getting tattooed with scars from self-harm-answers to common questions.

I’m not going to include many photos in this post, to provide my clients with some privacy.

 

don hertzfeldt tattoo

 

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.

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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.

 

yes, that's me

me getting my upper arms worked on.

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)

 

xox

 

 

 

you just found the perfect tattoo idea online.

listen to me.

if you see tattoos and artwork online that you really like and would like to have tattooed on you, that’s totally a good thing. the next step is not to copy that thing exactly, but to find a tattoo artist whose work you like, bring them that thing, and say “I want something like this, and I like this piece because (reason you really like that idea)”

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the tattoo artist will tell you they can’t copy it, and will draw you your very own tattoo using your taste and that idea as a starting point. that’s what good tattoo artists do.

it’s OK if you printed it out, traced it, or saved it to your phone for us to look at. don’t panic. it’s OK. just tell us that you found it online and want something like it because (reasons you like it so much). seriously, it’s OK, bring it along and tell us why you like it.

it’s good when you find things you’d love to wear. showing us that stuff helps us figure out what your taste is, what qualities you want in the finished piece. it’s totally fine to want similar ideas to other people’s tattoos. it’s just not OK to try to copy exactly.

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find a good tattoo artist, then talk to them. show them things you like. show them that perfect tattoo and tell them why it’s perfect. they can make it fit YOU.

we get into tattooing because we like to draw. part of our job is to figure out how to draw a thing that fits you and nobody else.

the other part of our job is to be able to reproduce a thing exactly. so if you find tattoo flash, (it’ll be labeled “tattoo flash” and have the artist’s name attached) let us know!

because usually you, or we, can buy the rights to do that. cheaply. plenty of artists draw world that are designed to be sold as tattoos. if we know the source, we can often get permission. you can also ask us what we have drawn- most of us have flash, prepared art, ideas and sketches of things we’d like to do.

 

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keep in mind you don’t HAVE to find exactly what you want. find your tattoo artist first, then show them the things related to the tattoo you want. we can work from stick figures and bad explanations! it’s part of the job.

(also, if you lie and say you drew it, we know you’re lying. although the internet is big, the tattoo industry is small and we all know each other.)

 

 

 

some recent works, since Halloween

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Pennsylvania: Heritage tattoo in Easton, Abaddon tattoo in Pine Grove, and some family time.

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walk-in sign at abaddon

 

Photo-heavy post after the jump!

I’ll be at Abaddon until the 8th. I’m booked full except for an hour or two on this saturday.
After that I go on to Frankfort NY, to the electric eye candy convention. I’m teaching the seminar there on sunday at noon- if you want in on that, you can pre-register HERE (preregistration gets you a little extra swag.)

I think I have an hour or two open friday and saturday at that convention. Sunday is solidly booked though! Again…get a hold of me. You can use the form HERE if you’re not sure how to reach me.

(more…)

spidermonkey, and mom’s

My last two stops before I go east for six weeks-ish. I spent last weekend at Spider Monkey in Olympia- I LOVE that shop and everyone in it. What a great time!

I spent the morning today building a portfolio page within the site; you can view that HERE if you like.

This coming weekend (thurs the 4th through sunday) I’ll be at Mom’s Tattoo in Spokane. Can’t wait- they’re such lovely people, and the shop environment is so light and airy. I’ll be taking walkins every one of the days I am there!

Here are a few recent photos to keep you entertained.

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round two of the DayStar tour!

Eugene, Seattle, and Auburn WA.

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club tattoo at the linq and the long road home.

Club tattoo, Linq, Las Vegas:

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On the long road:

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Getting your feet tattooed, and how to handle the aftermath.

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I really like foot tattoos. I think they can look great, and it’s a good place to get a smaller tattoo done. That said, there’s a few things you should think about when you decide to get tattooed on your feet. First of all, there’s not a whole lot of room, so you’ll have to pick one idea, and keep it pretty simple. Any more than that and the inevitable spreading and wear-and-tear on the ink will make it indecipherable very quickly.

 

foot rose tattoo

 

 

 

So next, make sure the image has a good amount of contrast. Edges! Soft stuff won’t hold up as well in the long run, and while you can get away with that in other areas, the feet aren’t the place to gamble with.

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The next thing to think about is healing. When you get your feet tattooed, you’ll have to go without socks, and wear only shoes that do not directly rub against the tattoo while it heals. So if that means you can’t work, wait until you have at least ten days off in a row, to allow for the skin to settle down. Also, feet can swell a lot, so be prepared to elevate your foot the next day, and maybe even ice it.

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Placement is super important too. It’s pretty obvious where the skin changes from regular skin to that wrinkled, shiny kind of skin that you find on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The areas that are very shiny or wrinkled won’t hold ink very well at all, at all. So plan to get the tattoo on the top of your foot, not out onto the sides very far. While you CAN tattoo back near the achilles tendon or off to the side a bit, it simply won’t hold as well as the normal skin on top of the foot does.


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To keep your foot tattoo looking good for a long while, after it’s healed (according to the aftercare your artist gives you) then be sure, in summer, to use plenty of sunscreen or wear closed/covered shoes over it. Feet get a lot of sun and you might not even think about it! Sun is the biggest destroyer of tattoos. So cover them up or give them a good layer of screening to protect them.

 


Using the internet to find your next tattoo? Read this.

