“To me, it’s like some journal — they all represent different times in my life,” Johnny Depp told The Washington Post in 1995 when discussing his many tattoos. “If you see them, that’s one thing — but if I explain them to you, that would be like walking you through my journal.” Since his first time getting inked — “I was a kid who dropped out of high school, who got his first tattoo at 17, who played rock-and-roll. That was just the chain of events,” he says — Johnny has documented many important moments of his life on his skin. So, take a look at his life by viewing his multiple tattoos.
On his upper right arm is Johnny’s first tattoo, which is the statement “Cherokee Tribe” he got inked at 17-year-old. The ink was done to honor his Native American heritage, as his great-grandmother was Cherokee.
On Johnny’s left arm, he has a heart with “Betty Sue” written across it. Betsy Sue was the name of Johnny’s mother, who died on May 20, 2016, due to a long illness. However, the ink was done long before her death on his left arm by tattoo artist Johnathan Shaw on May 31, 1988.
Johnny’s chest is inked with the name of his and Vanessa Paradis’ firstborn child, daughter Lily-Rose Depp. “My daughter made me understand, helped me understand, why there is life and why I should live, and why I wake up in the morning and why I want to continue this funny road I’m on,” Johny once said to the Philadephia Inquirer (h/t PEOPLE). “I almost feel like I didn’t really have a life before. That I didn’t really live.”
Perhaps one of Johnny’s most famous coverups is “WINO FOREVER” on his right arm or the cover of his tattoo for his ex-girlfriend, Winona Ryder, whom he began dating in 1990. The pair met while filming for Edward Scissorhands and quickly fell in love. However, they didn’t last, and Johnny ended up inking over his love mark in 1993 following their split.
Johnny has a “suprematism triangle” tattooed on his left shoulder, an adaptation of a painting done by the Russian painter Ilya Chashnik in 1925. The drawing was again inked by Jonathan Shaw in 1993. Suprematism was a Russian offshoot of Cubism and Futurism, according to Britannia, and has been described as “the appropriate means of representation is always the one which gives fullest possible expression to feeling as such and which ignores the familiar appearance of objects.”
Johnny’s right forearm boasts a peculiar design: a stitched mouth man with a question mark over its head. The design is the logo of The Brave, a 1997 independent neo-western film that Depp co-wrote and directed. It featured Johnny as a Native American named Raphael who agrees to be murdered as part of a snuff film, directed by Marlon Brando’s character.
Jack Sparrow Tattoo
Johnny’s sparrow tattoo on his right arm is very similar to the one that his Pirates of the Caribbean character, Jack Sparrow, has – except Johnny’s sparrow is flying towards him and now away. That is likely due to Johnny’s love for his son Jack, born in 2002. Supposedly, Johnn said that you “always want him coming back to you.”
In addition to the tattoos on his body are numerous ink markers on his hands and fingers. Located on the index finger of his right hand are three rectangles. “I used to doodle these when I was on the telephone,” he told The Washington Post in 1995.
The Number 3
“I like the number 3,” Johnny told The Post. Johnny has also said that the number is “magical” to him, which is why he has the design on his left hand. He also has a number 3 on his left arm.
Question Mark Tattoo
On his right leg, Johnny has a question mark over an X – very reminiscent of a pirate’s treasure map. The design was reportedly done by tattoo artist Jonathan Shaw, who let Johnny tattoo the same design on his left knee.
“Silence Exile Cunning”
“One of the first people in the public eye to get behind the Beverly Kills brand was the legendary actor and musician, Johnny Depp,” writes the edgy fashion brand Beverly Kills. “During a conversation about our message, he talked about the last few years of his life and why he can relate so much to the brand. He pointed to a tattoo on his arm and said, “This is what you guys need to tell people right here. This is the road map to life.” The tattoo read “Silence, Exile, Cunning,” a reference to this powerful declaration in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
The string of three hearts on Johnny’s left arm is in tribute to his ex-wife, Vanessa Paradis, and their two children – Lily-Rose Depp and Jack Depp. Vanessa and Johnny separated in 2012 but have remained close.
His Grandfather’s Portrait
Johnny has a tattoo of a sailor on his right forearm. The seaman in question is Johnny’s grandfather, who reportedly fought in WWII and was close to the actor.
His Mother’s Portrait
On Johnny’s left forearm, he has another black and white portrait. This time, it’s of his mother (the titular Betty Sue), who passed away in 2016. The photo is reportedly a portrait of Betty Sue while she was a waitress at the Holiday Inn in Kentucky.
The Gonzo Fist
Johnny Depp first met Hunter S. Thompson in December 1994, per Newsweek. “It was from that very second, when he sat down, that I recognized before me the very definition of a Southern gentleman. We connected on the level of both being from Kentucky, both having checkered pasts in our youth, and a great love of literature,” Depp wrote in 2011.
