why that tattoo pain chart is meaningless.

I’m sure most of you have seen this image, or a similar one,  floating around the internet by now:
10557382_10152123344372126_495203462800773378_n

I’d like to point out that these images aren’t really telling you the whole story. As I’ve posted about before, several times, placement is only one of many variables that will make a tattoo hurt more or less. I’ll begin here just by saying- your frame of mind, your health, and your general attitude about the tattoo matter more than anything. Tattoos, generally speaking, don’t hurt very much. If you have had waxing done, if you’ve ever broken a bone, if you’ve ever had road rash or a bad cut…you’ve been through worse than a tattoo. You can do this. It’s on the level of…a beesting, a cat scratch, an annoyance.

But let’s take this chart for a minute, at face value- and just talk about areas where tattoos may hurt more or less.

The first thing to think about is your own personal sensitivities. Are you ticklish? Do you have previous injuries (even long-healed ones) in an area? Do feet freak you out? If you have any kind of area-specific thing going on in your mind or body, that’s going to affect how you feel while getting tattooed.

Then, there’s the idea that joints and areas with thin skin will hurt more. This isn’t necessarily the case. A tattoo on the side of the neck seems like it should be the worst thing ever, by these rules. Hell, in the image it’s a red zone! But in the image the center of the neck, the throat, is the red zone too- and those two areas feel very different. See, the only areas where you really have a big cluster of extra nerves are the

  • hands
  • face
  • genitals
  • solar plexus
  • throat
  • nipples

Everywhere else on your body is pretty much the same, as far as the sensitivity of the skin itself. Now some areas also have bone or underlying structures without much padding of muscle or fat. For some people, these areas are EASIER, for others, HARDER to get tattooed. It all depends on what kind of pain you dislike the most. If a deep throbbing or any kind f pressure just slays you, then areas without bony structures are going to hurt more- areas like

  • stomach
  • sides (below the ribs)
  • side of the neck
  • inner arm and armpit
  • inner thigh

if, for you, a stingy sensation is the worst thing, but you don’t mind pressure very much, you’re going to have a hard time with areas that have muscle right under the skin. Areas such as

  • lower back
  • top of shoulder
  • deltoid/front of arm
  • tops of thighs
  • calves
  • buttocks

Now if you don’t mind stingy feelings, and throbbing and pressure are no big deal, but you don’t like the feeling of papercuts or slices or the like, you may dislike bony areas the most. It seems to me that most people feel this way. This means that to at least some degree, the image has a few areas properly labeled for someone like that. The areas that would hurt would be:

  • ankles
  • hands/wrists
  • feet
  • collarbones
  • center of chest
  • shoulderblades
  • spine near center of back
  • ribs
  • kneecaps/elbows

Your body’s size and shape and composition matters too. If you have a lot of fat deposits, your hips may not be such a bad spot. But areas underneath rolls might hurt more, as they’re less exposed to sensation and touch in general. If you’re big and muscular, areas with tightly-stretched skin might hurt more- meaning a calf, one of the places the chart says is EASY, would be more painful to you. If you are scrawny and bony, areas with visible tendons may be the worst.

All of this talk of pain is so variable that you almost can’t pin it down and make any sort of universal chart.

Now let’s talk about where this dumb and inaccurate chart actually came from.

 

Something you can do, though, is make a chart showing areas that are the hardest for the artist to work on. This chart looks almost exactly like that “pain” chart, and versions of it used to be used in shops to show which areas would cost more than others for the same design. I have a sneaking suspicion that some client, at some point, saw this pricing chart and assumed we charged more for “hurty stuff”. This is not the case.

In fact, in some shops, the pricing system was worked out by square inch and placement, not by time. In the Before Times many shops would have all the available designs and flash up on the walls with prices attached. Nearby would be a chart exactly like the “pain” chart, saying, “areas in red cost $20 more, areas in blue $50 more” or something to that effect. This was not done because of how much those areas hurt the client- it was done because those areas are harder for us to tattoo.

acetate with square inches marked off.

acetate with square inches marked off.

