If you have not already you should read Part One of this post if you want understand what the heck I am talking about.
This tattoo was pretty unique, in that by the time I actually started scheduling appointments to get it done, the major belief/experience shift that had inspired it had pretty much come and gone almost 5 years earlier. Not to say that these thoughts were no longer important to me but they were not the primary angle that I had been currently experiencing as I had for the time period previous. In that sense, a certain part of me almost wanted to skip this tattoo and deal with something that commemorated something a little more current but a certain part of me felt like that would be cheating.
So here’s the specs on the art. My requirements for what constituted a good tattoo artist were now more than just someone who was them self covered in tattoos. After doing a little research I settled on two artists from Slave to the Needle in Ballard. The reason I chose two artists was because I was now getting a much clearer picture of how the art itself would represent the message that I wanted to communicate. The picture in my head was now a big blue ocean with red blood splashing on a heart. The top half of the heart would be clean and colorful while the bottom half would be black and contain no color.
I also started to formulate the background for the bottom half of the heart. I was now starting to see the tattoo more as a scene as opposed to an object. The bottom of the tattoo would have various traditional tattoo images that represent or symbolize sin. This would accomplish two things. The first is that it would help to communicate the contrast between the bottom half (all done in black and gray) and the top half (all done in color) and it was a great excuse to get all sorts of traditional art work that I love but could not justify getting otherwise. The idea that kept on coming into my head was a message of “contrast.” I wanted the art on the top to be different from the bottom, the coloring, and the style. This was intended to communicate the drastic contrast form one who is made new through the redemption process.
I had Josh design the bottom half. He specializes in traditional black and gray style. I told him what I wanted and he drew and tattooed it. These are the elements. There is a skull which represents death. Over that there is a six shooter gun which represents violence and hate. On the inside of my arm there is an ace of spades and a king of hearts that symbolize greed and recklessness. WAIT a second…I know exactly what you are thinking but you must remember that these are traditional SYMBOLS of sin and not intended to represent sin itself. That also means that you NRA members are off the hook as far as the six shooter is concerned. On the back of my arm I have a scantily clad pin-up girl that represents lust. Behind all of these symbols are spiderwebs. The spiderwebs symbolize spiders which scare most people but they are also something that is tattooed on people in when they have murdered someone. I liked them in reference to the sermon on the mount when Jesus said that anyone who looks at anyone with hate has basically murdered them in their heart. That’s it. I thought about getting some other things. A bag of money or a bottle of booze, or tombstone were some ideas. Eventually I settled on these because I thought that they are the most universal sins that are easy to communicate with this medium. They were intended to apply generally to all people but all of them do apply to me.
My first appointment I had Josh do all of the lower background
elements. I remember that the cards were especially annoying because they were on the inside of my arm. It was kind of funny because I don’t think that I got the heart until a month or two later so for two months I was walking around with just the symbols of sin on my arm. I’m sure there were plenty of people who thought that I was backsliding and needed to go to more Sunday School….well actually most of those people probably still think that. My second appointment, John did the top half of the heart and colored it. I think he did a great job. So much time passed in between the second and third trips, because we moved to Kentucky for 3 months, that I ended up starting and finishing another project altogether. When I got back to Seattle all of the spiderweb background was put in and the dripping goo was applied to the lower elements. I remember John telling me that I shouldn’t do the goo because he thought it would mess all the art up but I think it makes it all tie in better and to me the art needed to be secondary.
I would say I’m probably 99% happy with the tattoo. There are a few things that I am not quite satisfied with. The first is that I think that the bottom half of the heart is hard for people to recognize as part of the same heart that is the recognizable upper. I had Josh add a little more red but I think I’m going to have him add quite a bit more because I really want people to be able to recognize that they are both one object. The second thing is that the ocean scene seems a little tame.
The words from the hymn that stand out to me the most are “vast, unmeasured, boundless, free” and that’s what I want the ocean to reflect. I think the easy way to deal with this is to make the ocean scene a little (or lot) bigger. The only other thing that I am thinking about is adding the words “vast, unmeasured, boundless, free” somewhere into the design. I am thinking about doing it under my armpit from my chest to my back. Any ideas? Well, I didn’t have much to say until last week when I had quite the interaction concerning my tattoo. Someone that I had been previously aquatinted with, through ministry, had heard (or seen) that I had a naked lady tattoo and was quite concerned about the spiritual path that I was taking or, from their perspective, not taking. Me telling him that the lady wasn’t completely naked didn’t seem to help much. Well, I suppose I set myself up for this one but in a way I don’t mind, at least for now.
There’s two main reasons for this. The first is that I thought that the tattoo was actually making people sin I would either not have got it or not expose it. I think it was more a matter of people getting offended and as far as I know the only people that have been offended are a very narrow slice of more of the conservative brand of christian, most of whom I never hang out with. The second reason I don’t mind the abrasive nature of the lower half is that it tells the story the only way I know how. In every story there are bad guys and bad places. My life is not only not an exception to this, I feel like it is the prime example. So instead of just writing the word “sin” kind of like the pastor who says in the most general way “well, nobody’s perfect” I decided to show in a somewhat graphic way what that sin is, in a way that I think emphasizes the Hero that saves us from that sin. In a very concrete sense there are images that display what the saviour is saving me from.
Before having the conversation with the ministry guy about why he thought my tattoo was “bad” and until I get some of my artistic details ironed out I am rating this on the: