I have approximately 41 hours [50 hours as of April 2018] of tattoo ink work on my body. It is all original work, no words, but a few Kanji. Many of my cohort have tattoos, so the experience is nothing others are not familiar with. The meanings of everyone tat(s) are varied as they are beautiful. I’m not going to go into the meaning of my art at this time. That’s personal.
Instead, I am going to talk about the process of art selection and ink injection. Of the 41 hours of work, I have 10 locations of work. Maybe 11. Maybe 12. Somtimes, it’s hard to discern where one begins and one ends. A piece is usually selected well in advance of the ink injection. An idea will spawn a tattoo image on a specific location of my body. I currently have a new piece in the making. I’m just waiting for the time and feeling to be right to decide to move forward. A tattooist once told me, “a tattoo is your soul coming to the surface.” I tend to agree with him.
Once a tattoo feels like it’s already there, it’s time to move forward with finding an artist to make your image a reality. I don’t have a specific artist, but I do have favorite shops I go to: Steady Tattoo in Minneapolis, and Sol Tribe Tattoo in Denver. I have tattoos from both locations, and they are my go-to places to get ink laid.
You find an artist who can trace a pre-defined pattern, or can come up with design unique to you. I’ve got to artists with prepared works, and I’ve had others do the design for me from scratch. My experience is that you get what you pay for. Don’t skimp on the details. The results will be with you for a while.
Preparation for the tattoo entails mental and physical prep. Do not drink alcohol for days before a tattoo. The alcohol will thin your blood and make you bleed more during the ink injection process. Mentally: YES, it will hurt. It makes some fall asleep, and for me, it just aches after some time. Shave the area a few days ahead of time to remove the bulk of the hair and allow the skin to recover to avoid irritation during healing.
First, a single solid needle is used to do an outline of the main design. Next, multi-tipped needles are used for coloring and blending. A needle injects itself dozens of times a second, which leads to ink being laid into skin.
Aftercare is the safe keeping of your tattoo. It ensures proper healing and preservation of the ink now inside the skin. In essence, a tattoo is a scar. A deliberate, intentional, prepared, and carefully made scar. There are other forms of body modification available, including: piercing, scarification, branding, and implantation. To each their own!
Why a tattoo? “A tattoo is your soul coming to the surface.” They help you focus on your life, and to make a representation of your life thus far. They leave you with beautiful reminders of your life. The pain. The healing. And the beautiful art that has a personal representation and meaning that only you will have the experience of knowing.