The feline project, Tattoo Session #1, December, 2001
The very first line...

Darren and I had a few discussions about the feline piece and then one very long design session. He sketched some ideas on paper, he drew on my body, and then he took pictures of the lines that we had done on my skin. When I went for the first actual inking session, he drew everything on my leg with a red Sharpie, redid some parts according to my comments or his own intuition, and then inked the line permanently.

My only guideline for the shape was that the tattoo had the "suggestion" of a cat. Therefore the part on my lower leg is the "tail", which wraps around my calf; on my thigh is a "paw", and then the rest of it is a general "body". Since we intend to fill in the tattoo will color patterning and design, the line encompassed a large amount of negative space.

He actually drew an outline all the way to my hipbone, but we only inked it up to my thigh. We did the whole line in one sitting, with a break here and there for me to smoke cigarettes and then him to eat dinner. Favorite comment of the session, from Darren: "It's a big goddamn line." Yup. One evening in the studio and I had a series of lines from my ankle to the top of my thigh, the very beginnings of an extremely large tattoo.

I'm not even going to try and lie about the pain. The line hurt. I think it was because the needle traveled so much distance over my body in so quick a time. Darren didn't use any back and forth motion or concentrate on one area; the needle just kept moving over my skin onto new, untattooed territories. When I was getting the mermaid tattoo, my skin sort of numbed after awhile. After a period of time tattooing one section of skin, the body seems to dull the nerve endings in the surrounding area. Some people say "shading" or the filling of color hurts the least, and I suspect this is why.

The monumental first line. Favorite parts so far: ankle shape, the "three point" knee

The "tail", wrapped around my leg. The spikes are just for "interest"

The most interesting thing about the line was how I could register the degree of discomfort for almost every part of my leg. I found that the most painful parts were the calf, the back of the knee, and portions of my thigh. The most annoying part was my ankle. It wasn't exactly pain, but the needle on my bone produced a vibration that traveled through every bone in my foot and toes. The "tail" portion that wraps around my leg was all terribly painful; especially since I was sitting in a chair and in addition to the needle on my skin my body was contorted into an awful position!

Let me make a comment about food and the importance of having some before getting a tattoo. I sat down to start this session at about 7PM. Darren didn't start tattooing until after 10PM. When he got his dinner some time later, I stole a good deal of his french fries. When we resumed the tattooing, the pain had reduced by about half. He put the needle down right next to a spot he had been tattooing before we took the break, and I swear that I hardly felt the needle at all. It just reaffirmed for me that eating, especially carbohydrates, is an important precursor to that tattoo session....

And so the tattoo has begun. Thank god I am devoted to this project, and still excited about its development. Because you know, I can't turn back now.

We haven't designed any other part yet; for now we are concentrating on filling in the black on this one section. We'll get to the rest of the body and the layout of the head in some later design sessions. Remember that eventually all that negative "body" space will be filled with color patterning. We haven't even thought about that part yet. There will be many more design sessions, lots more pain and sufferring, and maybe in a year or so it will be complete....

A good view of the cat's "paw". See how it starts to take shape?

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