So you lay that clear sheet with the inches marked on it, over the tattoo design. Any square containing ANYTHING counts. You have your minimum price, then you add however much per inch. So a shop with a $50 minimum, 20 per inch, a tattoo that is 2″ costs 90 bucks, base price for the easy-to-tattoo zones. Now you go to the chart. You want it on your wrist? Price goes up by ten bucks. You want it on your ribs? Price goes up by thirty bucks. And so on…This is one of the old ways of pricing tattoos, and strangely enough it often works out almost exactly what a tattoo would cost hourly. Those expensive areas just take longer so the time is extended anyway. Also, some areas are risky to us so they cost more.

If I am working on an area that is difficult to reach, my chance of a needle stick goes up. Slippery, sweaty areas are especially scary this way. If I’m working on an area where the skin shifts in response to ANY movement by the client (like ribs and center chest, for example) then I’m going to have to work harder to pull a straight line, to get things even and perfect. This extra work translated to extra pay, based on a chart like this one.

It had and has nothing to do with how you, the client, feel during the tattoo. The original of this color body chart is simply a  pricing guide for tattooers, not anything to do with what you will feel during a tattoo.

 

handy pricing chart used in some older studios.

handy pricing chart used in some older studios.

If I were to make a chart about the actual pain? I’d simply put a blank body form and have people print it out and color it in.
Put red any place where you are sensitive to tickling or have any kind of weird feeling about being touched. Also any place that folds over, where the skin touches itself and is rarely exposed to air or touch.
Put blue on your genitals, hands, and face- AND on any area that has a previous injury, even a healed one.
Put yellow on any place that is often exposed to touch and friction, that has a lot of exposure to air and sun.
Put green everywhere else.

This is your personal, very own pain chart. Everyone will have a different one. Unlike the tattoo artist’s perspective, where all armpits are pretty much the same to work on, the perspective as a client will be totally individual and unique.

Here’s a few stock images you can color in.

fat-slim-woman-white-background-30620793 Posture Template 1woman

 

 

Oh yeah- you’ve probably seen this garbage floating around as well. It’s crap, and it’s demeaning to you guys who are my clients, and I hate this kind of shit. Strangely enough I don’t have too many clients who pay no taxes or go to prison. There’s some slut-shaming in there too. What a load of crap.

tattoo-locations

 

(for a great article about pain and tattooing in general, my friend Deb wrote a great one here)
(for a chart to figure out how much of yourself is tattooed, you can look at matt gone’s awesome post about this here.)

the trouble with white.

in the process of setting up for a white ink tattoo.

in the process of setting up for a white ink tattoo.

White ink on the hands.
Plenty of tattooers won’t even do this. For good reason, too! White ink does not heal white. It heals slightly lighter than the skin tone, and often unevenly. It ends up looking a bit like a pale scar, nearly invisible.

Most tattoo artists who will do tattoos in white-ink-only, will not guarantee it, do a free touchup, after it heals. It’s acknowledged that it will not look right when it heals. There’s a very, very rare person for whom it heals and looks ok- but that person is truly rare. I’ve only ever met one, in 16 years of using white alone in tattoos.

All that said, I will do white-ink-only tattoos. And I’ll even do one free touchup, just like with any other tattoo. BUT, I try to make it really clear that it’ll never heal just right, never look perfect. That it’s going to fade into a pale hint of a tattoo, like a scar. Barely there, and that this is likely to happen unevenly, too.

Here are two matching tattoos, freshly tattooed with white-ink-only.

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somewhere there's a feather

Warning to people using this as an informational resource: I am not a lawyer. I curse a lot. Follow the links in the text to find official sources and research, rather than relying on my say-so.
he flew into my house through an open window, I caught him and let him go. he's a flycatcher.

he flew into my house through an open window, I caught him and let him go. he’s a flycatcher. I didn’t keep any pieces of him, except the poops he left behind on my counter.

There’s this law, see. Every time I bring it up, people get salty about it. Hell, sometimes I get salty about it when people bring it up. But I’m bringing it up anyway.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.

The MBTA does not apply to: (1) Nonnative species introduced into the United States or its territories by means of intentional or unintentional human assistance…, or nonnative, human-introduced species that belong to families or groups not covered by the Canadian, Mexican, or Russian Conventions.

