Sunday, August 16, 2009
Creating, or Time and too little of it
On today's tattoo schedule is one tattoo, but it sounds like quite a project. Irises, sans their long straight stems, with an exploding heart; a dove flying out of it toward the sky. This all takes place across a lower back, not quite hip to hip, but spanning the majority of the space. I haven't drawn it yet, although I've had whatever pictures she sent me for over a week. I'm a deadline artist. I never get ahead of myself, I go in early when I have something big to do, and usually make my client wait while I finish their line-drawing. This is either highly unprofessional or makes them feel like they are participating in the creation of their tattoo. Maybe both.
I booked this tattoo exclusively over the internet. It is far easier to design alone when I have already met someone, and that is how all my work starts. I only do tattoos that have been designed for the person who will wear them. If I haven't met them yet I'm missing a crucial ingredient for my line work and final product- who they are. You'd be surprised how much this connection plays into the way I work if I'm not covering an old tattoo. In that case the lines that are already there dictate how the new piece will be, because it's the lines and not the person that tell me what it looks like.
I could get the same request for a piece from two different people, and the finished tattoo would be two entirely different things based on my reading of the person. One, because I try never to repeat an exact design and two because my reading of their energy leads me this way or that in the creation phase. The reading and interpreting, the creating and discussing are major parts of why I still love what I do almost twenty years after I started doing it for a living. It's still fresh for me every day, and I still get up and look forward to going to my studio no matter how bad I feel if there's a piece of original art to be done. If it's another Raider head, or a long stretch of solid black tribal I've already had my fun designing, or sixteen stars, or something that's so so so common that there's no way to make it fun then I may not look quite as forward to it, but most things, even if I've done something like it before can make me tingle with anticipation and get excited about my day. It's the custom nature of what I do that makes every day different from the one before and keeps it fresh for me. I have not done a piece of flash art for so long I can't remember doing it, I think it was in my old shop, maybe ten years or more ago. I don't have issues with it, it's just not how I work.
I've been an artist since before I went off to school. Only girl on the block, only one boy younger than me; I stayed on my porch and did the two things that were safe and fun: Reading and drawing. By ninth grade I saw the first tattoo I remember seeing and thought I would like to do that when I grew up. I am who I wanted to be when I grew up. I am not foolish enough to forget to be grateful for that, not everyone can say that and live it every day.
Today I have a very large and obviously meaningful piece to design for a girl I haven't met yet, even though she's sent me some pictures of the individual elements. I haven't been in her presence as she tells me the story of what it means to her and why she wants it. I haven't seen my own pictures in my head about the story and made my sometimes excellent suggestions for additions or subtractions to her way of expressing it. I see bits of things often with my eyes that are not really eyes and sometimes what I see goes well for my clients into the tattoos they use for expression of their wishes, or their affirmations, their memorials or their talismans. No matter, I have all the time in the world for her. This is the attitude I tend to take with every client, as I have no visible clock in the shop. It's beautiful for art, and at the same time makes me run late and look completely unprofessional when I try to run by a schedule. It takes as long as it takes to make something as beautiful as my capabilities will allow, and that doesn't always conform to time as we know it. Gone are the days where I could just crank them out one after another. Only my pocket misses that talent, the balance in my heart and my mind is still full.