Depp has at least fourteen tattoos as of now and each tattoo has a specific reason. For instance the tattoo “head of Cherokee Indian chief” is to commemorate his ancestral heritage. The tattoo “Lily-Rose” is because of his first-born child. The tattoo “Betty Sue” is his mother’s name and below this tattoo is curiously a sparrow flying over water and underneath is written his son’s “Jack”. The most recent one is “Silence Exile Cunning” – though it is unclear what the significance is.
One can see a ribbon tattoo reading “Wino Forever” and the story goes that this tattoo was originally “Winona Forever”, and Depp amended it by removing “na” after his estrangement with Winona Ryder. Johnny had this tattoo done at Sunset Strip Tattoo reportedly paying 75 Dollars. Their adline proclaims `Tattooers of the Stars Since 1971′ and proudly announces that Johnny’s `Winona Forever’ double-banner tattoo was done on his right bicep by us to serve as parallel to his tattoo on the left honoring his mother.
On his right biceps just below ‘Wino’ there is the prominent tattoo “Cherokee Indian Chief in full headdress”. This is to honor his Cherokee great-great-grandmother, Minnie. This tattoo also serves to testify his ancestral cultural heritage.
It is reported that nearly seven of Depp’s tattoos were done by New York tattooist Jonathan Shaw and interestingly Shaw was the one who played the role of a tattoo artist in ‘Tightrope’ – a Clint Eastwood movie.
It is worthwhile looking into the background of some of Depp’s tattoos. As stated earlier, “Betty Sue” depicts the standard ‘heart’ tattoo with a ribbon through the middle where the name of his mother written. It is said that such tattoo designs were profusely sported by servicemen to remind them of their homes as also the cause they were fighting for.
The “Inverted Triangle” seen above the Betty Sue tattoo represents the heart, and is considered a symbol associated with women to reveal romantic love. Depp must have had his own reasons for sporting this tattoo. The “Brave Symbol” tattoo on the right arm is obviously to remember his film entitled ‘The Brave’.
“The Swallow” or “Flying Bird” has apparently been taken from the movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Depp meaningfully redesigned the tattoo on his right forearm as he turned it around to give the impression that the bird is flying towards him and he wrote his son’s name, “Jack” underneath.
Swallows are traditionally known to travel long distances in the sea during migration and they would hang around boats parked at the shores. Thus, the sighting of swans presumably lent credence to the fact that land was close by.
Those who know Depp closely would have noticed “Three Little Rectangles” on his right index finger. He lightheartedly calls these squares as a “permanent phone doodle.” The number “3″ is found on his left hand and John says in the April 1996 issue of Young Flix Magazine that 3 is a special number for him as it is a creative number denoting Triangle, Trinity and he also meaningfully comments that two people make another person. “Three is a mystical, magical number.”
Johnny appropriately sports the tattoo bearing the name of his daughter Lily-Rose Melody near his heart. The traditional danger signal of “Skull and Crossbones” is seen on his lower right legwith the suggestive phrase “Death Is Certain” written below the diagram.
The most recent tattoo, by all accounts, is the “Silence Exile Cunning” on his left arm, which many saw for the first time at an MTV movie awards function. Booklovers know that this tattoo must be the result of his reading the book “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” penned by James Joyce.
This tattoo has a particular significance. It is said that a sailor is entitled to this tattoo after voyaging 500 nautical miles. There is a belief that Swallow indicates that land s nearing and it also signals safe return.
Depp’s right upper arm includes images of a Cherokee Indian chief for his ancestral heritage and a banner reading “Wino Forever.” Originally it read “Winona Forever” and was in honor of his relationship with actress Winona Ryder. However, it has been proven once again that tattoos frequently last longer than love. This tattoo was laser edited following his breakupwith the actress. His mother’s name “Betty Sue” is inside a heart with some tribal flourishing on his left upper arm. Over this is an inverted triangle design. Over his heart in script is “Lily-Rose” for his daughter.
About half of Depp’s tattoo collection have been done by NY tattooist Jonathan Shaw. You can see Shaw in Clint Eastwood’s movie TIGHTROPE, playing a tattoo artist. Several of his tattoos are understandable and symbolic specific to Depp himself. On one ankle is a skull and crossboneswith the phrase “death is certain.” On his left hand, between the thumb and index finger, you can see the number three. He describes several small squares on his right index finger as a “permanent phone doodle.” Depp has also spoken in the past of having had the habit of cutting, of making deliberate markings with a knife blade. His arms have some places where he made deliberate cuts himself as acts of body art.
In the movie PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, Depp played Captain Jack Sparrow. Costuming and smears of fake dirt were used to cover up Depp’s tattoos during filming. His character had a tattoo, which was a fake for the movie, worn by Depp. He sported a sparrow tattoo on his forearm, along with a mark branded for pirating. After filming, he had his sparrow tattoo made permanent in honor of his young son Jack. He modified it slightly, flipping the sparrow around so that it is flying towards him instead of away from his body as it was in the movie.