the attitudes of others - a Friday afternoon rant

Posted by Alex the Odd at 07:40

Friday, 28 September 2007

I'm a little late in posting this because it's taken me over a week to stop frothing at the mouth. Remember how I told you that attitudes and the opinions of the people around me are an integral part of getting a tattoo for me? Yeah, well I got to spend last weekend understanding the full extent of that statement.

I'm very used to the people around me knowing about my tattoos. The industry is something that absolutely fascinates me and so if a conversation pops up on the subject it's pretty much a given that I'm going to chime in. Mostly I don't discuss my tattoos with my friends, a couple are really supportive and it's them that I turn to when I need to babble away excitedly at someone - other than that it's pretty much the internet, my journal or newly, this nifty little thing I like to call a blog. I'm aware that the whole "tattoo thing" freaks a lot of people out and I don't really have any good friends who are into the culture and while occasionally I will show people photos of artwork or start nattering away about this sleeve or that piece I saw completely absent mindedly but once the eyes glaze over I try my very hardest to stop.

There are some people that I make every effort to actually avoid discussing my plans for upcoming work with unless I absolutely have to. I speak of my friends from high school and my Mother.

I have to tell my Mother about my tattoo plans, I get crushed with guilt if I don't but I only ever tell her about them at the final stages - ergo she thinks that I don't actually put any thought into them. So much so that she actually offered me a grand not to get this one done for another two years. I can't even consider it and I can't explain to her why, I know why, but I just can't put it into a form that she'd understand. The essence of the argument (not for getting it done, we've been over those ad nauseum but for not taking the money) is this: Yes, I may regret this in five years time but if I don't have it done then I'll always wonder and if I do get it done a few years down the line I'll feel like an opportunity was missed, if I want to get it done but can't because my artist moves away or I've worked myself into a position where it's impossible (I'm just the kind of girl to get into a destructive and co-dependent relationship with someone who forbids me from doing something) then I'd be devastated. And no matter what I'd always know that I was bought. Not only that but that the only reason I didn't do something for myself, that I really wanted, was that she asked me not to. And I'd resent her for that. I already hate one parent for the choices he made I'd rather have a life time of regret for the image on my skin than spend even a day resenting my Mother for the choices she took from me.

She says she's given up now, that she never wants to see it or hear another word said about tattoos ever again. I give her a month before she caves.

Then come my high school friends. The thing that gets me most about this is that I didn't actually intend to tell them anything about it, it just slipped out because I wasn't thinking straight. Now I know that I only see these girls (yes, girls for a I am a posh private schoolgirl - most of the stuff you've heard about us is entirely true) from time to time, and our lives are so far divergent from what they were once going to be that it's untrue, but they've known me longer than anyone else and so their opinions kind of matter. I'm used to hearing people tell me what a bad idea covering myself in ink is. Case in point, the male kind-of friend who once sat me down to say the following:

"Now I know that you have some tattoos Alex, and that's fine, but really if you get any more then you're deliberately making yourself unattractive to a large portion of society. Like, 90% of people are going to refuse to date you."
But physical appearance has never really been what I'm about, and it's not like getting a picture etched into my skin is going to change the essential make-up of my character, right?

Wrong. Apparently. I'm ruining my life, literally one of them told me that. Arguments, of course, included the old gem "What about when you get old?" (well then I'll be wrinkly and saggy anyway and probably not baring that much flesh to begin with) but also the rather vapid "But what if you have to go to a formal event?" Well, frankly I'll, oh I don't know, cover it the fuck up? Seriously? I'm supposed to let the fact that one day I might be invited to a fancy party affect my life decisions? What. The fuck. Ever.

I was also informed that tattoo inks fade at different speeds depending on the colours. This was from a friend who had in fact had a tattoo done just after receiving our GCSE results. At sixteen. If you don't know why that would immediately set my teeth on edge then get the hell off my blog. I felt like screaming something along the lines of:
"I'm sorry but in what fucking universe do you think that you know more about this subject than me, at what point in time did you decide that you can educate me on the subject? You, who walked into a tattoo parlour that was willing to tattoo a sixteen year old having done no research whatsoever on a whim, are telling me that I'm jeopardising my future by getting a safe, clean and well thought out tattoo? Come back to me once you've been tested for hepatitis and we'll talk.
But as I'm not really in the market to lose my oldest and best friend (and also she was being obnoxious in large part due to vast quantities of intoxicating liquids) I settled for politely informing her that most tattoos need to be touched up every five to ten years anyway so it really wasn't a big deal.

