Probably one of the most clichéd bucket list items on everyone’s list is getting a tattoo. I have resisted body art for many years although I have appreciated it from a distance. My brother has some awesome tattoos – some of which he designed himself. Almost all of my friends have tattoos, and I’ve known for awhile that my time was coming. The problem was finding what I wanted to put on my body, figuring out where on my body I wanted to put it, and finally who I wanted to do it.
In my extreme youth, two cousins and I talked about getting tattoos and at the time I thought a dancing pig on my foot was about all I could handle. I loved pigs, and I still do. I am thankful, however, that I have evolved since then.
Tattoos also always make me think of the Dr. Seuss story, The Sneetches, and the starbelly sneeches with stars upon thars. I was about to become a star bellied Sneetch! Except my tattoo wasn’t going to be on my belly, and it wasn’t going to be a star, and there would be no have / have not moral to be learned. It’s still one of my favourite Dr. Seuss books, though.
I started my quest at the beginning of my year. At that point whatever I was having I was going to put on my lower back… essentially so the general public wouldn’t see it. When I told my friend Tammy she replied, “Oh, you’re getting a tramp stamp!” OK, next…. I know lots of people with beautiful tattoos on their lower back, but I would always hear Tammy’s voice saying “Tramp stamp.” I also realized that I couldn’t get a tattoo and just hide it. What would be the point?
The idea of a gryphon started to catch my attention. I love gargoyles, and I love old mythical images. The gryphon kept talking to me, making its presence known
The griffin, griffon, or gryphon (Greek: γρύφων, grýphōn, or γρύπων, grýpōn, early form γρύψ, grýps; Latin: gryphus) is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle’s talons as its front feet. Because the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature.
I knew I didn’t want an angry tattoo and gryphons are often portrayed in a very angry or violent light. Most of the images I found were of a gryphon in a fighting stance – not what I was looking for. I kept looking for inspiration.
Finally, as time was running out, I came across some images that were game changers for me. They weren’t necessarily the exact images I wanted, but they were the perfect idea.
One was a logo for a series of lectures on youth and literature. This was the concept I liked and it took my breath away when I saw it. The idea of books entered the picture. I’m not going to include the image because I don’t have the rights to it, but if you click the link above you’ll see it. The image features a gryphon and a child who is reading. I didn’t like the head on that one though, it looked too angry and the beak looked too sharp. I found another with a head and beak I liked.
I had seen my friend Tomena’s sketch style tattoo that she got at Fu Dog Tattoos and it really resonated with me. I wanted that style, and old master’s sketch style. I didn’t want any colour, just shading. I went to book with Fu Dog but Kelsey, the owner, was booked when I wanted to have it done. She asked what I wanted. I sent her the pictures, and she said that Riley at Pirate Palace Tattoos would do a great job with that style and might have a bit of time free. I checked him out online and a lot of his images looked angry. Kelsey reassured me that he had done other stuff and I just had to ask to see more of his portfolio.
When I went in to meet Riley he showed me some drawings that weren’t angry. I was sold. We made the appointment I left the drawings with him and circled the parts of each I liked. He sent me a preliminary drawing a few days later and I loved it. I really loved it. I asked for a couple of small changes and he came through right away – it blew me away how it was exactly what I wanted.
So, on Tuesday afternoon, February 9th, I joined the ranks of the inked. I was a bit nervous but I really like Riley, he’s a bit of a renaissance guy with a lot of varied interests. The first thing I noticed when I walked into his enclosed booth was the big screen TV on the wall. He was playing Planet Earth on Netflix. As he sat down he looked up and said, “Oh, look! Birds of paradise… they’re awesome!” Right away I knew I liked him.
We chatted the whole time and had a great time. I asked him lots of questions about art and tattooing. When I asked if he had ever made a spelling mistake he looked up, laughing, and said, “Yes, and if you ever meet a tattoo artist who says otherwise they’re lying!” I really liked him. He said he’d never done one that couldn’t be easily fixed. I also asked him if there was a busy season for tattoos. He said for him it was always when people got their tax refunds.
The process didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. A friend described it to me as the same sensation as if you dragged a steak knife across your skin. I think that was a pretty accurate description. I was amazed at how fast the image turned from a drawing to something very real.
The end result, located on my right calf. I’m in love with it! I highly recommend Riley. I think he did a brilliant job of interpreting what I wanted and translating it to a drawing.
Why was this crazy?
Just think about it!
Would I do it again?
Yes! As I had heard would be the inevitable outcome of my first tattoo – I’m already planning my next one! I doubt it will be a dancing pig, or a star on my belly.