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Monday, April 23, 2007

Getting inked.......again

Long before I got my first tattoo, I always liked the idea of them as being a piece of permanent art that represents a piece of who you are.

People who know me well know that I have a huge fascination and affinity for sharks, and I knew that it would be a great choice for a tattoo (so glad I didn't go with the Van Halen logo). Being that tattoos were a whole new venture for me, I started trying to speak with people about where they got their work done and why. The common thread in many of the stories was American Graffiti, a midtown Sacramento shop that boasts great artists whose work jumps off the skin.

My sister Kris and I went there together back in 1998 because she was thinking of getting a tattoo also and we thought it would be fun to do together since we're pals. I met Jim Vanis, a great guy and even better artist. I told him what I was going for and he drew it up quickly, and the drawing itself exceeded my greatest expectations.

My idea came from the end of "Jurassic Park" when the T-Rex has trashed the lobby area and lets out a huge roar as a banner dropped across him which read "when dinosaurs ruled the earth". Being that sharks existed before dinosaurs I thought it would be a nod to that idea to have a shark wrapped around the earth, my version of "when sharks ruled the world". Jim did an amazing job (in only 45 minutes) and it remains a favorite of my own and among all I've seen, for more reasons than it being my first.

Kris got a pose of the Cat in the Hat on her arm. It looks great, almost like Dr. Seuss himself drew it on her! Overall, we both had a great experience getting our first taste of ink. Little did I know that it would become such an addiction (different than drugs). I won't speak for all people who have tattoos, but it changed my approach to seeing art and thinking of its potential as it translates on skin. I have always loved art in general but never thought of how it would look as a tattoo before getting one of my own.

Almost a year after getting my first, I started to feel the itch for some more ink. One of my employees from Jamba was dying for a tattoo and it was her birthday. I took her to a shop where one of our customers was an artist. She knew Jim, who did my first tattoo, so I was instantly comfortable with her as my choice. My friend from Jamba decided on some fairy wings on her back and the artist did an amazing job. I had an idea for a tattoo but it turned out that it worked much better on paper than it did on skin. I got the tattoo and knew shortly after that it didn't work as I expected, especially when I would hear "what's that"?. I can't fault the artist for the outcome, because she only did what I asked her to do. I just put that in the back of my head for a cover-up job later on.

Almost eight years later, I decided it was time to turn that mistake into something to admire. I went back to American Graffiti and met Ryan Tanton, who did a fine job. I told him that I wanted a hammerhead on my back to cover up the old job. He drew up a stencil pretty quickly and wasted no time in getting to work. It's really impressive how these guys do what they do, they truly are artists. They are able to draw pretty detailed pictures in short time and their imagination and signature style always show on their work. I know that cover-ups are not a favorite thing for most artists, since they are made responsible for fixing someone else's bad work (in this case, idea gone wrong). The only thing I would prefer to be different about the hammerhead on my back is the placement, but I understand why it was placed as it was. The shark runs vertically from high on my right shoulder blade to my middle back on the right side. I guess if it would have been horizontal, the tail would have come out on my side and looked funny. The one thing you need to keep in mind with any good artist is that they have just as much at stake in doing the work as you do in having it on your body. An artist's work is like his business card so they want to make sure that you're happy and that they're giving a good representation of their work. After the hour and 45 minutes in the chair, minus a few short breaks, I was done and very happy.

To give some background on my next project, rewind back to 2003 in Maui. My dad, sister, and I walked through Lahaina near the Banyan Tree and thought we'd take a peek in a local tattoo shop. There amongst the wall of art was the best looking Greek key design I had seen to date. I was dying to get it but because I was a little sunburned they would not do the work. I was disappointed but understood because a reputable shop will not do tattoo work on sunburned skin.

**Sunburned skin will not heal as well and the integrity of the work will most likely be compromised, creating a regrettable experience and a blemish on an artist's reputation. If you have a sunburn on a desired area for a tattoo, wait until the burn goes away before approaching a shop to save a trip.**

Even though I was turned away, I kept the idea in mind because I knew I wanted it later on and a couple years ago Kacy and I found a great design at a local shop called Liberty Tattoo. I knew of their work because Bill Liberty is a very well-known artist on the convention circuit and a former manager of mine got some amazing half-sleeve work done by Jennifer at that shop. I took the design home and tried to color it in different ways to see what would stand out the best. Unfortunately, I had the artwork in my car (or so I believe) and my car was stolen and stripped to metal, most likely for parts. After my dad said that he would buy me the tattoo for a birthday present a few years back, we finally went in and set the appointment.

Upon completion of my Greek key armband tattoo, I will post pictures of all of my tattoos with artist and shop name with links for each one. I am very proud of the artwork that I have and I want to give proper credit where it's due and help generate some business for these great artists and people.

Personally, I think tattoos are very gratifying if the artist is good and your design represents you as a person. I think gimmick tattoos like band logos are bad decisions, as well as anything that will date you. Don't get a band's name on your arm because you love them if you're in your teens or twenties. When you're sixty and your tattoo looks like a big blurry birthmark, you won't think it's so cool anymore.

I happen to know of 3 instances, personally, where a relationship has ended after a guy put his girl's name on himself. It goes both ways, so don't think if you're a girl you'll escape the curse. Think of it as an advertisement of your failed relationships when they go bad. Who wants that?

**For those of you have questions, see the Q/A page for Liberty Tattoo. It is very well written and thorough.**

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