The feline project, Touch-up Sessions, February 6th and 8th, 2002

The final step: touch-ups. For those serious tattoo folks, here's some technical info. Darren used a liner machine with a five needle for the outline parts. For the fill, he used various shading machines with a nine. For the touch-up portions, he used an eleven and one of those super brutal machines.

For the non-tattoo-techie types, this just means that the touch-up sessions sucked.

I found out why the outline hurts more than the fill, by the way. The shape of the needles is different; it focuses the ink down and inwards so the line is sharp. The shading needles fan outwards, and spread the ink onto a larger surface area.

The touch-ups were pretty brutal, though, because Darren covered a large amount of skin over a short period of time (much like that first outline). He used a lot of broad strokes and only covered portions that were inconsistent or light. During the first session he covered everything from my ankle to my hipbone, over a three hour period. At the second session he only did the back and my side, since the final fill on my stomach and lower back was still healing. That touch-up was only about an hour and a half.

I only have one amusing thing to mention here. When my back healed, it itched horribly; it even woke me up a few times from deep sleep. Darren did the touch up there a week and a half after doing the fill. The tattoo had already peeled and I considered it to be healed, but it was still very dry and very itchy. So when Darren tattooed me, it was almost a relief; he gave me the ultimate scratch that I had been dying for. Nothing like a needle delving into my skin to relieve the deep-seated itch that had been torturing me for days!

Darren didn't touch-up the final fill from tattoo session #9, but that section was already very black and consistent. We may do one more touch-up, but at the time we did these two sessions we were one week away from the North Carolina tattoo convention. We didn't want to do more touch-up after the final fill portion had healed, because we would risk entering the tattoo into competition while it was still peeling. That is a big no-no!

After the touch-ups I just had to focus on healing and aftercare and make some preparations for the North Carolina tattoo convention in Greensboro. Phase I of the tattoo was complete, and ready for competition...

Editor's Note 08.19.02: the convention was over months ago; we won first place in the tribal category. You can read all about the trip here.

Addendum: Pre-Convention touch-up session, August 9th, 2002

There was a section of this huge tattoo that we couldn't touch-up in February because my skin was still healing. So we got together to finish the missing piece two weeks before the Washington D.C. tattoo convention. The moment Darren saw the tattoo, though, he decided that there were a lot more sections that could use some work. So he started with my back, and ended up hitting about 3/4s of the cat's head.

He worked from the top downward, starting with me in a chair and then moving me over to a table for the stomach and leg. This time he used a machine with a somewhat lighter touch and a 9 mag needle. When I pointed out a "wiggle" on my calf that I wanted him to fix, out came the liner machine and a 5 needle, and next thing I knew he was scrutinzing the tattoo and torturing me with the liner in all sorts of places on my leg. Since it had been so long since he did the outline of the tattoo, I had forgotten how much it could hurt. However, since he had earlier tattooed my back and side, I have to admit that the outline pieces didn't phase me all that much! I mean sure, it hurt, but after having the needle on my spine and ribs, the liner on my leg really held no comparison.

The tattoo appointment should have been about 2 hours, but since he kept seeing spots he wanted to work on, I was there for about four hours. Of course we had a few breaks (bathroom, smoking, eating) but I'd say I was under the needle for a good 3 1/2 hours. There was more he could have gone over, but he said at that point if he kept going, he'd end up redoing the whole darn tattoo! The spots that are a little lighter are still very black; honestly, Darren and I are probably the only ones who are going to notice.

He brought up the fill again while I was there. He's still into filling in the piece, and now that we've discussed it, my excitement is renewed. I think I'm going to go ahead and do it. It probably won't be for another year, though, because frankly I can't afford it! So for now we'll take advantage of the fact that it is all black and therefore considered "tribal", and we'll enter it in a few more competitions.

Final note: healing from this session really sucked. There was a portion of new ink on every part of the tattoo from my upper back to my ankle. Needless to say I spent that first day bare-ass naked to let the thing breathe. At least it's summertime now and therefore not too cold....although there also turned out to be a big disadvantage: I had to wear long pants whenever I went outside (to keep the fresh tattoo out of the sun)...and it was right during a 95 degree heat wave. Talk about uncomfortable!!! And boy, these touch-ups itched something awful...

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