She also told me that in some countries having a tattoo is seen as a bad thing and people stare at you. Yes, in some countries walking around flashing cleavage is seen as a bad thing and so you don't wander around in a bikini. I repeat my previous plan of covering it the fuck up and leave it at that.

The thing that pisses me off most about this entire thing is that I can't even be properly mad about the whole thing because I know it's all only because they care. If they didn't give a shit about me then they'd just smile and move on rather than trapping me in a corner for two hours. So I guess it's sweet. Kinda.

I don't know, maybe I'm odd but I've never really seen getting a tattoo as a particularly big deal. I mean sure, if you're getting one tattoo and one tattoo only then yeah, make sure it's packed with enough symbolism to last a lifetime, place it perfectly, design it yourself, make sure it really means something and be prepared to tell a story. But if you collect tattoos and appreciate them as an art form then what does it matter other than the fact that you think it's a good design? Do art collectors care about the significance of the painting they just bought? No. They got it because they liked it, or wanted something created by a particular person, or because it matched their sofa. This is the biggest sticking point for me - that people just can't appreciate that a tattoo isn't just a "rebellious statement" or a "permanent brand" but that it can also be a work of art for art's sake and nothing deeper or more meaningful than that.

As I've already said, the attitudes of strangers don't bother me - personal choice and all that jazz - but these people are supposed to know me. The only bright spot came from a girl I've never really known too well, certainly never been close to (emotionally speaking), who sat down next to me and quietly told me that she understands they don't know me as well as they used to but that my judgement is good enough to do whatever I think is best regardless of whether or not they understand it. And I thank her for that.

So that's it. Rant over. Although, this is before work even starts on my back. I dread to think what's going to happen once it's done.

Maybe I should refrain from mentioning my plans for sleeves?

Custom Work: Part II

Posted by Alex the Odd at 06:44

Monday, 17 September 2007

Apologies for my slackerness in posting this update - I'm working for two people at the moment and considering I usually barely work for one this is taking its toll somewhat, plus no internet access at home due to a shiny new flat and the crappiness of Virgin Media. Anyhoo, last week I went for my art consult with Kamil, and so without further ado may I present...

Chapter II - On the Subject of Art Consultations.

I managed (with every neurotic nerve in my body literally screaming at me to get a move on) to only be 5 minutes early for my art consultation and as soon as I arrived Kamil went bounding upstairs to get my sketch. Let me say this now: it was pretty much completely different from the design we had discussed. This is mainly due to me saying "no, seriously - do whatever" the last time I saw him. Because the design had to include a re work of my hideous snowflake tattoo that currently resides on my shoulder, (Note to self: I should really get a photo of it before I have it covered) he took the whole "winter" theme and ran with it. We'd discussed having a character, a woman with a frozen face, as the main element of my design and the sketch that Kamil showed me was an expansion of that. In short I will have a tattoo of a highly stylised comicbook ice queen stretching down the length of my back. Anyone who reads Circular Logic (or is a regular visitor to the Pajiba comments threads) will know exactly how incredibly thrilled this makes me. Like, it's a week later and the thought of it still makes me squee. He showed me how he was going to use the blank space of my skin for some incredibly nifty looking negative shading and gave me a general idea of the colour scheme he was going to use, explaining how he'd be mixing some warm tones into the background to keep the whole thing from being too harsh. We chatted about how he was planning on using pink and yellow highlights and about the way that ice fractures light and how he was going to be recreating that using ink. The final colour scheme still isn't decided yet and I'm glad about that because I'd never realised what an incredibly fluid process this whole thing is - I'm actually almost more excited about seeing the design evolve than I actually am about getting the finished tattoo.


