I’ll be holding a fire sale again, if you get the newsletter you’ve got the details. If you want work of mine that’s older, watch this space for further info.
When you’ve lost someone close to you, tattooing is often a tool you can use in your grieving process. I do many memorial tattoos and I know from my own personal experience of getting them, that it can be really emotional.
The best thing to do, first of all, is to contact the artist and set up a consultation. Every artist is different, and what I do may not be what all artists do. So check in first, before assuming anything. That said, I deal with memorial tattoos by taking my cues from you. some people are light hearted, remembering good things. others are in mourning and need to cope with that. I’m not a therapist, just a person, so here is my take on memorials and how I set things up for you if you want one.
You might want your own soundtrack. This is fine- the shop doesn’t need to change their music for this to happen. The shop music is for the people working in the shop and we don’t change it- however I’m more than happy to work on you while you listen to your own calming music or meditation tracks on good headphones. If you don’t have good noise reduction headphones, let me know- I have over-the-ear ones that are amazing, and will keep out the hustle and bustle of the shop for you, so you feel safer. I’ll let you borrow them.
I’ll put up a screen if you’d like to have more privacy. Crying and feeling emotional are common things when we get memorial tattoos so please don’t feel worried if you need a moment to let it out, or if you get overwhelmed during the tattoo.
We can take breaks as needed. I usually charge for a break, if it’s one you need and not one I need- but in this case I stop the clock. i don’t charge for that time. It can take some minutes to calm down, to refocus. I respect that need and I want the tattoo to come out perfectly, so a little break for you to cry or breathe it out is OK. It’s not unusual and I’m not thinking poorly of you. There’s no need to get embarrassed about it. Everyone on earth loses things and people they love, and I have been through it too.
Bringing along comforting objects like books, photos or a pillow can help, especially if you have sensory issues. A familiar (clean) blanket and pillow are always ok. A photo for you to look at, a book, or videos through headphones. this can also help you remember the good times, and make your tattoo a celebration of the person’s life instead of just a sad moment thinking about the loss.
You’re welcome to bring a friend or loved one who is sharing in your grief, so that you can have someone to talk to, who really understands. I highly recommend this. Bringing someone along who also knew the person, or who is very supportive of you in your life, can really help. it’s difficult for me to both commiserate with you AND do the tattoo perfectly, so having that friend along to hold hands, tell stories, or just vent to, will help you get through things and still walk away with a good tattoo.
I do a lot of lettering, dates of birth and death, names, as memorials. This is very classic and totally ok. It’s just fine to do a memorial that’s simple and understated. I also do a lot of meaningful images related to the person who died. If there was an in joke between you, a pet name, or something you both loved, using an image of that as your memorial is a great idea and a really good way to remember the person going forward- as someone who had a positive impact on your life in an active way.
think of your loved one as a star. what were their greatest hits? what was their joy in life? did they create something wonderful, do something valuable? these are all good ways to think of images to memorialize them, rather than just letters.
I’ve also done tattoos that include cremains. This involves several steps- you’ll have to sift the ashes to get the lightest, finest ash. I’ll only need a tiny bit (the ink cup I use to pour out your ink into is very tiny, think a few drops) so a little sprinkling on top of that tiny cup is what we will use. You’ll need to bring them in the day before your appointment, so I can sterilize them for use and let them dry out. Then we will dust a small bit of them on top of the black ink we will be using. Cremains in tattoos is a debatable issue and a lot of tattoo artists will refuse to do this, and the do have good reasons. you may lose spots of ink during healing, since the ash has larger particles than the ink. However by sterilizing them ahead of time, we avoid any possible bacterial contamination of them and any other risks.
If your tattoo is a memorial don’t be shy about telling me or asking about these things. I’ve got memorial tattoos. I cried during a few of them. I wore headphones, hugged someone’s t shirt that smelled like them, I took breaks and I felt miserable. The process itself, though, seemed to help me work through my more awful feelings- and having someone there to discuss the good times with, seemed to help me the most.
we all grieve differently. if you’re getting a memorial tattoo, we should have a consult before your appointment, just to be sure we get everything settled for you, so you can use the process instead of feeling worse. Again, my concern is to do a good tattoo on you, that will give you positive feelings as you wear it over the years.
I’m not a therapist and I can’t help with the grieving process on that level. all I can do is give you a hug, and schedule you at the end of my day so I’m not bringing the weight of that loss in to my next appointment.
I’m not going to include many photos in this post, to provide my clients with some privacy.
side note: this information applies to most any kind of scar, not just self injury.
