Thursday, April 05, 2007

maybe a unicorn, maybe a rose, or maybe a satanic infant crawling out of my asscrack.

It is spring, and that means I am looking kinda ofay with my winter moontan, saying to myself 'Self, this shit needs more ink .'

I already have two small blackwork pieces. I eventually want a full left sleeve, all blackwork.
Anyone at this point who is thinking 'Oh my God you're going to ruin yourself' needs to know that I'm 46, OK? 'As Nature becomes less kind Art will take her place'.
Scene 1-
Little Timmy: Mommy, why are that old ladys' nasty boobs hanging out the bottom of her pantlegs?
Mommy: ShhHHH! Don't look! Have one of mommy's Elavil.
Scene 2-
Little Timmy: Mommy, what do the letters 'I S U C K CO C K' on that old ladys' neck spell?" Mommy: "It's another word for love, Timmy. A special kind of love."

...and really, wouldn't we all choose scene 2?

If I were thinking about getting my first tattoo, I'd be tuning in to the show 'Miami Ink'. You can learn a lot from watching Miami Ink; it's pretty accurate. Ignore the fake staged conflicts and the 'surprise' guest celebs. Watch the work. Watch the shop.

Yes, Ami James (is hotter than a 2$ pistol; I'd like to catch him in the shower one sultry Miami evening after everyone has left the shop and slide to my knees, taking his ) has a dog. No, he shouldn't be letting the damn dog run around in the tattoo shop. Still, as long as it doesn't actually lick the equipment it's probably OK. Ever visit a charming little restaurant that let a charming little cat wander around? Thought nothing of it, did you. Still, I have a problem with that, even though other people don't.

Obviously a tattoo artist needs to be someone who can render a recognizable likeness and who maintains a cleanly workspace. That's elementary. But if there's one thing I've noticed it's that you need to choose whose work you're going to be wearing for the rest of your life by their technique, how they handle the gun, not just the surface quality of their artwork.
God! Nobody talks about this either and yet its so important!

Don't just look at the examples on the walls...look through the artists' portfolios. YOU MUST.
The best portfolio pictures are the ones taken with as much detailed close-up as possible, right after the tattoo has been finished, where you can actually see the needle perforations in the skin. These should be beautiful and even, like the lithography on a dollar bill. It shouldn't look scribbly, or have a lot of places where the skin is torn up like the surface of a fresh abrasion (there will be a few if there's large areas of solid color. It's unavoidable-but you go back and they touch it up for free if they're reputable.) All those torn up areas will translate into places where the ink washes out and leaves a pale spot, or goes in too deep and leaves a blob that will get bigger as time goes by. Look very carefully.

Here's what you do. Pick your design. Then pick an artist. Then ask if anyone in the shop has had any work done by him, and may I see it?

Now, the shop expects this. Tattoos are meant to be seen. Tattooed people want to be looked at, and tattoo artists want their work looked at. This is not going to be a problem for anyone. In fact, you may end up viewing a lot more exposed flesh than you probably expected to see when you got up that morning. We went to a shop in Anacortes where the artists and patrons started just casually hauling out various parts right in front of the main window to show off their work, without worrying that it was next to the busy ferry was where the light was best. And for the most part that's how it is. It's art. The fact that it might happen to be decorating a region of the body seldom seen in public, or not very damned attractive to begin with comes secondly to mind. Interesting, huh?


If someone does have a problem, pulls the 'Well, if you're scared...' thing, or takes an attitude, run. Really.
If someone starts making a lot of apologies and excuses for their work, run. Period.

You never want to hear " Oh, I was so totally fucked up when I did that". We have. We left.

Likewise "I did that one before I knew what I was doing." Awwww! I wanted to hold him and pat him! With a sashweight! Poor brave soldier! You just went right ahead making permanent marks on peoples' flesh anyway didn't you? Excellent! So I can expect that very same level of professional consideration now? Great!

