I asked for a bathroom break, but in reality I just could not take the pain anymore. I locked the bathroom door, and splashed some water on my face. I was afraid I might pass out soon, my chest was quivering every time the needle touched me. Why was I doing this, nearly four hours of paying someone to stab me with an automated needle to lay ink into my skin in the shape of an octopus. Insanity, and I loved it.
I have spent about two thousand dollars on my tattoos (I have three so far), and I can only imagine when all is said and done that number will be a lot closer to twenty thousand dollars (or more). I have wanted to get a tattoo from a young age. I have wavered in what the subject would be, varying from band logos, to kitschy phrases that I am very thankful I never had the guts to have done. In many ways I am glad I waited to get one, or I might have ended up with a Slipknot band tattoo (please forgive me music lovers) or the phrase “love conquers all”. Yes, teenage Michel was an interesting person to say the least.
Tattoo culture has always fascinated me though, I have always wanted to be “one of them” when I see people walking around with full sleeve tattoos. I would stare and wonder what brought them to get that giant eagle, or that tribal band around their arm. Was it a drunken whim, or perhaps a tribute to a fallen friend, maybe it was just a way to test your limits and prove you could handle it. I can only tell you this, I did it because I felt incomplete without them. It is a bizarre feeling to describe, like my skin was naked without any art resting permanently on it. I used to toy with sharpie markers, writing phrases or getting friends to draw things on my arms and pretend for just a few hours that I was brave enough to go under the needle.
I will also admit this, I am judgmental of the tattoos that other people choose to get. Typically I cringe when I see something that is ill-taken care of, or that was placed in an awkward spot that stretches and flexes too often to allow the tattoo to really shine. I have seen many tattoos done in shops that were less than recommended, by artists that rushed the work (or merely could not handle the task) resulting in something forever on your body that looks like it was the artists first day. Getting a tattoo that you love, regardless of subject, does however make me happy to see. Tattoos create stories, connections between us all, a permanent story placed onto your skin. Sometimes it is a very private story that you need a silent reminder of, other times it is a story that you want to be able to share with the world.
I have heard a lot of advice when it comes to getting a tattoo, especially the first tattoo. Some people abide by the idea that you have to live with an idea for at least a year before you get it etched onto your forever, I disagree. If an idea of concept is significantly important to you, and you can find an artist that you trust and appreciate their work then you should take the leap and at least discuss it with the artist. It does not hurt to discuss ideas, and potentially get some sketches drawn up by the artist to see what it would look like. Ultimately if you are not happy with what they come up with, simply do not get it done, ask the artist to rework it or worst case, find a new artist. It may seem rude to decide not to get tattooed by that individual, but unfortunately that is the way art goes, and if you are not in love with the design you have no obligation to let the artist put that on to you.
My first tattoo was an incredible experience for me, I was in a rough place emotionally and wanted something for myself. I chose a giant octopus that rests over my heart, for a few reasons. Primarily my favourite book of all time is the Jules Verne adventure novel “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”, in which there is a famous illustration of Captain Nemo looking out a window at a giant octopus. I put it over my heart for one simple reason, it was a large tattoo and I am a small person, so this provided the largest surface to place it. In retrospect I also like to now think that it helps to guard my heart (symbolic and sappy but true) from harm, as when I got it done I was struggling quite a bit with anxiety and my first experience with being cheated on. The artist was an incredible woman originally from Quebec, we talked about dogs and she made the experience amazing for me and was very patient with me as a first time subject.
The first thing I remember after standing up and looking in the mirror at the new piece of artwork on my body was; I need more of these..and fast. My first tattoo had healed by the time summer arrived, and by the time the leaves were falling to the ground another was about to appear.
It was a beautiful Autumn day, and I was out to breakfast with two of my best friends at a little cafe laughing and eating as much food as my stomach could hold. As we were making plans for the day, I explained that I wanted to stop in at the same tattoo shop that had done my chest piece. I wanted to see if the owner was available to do some work for me in the coming months, I was hoping that we could discuss a Vancouver Island themed tattoo. When we walked in (to my surprise) the owner was the only one there, I explained to him what I was looking to get and why I wanted him to do it*. Our conversation went a little like this;
Me – “Hey Gerry, so I was wondering what your wait-list might be like?”
Owner – with a blank stare “….I don’t have a wait-list”
Me – “…”
He would explain to me later that this had made him laugh once I left, and feel a little sad. Apparently I was the first person to ask him that, he kept more limited and sporadic hours so a wait list was not needed. The next surprise was that flipped through his appointment book, and asked when I wanted to do it. “Soon” I replied, and he asked “how’s 3pm today?”. So I was back under the needle again with only about four hours notice, to get a large X with the letters VIHC in each blank spot. This one was much less painful, and much faster to my joy.
Tattoos heal pain by causing pain.
If you have any questions about tattoos, do not hesitate to get a hold of me! I love to discuss and try to help out for tattooing.
*Gerry was the lead singer in one of Victoria’s prominent Hardcore bands when I first entered the scene.