The feline project, Tattoo Session #7, January 18th, 2002
The final outline...

I don't have pictures from this tattoo session, but the experience was extraordinary enough that it deserved its own little page. You may recall from the last section that by this time every piece of existing outline had been filled, all the way from the ankle to the hip. So the goal of this session was simple: get the rest of the outline completed.

We had a lot of trouble with the design for the head. I had visualized an abstract, thick-lined shape that suggested a three-quarter view of the cat's face. During our very first design session, Darren had sketched something that I liked, but then he lost the drawing. Over the next sessions we kept trying to draw something, but we never came up with a head that was to both of our satisfactions.

When I arrived at the shop for this tattoo session, Darren had some new drawings on paper that he was working with. I particularly liked one head he had, and we set out to inking it on my skin with the ever-present red Sharpie. He had visualized an additional paw coming around the head, and so he drew that, as well.

I hated it. Truth be told, I didn't like the shape at all; and the extra paw seemed completely extraneous in relation to the rest of the tattoo. More importantly, the head was too small. So he erased all the red pen and redrew it. When he got the basic head outline down in what I considered to be a better proportion, he realized there just wasn't any more room for the extra paw. I breathed a sigh of relief; I didn't want to argue with Darren about the paw!

Outline of the second paw. This picture was taken after we had already filled in the outline of the head.

Portion of the outline on side and back. Note the healing fill work....ewwwww.

We toiled for a total of two hours with the design. One of the trouble spots was the ears. We settled on just one "suggestion" of an ear, with two lines extending up towards my shoulder. The other trouble spot was the "neck"; the connection from the rest of the tattoo up towards the head. Darren finally nailed it, and we did some adjustments on thickness, and then settled in to ink the line.

Since the last time I had been at the shop, Darren had bought a small TV/VCR combo for his tattoo station. I sat backwards in a high-chair and faced the TV, and tried my best to focus on The Blue Brothers.

Holy mother of god. This line hurt more than any other line he had ever done. Every millimeter was excruciating. Remember the head is on my back; from lower back/butt region up to the shoulder. The "neck" goes down the side, over my ribcage. And on my stomach there is a second paw. Apparently all of these body parts are considered the "worst" places to get tattooed. While I was wandering around the shop before the tattoo, I watched Carlos draw a big design on David, another tattoo artist at Rising Dragon. His whole left side and ribcage was covered with black Sharpie. They were talking about the design (futuristic satellite dishes in a desert), and how cool it was, and then David starts rubbing his side with a pained look on his face and says, "But damn. That's the worst place to get tattooed." Then he turns to me, points at the red pen on my side, winks and says, "Yooouuu'll seeee...." Thanks, David. That's reassuring.

Darren started with the back, and then had me lie down for some of the side and my stomach. While on the table I was clutching the sides and trying to focus on not breathing too heavily; or else the line would be crooked. I struggled very hard, but my body betrayed me. At one point he went to get more ink, and when the needle touched back on my stomach, my whole body had a spasm and lifted off the table. It surprised both of us, trust me. Then Darren says, "Kind of feels like you're being flayed, right?" Well, I've never been flayed, but I imagine that is close to what it feels like.

He put me back in the chair to do the whole side portion. Part of my problem is that my side is very ticklish. So every time he put on A & D to soften the skin, I jerked and giggled. Then when the needle came down I wanted to scream my head off. I didn't, though. I clutched the chair, flexed my leg muscles, and watched the movie. I was just about at the end of my tolerance level when he lifted the needle and cried, "Finished! And the movie isn't even over!!"

Wow. I was so beat after this one. Probably because I was so tense during the whole thing. He only tattooed me for about an hour; that really isn't a lot of time. But I felt like I had just been under the needle for at least four. I had never felt so tired and worn after being tattooed.

Well, the pain fades, thank goodness. I didn't experience much discomfort on the trip home or when I went to bed. The worst was over, and my body just forgot about the pain, and concentrated on the healing. The best part is that I knew the fill wouldn't be as bad; by now I had realized that with this tattoo, the outlines have been the worst part. I mean, I knew the fill would hurt tremendously, but I also realized that if I could tolerate the brutal torture of the outline, then I would survive through the remainder of this phase of the tattoo....

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