(If you have found a feather, there are resources at the very end of this post to help you figure out what bird it’s from, and if you can keep it or not. Click ‘read more’ then scroll down.)

song thrush

seriously, these guys kept coming in. that place had big windows, they really liked shitting all over my house and refusing to fly back out. this is a female, maybe the special friend of the other bird. she also left some potentially-illegal feces behind.

Definitely-legal feathers come from European Starlings, House Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, Eurasian Collared Doves, AND basically any bird you are legally allowed to hunt (meaning, YOU have a hunting license for it) or farm/have as a pet legally- these game and domestic birds include non-native parrots, wild turkey, pheasant, some geese, peacocks, some grouse, domestic chickens, domestic ducks, domestic geese, domestic quail, and domestic turkey.

(side note: all the feathers used in my work are from legal species and sources; I paint and stain legal feathers to resemble rare/illegal ones, and you can too, and if you do I will keep liking you and your art)

There’s a damn good reason for these laws. I know that you’re thinking, “but I’m not out harvesting cormorants, smashing baby sparrows, and yanking the tails of owls! I found it on the ground, how could it possibly harm anyone for me to just have it in my own house?”

fox skull mount

chicken feathers behind a fox skull. these look rad and they’re legal and easy to obtain.

It’s harmful because people actually do kill these birds to get their feathers, and they can and do say the same fucking thing when they get caught. In order to keep poachers from saying they “found” feathers that they actually killed to get, the law simply won’t allow anyone to have them at all. This includes you, and me, and includes ‘private collections’ and ‘I won’t sell it I just want it for my shrine’. I won’t even get started on people who are selling protected birds’ feathers (online or off) because it makes me too frothy and I want this article to make sense.It used to be that poachers could claim they had ‘found feathers’, and didn’t actually kill the birds. This law ensures that this doesn’t happen. There are exceptions and loopholes, of course, but you’ll need paperwork to fit into them.

I understand that it feels like the Fun Police have arrived when someone brings up the fact that you’re endangering birds by keeping those crow feathers in your hat. Hell, I know that before I got super involved in this kind of art I pretty much felt the same way. It wasn’t until I did a lot more reading and a lot more thinking that I really got it. I don’t mean to prevent you from making cool stuff. I truly understand, and I also dislike the arrival of the Fun Police in general. But.

BUT. But there’s this law, see. And if you’re breaking it, you’re not being an Ethical Shaman-type Person. So if you wish to represent yourself as a Magical Unicorn Dancer of Good Intentions and The Like, read on. (Evil Bastards of Doom, feel free to skip ahead to the “crow” or “canada goose” sections, or just go squash a european starling.)

 

somewhere there’s a feather

Warning to people using this as an informational resource: I am not a lawyer. I curse a lot. Follow the links in the text to find official sources and research, rather than relying on my say-so.
he flew into my house through an open window, I caught him and let him go. he's a flycatcher.

he flew into my house through an open window, I caught him and let him go. he’s a flycatcher. I didn’t keep any pieces of him, except the poops he left behind on my counter.

There’s this law, see. Every time I bring it up, people get salty about it. Hell, sometimes I get salty about it when people bring it up. But I’m bringing it up anyway.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.

The MBTA does not apply to: (1) Nonnative species introduced into the United States or its territories by means of intentional or unintentional human assistance…, or nonnative, human-introduced species that belong to families or groups not covered by the Canadian, Mexican, or Russian Conventions.

(If you have found a feather, there are resources at the very end of this post to help you figure out what bird it’s from, and if you can keep it or not. Click ‘read more’ then scroll down.)

song thrush

seriously, these guys kept coming in. that place had big windows, they really liked shitting all over my house and refusing to fly back out. this is a female, maybe the special friend of the other bird. she also left some potentially-illegal feces behind.

Definitely-legal feathers come from European Starlings, House Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, Eurasian Collared Doves, AND basically any bird you are legally allowed to hunt (meaning, YOU have a hunting license for it) or farm/have as a pet legally- these game and domestic birds include non-native parrots, wild turkey, pheasant, some geese, peacocks, some grouse, domestic chickens, domestic ducks, domestic geese, domestic quail, and domestic turkey.