Now the only possible exception would be "You don't wanna see that, it's old." That might just be vanity talking, so don't despair. But DO take a look anyway. Old work is EXACTLY what you want to see! I cannot stress that highly enough! You WANT to see how their work ages! Their skill at rendering may well have improved over time, but I'll bet you any money they still handle a gun the same way they did when they started out. Think about use a pencil. Has the way you held it changed much since 4th grade? Probably not, huh. And paper doesn't scream or throw up usually.

An old tattoo will be blurry, and one on a part of the body that is exposed to sunlight might look really blurry. That can't be helped. However, it should still be recognizable, and it should be evenly blurry. There shouldn't be any big blooms. If the detail has closed up, it should all be closed up to the same degree. Black work should be even, and will probably be deep indigo instead of black. Any other color will be faded and weird looking, though, and that's just the way that goes. They say there's new inks out that stay true over time, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Barring that, watch the artist you've chosen work on another client.

If you hear 'Oh, I don't allow people in my workspace, it makes me nervous'
That's bullshit.
You allow your clients, your co-workers, and all the buttflakes stuck to your co-workers that fell off their clients to drift on through without a problem in the world. Which is totally OK, too - bacteria aren't real athletic. The difference is that bacteria don't have eyeballs, do they? But the client you spend five hours with your face an inch away from does...and they're watching you. But that's fine, huh? Hmm. Sounds a little...sadistic? Guilty? Pissy? You ain't touching this little muk.

A tattoo artist should not be applying a lot of downward pressure, chopping and grunting and flubbing the skin like they're digging a ditch. Neither should they be scratching and flicking and swiping away with dramatic gestures as though they were Mad Jacques the Artiste either. Grinders give you tattoos that spread and bleed into grotesque blurry blobs. That's because the ink has been pushed through all the skin layers into the meat, where the capillaries and blood spread the colored particles around as time goes by.
Mad Jacques the Artiste will leave you bleeding like you ran nekkid through the briar patch. Your tattoo will have bare patches where the ink was washed away, knots of overly-intense color in strange places, and be covered in long, thin white scars when it heals.

I have seen a whole lot of tattoos, and watched a whole lot of tattoos being done. It's only been within the last 15 years that I've begun to see as many good ones as there are bad ones....ones that still look like something you can recognize after 15 years instead of, say, really bad vitiligo. I attribute this to the fact that there are more tattoos being done by more people who are too young to have profound substance abuse issues, instead of a lot of tattoos being done by a few very dirty, very old drunks with gonorrhea.
Just because it's a stereotype does not make it untrue.


Yay! Everything checks out and you decide to get your ink.
After all that, it hurts!

...fine. I will boldly go there.
True or False:
Tattoos are an S&M thing, and people who get tattoos do it for the pain.

...? I have no idea.

I think that a lot of people in my generation did get tattoos for that reason. It had that association, and that didn't come from nowhere.

I'm not real familiar with this kind of sexuality or the motivating factors. If anybody out there is, and feels like answering some clueless dumbass questions about it, would they give me a dingle at please? I'm serious.

All of the tattoo shops I've ever been in were about as sexy as a hair salon. Or a barbershop. That's a good description of a tattoo parlors' ambiance, in fact; a barber shop, but with a lot of really interesting pictures on the wall. I've never been in a shop where anything I recognized as sexual was going on. (Now I'm wondering if I should be feeling left out. )

I've experienced endurance euphoria, and I've had endorphin rushes-with all the accompanying phenomena - sitting in the chair, so I can imagine what might happen if you were into it and knew what you wanted. And I do know that if the experience didn't hurt, I wouldn't bother. Make of that what you will.

Most of the people I know, including myself, got tattoos for two combined reasons: because they wanted something that would give them a little sinister, and they wanted a permanent, visible 'I am tough' badge. Whether they admit it or not.

Now that's not the politically correct answer, but it's the true one. At least for my generation. The ones that got their tattoos before they knew they could be removed.


