Tattoo - the back story

The poem I posted yesterday, I wrote while I was at the tattoo shop having my second tattoo done. It pretty much describes what I go through for getting a new tattoo and I want to go into this some more.

First of all, the idea

It starts with an idea
Infectious all of its own

It always starts with a turning point in my life that I want to memorize. There's been a couple of them, most of which never made it to the final stage. There's multiple reasons that can happen, but I'll get to that later on. Before it gets to the stage of making that decision, a certain amount of work goes in.

Nagging, teasing, begging
Because it wants to grow

Most ideas, at least for me, keep on itching, unless I can reasonably argue against it. Itches need to be scratched and my tattoo ideas keep on coming back to me, over a period of weeks, months, sometimes even years.

Develop into something more

The work going in

I give it some attention
Research what it needs

At some point, several years ago, after the first two or three ideas stranded during this stage, I made myself a promise. I promised myself to always use symbolism to monumentalize an idea on my body, because symbols can be repurposed and reinterpreted.

The first stage of developing the idea is to conceptualize it: thinking about symbolism, figure out what imagery best carries the idea for me. Of course this doesn't have to happen all in my mind. In fact, I'd be surprised if it ever does, since I see things every day that influence how I view things.

This stage is where I likely spend the most time, because I need to find something that just clicks. I generally can't work with imagery from others, simply because it isn't mine. That doesn't mean that what I use is unique per say, but that it develops naturally for me. This is also the stage where most ideas loose their momentum and eventually are discarded.

Pictures, photos and drawings
Aware that's how it feeds

Once the concept is clear, I start looking for inspiration on how to portray it. This is where I go online and search for drawings and pictures of tattoos that speak to me. Not all inspiration I find online, but the web is by far the easiest means to find of it. Thus far, there's never been a single image to inspire my tattoos. For both of them I've taken a couple of images, each of which with elements that I liked.

Curious what it's got in store

The artist

Eventually a message
To an artist of my choice

This part mostly feels like it takes long time, when in reality it doesn't. That's because I start to loose my patience.

From here on, the path forward is pretty clear, since it's easy enough to find tattoo shops. The investment is looking at artist's portfolios and finding an artist who's style matches what I'm looking for. Because I can't picture my tattoo (I have aphantasia), I only know what style I want once I see it.

Talking through the details
Giving the idea a voice

This is when all of it starts to come together. The original idea, the imagery, the pictures and drawings and, as final ingredient, the input from the artist. That last ingredient is invaluable, as only the artist can tell me if and how they can make it work. They're the one who has the experience and know-how. I like how artists work with ideas and mix in their perspective. A tattoo is theirs as much as it is mine.

It's gonna get its way

An idea; immortalized

Finally the day arrives
Needle going in and out

The final thing to happen before tattooing begins, is drafting it on the skin. My experience so far is that digitally created desings are stencilled. With my latest tattoo this was only part of the process. After stencilling part of it, the remainder was drawn right onto my skin.

Though I can hardly notice
Because the only thing that counts

Once I confirm that the design and positioning are to my liking, all that's left for me to do is to wait and deal with the sensations that come with tattooing. It's during this time that I wrote the poem.

The idea now here to stay