Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tattoo process–Owl & Eagle

Oops, I promised myself I’d write a blog post today and I have nothing prepared. I don’t even have a new photo! Errr…well I’ll work with what I’ve got, which fortunately means my brain, today!

This entry is a “for future reference” for me, mostly. I thought it would be interesting to revisit my thoughts on my first “real” tattooing process some years from now when I presumably have more. Though this is technically my second, I don’t really count my first.

Making Art

My artist is quite busy, so it took several months for us to coordinate on a drawing that I liked, and then make a date to start. I went in with this idea of a bald eagle and owl (any kind really) kind of snuggling, maybe with the eagle holding a wing around the owl. I kind of saw it as a portrait tattoo, with some kind of filigree or foliage surrounding them. It was originally going to be on my inner forearm, but I really didn’t like the first drawing that Elize sent me.

The next couple of months were her sending a slightly revised version of the first drawing and then me finally growing the nerve to express my unhappiness and try to articulate better what I was looking for. Just as I was getting anxious and checking in with Elize again, she sent me the final drawing and I fell in love with it. My heart quickened and I started smiling, and then immediately told myself to calm down, I should think about this for a week or two. I barely made it a week before I emailed her back to set our first date.

Based on my reaction to the final drawing, I really feel like this is the kind of response I’m going to be looking for in future tattoos. I’m not good at sticking up for myself and expressing myself when I’m uncomfortable, but obviously that’s a pretty important process when you’re deciding on art that will be on your skin for the rest of your life.

What I love most about the drawing she sent me is it stands alone as a piece of art, but also works quite beautifully on my arm. Not everyone cares about how it “works” with their body, they just want the image or the words in a particular place, or nowhere in particular at all, but to me that was very important and I feel like Elize really got it perfect. I very much feel like it belongs where it is and is a part of me just as much as the history behind it. Elize and I reflected on the first drawing after the last session and I really feel like going bigger was the best choice for this particular tattoo. The small tattoo I’d originally envisioned would not have worked on my arm the way I wanted it to, and the overall design of my tattoo as it exists now is perfect for what I wanted, even if it’s not what I originally wanted. Finding the right artist is very important for someone like me, and Elize was definitely the right choice.

Living the dream

My first session was 2 hours for the outline. Within 5-15 minutes, I got used to the feeling of the tattoo needle on my skin and was mostly bored! I was too distracted by the noise to even think about reading, though I had brought my Kindle. I chatted with Elize, probably very nervously, on and off, asked questions about the tattooing process, and basically just killed time while trying to sit very still. People working at the shop stopped in every now and then during each session to gush over my adorable birds and the acorns (I’ve learned that apparently acorns can be cute) and that helped set me at ease as well, definitely a soothing environment.

Actually, a lot of people asked me if I was going to leave it just as the outline when I first showed it off! Looking back on it, I still love it as the outline, but there’s no way I could have left it that way now that I know what it became.

The healing process for the outline was pretty quick. The lines peeled a bit, like a sunburn, and that’s what it felt like after the first day too. It was healed and done peeling within a week, though it took a few more for the lines to go down. I had fun stroking it (with clean hands :) ).

The next step was shading. Here’s where I begin having no idea what was going to happen.So red! My first tattoo had only been a small word with lines only and I don’t even remember what the healing process was like. Now I was about to get a lot of filling in with gray (she watered down the same black used for the outline, as opposed to using white to tone it down, which I found interesting, but makes sense now knowing what colors she used for the last session), and everyone told me that it didn’t hurt nearly as much as the outline. The outline felt like someone pressing down on me with a ballpoint pen… IT HURT A LOT MORE THAN THAT. Maybe it was less excitement and not knowing what to expect, but I struggled through those two hours to keep my cool and just get through it. Listening to the music playing helped, but not much. I don’t think we spoke much during that session.

The darker parts of the tattoo actually scabbed over (something I’d read about as part of the healing process, but hadn’t yet experienced), the lighter areas just peeled. Again, it felt like a sunburn, but was sore and sensitive for longer than just the outline. Not surprising. Once again, I was asked if I was going to leave it as is, which made me feel really good about my tattoo!

A few weeks later, I went in for my final session. This time, the shading hurt much less, and I think it was a combination of expect the worst (the second session) and my excitement over being done. I really didn’t know what it was going to look like. Elize had sent me some pictures with the same kind of color scheme that mine would have, but I really couldn’t envision it. I had fun watching her mix the colors, which are all named funny things (there is a shade of green called Gangrene). She used a brown, pink, purple, gold, white and black, dipping the needles into the inks to collect it, then running the needle to mix them together. Sometimes she’d run the needles over a paper towel to check the color mixture, but most of the time she seemed to know exactly what shade it would be.

So cuddly and cute yet regal.

It’s been about a week and a half since my last session and I am almost completely healed. I had scabbing again, on the darkest spots of the acorns darkest spots around the eyes, and some of the bodies where she filled in a bit more “gray”. There are a couple of spots under scabbed areas that seem a bit light that I may get in touch with her about touching up (I didn’t pick, I swear!), but overall I’m ecstatic with the results. I don’t have a picture of it healed, so the colors are not quite accurate in my final picture, but I’ll share one soon, I swear!

Going forward

Overall, I’m very happy with my experience with Elize. I think she was the right artist for the job and everything went really well. We discussed potentially covering up my first tattoo, which I was happy to learn is totally possible in its current state (somewhat faded and totally a mess), and leaving it open for a potential future chest piece. My biggest concern is what to cover it with. Elize said flowers are great for cover-ups (using a leaf to cover the text), and she’d know since she’s kind of renowned (a bit sad really) for her cover-up work! I like roses, but I said I was afraid of being “cliché”, though she suggested they are “classic” for tattoos. There are totally ways to make a rose my own, and not just any other, and I am looking forward to getting in touch with her later this year to start planning (provided that my financial situation is more stable).

But for now, I owe her a care package with some treats as a thank you!

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