  1. Kristy7:18 PM

    Wait a minute. This is the same woman who pukes and passes out from a blood draw? And you watch tattoos being done? And want more yourself? Am I missing something here?

  2. kristy: no no no no. there's a big difference between a fasting blood draw done on a woozy, starving person entering the first stages of a serious diabetic episode, and standing around eating grinders and drinking beer watching interesting people you like drawing pretty pictures. on other people. with needles.

  3. Interesting post, FN. I admire some of the "arty" tattoos.(forget the bodkin-and-india-ink"I love Ma" jobs!)
    I note, when I go back to NZ, more people with moko (Maori for tattoo) and if I was not such an obvious Nordic type I think I'd get one. But it would look dumb on me.
    I also like the henna patterns that Eastern women have on their hands.
    Maybe I could have a small one, say, on a shoulder...
    Oh - a tip for the next blood test.Have it taken from your "strong" side (right if you're right-handed, otherwise left)and do a couple of minutes of air-punching and fist clenching before they go for the vein.If you have time for a brisk
    walk beforehand, do that,too.And keep the barley sugar handy!

  4. "maybe a unicorn, maybe a rose, or maybe a satanic infant crawling out of my asscrack."

    How about a jowly, 60 year old ex-coke-fiend who's just been indicted for child porn?

    Yeah! This guy!

  5. Hmmm, I didn't get my tattoo to impress anyone. In fact, very few people even know I have one. It's on my arse, and my arse is not in such fine condition (anymore, dammit) that I would go showing it off. The tat's there for the Spouse Sparrow to nibble on and do other things to. I got it for him.

  6. do you have any piercings?

  7. dinamow: i used to see some moko and pacific island work when I lived in Seattle. it's amazing stuff! and yeah, not for those with euro ancestry. that's what stops me from getting a PNW native motif, that, and blood is one thing but cultural identity is another. and thanks for the advice-pumping up never occurred to me. that's great.
    w2: it was that post in your blog that got me thinking about tattoos! did you dodge a bullet or what? still, it wouldn't stop you from getting a portrait image of his guitar, say. Lots of people do that...'electric lady' and 'lucille' are tattoos i've seen.
    fatty: i won't fight ya. i speak for the bikers and freaks. that i know. that told me why they did it.
    ok fine, i do have to ask you this: was it done to convey the kind of wholesome, freshly scrubbed sexuality of Marie Osmond? or something more along the lines of Janis Joplin?
    ziggi: my ears and my nose, which was a bad idea for someone with hayfever. i tried my upper ear but that didn't work out. do you?

  8. It's cheaper, easier, and less painful just to wear an "ISUCKCOCK" t-shirt.

  9. Only my ears - if I was the size and shape I was at 18 I would have my belly button done(actually I'd be too chicken). My oldest daughter has a fascination with having things pierced (she also has a tattoo on one ankle) Ears (at least 5 each side including a bar thing through the top of one) nose, belly, etc I wondered if piercing was the same psychology as tattooing.

    I vote for a unicorn btw

  10. Just googled that Ami James.


    Well, he's not carrying any superfluous body fat, is he? That's almost enough to outweigh the fact that he's got a girl's name.

  11. I'm thinking of getting my first tattoos, a washing machine on my left arm and a dishwasher on my symbolize my post modernist ideals.

  12. I always wanted a tattoo. I always wanted a tongue ring. But pain scares me.

    Yeah, this coming from a woman who birthed four kids.

    Go figure.

  13. To be honest I got my first tattoos because I was a crab and lobster fisherman and didn't want an anonymous body if I was dragged overboard. After that I was just a show off.

  14. Ahh spring time. Starts with 'I suck cock' and ends with the first swallow of Summer.

  15. Brilliant tutorial on ink-- this post should be required reading before anyone enters a tattoo parlor. And I'm with you - it's not a sexy environment, to me. I've seen a couple sexy people in them, but they were carrying around and island of sexy mojo with them, so that doesn't count.

