The Caduceus, December, 2000

DJOktober's guide to a new tattoo....
Step 1:  Have an idea.  This idea was formulated back in 1994.  That year I had finally gotten a tattoo that I had been contemplating for two years (see Anatomy 101), and this one was an extension of that original idea.  It took me years to finalize the concept and general design; finally in early 2000 I asked a friend to make up a drawing, and here is an early tracing.
This is one of her two final drawings.  The idea was the medical symbol (aka the caduceus), a familiar logo.  But I wanted to display a sense of loss and disappointment; the snakes were to be uneven and a little fierce, the wings drooping as if they can't quite fly.

Step 2:  Finalize the design!  It is important to meet with the tattoo artist and go over the drawing.  Not all pencil drawings will translate well into a tattoo.  I met with Darren Rosa from Rising Dragon Tattoos one week before my appointment for about an hour, discussing the concept and finalizing the pattern.  Here is his interpretation of the drawing, which became the base outline of the tattoo.
Step 3:   Eat a good meal.  Although at the time of this writing I have four other tattoos, there is always the chance of feeling faint during a session.  Since this was my largest tattoo yet, I wasn't sure how I would feel.  Having a full stomach decreases the possibility of lightheadedness, and helps you stay alert during the session.  On this evening I chowed down a big salad and some pasta with chicken in a light cream tomato sauce.  Very healthy and not too taxing on the stomach.  One would not want intestinal problems while getting a me on that one. It's also a good idea to bring some fruit or cookies with you to the shop; you never know when you'll need a sugar boost to keep you going.
Step 4:  Grab a bottle of water, hold your breath, and try to relax!  Tattooing hurts.  No doubt about it.  Darren has many tattoos and he commented that the inner part of any appendage hurts more than the outer.  I like his style because he has a rather light touch, he is not egotistical or arrogant, and he is very kind during the tattoo process.  He is someone who knows it hurts, and isn't going to belittle anyone for cringing from the pain.  Most memorable comment:  "I know.  It's excruciating, isn't it?"  Oh yes.  Very much so.  My calf muscle kept twitching involuntarily.  The human body does not like to be tortured in this fashion....

This was after he finished the second outline.  After completing the outline in the above picture, he decided that the tattoo would look much better with a thicker outline around the staff, the snake, and the outside of the wings.  I was not particularly happy about this decision.  But I trust his instinct, and I am glad I didn't fight it.  It was really painful because he was tattooing over freshly tattooed lines.  My skin was already irritated and the second time around was much worse.  Oh, the things I do for beauty...*sigh*

After this came the shading.  Let's not even talk about that.  It was super excruciating.  The needle for shading is slightly thicker and there is a lot of back and forth motion.  He was basically coloring in the lines.  At least he was excited about the tattoo.  He loved the design and was a shading needle that was behaving beautifully.  He kept remarking, "I love this needle!  I love it!  I love this tattoo!"  In the last half hour of this three hour process, it was good to know that he was enjoying it, even though I was ready for it to end.

Step 5:  Let it heal.  This was about a week after the tattoo session.  I am fortunate in that my body heals well.  After many piercings and tattoos, I have discovered that my body handles these things very well - I have never had a piece of jewelry rejected or a a tattoo scab and scar.  The important thing about healing a tattoo is to just leave it alone.  Clean it gently a few times a day with a tiny bit of soap and water, and coat it lightly with lotion or A & D ointment whenever it appears dry.  When it starts to peel, don't pick it!  Just let the layer of skin fall off on its own.

Believe it or not, the tattoo is not yet finished.  After Darren completed the session he remarked, "Boy. This is one of those tattoos that would great with a mist behind it..."  I of course agreed - I trust his vision.  So soon there will be another appointment, more ink, and more pictures on this webpage!

See the finished caduceus, completed February, 2001

Back to "Tattoos"