My First (And Only) Tattoos



And the trouble with getting inked...

Last year I got my first, second, and only, tattoos! My first memory of tattoos is a rather scary looking man in my parents' off-licence when I was very young indeed. This tall, muscly skinhead was covered in the things! Even now I can remember thinking, "That looks silly. There are far too many. But what are they? And where do I get one?!" Since that moment, I knew I'd get inked one day. Almost three decades later and I have done just that!

Getting my first (and only) tattoos

So, I'd spent an extraordinarily long time trying to decide what I would have. About a decade ago I decided that I would obviously be having a Whitesnake tattoo. They've been my favourite band as long as I can remember. But I struggled to come up with a design I liked. I didn't want just any old rubbish. It had to mean something - it would be with me for the rest of my life after all!

Then, around the start of last year I decided what to have. I had a t-shirt from the Forevermore tour in 2011. Perfect! It had everything I wanted on it! Although the 'Forevermore' part technically refers to the album, that's not what it means to me. For me, it is about always being a Whitesnake fan. Always having a love and passion for the music. It's also how I connect with the music, and how every song holds some sort of personal meaning to me.

I spent the next few months psyching myself up about it and looking for an artist whom I could trust to get it right. I needed months to prepare because I'm not good with needles or pain. The thought of sitting still for most of the day while a set of incredibly sharp pointy implements assaulted my skin, which I was paying for, filled me with dread! It was also important that my chosen artist (Karl at Chambers of Ink by the way!) understood my fear. Not only that, but we both needed to have a similar artistic vision. And he absolutely could not have flash art on his walls. I hate flash art. (I'll get to that in a bit...) This was to be my first tattoo.

But it ended up not being my first tattoo! You see, after spending months getting ready for it, the universe played a rather silly trick on me... I had a dream! No, not the Martin Luther King kind. One night I dreamt about the Peak District - it's the place I love the most and where I always feel at peace, no matter what. For some reason, the image of the boundary markers (aka millstones) kept recurring. When I woke up I couldn't get them out of my head. I'd no idea what the dream was about, but I did know something. I had decided upon a new first tattoo! My Whitesnake one would have to be my second!

This is my first tattoo:


You'll have to forgive the poor photo (and the hairy arms!) I took this myself, using my iPhone's front facing camera. I promise that it looks better in person and it isn't actually wonky! It took the best part of 4 hours, including breaks for 'progress photos' and a 5 minute rest following the lining. That part hurt. A lot.

This is my Whitesnake tattoo:


This one hurt an incredible amount. Despite being better prepared, I had to take a 15 minute break about 45 minutes before it was finished. I'd been sat there for 5 1/2 hours, and suddenly the colour drained from my face. Mentally I was fine, but my body was waving the white flag! Once my body was ready again, the pain was resumed. With just the colouring and highlighting to go, I thought that the worst was over. I. Was. Wrong. Very. Wrong. You see, Karl had to go back to a much smaller number of needles for the highlights (those are the white bits by the way - and despite common belief saying they turn yellow, they don't if done properly!) As such, it was like have lining work done, over the existing pain. Lining hurts a great deal. By the end of it, I was in tears. It was worth it though!

My artist kept saying I'd be back for more, but I really won't. I've only ever wanted one tattoo and that developed, quite unplanned, into two. However, these are the only two I ever want, and the only ones I could ever imagine having.

The trouble with tattoos

There are lots of issues with tattoos. The obvious ones are the cost, time, aftercare, and obviously the sheer pain. Anyone who tells you they don't hurt is lying. For me though, there are two bigger issues.

Firstly, the sheer abundance of them. My stepfather used to say "If you want to be fashionable, and just like everyone else, then get a tattoo." I've always disagreed with that, and I still do. The problem isn't actually that lots of people have them - it's that lots of people have the same meaningless or fashionable-in-the-moment rubbish.

One reason I wouldn't even consider most tattoo artists is because of flash art. For those unfamiliar with that term, it's the stock artwork that you see plastered all over the walls of a lot of studios. The sort of thing where you walk in, point a something that's about £20 and proudly exclaim "I want that one!" The sort of things that take hardly any effort at all on the artists part, but yield big returns. No thank you. From my experience, the better an artist is the less flash they have on their walls. Good artists have none.

A little over a decade ago, I'd found a design I quite liked. I went to a few different studios (all of which had flash all over the walls... - I didn't know any better back then!) but really struggled. Not one single studio would give me a quote. I kept hearing "Well, it all depends on what you want." I had the design with me and had already shown them! Then I'd hear "Well, the price depends on how many sittings it will take." Well, tell me how many then? They all claimed they couldn't even guess. They'd then say "Well, it depends on the amount of shading it needs." Well, you have the design right under your nose, you tell me!"

This, by the way, is a similar (but badly done) tattoo to the one I'd decided upon all those years ago:

Not my tattoo!
After visiting several studios, and receiving the same apathy and vague responses from each, I gave up. If the artists couldn't be bothered to take their art seriously, I wasn't about to give them my money! I actually discussed my original idea with my artist, and whilst I made certain he understood I'd never have that now, we both agreed that if it was done properly it would be a cool tattoo. He also managed to quote for it - despite me not actually wanting it.

The point I'm trying to make is that I don't consider tattooists who only use flash art to be real artists. Whilst there is a certain amount of skill in doing any tattoo, the thought required with flash is minimal. To me, an artist is someone who creates something unique and special. If DaVinci kept knocking out the same painting over and over again, would we now consider him one of the renaissance masters? Of course not.

The other obvious point about flash art is why my stepfather used to say what he did. Lots of people all end up with the same tattoo. There is nothing unique or personal about choosing something that hundreds of people before you have chosen before. Anyone who says differently is talking utter rubbish.

Secondly, it's the way a lot of non-inked people perceive those who are inked. Apparently we're all scum. Brainless, low-life morons who scrounge off the state, and have no chance at being remotely human. Well, I have two tattoos. I'm well-spoken, well-read, in gainful employment, and I'm studying for a degree. There are lots of others like me as well. Did you know that King Edward VII was inked? I'd regard that as keeping some pretty good company!

The 'scum' misconception largely seems to stem from a small handful of ne'er-do-wells, who happened to be tattooed, who acted against societies moral values. "Here's your prejudiced, ill-informed, ignorant brush, please tar me with it!" A bit like the way some people are treating all Muslims at the moment I suppose...

People also assume that tattooing is a recent thing, started in the early to mid 20th century. They too are wrong. Tattooing has in fact, in some rudimentary form or another, been around for thousands of years. (Google it.)

People's misconceptions of tattoos were well demonstrated to me a couple of days ago. The Peak District National Park Authority had commented about my millstone tattoo on their Twitter account. They'd said "[...] this is an impressive tattoo!!!" An obvious troll responded to them and me by calling me "[...] a townie who has probably only moved here 5 years ago and now acts like the lord mayor of his village." Nothing unusual about the silly actions of an anonymous individual on the internet.

What did surprise me was what followed shortly after. The individual's comment received a like. From someone from my past... In fact, it was someone who really should have known better and whom I thought was above that sort of behaviour. My ex-finacée! She'd blocked me a few years ago if I recall correctly - which is her right. So she would not have been able to see my tweet unless she unblocked me (or logged out - but then she'd still have to log back in to 'like' the trolls comment, at which point my post would not be visible to her.) So she had unblocked me. Just to 'like' an obvious troll comment...?

It just goes to show that even people who should know you really well, still judge you based upon your ink...

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