Friday, December 17, 2010

My Tattoo

On December 4, I went into Everlasting Tattoo in San Francisco to get my two basses permanently drawn on my left arm. The photo at the left shows my first tattoo after five days, when the initial swelling is gone.

Why would I do this?

Until quite recently, I believed that tattoos were favored only by sailors, who, on a drunken leave, staggered into a tiny tattoo parlor in some foreign port. Or, they were popular with motorcycle gang members, with Harley-Davidson marked in ink somewhere on their bodies. In more recent years, I’ve seen a lot of teenage girls getting “tramp stamps”—permanent decorations to fill the area between their waists and rear cleavage left open by dramatic, low slung pants designs. I certainly have never identified with or particularly been interested in any of those ink customers.

That all changed when my son, Cameron, got a beautiful tattoo done on his chest. We paid for it as an 18th birthday gift and high school graduation commemoration. I was so impressed by the work of Doug Hansen, the artist, that I commissioned him to do one for me.

I took in a sketch and Doug created a very quick drawing from it--already improving it tremendously (see left). He later sent me another, more finished drawing. I felt it needed its proportions changed, and he sent a third drawing. That was the one we used as a basis for my actual tattoo. In fact, Doug used a method of transferring the art directly to my arm to use as a pattern.

The drawing to the left shows the final artwork before going it was applied to my arm. I enjoyed looking at this image over and over while waiting impatiently for the day when it would become part of me.

The process of being tattooed is pretty simple. You lie down (or sit--depending on the part being worked on). The artist cleans and shaves the area. Then, he or she applies the design--or at least Doug did. The artist could work freehand. Then, he or she uses an electric needle tool to etch the design into your skin.

Yes, it hurts--but the pain is manageable, and with the release of endorphins, you begin to separate from it. My tattoo took about 2-1/2 hours to apply after the initial preparation.

Afterwards, you wear plastic wrap over it for a few hours, then begin applying A&D ointment for a few days, then switch to skin lotion. The important thing is to avoid picking at the tiny scabs that appear so you don't lose any of the image.

I love my tattoo, and am scheduled to go back next month to have more detail and some color applied to the instruments.