I’ve been trying to think about when I first started wanting tattoos. I knew about tattoos when I was little (Popeye, duh), but I don’t think I seriously considered what it would be like to have a tattoo until I knew someone who got one.
I’m not sure, but I think the first person who I knew who got a tattoo was a guy named Mike Fitzgerald. This was probably around 1990 or so (I would have been about 16). It was of a crescent man-in-the-moon face in a circle with squiggly black sun rays radiating from it (or did the circle and rays come later?). I remember talking to him about the pain, how the guy messed it up but was going to fix it later, how much it cost, etc. In retrospect, it sounds like he had a pretty typical first tattoo experience. I was fascinated by Mike’s tattoo, and really wanted one, too, but at the time I couldn’t imagine spending $50 or whatever on ANYTHING, let alone something that I was worried I would regret for the rest of my life.
Pretty soon I went to college and became thoroughly entrenched in the punk scene in St. Louis (and beyond), and it seemed like everyone was getting inked, whether it was at a “parlor”, at a party with a homemade “gun” made out of a Walkman motor, or scratched out in a dorm room with a needle dipped in ink from a Bic pen. Even in the middle of all of that, I still couldn’t decide on anything that would be worth committing to or spending money on. At least that’s what I told people; I think I was mostly just scared to do it.
Drawing fake tattoos, on the other hand, was much easier! They could be huge, scary, cool, and/or completely stupid, and even if you drew them with a Sharpie, they’d eventually be gone! You could have a new one every time you played a show!
I can think of half a dozen instances off the top of my head of my friends and I going out in public with crudely scrawled marker tattoos. Pictured here is me “singing” with my band at the time, The Meat Sisters, at a DIY punk show in Springfield, MO in some unused office space, in summer of 1993. The fake tattoo on my arm is a chunky circle-A anarchy symbol flanked by two skulls with mohawks, accompanied by the text “HARD CORE”. On my leg is the burning wheel logo of Krishnacore band Shelter, with the message “KRISHNA RULES”. Both were supposed to be ironic: the skulls, mohawks, anarchy symbols, etc., being total punk clichés, and “religious punk” being a bit of an oxymoron, at least as far as I was concerned.
I still think the “hard core” design, which I originally drew for the label of the B-side of the Meat Sisters 7″ EP “Undermining America’s Traditional Values” (Synergy Records), would make a kick-ass tattoo… But I’m still not hard core enough to get it.
I can’t believe I forgot this one when I did my post about D&D dice tattoos. I discovered Tim Victim while looking for dinosaur tattoos, and I’m really impressed with his work. Also, his shop, Deep Six Laboratory, is in Philadelphia, which I have an irrational affinity for (and not just because of the show; maybe it’s the nice fossil lady at the museum?).
The following tattoo by Tim and Jeff Paetzold (of Topnotch Tattoos in Elgin, IL) is really awesome. Once I finish my dinosaurs-and-flowers sleeve (ha!), I’m thinking I would like to have my other arm tattooed with a dragon of some sort (maybe a twisty Midgard Serpent?), and I think the style of this collaboration would be perfect for such a piece (especially the alligator part).
Now I just need to win the lottery and get those guys in the same room again…
I’m glad you like my custom Triceratops tattoo; I’m very fond of it, as well. Thanks for asking if Mike Bellamy and I would mind if you copy it, but the answer is: PLEASE DON’T STEAL THIS TATTOO DESIGN.
I spent many hours deliberating over the elements of this tattoo, and researching photos and other images of dinosaur fossils, flowers, other tattoos, etc. Mike built upon my ideas and research to create this awesome, original, unique tattoo design. Obviously, this isn’t a piece of flash that i picked off the wall at the tattoo shop.
I imagine that your tattoo artist would also much rather create his or her own custom design than copy someone else’s hard work. The tattoo community is more interconnected than you might think, and word gets around if an artist is stealing others’ custom artwork.
When I was planning this tattoo, one of the most helpful resources I found was a multi-part essay, “Get the Perfect Tattoo” from Off The Map Tattoo (also available in PDF format). I highly recommend reading all the sections. An excerpt from the “The Perfect Tattoo Design” section:
Many people first learning about tattoos try to find other tattoos upon which to base their own design or idea. They may spend hours looking through tattoos hoping to find the perfect design when they should be looking at the quality of the artist’s work rather than the designs themselves. Copying other people’s tattoos is disrespectful to the wearer of the tattoo, and to the artist who drew it, provided it was a custom, one-of-a-kind piece to begin with. … To get the best tattoo, it’s worth finding a lot of reference material, and bringing the images and your ideas to the tattoo artist who will be doing the tattoo, for them to look at and then incorporate into their own style.
To avoid law suits and even a laser, get your own original tattoo. The most important reason to do so is not legal, it’s ethical. Many custom tattoos tell people’s personal stories and mark unique events and experiences. Why have another person’s life written on your skin? Get a work of art that is all about you and leave out the lawyers.