(side note: all the feathers used in my work are from legal species and sources; I paint and stain legal feathers to resemble rare/illegal ones, and you can too, and if you do I will keep liking you and your art)

There’s a damn good reason for these laws. I know that you’re thinking, “but I’m not out harvesting cormorants, smashing baby sparrows, and yanking the tails of owls! I found it on the ground, how could it possibly harm anyone for me to just have it in my own house?”

fox skull mount

chicken feathers behind a fox skull. these look rad and they’re legal and easy to obtain.

It’s harmful because people actually do kill these birds to get their feathers, and they can and do say the same fucking thing when they get caught. In order to keep poachers from saying they “found” feathers that they actually killed to get, the law simply won’t allow anyone to have them at all. This includes you, and me, and includes ‘private collections’ and ‘I won’t sell it I just want it for my shrine’. I won’t even get started on people who are selling protected birds’ feathers (online or off) because it makes me too frothy and I want this article to make sense.It used to be that poachers could claim they had ‘found feathers’, and didn’t actually kill the birds. This law ensures that this doesn’t happen. There are exceptions and loopholes, of course, but you’ll need paperwork to fit into them.

I understand that it feels like the Fun Police have arrived when someone brings up the fact that you’re endangering birds by keeping those crow feathers in your hat. Hell, I know that before I got super involved in this kind of art I pretty much felt the same way. It wasn’t until I did a lot more reading and a lot more thinking that I really got it. I don’t mean to prevent you from making cool stuff. I truly understand, and I also dislike the arrival of the Fun Police in general. But.

BUT. But there’s this law, see. And if you’re breaking it, you’re not being an Ethical Shaman-type Person. So if you wish to represent yourself as a Magical Unicorn Dancer of Good Intentions and The Like, read on. (Evil Bastards of Doom, feel free to skip ahead to the “crow” or “canada goose” sections, or just go squash a european starling.)

 

spending a few winter days in Seattle!

all healed up!

all healed up!

I’m here until tomorrow night, and I’m having a great time.
I’ll be at Laughing Buddha taking walk-ins until tomorrow night at ten; I come back through in February too.

I’m spending all my off time getting ready for the Evergreen Convention in March. SO STOKED. After that convention I’m going to be in Oregon for a few weeks too, working. Can’t wait to see all my people there. The convention is a big thing for me though- I’ve been feeling like I need more learning time, and there are some seminars going on that weekend I’m really looking forward to taking. I always feel like I could be better at my work and sometimes I get really dejected, and feel like I’m not making progress. Having a teacher here and there banishes that feeling pretty fast though!

I really don’t like winter, but this year has been ok so far despite all the chilly moments. It’s been icy and snowy in Spokane but Seattle is just chill and damp, how I like it. If you live in the ice-bound states, I’m sending you an e-cup of cocoa.

 

Mandala, or mandorla?

karmic eye

mandala

I want to talk a little about why I paint and work with mandorlas rather than mandalas.

A mandala is a circular pattern, sometimes used ritually, which is built on radial symmetry. Each section of a mandala will be the same, drawing the eye into the center.  The eye moves into the middle distance, being drawn past the paper or surface and off into what it perceives as a distant center. This is subconscious and happens because of the radial symmetry. We’re accustomed to seeing lines of perspective radiating from the distant horizon in art, so our eye interprets the center of a mandala as being far away (even if the artist has used every means to make it come forward at us, visually).

I think this is all fine and dandy. But-

mandorla

 

Mathematically speaking, a mandala is based on the circle, a single-edged shape. They are often meant to represent wholeness or unity. A triangle has three edges, a square four, and so on. Each of these shapes, symbolically speaking, have their own meaning- their own particular use. For example, the pentagram has been used as a symbol for humanity. Arms, legs, head- making a five-pointed star. The symbolism of triangles with fertility (mother, father, child) or some kind of trinity of gods, is common. A square is often used to represent a church, an institution, the law. The circle, used as it is to represent oneness (since it is a shape constructed of one line) is well known among many religious traditions.

