As many of you know, I have been on tour across Canada along the Fringe festival circuit this summer doing live performances of my stories. What some of you may be unaware of is a side project I have been doing from the outset. For each city that I perform in, I get a tattoo done along my right leg to represent this time in my life. But it doesn’t stop there.
I went one step further and considered this Fringe festival business that offers all the artists and acts the freedom to do whatever say whatever and sometimes “expose” whatever. Considering that I was going to have an artist working on my tattoos, I thought it only fitting to allow them all the same kind of freedom. Now, some thoughts may arise when you read that. Like, what if they want to do an entire mural across your leg? So yes, I had some guidelines that needed to be followed, to allow for equal space, an appropriate budget, and within my scope of taste.
These were the parameters:
- The tattoo had to be no more than 2x2 inches.
- The tattoo could only be in black ink. I wanted to stay pure.
- Nothing offensive. That’s why I was blessed with a mouth and freedom of speech.
Other than that…GO NUTS!
Of course my fear took a hold of me the day before getting my first one done. I’ve been working on half naked people for a number of years now and I’ve seen some very unique tattoos. But for the most part I have seen the bottom of the barrel tattoos on more than one individual. What are some of the bad ones you ask? So glad you brought it up.
If you have a Disney cartoon character or a Looney Toons character, that is dumb.
If you have a Chinese or Japanese symbol and you believe it to be the symbol for peace/love/hope/strength/independence/honor…and are not Chinese or Japanese? Guess what? Your tattoo is the symbol for “combo number 5”. That is dumb.
If you have a dolphin…it is dumb, and so are you.
I realize this is very harsh and some of you who are reading this who have one or all of the above designs somewhere on your body are now deleting me from your favorites list and are preparing to curse me out. But for those of you who are familiar with my tales know that I usually look like the bigger dipshit by the end of my tales.
Now then, tattoo number one was a very sweet design. The image was taken from a graphic novel titled “Blankets”. A book that if you have not read, run do not walk to any book store and pay whatever the price is. Read it and then thank me later. The artist had a background in cartoon illustration and comic book art. I am a bonafide comic geek and after we sparred with what titles we enjoyed, we discovered a mutual love for this book. As it turned out, Montreal was not the kindest of cities to start my tour off with. I was a bit bummed and in need of a hug at the time, so when the piece depicted the two main characters embracing each other, it called out to me in more than one way.
So tattoo number one rocked! (And no…this does not count as a cartoon tattoo as previously mentioned. I’m getting there)
On to tattoo number two.
I walked in and the artist in Ottawa had been sketching an original design that was influenced from an artist whose work is in almost everything this artist has done since. THIS was more like it! He showed me the tattoo and I have to say, even now it’s hard to describe. It’s what looks to be the skull of some demonic bird that has a 3D eyeball looking out from between the jaws of the bird. It looks totally badass! And I’ve always wanted to feel badass in some way, (all 150 lbs. of me). The only thing bad about it…it was going to be HUGE! At least double the size of my last tattoo. But, the guy was so into the idea of a cross Canada tattoo that he reduced the price just for me. How could I refuse?
So two for two! Let’s move on to Toronto.
This is where things went slightly sour. I arrived at the shop and was greeted by the cashier, another artist working that day, and the girls who sold merch in the downstairs area. My artist for that day however…was still sleeping. Apparently he was still hung over from the night before. Oh and the tattoo, yeah, he never gave it a second thought after I booked with him. So he has nothing to offer. So on the spot, after looking through some magazines and previous work the studio did, with the help of a different artist as well, we picked out this cute little Betty Page-esque pin-up girl. By that time they kicked my artist out of bed and he stumbled into the room. He gave my leg one look to see what other artists have done before him, criticized them all for the after care they chose to offer me, then told me to wait till he was done his smoke break to begin work.
Wait…break? Dude you just woke up! You need a break!?
After a half hour of complete silence in the studio, this guy looks up at me and says, “Kay, were done.” Which sounded more like he was saying, “Kay, get the fuck out.” Half the studio came in to check out my tattoo and talk about the cross country idea. The staff was amazing! The artist I had…could not have been a bigger dink.
Ah well, tattoo number three is sweet!
Winnipeg. My home sweet home. Originally I had discovered that a childhood friend of mine had since become a tattoo artist in the city, so I thought it would be like coming full circle in a way to have her do my next tattoo. But things sometimes go awry in life and I had to reschedule with a different studio at the last minute. A very nice woman brought me in and agreed to do the tattoo my friend was supposed to do in her place. What it was supposed to be was a copy of that little logo that you would see at the end of any “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “Firefly” episode. The Mutant Enemy guy that goes, “Grrr…Argh”. My love for zombies and my love of Joss Whedon come together. And the artist did it in a way that it looks like the little guy is chasing after the pin-up girl. AWESOME!
