January 14th, 2009

beeker

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.@@@
beeker

Tattoo!


Having written about my tattoo for LJ Idol I realized I had never put up photos of it.  So here is one artsy shot of the tattoo:



I am really photo unsavy - so the rest of them are all uploading 90 degrees from how they make sense.  I'll figure it out and get the rest of them up soon.  Poke me if soon isn't by this weekend.