Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Half Sleeve Tattoo – Part 2

So with the initial design done, I made my way to HK last weekend to start work on my new KOI DRAGON tattoo. So far this is the largest piece I have gotten and I was nervous about the pain. Part of the design is on my shoulder and the base of my neck. I have heard this is one of the most painful areas to get tattooed. But I was really excited about the piece so I could not wait to get to work, the night before I even had dreams about getting a tattoo. What really sucked is that my train got delayed for an hour, just standing still in the middle of no where. I was so fucking frustrated. You cant get off and you cant even bitch about it to anyone. When I finally got to the studio it was already 2pm. Jo had the sketch of my tattoo laid out. We made a couple adjustments, and it looked pretty good so she traced it onto a carbon paper and pasted the design on my arm. Yeah, she had to do a bit of shaving first. It is probably still a bit hard to see at this point what the tattoo is going to look like. There is a huge element of trust between a customer and a tattoo artist when getting a large custom piece. It is not like picking a design out of a book and then having it put on your body with a reference of what it should look like in front of you. With a custom piece the finished tattoo exists only in your head and the artists head, and you HOPE that you are both heading in the same direction. This is why it is important to deal with an artist you a comfortable communicating with. The only mutual reference you have to start with is outlines. With the stencil laid the artist is also able to make some changes with a marker in freehand to adjust the image to the contours of the body. All bodies are different and a large tattoo can not just be pasted on and expected to sit right.

Once the guidelines were laid, Jo got right to work. I had missed that familiar buzz of the machine and the moment the needle hits skin is always a bit of an awakening. The last tattoo I had really hurt and halfway through that piece I was ready to quit, but of course those were just battles I was having in my head. We started on my arm so the pain was not really bad, after about 5 minutes I was pretty comfortable. The plan for the day was to get all the guidelines inked with a watered down black ink that is lighter is color. This is essential to do at the first sitting because you will never be able to place the stencil the same way again. Also she used a light shade because with a grey scale tattoo you have to build up from light to dark. It means double work because most of the lines will have to be inked in 2 or 3 times as you are building the image up into a darker color, creating depth. It took about an hour to finish all the lines I think. My lower arm area did not hurt much but when we got closer to my armpit it started to irritate. The skin in that area is soft, more sensitive, and I have some stretch marks there. It really hurts when the needle goes over the stretch marks and they also tend to swell up and not take the ink so easily so you have to go over the area a few times. It fucking kills! But the swelling goes down in a few hours and looks normal. The tattoo of the shoulder area where there is little flesh was not so painful but more itchy, but as we got closer to the neck I wanted to rip my fucking teeth out! There was a time I actually had a healthy tolerance for pain, but now I am a wimp. I did not want to come off as a weakling though but I think Jo could tell I was in agony. The drilling so close to the base of my skull was gnawing at me and all that is really there is the KOI whisker! But it felt like she worked on that area forever. After that nothing hurt anymore. Once all the outlines were done we took a break for a few minutes and went right back to work so Jo could start shading. In another hour she managed to finish up the flowers around my old tattoo, and then decided to call it a day. If she had opted to work another hour and start shading my shoulder I would not have said no but man I was not in the mood for it. That drilling in the base of my skull had left me with a serious head ache.

I am happy with the way things are looking so far. It hurt quite a bit going over the outlines for the flowers the second time to darken them, reopening the cuts, so I am looking forward to 2 weeks of healing before I go in for the next round. Right now the color is really dark and seems to stand out from my old tattoo too much but once it is healed they will start to blend and only get more intertwined over time. That was a major factor for me, to have this look like once big piece and not a series of tattoos. I am also enjoying having this work done over a couple of sessions. I get to enjoy the experience a bit more and it is like having loads of tattoos. Jo also gets to have breaks in between and come back with fresh creativity. We are not working with a set design here so we have to develop ideas and concepts as we go along. I am pretty stoked with her work so far, although I will admit there are bound to be imperfections. There will always be flaws in any tattoo, no matter how perfect it may look at fist glance an owner will always be able to point out some fault. The skin is not a perfect canvas to work with, it has dimples, moles, and scars that all effect the surface an artist is working with. But it is these mild imperfections that differentiate a picture from a piece of art. I am proud of the fact that we have come up with a design from scratch and this piece will be unique to me. And although I am dreading the world of pain waiting ahead of me, I cant wait to get into the seat for the next round. The rest of my night in HK was a fukin trip as well, so overall another wild weekend.

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