Hey, thanks to everyone who read yesterday’s blog “The Perks of Friday the 13th” and since you’re here again wondering what I’d have to talk about today, I’ve just got to say, welcome back! Bloomington hasn’t changed much since yesterday, it’s been very nice weather. Leaves have been super green, dense, and beautiful with only on and off rain. Today I tattooed three appointments ( DM @ImFromIndiana for availability) and started my day with something that’s become a bit too normal, something that shouldn’t be happening at all.
Today, I woke up and wanted to create a bookshelf for the studio. In creating the bookshelf, I really lost track of time. I went to Bloomington Hardware, had long and drawn out conversations, stayed completely oblivious of other people’s time, and it was fantastic. I was certain that I’d have zero time to draft any ideas for my client and had no clue what our plan would be.
I said, bye, to my new buddy at the Hardware store, drove to the studio, and began creating the shelf; the only thing I could do, clearly. I’d have draw the design in a timely manor IF A DEPOSIT WAS MADE, but I forgot to ask the client for one so I wasn’t concerned.
I’ve learned that if a client doesn’t place a deposit, then the client is not serious about showing up to their tattoo. I’d say 50% of non-deposit clients show up to their appointments. Deposits make the artist know the client is serious about getting their tattoo. I say no to drawing doodles for noodles when the noodle hasn’t payed you gravy, why am I calling a deposit gravy?
I’m on topic, not talking about gravy, when I hear the front door alarm me my client has arrived. Normally, it’s not uncommon for me to work on different tasks before a client arrives. I’ll usually have that become a part of their tattoo experience. So at the moment I’m asking my client to help me hold my shelf while I build it, because two people building a shelf together, that’s teamwork.
Gracie was a very relaxed client and my favorite kind of client, a grad student! Graduate students are always the best, they remember my childhood cartoons and I’m continuously in shock how many undergraduates have no clue what the show Recess was… one of the greatest shows of the 90s and they missed it. Sorry kiddos, I’m not going to relive Dora the Explorer with you, I was grown.
I’m still upset about the Recess thing, but I’ll move on to keep your interest alive. Gracie wanted a snake, but, didn’t need there to be a flower with it. She knew that she wanted it to be small and also that this tattoo should complement her other tattoo. While I was building my new shelf at Gracie’s appointment, she had a marvelous idea. Gracie saw a piece of flash I painted in 2017 and asked if we could adjust the image to being a snake instead of the cardinal; all before I could tell her I hadn’t drawn anything.
NOTE: PLEASE DRAW YOUR CLIENTS DESIGN BEFORE HAND, I only didn’t because I was building a very important shelf. Also, I can draw a design relatively fast for clients and am never ever in any rush to tattoo anyone. These are the perks of running a private studio in a haunted Victorian building… I’ve aimed high in life.
So, with this news, I got very excited for the prospect of getting to doodle for gravy, sweet, sweet gravy. I grabbed my red and blue pens and started the process on drawing on Gracie’s clutch idea, directly onto her skin. She only needed it to be small, simplified, and be a happy snake. Finally, time to put this shelf project on hold for like a few hours until my next appointments. Kidding.
These days, drawing onto a client’s skin is my favorite form of art. I grab one of my cheap pens, the same ones that send kids to detention, why am I correlating that? And we begin the process of cleaning her leg so I can get my pen ready. With Friday the 13th just days before, I felt pretty prepped for this tattoo. Together, Gracie and I, watched the marks become illustrated onto her skin from our imagination.
The red pen is only to find the form, in this stage I can check in with the client to see if the location looks correct. What I like best about drawing a design fresh onto the client’s skin is that it reminds me a lot of my process when I’m oil painting. I learned in my painting classes at Indiana University that the best artists pull their images from the form in a very loose manor. When I grab my red pen, nothing is a mistake, there are only opportunities. I can accept or reject any key information for a later stage when the blue pen refines the general sketch into a finalized design.
Drawing is a skill that I’ve had to nurtured for many years to be confident enough to draw directly onto a client’s skin. For me, the key to being able to draw on someone’s skin directly is a matter of me finding my inner peace. Because of this, I try to live a life where I can always find my own inner peace, quickly. The easiest ways I’ve found inner peace has been “IGNORING THE HATERS,” seriously. Haters and toxic people kill creativity. Non-creatives who think it’s their duty to “educate” creatives can leave me alone. The other topic I avoid completely are my own insecurities or comparing my abilities to someone else’s abilities. For years I compared my work to my favorite artist’s, now I never think outside of my work. Art is personal, there is no need for competition to me, and my work suffers when I think about that silliness.
I’m honestly not thinking the entire time I’m drawing onto somebody, my brain is quite. Cares go out of the door and for the moments my client and I have together, I’m allowed to just be present. If I’m present, I cannot lose the image. Drawing isn’t a sport for me, there isn’t a clear win or loss, the art is just an experience. When I get to draw on the skin, unknowingly to my client, they’ve signed up for a piece of art at it’s most base application.
Tattooing has been around for an unknown amount of time, for sure since Pre-Historic times. What I know for sure is that individuals would adorn their bodies in various elements of design. The means changed and so did the processes, but the main objective has been to preserve marks into ones body permanently. The equipment of Contemporary Tattooers has evolved, but the human element of drawing directly onto someone’s skin is Pre-Historic and Post-Contemporary. That’s a beautiful place to be.
I’ve seen it in people’s reactions, there is a wholeness to a freehand design that stencils cannot capture. Freehand seals the artist’s hand permanently into the patron. Flaws emerge, mistakes linger, and an artist can pull those elements into a uniqueness only of their own. Flaws don’t ruin art, they personalize. In my work, the flaw flows better on the body than the stiff perfection of a stencil.
When I work at a someone else’s studio, the rule of thumb is to design the tattoo and then tailor the image to fit the client’s body by making the image bigger or smaller via the copy machine. If every copy machine broke, there’d be a lot of missing tattooers, but I digress. If the client wants the image bigger, then print a bigger stencil; the client wants it smaller, again, print a smaller image. Freehand fits the form directly onto the skin. There are less steps, in my opinion, the fewer steps then the clearer an image can flow. I am in no way a freehand master, just an major evangelist and student of the form.
Freehand allows me to wake up, build a shelf, and gain a new client through serendipity. It’s meditation. A calm I love to experience. I’m sure I’ve gone on long enough for two blogs about “Freehand” but today was a fun day overall…
not to mention this happy DM I received hours after completing today’s tattoo…
Stay positive everyone out there and Love from Bloomington,
(If you’re curious what the shelf from today’s blog looks like)