The mandorla? It’s really only used as a backdrop. As a containing symbol for other objects. I think, though, that it can stand on its own. It’s less often used, less the subject of an image, than a circle or a triangle. Hell, even seven-pointed stars are more common than a two-sided shape. Why is this?

15 books that will change the way you tattoo (for the better)

owlbooksThere are a lot of great books on art out there, and I’m bound to miss a lot in my list. These are just books I have found incredibly helpful in my work, and which I refer to often.

These are not books of reference images (although I did come up in the time before google images took over, and every shop had its own reference library on site…I still can’t part with all those books!)

These are, instead, books about art in general, about art techniques, or about being an artist that I think apply very well to tattooing. If you have favorites that I do not list, please add a comment and link me to them! I read voraciously and love to find new sources of knowledge.

At least a few of these are free on kindle/ebooks, most are cheap, one or two are pricey, all are available and not rare.

 

An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.
To say to the painter that Nature is to be taken as she is, is to say to the player that he may sit on the piano.
~J. M. Whistler

(more…)

6 basic ways to improve your tattoo compositions.

EPSON MFP imageEvery bit of information about art can be applied to tattooing- especially information about composition. Here are some basic ways to do this-

talk to strangers.

bride portrait

Originally published 12/5/2011

I was looking at the viewing statistics for the site here and noticed that one person among the couple hundred went through every post just about in the space of a day or two. OMG ARCHIVE BINGE! It made me extremely happy and I felt warm, and loved.

Whenever I find a site or an artist I like online I just read EVERYTHING from them, I will binge until I am reading their diary from ten years ago, if it’s posted. Like when I found crimelibrary the first time, or when I started looking at explodingdog. I just went nuts, spent all my internet time following the trail back to the start. I suddenly realized that you guys read my stuff and look at my site the same exact way I look at yours and that made me feel really good. So thank you, anonymous archive binge person, for making me both happy and more educated about what I am trying to do, and how people feel about it.

THEN- I have gotten a slew of emails from total strangers, asking questions, tattoo and art process stuff, and general sort of things. I LOVE talking to you guys. Man, if you’re reading my stuff someplace and suddenly have a question, and you email me that you like my things and want to know the answer, I get sweaty excited about it. It makes me feel good- I love sharing information, and while I am not the most educated or the most knowledgeable about everything the things I DO know I love to share. And sometimes even if I don’t know, I can send the question to someone who does. And that feels great too.

.

And also- I spent the last few days interviewing a series of artists for a longer article I’m putting together. I’m working hard to write something useful about it. It’s taking me some time to assemble but I think it’ll be good. Talking to new people who get it, and who are working in smaller ways to affect the world- people who put their hands on the work and make things that have deeper meaning as well as visual aesthetics- that’s been really eye-opening and inspiring to me too.

Oh, and, last of all, I spent a day making paper. That was fun as all fuck, too.

I love talking to people about art. I don’t know how approachable I seem but really, I like talking to new people and I really feel great when I can help someone, give information, or just even see that people are interested in what I’m doing. So thanks guys for reading along.

If you have questions for me to answer, let me know in the comments. Or email me!

(you can find more of me by googling resonanteye, I am literally everywhere online. I talk to all the strangers!)

Three ways to end a creative block, right this very instant.

noncomplianceFirst of all, sit down. Clear a place on the couch and sit your ass down. Creative blocks are evil. I mean evil, wicked, bad things that get all of us at some point. I hate when it happens, and the worst is when you get into that feedback loop- you know, worrying about it and trying to start working on stuff, but it won’t come, so then you worry some more, then try and you still can’t do anything, and so you worry…that worry and fear is the root of it, sometimes, and it can turn into a neverending battle.

Other times a block isn’t really a block- it’s that you have fed your head so much that it is still processing. You’ve taken in a lot of inspiring work or ideas lately from other artists, and now your brain needs some down time in the dark to ferment it all into delicious beer. (or bread. whatever.) Either way, you can end it. You actually can end it, but it’s going to suck, just like breaking down a real wall sucks and is heavy work. It’s not easy but it’s pretty much dead simple. (more…)

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