The feline project, Tattoo Sessions #8 & #9, January 30th, 2002 and February 1st, 2002
The final fill

During session #9, the final fill

Wow, wow, and more wow. Less than two months after we started, the black/tribal portion of this tattoo was completed. I am rather amazed that we covered so much in so little time.

These last two session were rather brutal. But, I tried a new trick: Advil. For every tattoo session before these two, I had brought a bottle of Advil with me to the shop, but had forgotten to take any prior to the tattoo. I had figured that taking some would lessen the pain a bit during the session, and maybe help reduce post-tattoo swelling. I kept forgetting to try it, and only took it after the session had been completed.

When I got to the shop for my eigth session, on Juanuary 30th, I was chatting with Darren and the floor girl. Darren mentioned that he was going to start the fill with my back (to get the worst bit over with, he said), and the floor girl winced when she realized what part of my body I was getting ready to have done. She has a ton of works in progess and has a session almost every week. She asked me if I had taken Advil and I then realized: I have Advil in my bag again! She said that once she took six Advil before a tattoo session, and then another two every hour until the session was done. Darren nodded his head and said that indeed, Advil might help.

I popped four Advil and sat in the trusty high chair to get the black fill of my feline head. This time Darren threw in the movie American Beauty (I can't believe I had never seen it before!) and went to work at about 9:50PM.

I honestly don't know if the Advil helped. I mean, the tattoo hurt. A lot. I am sure that my senses were dulled a little bit, but make no mistake: I was in pain. I kept very still and very quiet, and concentrated on the movie. I tried to ignore the pain and for the most part I was successful; I only commented to Darren once about it, mumbling, "Is that my spine?" and he replied, "I was waiting for you to say something!"

Darren likes tattooing me because I tend to be very calm, cool, and quiet. This session was no different, until he hit my side. As I mentioned in the previous section, I am terribly ticklish. So every time he smeared A & D on that area I squirmed and giggled. And he had to wait for me to stop laughing before he put the needle back on my skin. Unfortunately the whole side/rib portion was pure torture. Also the movie was over, so I had nothing to distract me. Darren tried to engage me in conversation, but I just couldn't put any words together to talk to him.

Darren also had some trouble with the machine he was using, so in the middle of the session he switched them. Unfortunately the new machine hurt more. I forget the name of the manufacturer, but apparently this brand of machines has tauter springs and the movement is a lot sharper. The machine put the black in very well, but the pain almost doubled. I understood that getting a good, deep black was important, so I tried not to protest too much.

Around 1:45AM we took a break for Darren to move his car, and then he promised that we would complete just one little section before finishing for the night. Agony, I tell you, agony. By the last little centimeter I said to him, "I think I hit my limit..." He understood; I had reached the point of a tattoo session where my body and mind just could not handle it any more. The coping mechanisms my body had used for the previous four hours just shut down. I made it through, though; Darren finished that last piece and bandaged me up, satisfied with all the work we had completed.

That was the longest tattoo session I had ever had. There was one session where he tattooed me for three and a half hours; but I had an hour and a half break while he did another tattoo. This one was four straight hours of work. We took two five minute breaks for me to smoke, and one ten minute break for him to eat, and then the fifteen minutes for him to move his car. But every other second of that time, I had a needle on my flesh.

After session #8. The left side is somewhat warped in this picture because I had my arm raised...

Don't I look calm? Besides the fact I am clutching the table and my face is beet red...
Tattoo session #9 came just two days later. This was the final installment of black work, and again I did the Advil thing in an attempt to dull my nervendings. Again, I don't know how effective it was; the tattoo session hurt. But it wasn't quite as bad as the previous one, and I also had the luxury of lying down for the whole tattoo. The session was about three hours, with a forty-five minute break for Darren to do a consultation.

We started this last session with some new outline; some cutouts on the paw on my stomach. The rest was just finishing the fill. The stomach was annoying, but not as bad as the outline work. I think the worst part was my hipbone. There's a good deal of ink around that area, and he did it in a few separate sections. He would start a section on my hip, and then tattoo outwards away from the bone. At one point he put the needle back on my bone and I started yelling, "Ack! Oh my god! Holy jeez!" and Darren joined me with a surprised "Ahhhhhh!" while still tattooing me. The torture moment ended quickly, however, and although the other tattoo artists had a good healthy laugh at my expense (they of course all heard me) the rest of the tattoo was more or less tolerable.

I was also at the point when I knew for certain that we were almost done. I was so happy about this, and so damn excited about seeing the finished product, that the pain became secondary. I focused on the fact that after two months and nine tattoo sessions, my feline body piece was going to be complete!

My ecstasy lasted the rest of the day. I went home, had a huge dinner, and just kept marvelling to my roommate about the fact that it was done. Darren said he was sad in a way; we had a lot of fun during those sessions and he said he would miss me. But...the story isn't over. We still had touch-ups to do and then a tattoo convention to attend where the piece would be entered into a competition.

And remember, this is only phase I. Phase II is the color fill, which we will be embarking on next fall.....

Here's Darren wielding that blasted super-duper ouchy machine....

Read about the touch-ups

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