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5 Tattoos - 5 Experiences

Wow, after reading about all the losers who get stupid crap tattooed on them I really had to write in. I really shouldn't say that, though, because I have a few tattoos on me that aren't the most original or meaningful, but I've progressed.

OK- I have a total of 5 tattoos. I will recount the stories of them.

When I was younger I never, ever, thought that I would get a tattoo. I thought they were dumb, and only for people who were on a lower level than myself. Then I went to college. After attending the University of Wisconsin Madison for a semester, I wanted a tattoo. Probably to fit in, or feel different. Not really any deep spiritual meaning or needing. I thought for a few months about what I wanted, and came to a decision. I wanted a Phoenix with the word “Invictus” under it. Invictus is Latin for unconquerable. My wife, girlfriend at the time, had gone to a shop that she said was good. The Blue Lotus is very professional and hospital level clean. I went in and the artist who my wife was tattooed by wasn’t there, but I wanted this tattoo today, so I settled for one of the other artists. He told me he couldn’t do the phoenix design I had wanted the size I wanted, so I decided to just go with the lettering. The stencil went on my right shoulder and the process began. About ten minutes later it was over. I had my very first tattoo, small as it may be. I paid the man $50, and was on my merry way. I took immaculate care of it, washing and putting lotion on it.

Now, tattooing had me. I was content with what I had, but I really wanted the phoenix. So about six or seven months later I decided to go in and get it. This time bigger and on my back centered between my shoulder blades. This time I did get the artist my wife had gone to. Rich, is great. Very good attitude and very willing to work with you to get what you want. I only wanted to spend $200 so he sized it accordingly. Later I found out that he made it bigger so that it would look better on my back. This is a true mark of an artist and not a businessman. He was willing to take a hit in his pocket just to make sure that it would look better. This tattoo was considerably more painful than my last ten-minute experience. I took about 2.5 hours. The spine and either side of the spine in the soft tissue are very painful areas. We finished and it looked great. I shook Rich’s hand and knew I would be back.

My next tattoo was a tribal piece. Yes, I like almost every other tattooed human on the planet has a tribal piece. It covered my left shoulder with broad sweeping lines. It was a much more pleasant spot to be tattooed than my back. I really have no good reason for getting this tattoo other than the fact that I liked the way it looked and I wanted to get another tattoo. It cost me $150, and Rich was now my official tattoo artist.

My next tattoo was born of loss and grief. When my grandfather died, I wanted something to remember him and my grandmother who had passed a year before. I told Rich my idea, an angel with wings spread and hands out, standing on a block with my last name and the dates they died. We spent a few hours drawing it up and tweaking it to my satisfaction. It was BIG, about 13 inches tall, six inches across and it was going right below my phoenix. I wasn’t looking forward to another back tattoo, but I was determined to create a lasting memorial to my grandparents. It took about 2 hours and 15 minutes. It was very, very painful. I think your frame of mind has a great deal to do with the amount of pain you feel. I was still upset about my grandparents, and the lower back is even worse than the upper. I have the utmost respect for girls who get tattoos on their lower back. It isn’t a walk in the park. By the end I was almost in tears, but then Rich said he was done. I was g! lad, and was ecstatic when I looked in the mirror. It was amazing. Rich was very pleased with how it came out as well.

So after a rather painful experience I took a bit of a break from getting tattooed, but sooner or latter that tattoo bug bites you again. Now I was getting serious about tattooing, so I wanted a back piece. A back piece is a full back tattoo. I had an idea of what I wanted and how to incorporate the phoenix and the angel into one big piece, so I sat down with Rich. We spent a couple hours one day and the a couple the next and came up with a really cool idea. It already looked like the phoenix was rising out of the angel, so we decided to have a run down, burning city scene down by the angel, and a blast wave of light and color all around the phoenix. A banner over the top with the last two lines of the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley would frame everything up. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

All told I think we spent a total of 25 hours on my back broken up in two or three hour sessions. As far as the pain issue goes, it increases as you go towards the center and down on the back. Also when I became engaged to my wife, half way through the back piece, we got matching tattoos. The phrase “love conquers all” in Latin was tattooed on our left arms right above the shirt line.

This brings us to my current project. I love tattoos, and I hated that no one could see mine. I had a f***ing back piece and no one in my Mechanical Engineering classes could see it. No one on the street knew how important tattooing was to me. So I mad a huge decision, I was going to get a sleeve. (A tattoo piece that covers an entire arm, cuff to shoulder.) I chose my right arm since only lonely Invictus was scrawled on the top of my shoulder. The idea for the tattoo came from the Herbert Draper painting, The Lament for Icarus. Rich made a few changes to it, and we began. The arm is so much less painful than the back. These sessions are much easier than my back piece sessions. So, I’m about 17 hours into my sleeve, and have about 13 more to go.

Here is a summary of what I have learned in my tattooing experiences:

1. Bigger is better. They are not just trying to make more money off of you. The parts of your body are bigger than you think, and putting a one inch by one inch tattoo in the middle of a sea of skin isn’t going to look as good as a nice big image that fills up the space. Also, the artist will be able to add more detail to a large tattoo.

2. It will cost you some money. I’ve spent thousands on my tattoos, but in the long run, they are cheaper than anything else you’ll buy. They last forever!

3. Odds are you’ll want to get another after you’re first. I don’t know why, but everyone I’ve ever talked to says that tattoos are addicting.

4. DON’T GET FLASH. Think of something original and your own. Have a general idea and then have your artist design something for you. They will appreciate it, and then you’ll have something no one in the world has. Make your tattoo have some sort of meaning, not just “I want that one”

5. All the other crap everyone else always says: research your artist, make sure they are sterile, blah blah, after-care, blah blah blah.

So there you have it, a tattoo addicts confession. I hope you have a good experience with tattoos, and I hope you come to love and respect them as much as I do.

-Andrew

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