So Mo came to town last night– the reasons were manyfold– Mr. Mo is running in a big local race this Sunday, she wanted to hang out with me (hooray!) and also, her favorite tattoo artist, who is booked out for six months at a time, offers a first-come first-serve line the last Saturday of the month. Guess where she was early this morning? She was out the door early, and was second in line, and waiting through a hailstorm to keep her spot.
Having never been in a tattoo place before, after lunch, when her spot came up, Mr. Mo took the kids for me and I headed down to check it out. Ages ago, back when motorcyclces and bad boys were regular parts of my life (have I told you about those days?) it was suggested that I become a tattoo artist. I have drawn lots of tattoos for other people to take their skin artist of choice, but I’ve myself have never actually gone under the needle, and never seen anyone else do so either. I was excited to see a process I didn’t know
much anything about and see what all went into it.
First, the tattoo parlor in and of itself is an experience that might make some with delicate constitutions blanche. This place has a fantastic reputation, and the artist working on Mo is well known on the west coast as being top notch. But it’s still a tattoo parlor, and genteel leaves when you open the door. They swear like drunk sailors, it is not the domain of women, Reservoir Dogs was on the TV providing more swearing, and the guys make off-color raucous jokes. There is a motorcycle bar next door and rows of Harley Davidson motorcycles line the street. (saw an FLH, the same bike I rode to Sturgis)
I know better than to think much of the rough exterior though- within minutes of sitting down, it was clear these guys were not only nice and very friendly, but that they knew their stuff, and we quickly fell into talking about geekdom, Star Trek, Firefly, comics, and BSG.
Mo was getting her favorite icon put on her bicep, and the artist was very open to showing me what he did as he moved through the process. He even invited me to his side of the table where I could see better, saying he never minded boobs near his ear- but he said it with a smile and a laugh. Sometimes you just gotta roll with it. The wall is covered in awards and licenses and accolades for this guy’s work, as well as photos of his family and drawing by his children.
I got to watch as he prepped all the needles and ink, and got his supplies together. He transfered the artwork to Mo’s arm with a special transfer paper, just a simple outline that belies the detail that will be added later.
And then he got to work. Even the very thin solid lines that he lays down to start with are actually a cluster of seven needles- which was a surprise to me. There was very little bleeding, which was also a surprise to me- and Mo said it feels like being burned. It was fascinating. The fine needles vibrate incredibly fast to puncture the skin and deposit the ink sub-dermally.
Once the outline is fleshed out (ha! see what I did there?) he swaps the gun out for a different set of needles- this time an array of eleven fine needles that are not clustered tightly like the liner, but spread out so the artist can begin to shade. It’s akin to stippling, creating fine dots of pigment in order to shade. It was really cool to watch the process- he controlled the intensity with pressure, tension on the skin and minute dilution of the inks. He was very patient with my questions and letting me get in close to watch.
After about 3 hours, this was the result:
Rosie the Riveter on Mo’s arm. From a rough outline, to an incredibly detailed and nuanced tattoo. And I have a new experience to add to my cache. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon and while I may not be lining up to get myself inked any time soon, it was interesting to consider different expressions of art and creativity. Broadening of ones horizons is never a bad thing. Got any ink?
p.s. Mo wants me to tell you all that she was very brave and didn’t get all girly and cry or anything, even though it freaking hurt.