Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Halfe-Sleeve Tattoo - Part 1

It has been quite a while since I got a tattoo and I have been rather eager to get cracking on a new one. I got a large abstract piece done on my left arm about 3 years ago that was always meant to be part of a larger piece that would become a half sleeve. The symbol in the center of the abstract tribal design is a Ghanaian symbol called DWENNIMMEN; it symbolizes the horns of a ram (I am and Aries), strength, and humility. The design around the symbol is something my friend and tattooist ICON, of Black Jack Tattoo in Jakarta, and I came up with together. Unfortunately we never got around to designing what we could incorporate around the piece to continue the half sleeve. We talked a lot of Japanese mythology and shading to make the existing tattoo look 3 dimensional, but a whole lot of procrastination got us nowhere. I have been keeping my mind and eyes open for new ideas and have been restless about completing this half sleeve. At the same time I have also been itching to get a new tattoo to commemorate my first year in China. I looked online and found a handful of artists in the area, most of them based in HK. None of them really appealed to me because they were just your run of the mill tattoo parlors churning out basic tattoos and the ones in mainland China did not seem at all professional. However I was intrigued when I came across the website for Blue Tongue Designs. The artists work on the site was really unique and creative, even the design of the website is not so commercial. After hitting some emails back and forth with the owner of Blue Tongue Designs discussing what I was looking for, she agreed to meet me for a consultation. Last week while I was in HK for a few hours I stopped in to meet Joanne. We had a good talk and decided she could work with and around the piece on my left shoulder. I am really happy with what I have there but I only want to build upon it to make it bigger and better, not alter the existing tattoo in any way. No matter how long I look at it, it will always seem incomplete to me until I can finish a half sleeve.

So after chatting a while Jo broke out her red pen and went to work free handing some art on my shoulder. What we were working towards is adding in Japanese waves in black and grey around the existing piece, incorporating some hibiscus flowers. The on my back we would have the KOI fish swimming up over the top of my shoulder. The reason I want to use water is because my earth sign is fire and I am extremely attached to the ocean. The hibiscus flower is the national flower of Hawaii where I lived only for a few years but the islands, the fiends I made there, and the time I spent there have left a huge impact on my life. The Koi will be over my shoulder and there will also be splashes of water on my chest, close to where I have another tattoo. This piece is one I designed for myself about 5 years ago. It is 4 AUM symbols formed together to create a circular seal. This is actually my favorite tattoo to date and also one of the most painful ones. The closer you get to the nipple the more sensitive the skin is.

I like the image of the KOI fish not just because it is beautiful to look at but also because it also symbolizes perseverance, willpower, and strength. The KOI I am getting is also not just a regular KOI but a KOI Dragon. The legend of the KOI states that it struggle swimming up the Yellow river to through the Golden Gates where it reaches a lake filled with treasures and transforms into a dragon. The KOI Dragon is in the transformation stage between being a KOI fish and dragon as it struggles up the river and through the gates. However I do not want the dragon features to be too prominent on the KOI, just slight changes to the eyes, the whiskers, and maybe the fins. There is also symbol I wanted incorporated into the design that Jo suggested we can put on the KOI’s forehead. That is gonna be a bit of a mystery.

So after Jo sketched on some of the ideas, basically to get an outline of where to place the objects, she put a large piece of sticky tape over me that picked up the design off my skin. Along with some hair, but I do no think I am in position to be talking about pain just yet. And Yes I know I am pretty hairy but fortunately Jo’s studio is right next to a beautician who does waxing, so I am covered! It is pretty neat how the image looks once it is laid out on one piece of plastic I really can’t wait to see what drawings she comes up with based on the first consultation. I am hoping we can get started with the tattoo this coming weekend and as excited as I am, I am also nervous. This is a really big piece and I am thinking this will take at least 10 hours broken up into 2 sittings, one for the outline and the other for shading. The designs is also going right over my shoulder and touching my collar bone, which can not be pleasant. But no pain no gain and I really want this piece. Also having my first custom tattoo inked on me by a female is pretty cool because the artist is just as important as the piece. And Jo seems like a really cool mellow person and I am looking forward to getting worked on by her.

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