There’s a mix of nostalgia and modernism in Loren Long’s illustrating style that makes everything he does look like an instant classic. I mean, look at that cover. That’s Blueberries for Sal, that’s The Snowy Day, that’s a warm hug disguised as the dustjacket on a children’s book. Eric Carle gave heart, Mo Willems gave spirit, and Lane Smith gave soul. Loren Long gave legitimacy; since getting the Otis tattoo, no illustrator has turned down Becky’s request for a drawing.
To this day, Loren Long remains the illustrator who took the longest inking Becky’s arm. He would stop and step back, taking in the lines. Then he’d erase some imperfection only he could see and continue. “I wasn’t this nervous for President Obama,” he said.
Dicky Magoo at Tattoos by Lou in North Miami loves working on Becky. We take him a copy of the book the character comes from in case flesh didn’t work as well for the illustrator as canvas or paper, so Dicky can smooth out any wrinkles before working his magic. He always takes several minutes just to sit and stare, wheels turnings, figuring out how best to capture the illustrator’s style in tattoo ink. Otis is definitely a highlight.
I think Becky’s arm makes its biggest impact when taken as a whole. But if you put a gun to my head and made me pick a favorite (which seems a little over-the-top, you sick bastard), then I’d have to choose Otis. He has a special place in my heart because Otis is the first bedtime story Becky, Dylan, and I read together. I love Otis because he’s old school.
My favorite thing about Otis? He reminds me of home.