I was completely happy with the design, although it was different than what I'd originally pictured I could certainly tell that this was better. It has exactly the feel that I was going for when I first got my snowflake done and I'm glad that I'll be getting a design that incorporates it rather than just obliterating it - it's important to me symbolically that my big blue mistake remains on my skin. And so... I put down the rest of my deposit for my first session (more than I was asked to - I always do this with tattoos, piercings, anything - the more money I part with up front and can never get back the less likely I am to have a complete freak out and not do it) and I start work on October the 10th. I am so very, very excited. We decided on a three hour session at first which I'm a little nervous as I've never sat for more than two hours and most of that was shading which, for me at least, hurts a hell of a lot less than outline. Still, three hours is enough to get the line work finished and maybe start some of the shading so I guess this is a case of grin and bear it.

Also: three hours alone in a room with someone who's essentially hurting you? Yet another reason you have to get on with your tattoo artist.

In between now and then is the London Tattoo convention which, provided I actually get myself into gear and buy tickets for, I will be blogging about soon afterwards.

my blood, it boils

Posted by Alex the Odd at 03:27

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Oh, for the love of all things holy.

I really would have expected more from The Times, here we have yet another opinion piece written on the subject of tattooing by a Saturday columnist who writes "mainly, but not exclusively, on family matters and women's issues". My goodness! How very, very qualified she must be to comment on such an issue (incidentally: why on earth do tattoo pieces so frequently appear as "women's issues"? Perhaps because the likelihood of shaming men out of getting ink done is much slimmer? Anyway, I digress.)

Ok, ok I'm overreacting because the comments section got me all het up. One particularly delightful example:

"Tatoos [sic] are repellent on women, luckily it's mostly a fad of the not so bright."

[Insert snide comment from Alex about the level to which she is educated here]

Again with the overreacting caveat, I'll be more rational in the next paragraph - promise.

Ok, rationality: The reason that this piece gets under my skin (pun only semi-intended) is because it is written from an unresearched position and targeted to appeal to the self righteous and smug. The author has chosen the path of least resistance and cited examples that every moron who reads the red tops can relate with. We have the citation of celebrities who sport tattoos: from Amy Winehouse (drug addict and all around mess you can tell from the sailor tats, obviously), David and Victoria Beckham (they're a bit thick really aren't they - misspelled tattoos and the "date of their first shag" prove that), Fearne Cotton (she got a tattoo of a Fern, how unoriginal) to Angelina Jolie (pushing her sanctimonious and preachy agendas through the means of ink). Well hoofuckingrah times op/ed, you've identified some famous people with tattoos and passed judgement on them. These are important points to back up your article because usually celebrities are a very accurate portrayal of society, who always make stellar judgements and certainly never blindly follow trends.

Which brings me on to my next point: tattoos as fashion statement. As if I didn't have to hear this argument on a daily basis from my Mother ("I used to wear yellow leggings and I thought I looked great, now the idea of them being welded on to my skin permanently is beyond horrifying" well, points for creativity there, Mum, but not really the same thing). The writer here cites the passing fads of tribal arm bands, Chinese characters and now star tattoos. Well I have two responses to this, firstly (and I will bold this for emphasis): anyone who gets a tattoo to fit with something as transient as a fashion trend is a fucking idiot and secondly: that's why we have cover ups and laser removal. People make mistakes, it's part of their essential nature and if the lesson they learn happens to be a painful and expensive one about the problems with being a pop-culture sheep then so be it.

Lastly, until I think of some other point to rant about at any rate, concerning visual tattoos. It seems like you're damned if you do, damned if you don't concerning this particular matter. If you wear tattoos openly, allowing your artwork to be on view then you are accused of arrogance and vanity for assuming "that others would wish to be confronted, on first meeting, by your deepest feelings, your checklist of loved ones." If you hide your tattoos and cover them with clothing then you are destined it appears to be marked as a "weekend rebel" who approaches the idea of individuality without any real investment. Yet again we find ourselves faced with the assumption that all people who have tattoos get them for the same reasons, in this wide and varied world where our motivations for every little action are free to be called into question, where women's magazines spend pages debating the hundreds of possibilities behind a man's reasoning for something as simple as not calling, there can be only one possible reason for a person desiring something so significant a permanent brand on their skin.

Oh, I'm sorry, two reasons. I forgot that whole "in with the in-crowd" argument for a second there, silly me!

And who cares why someone got a tattoo done anyway? What possible effect could it have on you or your life ?