Having said that, I think it would be GREAT if you got a tattoo of a dinosaur skull with flowers and vines and stuff, even a Triceratops! As I’ve pointed out on the blog, mine is certainly not the only one out there. Don’t you want yours to be original and unique, too? Work with your artist to come up with something even better than mine, and we’ll compare dinosaur tattoos. I’d even be happy to help come up with ideas. When you get your own one-of-a-kind piece done, send me a photo, and I’ll post it on the blog (and to the Flickr group)!
Thanks in advance for doing the right thing,
- Ink Nerd had a huge spike in unique visits last weekend, coinciding with opening weekend of The Incredible Hulk. Lots of people have Hulk tattoos on their minds, I guess… I found this one by Christiano at In the Shadows Tattoo (in Porto Alegre, Brasil) on flickr (there’s also another one in Devil Dinosaur’s Geek Tattoos group)! I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I really want to, despite the lackluster reviews. It’s such a great character; why is it so hard to make a good movie? Oh, well, maybe Ink Nerd will get another spike when it comes out on DVD!
- I started a new job; it’s more of a corporate environment (not very punk rock, I’ve decided), so I haven’t felt comfortable baring my ink at work (also not punk rock). I haven’t seen ANY exposed tattoos on other employees, so I’m going to play it cool for now. Occasionally, my squares poke out from a rolled-up cuff, but I don’t think anyone has noticed. If they have, they probably think it’s a band-aid or something (I get that a lot… don’t ask me).
- I saw an excellent dinosaur tattoo on a fellow straphanger this morning, but he was chatting up a young lady the whole time, so I didn’t want to butt in and ask him to be Random Encounters Part Deux. It was a small, colorful (green with purple markings, or vice versa) theropod, maybe an Ornithomimus, or perhaps a Dromiceiomimus. Very cool, from what I saw, stretching from mid-bicep down past the elbow. I would have liked to get a photo (or at least a better view), but alas, it was not to be. I’ll just have to keep my eyes open around the neighborhood so I can stalk him. I love it when I see dinosaur tattoos out in the world (especially of interesting species); they’re surprisingly few and far between on the web!
- I’ve been trying to create a flattened out picture of my Triceratops tattoo using David Allen‘s Photoshop CS3 auto-align/blend trick, but I can’t get it to work right. I think I need to get someone else to take photos from different angles that don’t suck. If I ever figure it out, I’ll post the result here.
Sorry about the quality of the photos; the flowers were taken with my crappy camera phone, and the blurry tattoo is a self portrait.
Here’s what I’ve been playing with:
- I tried the “blog this” function in flickr with underwhelming results. I can’t figure out a way to add WordPress tags using this tool to post to this blog directly from flickr.
- I started a “Dinosaur Tattoos” group and invited some people to join (8 new members — whoo-hoo!). You may have to be logged into flickr to see all the photos.
- I submitted a photo of my Triceratops tattoo to many other dinosaur- and tattoo-related photo groups, and started a discussion topic in each, plugging my new group, of course.
- I added a thumbnail feed from Devil Dinosaur‘s “Geek Tattoos” group (at right; maybe I should be bringing in a feed from the group that I own, but DD’s covers more bases).
What do you think, am I doing it wrong? Any suggestions?
Ashton is working on a book called Tattoos for Two about tattoos with a shared meaning for two or more people. In her (his?) flickr group, there are lots of great photos of photos commemorating love, friendship, family, and departed loved ones. Thanks to Carl Zimmer for the heads-up.
These cute Brontosaurus buddies from eggandtoast‘s flickr photostream aren’t part of Ashton’s project (yet), but they should be!
I was well into reading some of the stories Ashton has collected before I remembered that my first tattoo is shared by 3 of my closest friends (one of these days I’ll post pictures and the whole story). In addition to the “shared experience” thing, it seems like “buddy tattoos” are a common way people get up the nerve to get a tattoo in the first place.
Shannon has posted lots of buddy tattoos on BMEzine’s ModBlog, as well (WARNING: some of these images may not be suitable for work!).
It’s no secret that nerds love dinosaurs. While body art of a living dinosaur is likely to look cartoonish, fossils have a certain scientific air to them. A fossil tattoo should have a subtle, classy color scheme. Fossil designs are ideal for those who want to avoid a garish, multi-colored tattoo.
Hint: Think beyond Triceratops. Consider a tattoo featuring more obscure prehistoric creatures, such as trilobites or ammonites.
Oh, why didn’t I consult the experts before I branded myself for life as a total amateur?!
But is my tattoo a fanciful picture of a fossil with floral decorations, or a scene set in the Cretaceous of a (relatively) freshly decomposed triceratops in a field of flowers? What do you think?
Ok, finally, here are the “in progress” shots of the now-two-week-old triceratops skull tattoo; lots more after the jump…
Mike Bellamy of Red Rocket Tattoo giving me the business (photo by Amy).
