Tattoos as an Art Form: The First Tattoo
By: Mark Hender
A few years ago, I got my first tattoo. The decision came after years (literally…) of thinking about what I’d like permanently stamped on my person. We’ve all seen questionable tattoos, and mine wasn’t going to be one of those. I haven’t lost that bet yet.
At first, even just the idea of a needle moving in and out of your skin hurts. The needle pulsates just like the needle on a sewing machine- it gets blurry. This rapidly moving needle, while in the skin, is moved across it, creating a certain amount of pain. Undaunted by this thought, the day arrived. As I walked into the tattoo parlour, I began wondering about the point in history at which human beings contrived to pierce their skin with sharp objects dipped in pigment. Why weren’t they deterred? Well, it certainly wasn’t going to deter me.
I had brought in a few pictures of the tattoo I wanted along with drawings of it and ideas for places I’d like it. I was grateful that my artist took his time rendering the tattoo on stencil. The artist will create a stencil of the piece before they break out the needle. This stencil is a drawing of the tattoo that you’d like to receive and works similar to carbon paper. Once the tatt is drawn on the paper stencil, it’s placed on the skin, leaving behind a temporary version of the tattoo. This temporary tattoo is then traced by your artist. One can KNOW with relative accuracy what the tatt will look like before any part of it is permanent.
Once we knew we had it where we wanted it, the artist began to prepare the tattoo gun. As he did so, I again found myself wondering if I was sure about this. Of course, but damn, that needle looks fierce. What drove those aforementioned historic peoples through the pain to find beauty in such a ritua… “DAMN!” I hollered out loud. Apologetic, the tattoo artist reassured me that he was just heavy handed. Great, so I’m not only delving into ink as a medium of self expression, but scarification as well.
Profoundly reassured, I could see the piece taking shape on my arm. I became numb to the pain, and watched the artist work. It took about an hour overall and the experience was an awesome one. I’m happy to report that the tatt looks better than I’d imagined. I receive compliments on it and enjoy wearing it. As the artist finished the tattoo, I came to an understanding… that the search for beauty is an instinctual and intrinsic part of the our experience. As human beings, we crave and will go to great lengths in order to find beauty.