For over a decade, Depp and Thompson forged a friendship that sadly ended with Hunter’s death in 2005. Johnny would play Hunter in the 1998 adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the 2011 adaptation of Hunter’s novel, The Rum Diary (Johnny would first meet his future ex-wife, Amber Heard, on that film.) Johnny commemorated Hunter by getting a tattoo of the six-fingered fist holding a peyote button, the Gonzo fist that has become synonymous with Hunter’s writing.
On Johnny’s right arm, there is a skull and crossbones.
On Johnny’s left forearm, he has the words “Salve Ogum” over a design of a skull wearing a crown.
Johnny has a rook (bird) playing Rook (the old-timey card game) on his left wrist. This was reportedly done in tribute to his grandfather, who played the game often.
Johnny reportedly has a series of dots tattooed on his left ankle.
Johnny’s “No Reason” tattoo on his right inner wrist is one of two tattoos that he shares with Marilyn Manson. “It’s kind of a secret. People say to us, ‘Why did you get that?’ And we say, ‘No reason,'” Manson told Rolling Stone. “Johnny’s one of the only people I can talk to. I can’t explain it other than we don’t ever have to say anything, but we can’t really say it to anyone else, either.”
“Les Fleurs du Mal”
“Charles Baudelaire, the flowers of evil, this giant skeleton thing,” Manson told Rolling Stone about his and Johnny’s tattoo on their backs. The design is a skeletal figure with its arms outstretched into a blooming plant.
Johnny has befriended Damien Echols, a man who, along with Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, spent 18 years in prison for the 1993 murders of three 8-year old boys in West Memphis, according to USA Today. The men – dubbed the West Memphis Three – were subjects of multiple documentaries critical of the prosecution’s handling of the case. One of the documentaries, Paradise Lost, drew Johnny’s attention. Damien, Jessie, and Jason were released in 2011 after entering pleas that maintained their innocence but acknowledged the prosecution had evidence to convict them.
Damien has become a brother to Johnny, so he has a tattoo symbolizing that connection on his chest. “This one Damien designed. It’s one of my all-time favorites, and it means quite a lot to me,” he said in 2012.
The skeleton key on Johnny’s left wrist is also reportedly a tattoo he shares with Damien Echols, according to Body Art Guru. Damien supposedly said that he and Johnny were on opposite ends of the United States when they both got the key, and they were “sending each other photographs, back and forth, keeping track of the progress and everything else.”
Johnny has a crow design on his right hand. Damien reportedly has a similar tattoo, as did Johnny’s grandfather.
Johnny’s son, Jack, reportedly drew this design of a guitarist, and Depp had it permanently added to his skin.
Johnny has a design on his left hand that looks like a “zigzag” or a Z.
Near Johnny’s right wrist, there’s a design that invokes his Native American roots. It’s a design that represents a snake.
Similarly, Johnny has a design, reportedly a “Comanche Shield,” on his right leg.
“Man Is A Giddy Thing”
The faceless man in the suit on Johnny’s left arm is supposedly a drawing done by his son, Jack. The quote (“Man is a giddy thing”) comes from William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“SLIM” / “SCAM”
Johnny Depp reportedly had two tattoos inspired by his ex-wife Amber Heard. The first was the word “SLIM” tattooed across the knuckles of his right hand. “Slim” was reportedly one of Johnny’s pet names for Amber. Following the divorce, he had the “I” modified into a “U,” and the “L” turned into a “C,” transforming “SLIM” into “SCUM.” He had the design modified again, with the Anarchy symbol – an A extending beyond a circle – to turn “SCUM” into “SCAM.”
“Wind Over Heaven”
The black bars on Johnny’s outer right arm are believed to be from the I Ching, Chinese divination text. The design reportedly means “Wind Over Heaven,” or that forcing one’s way through life only brings misfortune and ruin and that one must remove obstacles and overcome them with grace and gentle actions.
“Death Is Certain”
Johnny supposedly has a skull and crossbones on his right leg with the words “death is certain” nearby.
On the outside of Johnny’s right arm, he has a design of a serpent eating its tail, an ouroboros – or a symbol of eternity.
On the inner elbow of Johnny’s left arm is a portrait of a man, with the letters “JJ” on one side and the number “13” on the other. This is reportedly due in tribute to his former bodyguard, Jerry Judge, who passed away in 2019.
Anchor & Fish
Continuing with the nautical nature of his tattoos and life, Johnny has a first and an anchor tattoo on his right arm.
Sun Setting Over The Sea
Earlier photos of Johnny show a pinup woman peeking out from under his sleeve on his right arm. However, recent photos have revealed Johnny had the woman covered up with a keyhole design that showed a sun setting over the sea. Many have interpreted this initial “Portrait of a Lady” as related to Amber and the coverup as him bidding farewell to the Pirates of the Caribbean saga.