:: Thursday, March 22, 2007 ::
Birthday Four Zero
So March 21st was my birthday. 40th. The Big four zero. The FourDot. I wasn't building it up or anything, but people were certainly here n there thinking it was a big deal and probably trying to convince me of that. :) Nice try everyone. heheh
So. I wanted to do something different. I suppose I can't argue too much about not being in mid life. Not so much crisis, but definitely midlife. I decided getting a sports car was out of the question. The one Honda has is an S2000 (can't see me in a Civic sporty thing with neon and a wing, drifting in a parking lot) and they are not really me. And besides it's Canada and I couldn't drive it more than half the year.
So I wanted to do something different. I toyed with going somewhere big. Iceland. I realized that it was a bit expensive to do this year and needed more planning and some options were already taken bookings wise. So I settled on a tattoo. To give some background.... I didn't have any. I had originally toyed with the idea back as far as the 80s. If Ben Johnson won the gold in the 100m, I boldly told my friends I would get one. He did and I had a problem as I didn't have an idea. But then he cheated and I decided linking some ink to that was wrong. I am glad I didn't do it as that would have been a bad vibe. I forgot about getting one for some time. Wasn't on the radar.
Then as I got into more photography I began to appreciate the artistry of ink. I photographed a few people who have ink and asked 'em questions. I hung around with someone in the fall for a few weeks and I had the opportunity to explore her tattoos - in a fairly platonic sort of way of course :) - and really be nosy about them. I also found that there was a connection between photography and tattoos. When I take a picture of someone or an object, it didn't exist before then. Might have been an idea that I crafted, worked the angles, put some thought into. But that moment was not in existence before I clicked the shutter. And after, it is there. Permanently documented and on display for all the world to see. Given life. Same with tattoos. Different medium. Different outcome and arguably more permanent than photos -though photos I have taken will outlast me.
The idea I had for the tattoo I did, did not exist until very recently. There was a concept, something with meaning, a design and then when handed over to the tattoo artist it was given life. Something that perhaps has not been done before quite that way before.
I had a design around Christmas time but it would not have worked out. Cool, but would not scale. I showed it to a few folks and even had it sketched out and found images on the net. But it would not fit on my forearm without a lot of monkeying and it would have been not what I wanted. I let it sit till recently. I wanted something that covered a bit about me. Who I am or what I do. Ruled out right away getting a camera etc. :)
I wanted something to symbolize that I travel, like to explore off the beaten path, that I am proudly Canadian, and that my family has a maritime tradition. I settled on a compass rose. It's the map symbol for North South East West etc. Older ones had a fleur-de-lis on the North compass point, but I am not French or from Quebec, so I wanted it to be replaced by a maple leaf (and no not the Toronto variety). To balance it, I wanted a leaf at all the cardinal points. To show that no matter where I go, what direction in life I take, I am Canadian.
In the centre of one image I found online was a stylized sun, which I didn't like but the feel was 3d and metalic pewter-like and it was something I did like. I replaced it with a ship's wheel. Think big wooden sailing ship wheel with spokes. The Star of India, the ship that my great great grandfather Captain T.E. Phillips commanded in the 1870s and 1880s figured prominently in my mind. I have walked her decks under sail out in the Pacific of San Diego - and briefly took the wheel, and could feel a connection to him then. I have always enjoyed the maritime vibe. I loved visiting down East and Newfoundland. It is in my blood. So this design was born. And it would be done in black and grey.
I solicited input from quite a few folks as to who should do it. Everyone who has ink has a favourite artist. Or an opinion on who to go to and who to avoid. I checked out the work of a few people locally. I had been chatting off and on with Liona and her guy Jesse Tierney who works at Hardcore. We emailed back n forth some design ideas - inlcuding the one in December I didn't get done - and we met up last Friday in the shop on Richmond and tossed ideas around and finalized the design. Within a couple of days he emailed me a cool design. I wanted it to be done on my birthday and so we settled on a time and we were good to go.
I wanted company for this, so Mandy offered to come along. We had a nice birthday lunch at East Side Mario's and I found a couple of props for a photoshoot with someone on Friday, and then we headed over. She was there to torment me with photos of me in anguish and pain I think more than anything! :)
I wasn't sure how I was going to be ,as this was quite outside my experience and comfort zone to say the least. I talked to people and it varied from "it tickles" to "stings" to "worst pain ever!" And everything in between. It does depend on where you get one done too of course. Fleshy areas are better than... collar bones for instance. But regardless, I was nervous and she could tell. Not something I had first hand experience with, and had not seen done live before either. I don't think watching Miami Ink counts somehow. :)
We positioned the stencil (think old school purple ditto machine ink) on my right forearm and applied the pattern. It wasn't quite right so we wiped it clean and repositioned it. Everyone agreed it was a better spot. Slight difference in location but much better. I asked lots of questions about the machines as he set up and about the different needles and the rubber bands on them and so on. It was quite interesting learning the behind the scenes.
The whole process took exactly 2hrs. 637-837pm. Pretty much bang on for his estimation. Did it hurt? Well, I would be lying if I said I couldn't feel it. It was no where near as painful as I was (and Mandy was) building it up to being. I was tense as he started but it was not bad. I would say it was stinging. Continuous stinging. Not as much painful as it was uncomfortable. I was able to carry on a conversation, and even texted someone on my phone while he was doing it. :) I also think Jesse was quite amused by the banter back and forth between Mandy and I. Not something anyone really gets to see. For us it was amusing to look back on. heheh
The worst part was after he took a quick break before starting the shading. Think of it like this: you go on a long walk or hike. You take off your boots or shoes to rest for a moment or two and then put em on and walk again. The blood has rushed in and made the soles of your feet super tender and you took the first steps. So going at the same area again with a tattoo machine after a pause, and now much more sentistive skin made me wince a couple of times. I honestly think the toughest was the wipe down at the end. That did sting in an overall way. Oh, and pulling off the bandage this morning. What hair that wasn't shaved certainly made a great gripping surface for the surgical tape! That hurt more than the tattoo when tool it off. :)
Would I recommend a tattoo for everyone? No. It certainly isn't. You do have to live with what you have done. And you might not like it the next day. Or the next year. Or when bits of you begin to sag etc. But it is a cool thing to do and if you are looking for someone in London to have a go with, talk to Jesse Tierney. He is one of the nicest guys I know, very knowledgeable about his craft and I would recommend him to anyone.
Day one of my 30s was a big birthday party in a Mexican restaurant on Yonge Street north of Eglinton in Toronto. I have a rather unflattering Polaroid picture of me wearing a sombrero that night too somewhere... In the past ten years, I moved to London. Bought a house and am now back in an apartment. Got married and divorced. Picked up photography as a hobby /obsession/ second career sort of thing. Traveled a fair bit. Explored a lot of this great country. Met some cool people. Seen some cool things.
The last day of my 30s (some 3650 days after the sombrero) was spent doing a semi nude photoshoot of a super cool model in a downtown bar closed for the evening for us with pro lighting and rocking music. A lot can change in ten years. :) With how my 40s started, I imagine a lot will change in the next ten too.
:: Mike Wood 12:28 [+] ::
welcome to the club :)
I suspect that this will nto be your last with the passion that you attack new ventures.
Happy 4-0 :)