I’ve got some scars from self harm. I know a lot of people do. it can be really embarrassing, or feel shameful to have them seen. if they’re in really visible areas, it’s even worse.
I’ve had mine covered with tattoos (I stopped cutting years ago, when I was still fairly young). I’ve gotten images that remind me of what I’ve been through and of what I’d like my future to look like. I want you to know you’re not alone with this, first of all. I also want you to know that not only are you not alone, I have seen and tattooed worse scars than yours- burn wounds, surgical scars, all of it. yes, you may have done serious damage to yourself, but no- it’s not impossible to tattoo over it.
If you want to do this, here’s a few things to keep in mind.
- you have to stop cutting in that area and adjoining areas for at least a few months before we can start working on it. the skin can only heal so much at once, so nearby open wounds will mess up the healing process of the tattoo. if you can’t entirely stop SH/SI, try to go lighter and in a completely different area for a while before you come for a tattoo.
- make a consultation time with me first. that way we can figure out the pattern and texture of your scars and skin, what areas are “ripe” for tattooing and which may need more time. scars should be a little bit settled in before we tattoo on them, so the ink will hold properly. a consultation gives us a chance to also meet up and discuss what your goal is with the tattoo itself.
- it’s OK if your goal is ‘hide these’, it’s OK if your goal is ’emphasize these’, it’s OK if your goal is to stop SH/SI and it’s OK if your goal has nothing to do with stopping. I won’t judge. I won’t look down on you. I know that you have your own reasons, and you don’t have to explain that to me or go into detail. you don’t have to relive your troubles just so that I will tattoo you. my goal is to make you happy with your tattoo- that’s all. I’m just here to make something positive happen for you.
- minimal, crisp, geometric, thin-lined, pale, wispy art doesn’t cover or hide scars. if your goal is to camouflage the scars, we will likely end up doing painterly, saturated, textured organic shapes of some kind. branches, trees, flowers, plants, animals. things that have volume and texture. if your goal is NOT to hide or cover the scars, let me know, so that we can work out what you do want to do.
- scars that are fresh, still healing, or very livid usually don’t take ink very well. usually, moisturizing often with vitamin e and/or a good scar reducing lotion for a few months will fix this. this is yet another reason to stop harming the skin in the area you want tattooed and the surrounding area. we need to give your cell walls a chance to regenerate, to hold the ink in.
- don’t be afraid to email me or contact me EVEN IF you aren’t coming to me for the tattoo. I’ve been through some shit and I know how intimidating it can be to walk in to strangers and talk about this stuff. I can always answer questions, possibly suggest understanding artists in your area, or even just listen. I think everyone deserves a good experience when getting tattooed, and I’m here for that if you need it.
- you’re likely to get an endorphin high during or after the tattoo, similar to what you’d get from shallow cuts or abrasions. getting heavily tattooed was part of how I broke my cycle of self harm- I realized I could get that sensation in other ways. it’s almost the same chemicals released as a “runner’s high”- so just speaking from personal experience, running and getting tattooed are both good ways to get that little kick, without doing more damage.
- come prepared to comfort yourself. your favorite blanket, pillow, headphones, dress in comfy clothes. self-soothing is totally welcomed in my space, I will never mock you for making sure you’re comfortable and feeling safe. bring a snack as well, or something you like to munch or drink (no booze!) you can bring a friend or come alone- whatever makes you feel safer.
if you need further information, email me, or, preferably, comment below. I’ll try to answer any comments I get here as quickly as I can.
it goes without saying that SH/SI is dangerous and you shouldn’t do it. we all know that. but I know, and you know, that sometimes it’s a thing we do to cope, and we can’t just stop until you find better ways to cope with all the bullshit life throws at us. I hope we all find better ways to cope, I hope everyone reading this is able to find things that help. I did-and if I can do a thing I am damn sure that you can do the thing.
I understand that it takes time and work so again-don’t feel ashamed. It’s just a thing some of us do. Be as safe as you can be.
(sterile saline wound wash, steri-strips, and clean hands help a lot)
I’ve been painting every day since I last posted. Here is my current favorite brush and some rags, in front of the cloud section of a painting I’m working on. No matter where you are, there’s always a storm on the way.
The day after xmas my elderly lady dog died. She had been sick, off and on, with laryngeal paralysis all year. She was 16. She died in her sleep after a long day of rough times breathing- We’d had the vet coming in the morning, but she was gone when we woke up. She was one of the best, sweetest dogs I’ve ever known, and I miss her. I’ve gotten a lot of condolences, so thank you guys, it did really help.