Now, I should say that if you passed me in the street you probably wouldn't suspect that I have tattoos. Other than a very small stud in my lip, that most people don't notice, and a tiny green gem in one side of my nose I look positively normal. I don't wear midriff revealing tops that show off my stomach tattoo and if I wore jeans low enough to reveal the tattoo on my hip then being judged would be the least of my problems (it would be way down on the list right after "being arrested for soliciting"). Maybe the reason people associate base of the back tattoos with being "tramp stamps" and that butterfly tattoos on the shoulder are considered tacky is that the kind of girls who go out to bars flashing skin and making a big deal of their ink are the kind of girls you remember for it. And I'm not judging here, I've done it - we all have - but perhaps the reason that people like the above esteemed columnist for the Times don't seem to want to talk about the quiet and reserved people with tattoos, the intellectuals, the scientists and the pillars of the community is that maybe, just maybe they don't realise that we have them.

And I'm happy that way, I don't care whether or not the average person on the street assumes I have tattoos in the same way that I don't give a flying fuck whether or not they think I have a third nipple or a tail. It's none of their damned business. If I happen to be wearing something that shows off my ink work then yes, people can stare, they can comment (they can't touch because invasions of my personal space is just a step too far) and I take it in my stride because I chose to look this way, I made an informed decision each and every time I sat down in that chair. What I cannot stand however is when columnists feel that they have the right to label every single person who has a tattoo as either hopeless sheep, pathetic attempts at rebels or outright criminals and then write an opinion piece on the subject.

I think I'd feel better about this article if it was a) in a tabloid like the Daily Mail where frankly I'd expect such smug pandering to their readership and b) not an implicit attack on my intelligence. I'd also feel better if on my side of the fence we had tattooed people hassling those without them on an almost weekly basis and in a public forum such as a newspaper. Maybe my circle of friends is particularly enlightened but I've never heard of a person with tattoos berating someone for daring to choose not to have work done. Whereas I see it the other way around every single day.

The point of this rant is this:

Janice Turner can quite frankly fuck right off.

Custom Work: Introduction, Part I

Posted by Alex the Odd at 09:32

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Of my previous tattoos, three have been the product of flash as it happens all from the same place - the fabulous Tattoodles (subscription required for the galleries and full size artwork) and one, the snowflake on my right shoulder was drawn for me from a photograph. However, I didn't have any input into the designs of any of them (short of actually choosing the images from a database) and so I consider myself as:

a) not having any custom tattoos
b) not having any proper tattoos.

I feel this way as quite conceivably there could be many people walking around out there with the same tattoos as me and also because all of them are less than 4" in diameter. As I've been undergoing the research for my next tattoo one thing that I've noticed is the lack of information regarding how to actually go about getting a custom tattoo designed and eventually inked. Now, I know as much about this as any relative novice so I thought I'd share the process in blog format as I go through it (although don't expect any live blogging while in the chair). So without further ado may I present...

Chapter I - the Accidental Appointment

Backstory: I ended up getting kicked out of work at 11am today as our network was down (some moron managed to cut the cable supplying the building with life giving internet) and everything I had to accomplish today involved me being online. What with travel strikes and unexpectedly sunny weather I decided to take a wander down to Camden so that I could sit by the water and sketch for a while or maybe wander around the market and get some Japanese food from one of the stands. But as always I gravitated towards my favourite tattoo parlour, Evil from the Needle and ended up inside flicking through the artwork.

I've been researching artists for my next few tattoos for a few months now and there's one in particular that I've had my eye on for a while. He currently resides at Evil from the Needle and his name is Kamil. I have been keeping an eye on him (read: obsessively looking through the galleries of his art and tattoo examples) and had already pretty much decided that he was the person I wanted to draw up and tattoo my back piece.

Side note: Choosing the artist I wanted was a long and complicated process... okay, maybe not complicated but it involved a hell of a lot of leg work. Sheer luck dictated that I ended up with a local artist - for a while I planned to get the work done by someone on the coast a good few hours away (and I may still go through with that for another tattoo). Lesson for today: good artist trumps travel expenses.

