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trans-continental mischief

December 4, 2009

Deb and I hatched a plan this summer: get the tattoos we’ve always wanted on the same day — one of us in Oregon and one of us in New York — and, as a bonus, use it as a writing prompt.

We spent some time emailing each other links to symbols and designs we liked. Deb lucked out and found exactly what she wanted pretty quickly. She took the bull by the horns and started meeting with artists, and she managed to find an opening right away. I told her not to wait for me: to go for it. I had decided on a dragon but planned to design my own, and I knew it would take me a while. And bless her, she held off on making the big blog reveal until managed to get mine done — which I just did!

The photos are (L to R): the tattoo’s position on my back, a close-up and my original sketch.

I worked on the sketch late August and early September, and then I did nothing. I kept intending to get myself to the tattoo shop on Lark Street in Albany, but I always had an excuse to put it off or something always came up. Then on Monday night, Jill wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t able to join me for dinner and an open mic. So instead of going out with Jill to dinner, I took my sketch to the tattoo shop — which is a block from the tavern that hosts the open mic. (So if I ever need someone to blame for this tattoo, besides Deb, of course, I can blame Jill.)

On Tuesday afternoon, I worked with the artist, who, because we were using different art terms, ended up translating my sketch into many different styles (Asian, cartoon, gargoyle, etc.). His drawings were beautiful but not quite right. Even though we kept going off in the wrong direction, it was great to see how skilled an artist he is. The transformations were incredible.

Eventually, we figured out that I wanted exactly what I had drawn — that he only had to tidy it up. When I went in Wednesday (yesterday) for the big gig, he showed me the perfect rendition. He says it’s (sort of) in the style of tribal tattoos — black ink only, solid color blocks instead of shading. He was so great to work with (shout out to Pete at Lark Tattoo!), and I am soooooo happy with the result. It was a wonderful experience.

It means something to me to have my own artwork on my skin, and it was a great collaboration with Pete to smooth it out and make it appropriate for a tattoo design. Even better, there’s something terrific that happened: the sketch I’d done had eight flowers between the wings, which meant nothing and I’d given no thought to it, but in Pete’s design (and the final tattoo) there are seven flowers, which has huge significance for me.

And I’m pleased that there was a full moon on the big day, which was also unplanned, but which makes me happy.

I’m hoping to do some creative writing (poems) about the tattoo shop and getting the tattoo. I’m hoping to write about the tattoo itself and imagine I’ll give her a name at some point. I’ll also write about the symbolism that solidified “dragon” as the subject for the artwork. It’s along these lines: free, fearless, protective, intelligent, benevolent, occasionally ill-tempered, timeless, etc.

I’m so glad to finally have my tattoo. Did you know I’d be at parties, and people would talk about who they bet had tattoos, and they’d always say, “Carolee”? And they’d always be wrong. And they couldn’t believe it and they’d want me to prove it. (I promise I never stripped, though.) (Not for this reason.) Well, now, when bets are placed that I’m the sort of girl with a tattoo, they’ll be winners. Thanks to Deb for egging me on.

P.S. Everyone’s question: Did it hurt? Yes. It hurt. But it was very tolerable. Pete worked steadily for something like an hour and 20 minutes, I think. None of the tattooing itself hurt as much as the first application of lotion after I cleaned it. (Well, after Dave cleaned it. I can’t quite reach it well enough to do a good job. You know, for a doctor, he’s kind of squeamish.) But wow! Lotion = stiiiiinnnnnng!

P.P.S. Sophie’s (Jill’s daughter’s) question: Did you cry? No. I didn’t cry. I breathed and I focused on the reggae music that was playing. Steel drums on the upbeats. Sometimes, I would count the beats and tap my toe within my shoe to distract myself.

P.P.P.S. As of this writing, I still haven’t told my dad. Eeeek!

  1. December 4, 2009 7:02 pm

    It’s beautiful! Woooorth the wait.

    I can hardly wait to read the poetry and more!

  2. December 4, 2009 8:30 pm

    Very cool that you were able to use your own artwork. Congratulations.

  3. December 4, 2009 8:33 pm

    Ouch and wow!

    • Lauralyn permalink
      December 4, 2009 9:47 pm

      I have to say I am very proud to be your friend. I know we don’t know eachother well, but, I, Carolee, admire you! You have a mark that means something significat to you…that is what I feel a TAT is all about. If you were to say you got Mickey because he is so cute, I would smile and say that is nice…however, if you were to say I got Mickey because he reminds me of a vacation spent that family that shaped me, I would smile and say I admire you. I have an angel, it is personally significant for 3+ reasons and it defines a part of me. You are a bold, sensational woman that I know I would connect with on a deeper level! I am proud, again, to know you!

  4. December 5, 2009 1:26 am


  5. December 5, 2009 1:58 am

    Congrats! You are fearless.

  6. December 5, 2009 10:52 am

    A marked woman, sort of like branding yourself (as in cowboys). & of course something that is totally yours & no one can take from you.
    What do you think, do I have one?

  7. December 5, 2009 12:10 pm

    strange when such delinquency is an accomplishment! 🙂

    thanks, everyone.

    and dan — i’ve been around long enough to know most guessing games are traps. 🙂

  8. December 7, 2009 1:31 am

    COOL! I love the design.

  9. December 7, 2009 3:41 pm

    I have the Vitruvian man in that exact spot (& had it done WELL before the Dan Brown phenomenon!), and I have to say that the one drawback to that location is that I frequently forget I have a tattoo.

    It’s simply awesome that your tattoo, the epitome of permanence in art, is your own artwork. I love it!

  10. December 7, 2009 4:00 pm

    i’m the only person on the planet who has never read dan brown. i have also not seen the movies. so that connection would never enter my mind!

    you’ll have to show me sometime! how big is it?

    • December 7, 2009 11:30 pm

      Bit smaller than yours, I would guesstimate — but too large for my husband’s taste: “Did you have to get a naked MAN on your back?!” 🙂

  11. December 8, 2009 8:14 pm

    This is so fun! I love it when blogging intersects with life in person. It’s sort of like life imitating art. You made a wonderful drawing. It’s important that your own design ended up as your tattoo since you’re an artist. Maybe after you’ve written the poem you can make a broadside with the drawing. I’m glad your man was there to apply the lotion. Sorry it stung, though.


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