I went back to painting the day after that. These are the things I’ve been working on all week. (For solstice, I got an espresso maker, stretcher bars, and some brushes…it was a lovely holiday despite the sad time right after.) I also got a popcorn maker. I have been living on lattes and popcorn now for a week, by the way. It’s just fine.
Here are the initial stage of the piece I’m currently working on. I’ll probably finish this one today. It’s an area near Ona Beach in Oregon, where a creek washes out to the surf, causing a little rift and depression in the sand. I made sketches of this just after sundown. The sky was far too crazy red for my taste in the beginning, but I think it’s better now. I kept messing with the clouds, scraping them off and trying again. I think that it’s all right now.
The next thing I want to show you is a painting that was really hard for me to finish. I liked the rocks, the low point of view, with the ocean at my back. Just damp puddles in the sand that had been churned up by people walking around. This was near Heceta Head. There were SO many people there that day, all my sketches say “too many people” in the margins. I also took a photo that day, for reference, because there were birds. Flocks of odd birds and the way they were flying around the people was what I really wanted to paint. So here you see the beginning sketch in paint, then the landscape alone. Then…
Then I used my reference to scrape out areas for the birds. As soon as I started painting them I was unhappy. They were difficult. I didn’t like birds any more. But I’d already committed, mentally, to having them there. I cursed the birds, I fought the birds, I finished the birds and they look all right, for little salty bastards that just happened to fly into the painting. You can see the finished image here, or buy prints. The original for this is spoken for.
When the birds were done I did this small, quick study of a logging road on Rte 34 near Alsea. I had sketched this site from every angle many times, and it’s one of my favorite subjects. Always finding new little things to emphasize or change about it. The mood there was always damp, diffuse, misty. I started then finished this one in a great mood.
The original is for sale, as well as prints which you can find at this link.
Then, going through my sketch pad, I realized that on my last visit to Phoenix I had done some sketching at roadside. I love roads, highways or side roads, I really enjoy drawing them and painting them. This was in Northern AZ. I stopped to mess with my GPS, pulled off onto a frontage road, and realized that the sky ahead was very ominous. VERY ominous. If you have seen this blog entry you know what happened about an hour after I made the sketches for this painting. I think I decided to stay a bit and draw just to avoid driving into this maelstrom.
I did still of course have to drive through it. I liked the way the road ended in a little hummock though, in this sketch- the road of course continued over that hill on along the way but it looked like the end of the road, like that would just be the end of the trip. I did another recent painting from another sketch I made that day, facing south. That one is here. This one was drawn facing north along the frontage, away from the storm. The light was very weird. It was near sundown but not quite.
On the left you can see it’s mostly turpentine and a little scrubbing with an old brush to start with. Then I went at it with very thick paint to finish. This one has been scanned now, and the varnish is drying. The original is for sale and prints are at this link.
all-saints’ day. i’m not religious but i was mainly raised catholic, my middle name is a saint’s name. patron saint of migraine sufferers and writers. she liked to read. she was a rebel at home so they sent her to the convent, which was a lot less strict than her family had been.
she of course was religious but not nearly enough. she had malaria and seizures and visions, and decided to promote reform in the church. “The only right prayers are those that create actíon. Prayer without action does go unheard.”
this was a bit of a mistake. the catholic church persecuted her and disliked that a woman was ‘teaching’. she lived a good long time though.
I’m pretty sure that my middle name was intended to be the name of the “little flower”, st. therese. however it’s spelled as the english version of st. teresa of avila, which means they done screwed up and gave me a hotshooter as a namesaint rather than a quiet little girl, and I’m ok with that.
tomorrow is all-souls’, or dios de los muertos if you’re latinx/excatholic. a much more meaningful day for me. but I figured I’d share this tidbit about saints and middle names. what’s your middle name? who’s watching out for you?
It’s very hot in AZ. Also there was lightning.
On this visit I got to meet two incredible, creative women. One was Niharika, who does costume/dress for movies in India. She is so sweet, funny, and stylish. And she made me feel stylish too.
I worked overtime one night and stayed late, and when I came home she gave me the most perfect soft sweater ever…
Also she took some pictures of me which are kind of funny. We had cactus tacos together, and she got a really fun floral tattoo (with wasps in it! I’ve been dying to do some wasps.)
Here are picture she took and pictures I took.
Here we are looking fantastic.
I have always had trouble with motivation. I have great ideas, and understand what I ought to be doing at any given time, but actually DOING it is sometimes a struggle. I suppose this comes with the territory of depression, but I hate it. Over the years I’ve tried everything, just about. Here are a couple things that have worked for me.
