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LJ Idol 16: coloring outside the lines

I am a fairly normal looking person.  I'm a white woman in her mid 30's from the midwest.  I spend most of my days in jeans and t-shirts (long or short sleeved depending on the season).  I've grown my hair out some but stopped highlighting it so it's back to it's natural brown, and most of the time I wear it twisted back in a clip or up in a ponytail.  Sure on the days I make an effort to dress up and do my makeup and hair I'll get comments, but most of the time I slide under the radar. 

Which is why my tattoo always seems to shock people.

I decided I wanted a tattoo in college.  But what I wanted, and where I wanted it, kept changing.  So I waited.  I wanted to have an idea quiet in my head if I was going to ink it into my skin forever. 

The location of the tattoo became settled within a year or two; I wanted it on my left ankle.  But what I wanted still changed.  First it was going to be a simple sun.  Then the image of Kokopelli dancing on my ankle bone.  Then I wanted a thin and viney anklet, then a celtic design.  Each new thought lasted for a few months and went away, and my skin remained unmarked. 

Many years later, I was ready.  I had an image in my head that I couldn't describe exactly but that I could see out of the corner of my mind's eye; I knew what it felt like.  I realized that this wasn't just going to be my tattoo, but the artist's as well.  So I researched shops and artists, and over a three week span I visited a dozen different locations to meet people.  There were a few shops I obviously wasn't cool enough to be in, those I walked out of quickly.  Exactly what I wanted had evolved over the years- I still wanted something celtic-native american-deco, but I wanted to find an artist who would help me find the right tattoo for me, instead of copying something out of a book.  And I found him.

I brought Ron images that spoke to me, and he paged through them to find what he liked as well.  I sat down on the table and he began to draw on my ankle with a red sharpie - creating an image that is his but I get to keep.  On occasion he wouldn't like the way something was coming out, or matched up, and he'd pull out rubbing alcohol to erase that section and draw it back in to his liking.  When he finished drawing I looked at his art and I knew it was meant to be mine, and the pain of making it permanent began.

My tattoo took ten hours of inking time from beginning to end.  I am grateful I found an artist who didn't look at me and think 'she just wants something safe', but who took the information I gave him and ran with it.  My tattoo is 8" tall from ankle reaching up my shin; it fully wraps around my leg, and dips down onto the top of my foot.  It is colored in a brilliant turquoisey blue, and purple so dark it's nearly black.  It bends and twists and looks like a physical thing, not just ink in my skin.  It is a part of me now and I love it; I love having found it at last. 

That is why it always seems odd to me when people I've known for a while who didn't know about the tattoo see it for the first time.  I get compliments, but also comments about the fact that they 'wouldn't have expected that' from me.  That it is surprising to them.  That somehow they have to readjust the box they put me in to make the tattoo fit into their image of me.

It makes me wonder what colors we miss in other people every day, especially the ones that are more subtle than ink on skin.  Perhaps no one ever stays inside the lines.

ETA: a photo of my tattoo can be found here if interested.

@@@This is my entry for week 16 of LJ Idol - the topic is "Coloring Outside the Lines".  I'll post a link to the poll, assuming we have one this week, on Friday when it goes live.  Thanks to everyone who has been reading so far.@@@

I'd love to see a picture of it! Most people are surprised that I have a tattoo and a motorcycle license and I can almost hear them thinking, 'But she seems so sweet and nice', as if I can't be those things, but not just those things or at least not all the time...

Edited because I can't type..

Edited at 2009-01-15 01:23 am (UTC)

I was going to link you to the photos I had posted ages ago, but it turns out I hadn't so here: http://beeker121.livejournal.com/114825.html

Yeah, it's funny watching people try to see you outside of the way they think they know you.

I really like your take on this. I'd love to see a pic!

Thanks so much. I posted one pic here: http://beeker121.livejournal.com/114825.html
Hopefully I'll figure this stuff out and have more up in a day or two.

I am not the type to have tattoos, but there has been a few I thought were cute.

It's interesting, because I see other tattoos some of which are awesome but I would never want. They are really such an individual thing, both in what you like, and what you might want.

Thanks for reading!

(Deleted comment)
That's the thing - as long as I'm wearing pants you can't see it. It wasn't 10 continuous hours (dear lord), we did it over four sessions - our schedules were not very matchy. I discovered that my limit was about 3 hours at a time.

I'm debating another one, this one turned out so perfectly I'm a little gun-shy.

I really like the thought you brought to this. I could care less what people do to their bodies, but I sometimes wonder at my students who go out with friends and get a tatoo because everyone else was.

I couldn't ever have just walked into a shop and gotten something off the wall. Even if mine doesn't have a 'meaning' per se, it is meaningful to me because of the time and thought that went into it.

Gorgeous art!

It's always interesting to see how people have to readjust their views of you when they are confronted with something they didn't expect. For me it's the tongue ring since I don't play with it and it's not always obviously there. :)

Thank you so much.

Exactly, you can nearly see the gears turning in their brains when they learn something unexpected - it's kind of fun actually.

Nicely done. Tattoos are very personal. I don't have any but eventually probably will have a couple.

Peter has an Elfquest tattoo of Leeta that Wendy Pini drew on his arm so it is an original piece of art. I am going to get a Cutter on my arm next time we get back together with Richard and Wendy so that will probably be my first.

I like this take on the topic this week.

Thanks for your kind words. It sounds like you are also taking your time to get the tattoo that is right for you which is the way to do it. I'm mildly jealous of the idea of a Pini original, I have to say.

Love your take on the topic!

Good job!

Good for you. It looks awesome!

Thank you. I'm grateful I took my time.

Does it bother you when people say they didn't expect to see it on you?

I really really like it.

It does a little, because it is the culmination of so much want for me. To me it exactly fits, and it seems strange that other people don't see that.


Your tattoo is so beautiful - I love the colors. I wouldn't ever get one, but I like yours it's very pretty.

This entry was interesting to me because of the process you described in getting your tatoo and all the different things that you went through to make it your own as well as the artist's. great job! : )

Thank you! I can understand not wanting to get a tattoo, the morning before I went in the first time I had a mini-panic attack about the fact that my legs would never match again.

Thanks also for your thoughtful words about the writing.

Your last line is really thoughtful- and your tat is awesome.

Thank you so much for both compliments!