Process: After wandering in to the studio I had a look through the photo albums associated with each artist, I already knew pretty much what I wanted done and who I wanted it done by but nerves stopped me from striding straight up to the desk and asking for what I wanted. The receptionist eventually noticed me loitering (note for the future: you become instantly conspicuous if you walk into a tattoo parlour wearing a lavender sweater and have your hair in bunches) and asked me if I was looking for something in particular. I explained that I was thinking about getting my first piece of custom work done, that I was considering one artist in particular and was also wondering if I would be able to book a consult with him.

The receptionist disappeared upstairs and I started to feel uneasy; tattoo parlours always intimidate me as I tend to feel like I'm not quite "alternative" enough to be in them and taken seriously. Once I'm a serious bag of nerves, she returns and tells me that although Kamil is currently doing a tattoo he'd like to speak to me about my design.

Now I'll take this opportunity to say that every other tattoo I've had done has been met with mild indifference on the part of the artist. Maybe it's just because I've been getting flash done and hence not challenging them, maybe it's because I'm a ludicrously irritating person who only gets on with about one out of every 7 people. We'll never know, but my point is that instantly this guy was different. I started explaining what I wanted (sketches to follow incidentally) and instantly he told me that what I wanted probably wouldn't translate that well as a tattoo. Rather than just agreeing to what I wanted, or greeting me with a stony "no, I won't do that" he instead started developing on my idea (while giving the prettiest damned Goth girl I'd ever seen some very impressive colour work I might add) and explaining how he saw it working.

He explained how to turn my design into something that was inherently tattooable as well as describing how he would use the natural curves of my body and the tone of my skin to bring out the best from his ink work. Just listening to his ideas and seeing how excited he was (the correct answer to the question "how big do you see it being?" is apparently "big") made me even more excited about the project. He asked me to put a deposit down for the artwork (which ended up at around £40) and to book a proper consult in a week's time. As it is my first piece of properly custom work he told me to make sure that I was the final appointment of the day so that I could have as much time as I needed to discuss it with him and then hopefully, at the end of the session, put down a deposit for the actual work.

And so on Wednesday the 12th of September I shall return and have a look at the artwork he has prepared. I'm literally bouncing off the walls.

Side note: normally the idea of getting an artist to design something essentially blind, as well as taking it off in an entirely new direction would not be particularly advisable or even desirable, especially for someone like me. However, I chose this artist based on the style of his custom work as well as the paintings that he has produced. Giving too strict a set of conditions wouldn't produce something that was truly "his" artwork and I'd rather tone down something original than be left with a flat carbon copy. That said, if I had a piece already designed then I would have chosen the artist in a completely different way and treated his suggestions in a totally different manner.

Aftermath: This is a larger issue than you may first think. Although tattoos are a highly personal thing, and the majority of mine aren't on public display the attitudes of those around me still affect my daily life, if not my decisions. After my appointment I was, and probably still am completely hyperactive. This was dampened only slightly when telling my Mother about the work (this will be a common theme so be warned) she doesn't agree with the designs I get (or even the fact that I get tattoos at all) and she tends to only like the very small, very inoffensive and pedestrian tattoos which I personally think fall into the category that she so kindly labels "tacky". But out of some kind of insane loyalty and respect I have to tell her what's going on after every appointment. Flatmates were uninterested, slightly freaked out and crazily excited respectively.

So there we have it, the first stage of the process has been completed. Any questions/requests for clarification in the comments section are welcomed and will be responded to. That's me out for tonight.

an introduction to the ink

Posted by Alex the Odd at 06:59

Sunday, 2 September 2007

It was this post on my personal blog that really made me decide to start a new blog dedicated to the subject of tattooing. As fun as random musings about the state of my life are (and I do intend to keep doing so) I've been feeling for a while that I'd like to do something with more direction I've chosen to write on this subject not because I am in any way an expert (I'd never claim to be) but because I'm still learning about the subject. Most of my spare time is put to use researching tattoo designs or giving impassioned arguments to defend elements of the art form and so I thought I'd put it to good use in blog form. I'm also about to begin the fairly lengthy process of getting a new tattoo so I'll be chronicling the process as I go through it.

In addition to all this expect hearty amounts of bitching about bad celebrity tattoos, commentary on tattoo stories featured in the media, rants about image misconception and any other random thing that occurs to me in the meantime.

While I'm getting this place up and running (or at any other time) feel free to visit me at Circular Logic, I'll be posting updates to this site on there as they come.

Alex over and out.