1.Put on your shoes.
I just- put my shoes on. This means something to my mind, apparently, because once my shoes are on, I start doing things almost right away, I don’t know why this works, but it does. Socks are a half measure and will get me to the kitchen for coffee but no further. Pants will get me from the bed to the couch. But shoes? I’ll end up doing something useful within an hour or so.
2.Close the bathroom door and turn the water on in the sink.
I have had a long hard fight with maintaining hygiene over the years. If I don’t think to myself “I’m gonna brush my teeth” but simply go into the bathroom and lock the door, then turn on the water…somehow I immediately brush my teeth. It’s like the shoes- it just works. I don’t let myself think about it. I just turn on the water as soon as I go in there. I usually have to use the bathroom right away when I wake up, so I turn the water on right when I walk in. I know it wastes a little water to have it run for a minute, but it’s the way that works, and I stick with what works these days.
3. Keep medicine next to the bed.
This works for me because I take my medicine in the morning and at night, not during the day. Except for one medicine, which I just take with me.
4. Don’t bring your laptop or phone to bed with you.
You will HAVE to get up to entertain yourself. Even just to entertain yourself. It’s way too easy to start reading something online and laze around with it.
5. Don’t rush.
I have been waking up at least an hour before I have to get ready, this past year. This gives me time to slowly wake, to get my head together before I have to get out of bed. I can get pants on and socks and get coffee early then relax for a while if I want, but on days when I really need to kind of slowly rise from the depths, it’s a lifesaver.
6. Have your clothes ready and some food ready for the morning.
Since I am at my perkiest right before bed, I grab my clothes for the next day and set them out. I try to also put out the things I need to make food with in the morning too. In fact, the more nighttime-me is considerate of morning-me, the easier mornings become.
As for cleaning the house and stuff, I have no idea. I go long times not wanting to do anything, and then suddenly have a zeal for it and will whirlwind my whole house. Sometimes just one area, sometimes everything over the course of a few days. I am still figuring that one out. Any suggestions?
(this post was originally drafted, in a much shorter form, on: May 15, 2012)
As I was driving north from Roseburg, the Baron (my volvo) started behaving strangely- he was running hot, too hot. After a while it got so bad I stopped, and called in the cavalry. My friend Rachel came and got me, and I stayed at her house with her and her manfriend Zack (one of my favorite people!) and their tiny, insane dogs. Kozmo made some friends.
In the morning, Jimmy drove up and we picked up a water pump. He helped me get a mechanic friend of his to put it in, and basically took care of it all. He also got his girlfriend some wicked futuristic wipers for her car.
Then the Baron got a ride. Kozmo guarded the new water pump until the mechanic friend could pick up the Baron. Once the Baron got his ride, I went to Bruki’s house and hung out in her awesome blanket fort.
After a day in Bruki’s (AMAZING) fort, all seemed well. I started out again and made it almost to Portland before again, the Baron started acting strangely.
Every time I went uphill, or accelerated, he’d shudder. He’d stutter. He’d strain and eventually surge. It was bad, and I knew it couldn’t be long before real trouble started.
Sure enough, I nearly stalled out on the bridge to Vancouver, WA. I pulled over at a motel sign, thinking I’d grab a room for the night and get a mobile mechanic in the morning. The motel, however, was in Murder Town, and was completely boarded up and not even open (despite its gigantic, glowing sign).
I sent out a call for help, and sure enough, one of my tattoo-babies, Austin, showed up. We spent about an hour under the overhang at a gas station, on speakerphone with my mechanic in Spokane, tinkering and testing. Since one of the springs is missing from the hood, we propped it up with my clamming shovel. I put on my murder gloves, and Austin grabbed a handy (ubiquitous) rag and some sketchy tools.
After an hour, with no solution in view, we taped up a randomly-split hose we noticed and limped, in the pouring rain, to his house.
I passed out on their couch, and in the morning had some coffee after Austin and his lady friend had left for their pedicures (true story). Fortuitously, right near their house is a volvo mechanic shop! They took my car in on priority, and spent the day diagnosing.
The Baron should be in fighting trim tomorrow morning, and I shall be off to Seattle (two days late).
I can’t say it’s been terrible. I mean I’m anxious about my car, and bummed over the appointments I had to bump, but I also have enjoyed seeing a few of my favorite people and watching weird movies with them, and drinking good coffee in their houses. Kozmo made a ton of new creature friends, and I decided on my next tattoo.I know this isn’t a great art or tattoo post, but I’m on the road, and when you’re on the road you take what you can get.