    Getting ink was not a masochistic pleasure for me, but the endorphin thing amazed me - made me want to do it again and again. I've never gotten the endorphin thing from exercising - this is the only thing whot ever done it for me, thus I understand ink addiction.

    Again, great advice. & Happy Easter!

  16. ah, the tattooing bug...i am lucky enough to have found an excellent artist in my home town - i have three of his now (including a spectacular coverup of an old, ill-advised design). someone has just drawn me up a backpiece (spiky black tribal with pretty flowers - mmm) so now for me the only scary part is having priced. and done. yup. hmm. gots to love the pain..

    and i prefer getting tats to getting pierced - i have 15 piercings (used to be 18 but we won't talk about that) and am NOT having any more. tattoos tho - seven, and counting...

    there's definitely an element of "see how tough i am", but also i think you're either that sort of person or not - the one thing i do know is that i'm not going to be the only tattooed old lady in the nursing home. i know one girl who is still patiently waiting for her "semi-permanent" tattoo to wear off after seven years - i wonder how many people fell for that one.

    christ, don't i go on? shutting up now.

  17. Awaiting, I always feel when black people get tat's the're being short changed. Perhaps someone needs to invent white tattooing ink.

  18. FN interesting post :-) .Sadly in the UK everyone(male and female , young and old) and his dog now has tats , its kinda lost its rebel yell.The one thing I would mention is make sure the artist is good at picking sympathetic colours for ones skin tones. You see some horrible looking pale white things with garish tats , that make them look like they died three weeks ago

  19. "ok fine, i do have to ask you this: was it done to convey the kind of wholesome, freshly scrubbed sexuality of Marie Osmond? or something more along the lines of Janis Joplin?"

    Neither, thank God. I'd prefer to think of it more like that episode in the X-Files where Scully got a tat. That was soooo sexy. The Spouse Sparrow got one (he has many) with my name on it, and I got one with his, along with a bit of art. Our relationship was.... Well, let's say "unique" right from the start. I'll have to post about it sometime, I suppose. Getting the tattoos was meaningful to us, that's all.

    That's too funny about your nose ring. I always had a thing for Hindu-type jewelry and clothing, so back in the late 80's I got a nose ring. Yeah, practically impossible to find someone to do it, it being the late 80's. There was a place on Melrose that did it, and I got it done there. My nostril was so miniscule that the stud stood out all on its own, like a foot from my nose, and I couldn't blow my nose. Like you say, bad when you have hay fever, and I have severe allergies. So I switched to a gold (how very un-trendy) wire ring, and things were good after that. No boogies hanging, and all. I had it 'til 2001.

  20. Scully's tat Rocked! I have even thought about getting that same image of the snake devouring itself -- but then thought that really put me in a group similar to Trekies.
    I have one tatoo that I love and have been thinking hard about a second one. I agree FN -- I did it for a lot of reasons (and stone cold sober too) -- but one reason that endures is how it makes me feel bad-ass. And "cock" isn't even involved in the design!

  21. All very good points, FN. The sad thing about tattooing is that now it's so suburban. A beautiful art or rite of passage has become something to do at the mall when you're drunk (or just had too many Red Bulls). I'm beginning to think it shows my toughness more that I haven't got one... or at least it will when I'm the last one left.

    I do have an upper ear piercing and two I did myself on the ears, though (I used to like to freak out my roommate by coming out of the bathroom bleeding). Oh, and once, before it was popular, I got a mendhi done. I designed it myself to please a girl I was going to visit - and elaborate vine-and sunflower around my navel. Unfortunately, the belly doesn't have as much surface blood flow as the hands and feet, and it just wouldn't dry. I ended up wandering around the East village with my shirt hiked up and my pants hanging down under a hanging plastic sheet, with my belly protruding for all to see. Couldn't sleep all that night for fear of rolling over and smearing it. It ended up nice, but the bitch wasn't very appreciative. I wouldn't want to remember that trip, after all, so thank heavens it faded off!