Not only did they have this excellent triceratops skull (it’s as big as me!), but in the fossil prep lab off to the side of the Hall, museum staff were working on cleaning and assembling triceratops fossils!
More photos (click to enlarge):
I spoke with the nice paleontologist lady in the fossil lab for a while (you can see her arms working on a cast of a big fossil in the first thumbnail photo, above), and she encouraged me to volunteer to help out with the fossil prep. When I told her I lived in a different city, she said some of their volunteers only come in once a month… don’t tempt me!
I wonder if the Museum of Natural History has a similar gig…
Greetings from beautiful Philadelphia, PA! My wife is here on business, and I am her escort for the weekend. I wish I felt better… Yesterday, in my head-cold-induced stupor, I accidentally deleted the draft of my long and extremely interesting story about the process of getting this tattoo.
I’m working on the rewrite, but in the meantime, you’ll have to be content with these gruesome photos of peeling tattooed flesh, taken yesterday (day 5?) soon after I woke up (more after the break):
Ink Nerd enters the blogosphere. Thanks for the link, Will… No such thing as bad press, right?
Tricera-tattoo Status: besides being totally awesome, it’s still swollen, sore, and a little red around the edges, but I haven’t started scabbing, peeling, oozing, or any of that stuff. It feels a lot like a bad sunburn, including the hot-to-the-touch thing. I’m keeping it moist with Aquaphor, per doctor’s orders. Also starting to get a little stubble where the manscaping was done..
Next: The making of Herbie the Love Ornithischian
If you hadn’t figured it out, that’s me! More photos, details, etc., coming soon…
I promised I would post this next, but I got excited about dinosaur tattoos on the web, so this had to wait.
The consultation was really great; Mike and I really seemed to be on the same page in regards to most aspects of the tattoo design, such as overall style, size and placement on my arm, angle of the triceratops skull, etc.
I brought in a bunch of reference material, too, including this photo of a triceratops fossil skeleton from Getty Images (photograph by Louie Psihoyos), and a bunch of photos of exotic-looking flowers like this one from a research website about the Paleobotany of Angiosperm Origins.
A full recap of the consultation in gory detail after the jump…
Well, I finally got the courage up to go into an actual tattoo shop, as opposed to just lurking around shops’ websites and artists’ TattooNOW profiles. After work on Friday, I stopped in at Red Rocket Tattoo, which I chose not only because it’s highly acclaimed and very convenient, but because every one of the portfolios on their website is full of great-looking work.
After a somewhat awkward initial exchange with the person (artist Betty Rose) who greeted me (“I’d like to make, uh, an appointment or whatever for a, um, consultation, or however it works? I don’t know how it works…”), I settled into looking through the resident artists’ portfolios, while surreptitiously observing the staff and clientele…
Ok, after a brief (on the cosmic scale) hiatus from blogging and tattoo mania, I’m back on the scene. This is all happening fast, but I think that A) I know what I want, and B) I know where to get it! (I wanna destroy the passerby…)
I decided that the dozens of layers of symbolism that I originally had in mind didn’t really make for a cool-looking tattoo. I also decided that to get back in the game, I should find a highly recommended local shop and go from there, rather than searching the globe for the artist that would really “get” me.
My current plan is to get a tattoo of a dinosaur skull on my right upper arm, with paleobotanical stuff surrounding it (y’know, big ferns, scary flowers, maybe a crazy pinecone-lookin’ thing in there for good measure) for color. I haven’t decided between triceratops (childhood fave) and styracosaurus (bad-ass horns), or if I want the skull in profile, three-quarters view, or head-on (I think I’d rather have a bare skull than a fleshed-out dino head, because who knows what they looked like with skin ‘n’ junk?). I’m hoping the tattoo artist will be able to help out with those decisions; I’d be happy with any of the options. Cub scout’s honor (never made it to Boy Scout), I swear I came up with this before I saw this righteous tattoo.
Can I really call myself a “tattoo enthusiast” when I only have one tattoo (although sometimes when people ask I tell them I have four), and it’s been more than 5 years since I got it? I think so—I’ve been planning my next tattoo ever since (there’s also the incessant poring over magazines and websites, the indulging in obnoxious reality TV shows—and related gossip, the ogling of inked-up strangers, and the talking-the-ears-off of anyone who will listen to me ramble on about tattoos).
But now I’m realizing that this tattoo I’ve been planning will be a big, elaborate piece (O.K., not that big. Half-sleeve, maybe?) with dozens of layers of symbolism that will require not only the saving of many ducats, but much researching of tattooists, attempting to get an appointment with one of them, traveling to his or her shop, etc. A drawn-out process (haw!) to be sure.
I’m still planning the masterpiece, but honestly, I don’t think I can wait that long! So I’m going to start small, just to get a taste… Stay tuned.