The internet has so much imagery in it, it’s understandable why you’d want to use it to find good ideas for your next tattoo. But there are a few things to watch out for, and a few things you definitely shouldn’t do.

will bodnar, cicada tattoo, anji marth, high priestess tattoo, at tattoo convention

an artist using antique, copyright-free woodcuts as reference

When you have no idea what you might want, it’s really tempting to just start googling “tattoos” or “tattoos for girls” or something, and look around at what other people have. There’s nothing wrong with this; this is a great way to get ideas, seeds of ideas. You have to be careful though, because these tattoos belong to other people. Either they belong to the tattoo artist or the wearer, one or the other, no exceptions.

They own them.

So, yes, use the images online of other people’s work to get ideas for subject matter or placement- but not as an exact thing to get tattooed. There are reasons for this; ethically, it’s theft for the tattooer who ends up doing your tattoo. They don’t get to really do their best work, because you’ve instead asked them to steal art from someone else. Legally, it’s also theft. The original artist who drew and tattooed it owns the no-shit actual copyright to that tattoo. It’s plagiarism and is considered theft.

You can bring in these images as ideas, as things you like the style or subject of- but you shouldn’t try to get someone else’s tattoo exactly copied onto your own body. I think everyone is entitled to their very own tattoo, and I think artists are entitled to be paid for their work in drawing and designing the tattoos.

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The best way to use the internet for tattoo ideas is to follow the advice here, and use the internet to find the artist that did an awesome tattoo. That way you can go to them and tell them “I liked this piece you did and want something like it” and you will get exactly that, without any ethical problems. You find the artist you want first, then figure out the art with them, this is the very best way to get a very good tattoo done. (this applies to big or small, extensive or simple tattoos.)

big or small!

big or small!

If you bring in someone else’s tattoo and the artist is willing to steal it, they probably are not very skilled to begin with. Good artists won’t steal. Copying someone else’s tattoo is really, really a dick move. It makes you a thief, really and truly it does. I promise that if you find a tattoo artist whose work you love, they will do a MUCH better version of the idea for you, that will suit YOU and not some other random person you’ve never met. Find the tattoo artist you trust, whose work you love, and you won’t have to copy someone else’s tattoo to get something awesome.

ink travelers tattoo convention

Note that while this applies to other people’s tattoos online, it doesn’t work the same way for art in general. If you see a painting you love, and want tattooed, contact the artist who made it and tell them you want to get it tattooed on you. A large majority of artists will just say yes, go for it, or at most they will say “buy a print first please then go right ahead!”

There are very few artists in this world who object to people getting tattoos of their work- but you should always ASK first anyway, because the artist owns that art. They own it. They own the rights to it, and using without permission is stealing. This applies to paintings, photographs of flowers or wild animals, every image has an owner. There are exceptions (copyright-free websites, tattoo flash that your tattooer has paid for, etc) but things that you find on google are NOT NOT not free for the taking. Those images all belong to somebody. If you can’t figure out who the original artist is, ask your tattooer to help you out. A  lot of the time we can find out for you.

lyle tuttle tattooing.

If your tattoo artist has flash on the walls of their shop, or books of images for tattooing, it’s because they paid for the rights to tattoo those images. This means they’re not stolen, they’re totally fine to choose from.

For tattooers, take your photographs so that the tattoo is seen at an angle or so part of it is obscured. Use a strong watermark across the image to make theft more difficult. And rest assured that only assholes steal; your work being stolen is not any detriment to your reputation, but to theirs.

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A real asshole can and will use your tattoo image to make a stencil of sorts:

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But if the image is at an angle, their finished piece will never look quite right. Symmetry and details will look skewed and wrong. This helps a lot. Try it.

Further advice for tattooers on retaining copyright is available in my seminar.

 

The easiest, best place to get a tattoo.

I know that the real wise advice I could give you would be; “Get it where you want to see it.” Because after all, the pain is temporary, right? The tattoo is what lasts. But I get asked this question a lot, so I’ll give you my honest, true answer.

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actually, inner forearms are cool too. For all the same reasons. They’re just harder to hide when you visit grandma.

Get it on your outside calf, shin, or on the front or outside of the thigh.

These are the easiest areas to get tattooed. They hurt the least, look the best, and last the longest with clarity to the original. Even if you gain and lose weight, these areas won’t change much. Even when you get ancient, the wrinkles on the rest of you won’t really effect these areas so much.

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If you have to hide tattoos for work, high socks or knee-length skirts will cover one or the other of these. The areas are capable of being used in either a very soft, flowing and feminine way, or a blocked, solid masculine manner- so either way, the space can be used how YOU want it to turn out. It can emphasize the curves or obscure them. It can accent muscle or smooth it.

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A design with a strong s-curve looks great in either place.

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The skin structure is good and will be more solid and consistent than ANYWHERE AT ALL ON THE TORSO. Your torso twists, bends, and the skin changes all over it with every pound gained or lost, every gym day or potato chip, every pregnancy, every time you reach for a thing your torso skin gets stretched a tiny bit. Every wrinkle and sag is concentrated on your ribs, waist, and chest. It’s the worst possible area for a tattoo really.

watercolor landscape tattoo

Going back to the start of this whole thing- calves and thighs hurt less than any torso tattoo as well. AND they will last longer. It’s win-win.

sugar skull pinup tattoo

So, if you want my real advice, and not just the thing I am supposed to say, then listen to me and get your calf or thigh tattooed. It’ll look amazing there. Promise. Big or small, get it there.

flower tattoo

 

Small tattoos look great just above the ankle bone, or just below the hipbone on the thigh. Big tattoos look great all over the leg.

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The only “bad” leg areas are the knee, the foot, and the groin. All of these areas have odd skin and won’t last as long or hurt as little as the calf and thigh. Plus the nice, flat areas of the calf and thigh make the design less likely to get distorted with movement, making them a good place for geometric work, or images with faces or human figures in them.

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Get your legs tattooed. It’s awesome.

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