The one thing that stood out about this one was the studio I had to be in. I’m used to the studios where they have the dental chair you sit in, while images of all these badass, full color body tattoos hang on display. Pictures of biker boys showing off their latest works, “Black Label Society” logos on the shelves, maybe trinkets from old school horror movies, and always…death metal playing on the radio.
This time however, I am brought to the back room and told to take a seat in the dentist chair. The chair...is bright pink. I take a look at my surroundings and notice that the walls are decorated with giant flower stickers, posters of Disney Princesses, fun little bobble heads, and rainbows for the boarder around the walls. This was where Strawberry Shortcake gets her tats done. The artist told me that they used this room to pierce all the little kids. This way they feel a little less intimidated. But for me, I was feeling a little emasculated.
Why can’t I go in the big boy room? So now my “Buffy” tattoo is becoming less cool and more girly by the minute.
But when all was said and done, it is a wicked addition. Tattoo number four, DONE!
Tattoo five. Edmonton. The crown jewel of the Fringe festival. I arrived at the studio and met my artist for the day, an older artist who has been on the scene for decades. At first he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for me. Looking at his arms, which had so much art along them you were hard pressed to find a sliver of untouched flesh, I noticed a lot of the work was of classic movie monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, and Wolfman. So I offered the idea of doing a horror monster with his own kind of flair. He drew up a sketch within ten minutes and away we went.
Now to be honest, I wasn’t sold on the style at first. It looked like something along the line of graffiti art, or something that a kid would have on the back of his skateboard. Neither of these ideas appealed to me. But when all was said and done, it is one of the better looking tattoos I have so far.
Tattoo number five is wicked cool! Onto Victoria!
And here…is where things go awry. I walked in to the little studio and was greeted by the artist I was to work with. Now one thing I should mention is that getting my show into Victoria was a last minute deal, and booking this appointment was another last minute deal. This guy was the only one out of all of Victoria that had time to fit me in. This could be looked at as good fortune or a great, big warning sign.
He is very excitable and really eager to show me the idea he came up with after I contacted him. This wiry little hippy went bouncing back to the studio and came back out with his rough sketch. I was so pumped that this guy was into the idea, and just vibrating with anticipation for what he was going to offer. And then he showed it to me.
“Is…is that a dolphin?”
“No man, no. It’s a whale!”
He said whale. I know he said whale. But all I could see was a very large dolphin. I looked up at him completely horrified and saw that he was grinning from ear to ear. Now it’s at this point I became torn in two. I was at the crossroads so to speak. I am trying to decide if I am the guy who sticks to his principals and keeps his word by allowing creative freedom to be expressed by each of these individuals. Or am I the guy who really doesn’t want a dolphin tattoo?
I should mention that even though I criticized people who have Asian symbols on their person, I do in fact have a tattoo written in Thai down my leg. Which I got in Thailand, and I know for a fact that it is the name of a small village and it’s adjacent waterfall where I spent one of the most awe inspiring afternoons while down there. So how much pride would I lose by adding a freaking dolph…WHALE! It’s a friggin’ whale!
A took a deep breath, tried to focus on the death metal in the background and said, “Alright…let’s do this.” And I went sobbing into the dentist chair.
When I got back to the billets place that I’m at in Victoria, I spent the rest of the afternoon moping around and drinking a ridiculous amount of Pepsi. It wasn’t until one of the residents of the place, Caitlin, came home that my spirits picked up. She immediately asked about the tattoo, which I started off by explaining to her my dislike of certain tattoos in the Asian/Fish genre, and the whole ordeal of the artist’s revelation of the dolphin/whale leading into my personal dilemma of sticking to my guns.
And then I pouted and took a swig of Pepsi.
But, Caitlin then told me that in myths or legends held by many native or aboriginal cultures, they deemed that the whales are the keepers of stories over the years. Whales hold onto the history of the world and the tales that people weave.
My eyes lit up slightly, “Yeah, and this does look a bit tribal doesn’t it?”
“It sure does, big guy.”
Caitlin to the rescue! Of course I may have forgot to tell her about the part where the guy admitted to me that this whale is also on the label of his favorite beer. But hey…keepers of the stories!
And in two weeks, I’ll have the seventh and final tattoo. Which I have personally picked out to round out the whole set.
For those of you familiar with the film “The Seven Samurai”, the flag they bare to represent the group of masterless warriors, is six circles and one triangle done with a Japanese calligraphy brush. Seven symbols to represent the seven individuals.
And seven symbols to represent the seven destinations for this lone warrior.