  22. Can't wait for your "Puffin Night Spring 2007" celebration tat.

  23. This is great stuff, FN. Those two reasons are why I've always wanted tattoos - not necessarily for others so much but so I'll know it's there and feel like I'm hard or something - but I've reached the age of nearly-25 without coming across anything I want imprinted on my skin forever. Plus I'm scaring of crying like a sissy girl with the pain - maybe weird considering I used to cut myself, I dunno. I think going through the pain of a tattoo appeals to me in a vaguely sexy way, in terms of the physical rush of pain, especially that comes with a more prolonged experience, and the idea of going through pain deliberately, to commemorate a feeling or an experience or a person... OK I'm not explaining that very well and am making myself sound a little nuts so I'll shush. I think if I ever really get an idea I like for a tattoo I'll get one of those wussy-ass temporary ones done of it first so I can see if I'll like it for a while. Do you regret any of your tattoos??

  24. Anonymous4:03 PM

    I have a Prince Albert!

  25. mj: the voice of experience!
    ziggi: one vote for the unicorn. (i have actually seen the satanic infant one on real flesh. 1.ow 2. ew.)
    spin: it's israeli for 'dong like a fireplug'
    eddie:that's enough to get you into the fatty girl gang right there!
    awaiting: NO NOT THE TONGUE NO NO NO. how bout that tit that's always hanging over the edge of your avatar there?
    knudie: then why didn't you have your name tattooed instead of a crab and a lobster? by the time they find you you'll be covered with crabs and lobsters anyway and they won't be able to tell!
    tick: *rimshot* lets give him a big hand, shall we folks? tickersoid!
    pf: i like the look and the act, but the rush is tattooing's dirty little secret!
    surly: a semi-permanent tattoo? someone fell for that? that's just sad!
    tick: they show up on black people. the style now is for black, brown and red people to get brands...they heal white and they keloid too. now thats balls i don't have!
    beast: you know it. nothing worse than some sallow toned person with a big' ol fuschia crysanthemum or a blazing red looks more like a fatal skin disease than a tattoo!
    fatty: of course that's the xfiles i missed. of course. OF COURSE.
    i did my own nose piercing because i wanted the angle just so. OW.
    mutha: i have seen people with the original star trek insignia tattooed on their left tit. its sad.
    danator: i love mehndi! when my daughter was preggo we used to sit out on the porch in the evening and draw mehndi on each other. you must have got the type with the henna paste and lemon juice..? we just had a book of designs and did it with inkpen.
    frobi: i think i've picked up an infection...does that count?
    violet: it does not hurt that much. on the outer forearm or shoulder all you feel is a warm, vibrat-ey sensation with a couple of minor pinpokes now and then. tender areas, like...anywhere a whole nother story. my pachuco (a)felt kind of thorny, but not unbearable at all, and i'm a baby!
    muttley: let him out; he's suffocating.


  27. hendrix3:19 AM

    I've always quite fancied having a tattoo but, being incredibly indecisive, have never been sure enough about whether or not I wanted one to actually take the plunge and get one (never mind the stress of choosing a design). So I'm filled with envy and admiration of anyone who does because done properly they look absolutely gorgeous.

    You go get another one and then I can live vicariously!

  28. I was only thinking of tattoo's this morning after seeing a picture of Amy Winehouse's in a newspaper article. As tattoo's they are interesting but strangely don't really seem to suit her. Some people suit their tattoo's and some don't - I think that is quite rare. I remember my mother going into a blue funk when I announced age 14 that I would love to have a 15 dollar eagle tattooed across my back like the one in the Sylvia Plath short story of the same name. She made it sound so beautiful and seductive. It's a brilliant story - reads a bit like Carson McCullers (another wonderful writer). You can find the story in 'Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and other prose writings'. It's one of the best pieces of short fiction written about a tattoo. If it was a film - Rod Steiger would have been the tattooist and Orson Welles would have directed it. Goodness - I seem to have gone off on one! I've always loved tattoo art but have never wanted one myself. I'm just fickle like that.