There Was Pain Involved, Part I

OCTOBER 9 First session. Scheduled from 3-7 and informed that most of that time would be for conceptualizing.

I took in a picture of a compass rose tattoo I’d seen dozens of times over on the internet and I said “I like the proportions and the fact that it’s made of wood. Do something with that.” When asked how big I wanted it to be, I said “Big. Like… really big.” because I do not do these things halfway I guess.

compassI randomly decided that I wanted a patch of scales in the center (because I am a mermaid) and my tattooist was into that. He suggested barnacles and I was very much into that. The thing I like most about this guy is that I can say something completely batshit fucking crazy, like “I want it to look like something that broke off of a ship and sank to the bottom of the ocean and landed on my back and is just… like… fusing onto there.” and instead of looking at me like I’m completely batshit fucking crazy, he looks at me like he gets exactly what I mean and he’s trying to figure out how to make it happen.

So after we spent hours looking at pictures on the internet for source material and bonding over a mutual love of H.R. Giger and the biomechanical aesthetic and weird shit on the bottom of the ocean, he went to draw up the final concept.

I’m going to level here: the stencil looked like shit. The stencil always looks like shit because it’s just an outline, which is why it’s very important to pick a tattooist who knows things like color and shading and all those other things I would’ve learned about if I’d gone to art school like my parents always wanted me to.

Anyway. Something like 28 colors—most of them green-greys and brown-greys and purple-greys and grey-greys, a process that I later learned is called (wait for it…) “greylining”—and 3.5 hours later, I called Stop on a tattoo for the first time in my life.

The weirdest part was getting tattooed along my backbone. Needle hitting spine causes all nerves to fire at once all the way down to the tips of fingers and toes. It feels very similar to playing with low voltage electricity and while it isn’t precisely painful and it’s too interesting to really be uncomfortable, there’s something deeply unsettlingly wrong about it that makes my lizard brain say RUN.

Other insignificant details: Music blaring in the shop was A Perfect Circle and I spent a few hours reading Pattern Recognition by William Gibson (yes, I read a book while getting tattooed—right up until I realized I was ignoring a present moment and decided I should try being Zen-present instead of not focusing on the pain).

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