitted, illustration by Lada Shustova/Figue)
Nanaimo author co-editing historical anthology connecting Vikings and Muslims

Joshua Gilligham presents ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star’

Saltair-based writer, Krista May. (Janet Kelly photo)
Island writers make long-list for 2021 CBC Short Story Prize

Krista May and Angie Ellis among 33 finalists selected out of over 3,000 entrants

A writer studying in England drew from her roots growing up in Sooke for a story that’s been short-listed for a prestigious international prize.
Former Sooke resident up for prestigious writing award

Cara Marks earns nomination for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Three Legged Dog Productions performed Jesus Christ Superstar in 2019. Tim Penney photo
Non-profit plans musical renaissance in the Comox Valley

Three Legged Dog Productions is preparing for a summer residency at Filberg Park

Tori Djakovic and Ava Hornby with their painting Winter Crystal Victorian Lace, a part of the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Glass Box Story project. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Youths and seniors collaborate on Nanaimo Art Gallery public art project

‘Glass Box Story’ painted panels and text to be installed across street from gallery

View Gallery curator Chai Duncan admires the work of graduating visual art student Hailin Zhang, one of the artists in the upcoming End Marks grad show. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
VIU visual art grad show presented as virtual gallery tour due to COVID-19

‘End Marks’ exhibition is on display from April 29 to May 30

Most Read