The feline project, Introduction

Watch this space for a picture when the tattoo is complete (warning: it may be in 2003!!)

When I first moved back to New York City in July, 2000, I mentioned to my roommate (also a tattoo collector) that I was "Sick and tired of small tattoos." I had the shoulder tattoo, one ankle tattoo, a small symbol on my wrist, and the head on my back. I said that from that point on, every tattoo I received would be...well...big.

I was true to my words. The next tattoo was the caduceus on my calf, and after that the mermaid pin-up on my lower leg. And then I decided it was time to start a project; a large tattoo that would cover a significant portion of my body and take a lot of time (and money) to complete.

In 1993, while in college, I had a roommate with a number of tattoos. Her sister, who was two years younger than us and at the same college, also collected tattoos. They both had very small designs in various places on their body. But my roommate's sister decided to get a large tribal tattoo. She was the one who introduced me to Rising Dragon. She had found them in a tattoo magazine and really liked Darren Rosa's tribal work. They embarked on a three month tattoo; a tribal piece that started at her knee and traveled up the left side of her body to her armpit.

I saw her often around campus and constantly asked her about her tattoo. Darren did the whole thing freehand; he drew on her body with a red Sharpie and then tattooed on top of the lines. One day she looked particularly stricken; she said there was a line that went under her breast and she couldn't wear a bra because it rubbed the fresh tattoo and hurt tremendously. However her breast would fall against the tattoo and also hurt it, so she had therefore tied a string around her neck to lift up her boob and get it off the tattoo. The poor thing...she looked so uncomfortable!

The best part of this was that this woman was very, well, "normal". My roommate (her sister) had dyed hair, piercings, wore a lot of leather...but this girl sported huge glasses, had long, mousy hair; she dressed very plain and she was just ordinary. A very nice woman, but when you looked at her, she didn't make a lasting impression. This large tattoo could easily be hidden by trousers or a knee-length skirt; she was careful about the size and shape knowing that she would be working in a professional career later in life. So it was very intriguing to me to know that this plain, smart, mousy-looking woman had a little secret: she had a goddamned enormous tattoo.

In 1997 I started thinking about my own little tattoos and then I remembered my roommate's sister, and her enormous tribal piece, and started thinking that I may want to embark on such a project myself. After my caducues tattoo I started thinking about it again, and developed a concept in my mind: a tribal-like piece that resembled a cat. I am a fanatic about cats and had always wanted a feline-related tattoo. I wanted it to be reminiscent of tribal work, but I wanted something with color and interest, not just black lines and classic tribal design. And I wanted it to be big.

I started looking at tattoo conventions in various artists' portfolios. I found what I wanted in Darren's convention book. I had never seen this particular series of photos, and inside I saw a black tribal piece with purple shapes inside and surrounding it. I liked the style, I told Darren, and we started discussing the idea of a big feline piece.

I decided at the beginning that I wanted the tattoo to start at my ankle and travel up my leg and onto my back or stomach. I didn't like the idea of tattooing my side; my roommate pointed out that the whole tattoo should be visible, and no part of it should be covered by the natural posture of my arm. I settled on the back, but I did that reluctantly. See, I wanted to actually look at the tattoo, to finally have something that I could see in the mirror or when I looked down at myself. So I was leaning towards the stomach. But eventually I realized that my back was more conducive to this type of tattoo. The shape would make more sense and I had more room back there for the head of this cat.

And so I am embarking on a tattoo the I can only refer to as a "project". It's going to be many months and many hours under the needle before this piece is complete. I am insanely excited about it, however, and thankfully so is my tattoo artist, Darren. It's nice to be working on such a large venture when both people involved are so dedicated. I just hope the excitement and dedication lasts until we're finished...

Read about the first tattoo session

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