Gang, last night Ol’ Kentucky let us know that he is thinking about getting a tattoo, and those words always make me a little tingly. Then he revealed that it would be his first one, and it made me even more giddy. Then Robert didn’t say it was a stupid idea, and I was shocked, because he only likes Star Wars, his kids, and Snyder cut movies.
Now, I have been getting tattoos for over 20 years. Luckily for Ol’ Kentucky, he has the means to get good ink right off the bat. I did not, got what I could get, and it is still on my body to this day. Granted, it’s been freshened up, and will probably be again because I like the design, but ideally I should have waited. In fact, my first two were shit shows, and it wasn’t until my third that my good friend Ron Bertalot at Permanent Images in Ottawa IL inked my now famous picture of my granny.
When I got the tattoo of my granny, it was of my favorite picture of her. She was flipping off the camera, was well into her 80’s, and it was just a great picture, so I decided to honor her by getting it put on my skin. I set up the time, paid my deposit, and excitedly awaited my day.
I had known Ron since before he tattooed, he was always an amazing artist, and a friend, so it was going to be a special time. So we started, and I knew it would be a few hour process. Ron is a popular guy, so a 3 hour tattoo takes 4, because people come into his shop, at least back then, to either schedule, or shoot the shit with him. I believe at one point, we even took a pizza break. He gave me a piece, so all was forgiven. (we ate in a separate room, he’s very conscious of safety). Eventually we get around to talking about my granny, and he says it’s such a great, funny memorial to her, and he wishes more people came up with fun things to remind them of people, instead of solemn things that will make them sad.
He asked when she passed, and I looked at him and said “Passed, she lives 4 miles from here, she’s alive and kicking” Ron and his apprentice fell about the place laughing. We took a ten minute break as they giggled, because they thought it was amazing I’d put this on my body with her still kicking (she’s still kicking and active at a robust 101)
Now, I was lucky that I have friends who tattoo. I now have an artist that I go to exclusively, though I did trade Ron an apple pie for a touch up last year on granny. After 10 years, I should have paid, and was willing to, but he said the pie and it being one of his favorite tattoos ever, no charge. (He once had a tattoo contest with other judges, and barred me from entering because I had an unfair advantage)
In honor of Ol’ Kentucky, I’m going to give you guys a few tips, in case you’ve never gotten some ink, and have questions, or want some advice.
- First and foremost, find the right artist for you. A guy/gal who is great for your friend, may not be for you. I go to a shop with two guys, and I always go to Scott Kalina (Sunken Ship Tattoo). I think Adam Kamphaus is a wonderful artist, I like his designs, but I have well over 100 hours in with Scott, we are legally married in a few countries. By finding the right artist, you need to check out their portfolio, see if their strengths match your tastes, and also if their personality matches with someone you can sit with hours on end, while he inks away on you. I also like him because he breaks it down in smaller sessions (3 hours or so), and I know that physically he’s ready to go, his hand isn’t tired or cramping, and I’m getting his best effort. We also have an odd sense of humor, I give him a vague idea, and he fleshes it out. I can draw, but I can’t draw tattoos, and that is a special type of art. I don’t tell my plumber how to fix my sink, I mention ideas to Scott, and he knows what is best. Honestly, I would do the same with Adam and Ron as well, if I went to them.
- You get what you pay for. A small piece of flash you can get for under $100. A large piece on your bicep, covering it, could cost over $1000. I’ve read the going rate for an experienced tattoo artist is $200/hr on average. Some guys charge by the piece. Talk to the artist beforehand, and see how they charge, an estimate on how much, and bring enough cash to tip. Yes, they may make $1000 in 5 hours, but most are paying off their student loans for art school, the equipment isn’t cheap, the supplies needed are nonstop, and they have rent and utilities to pay. And a $1000 piece takes up a whole day in a custom shop, figuring two breaks, prep time, and cleanup. I have a friend who will only get tattooed by guys who have been on the TV shows. To him, they mean quality, and his pieces prove it, because they are amazing. But I will put my guy up against his, and probably pay 30-50% less.
- It hurts. You get tough guys all the time who claim it doesn’t hurt, and to them, it may not. I know of people who have fallen asleep while getting tattooed. That is not me. They hurt. Some places more than others. If you are getting your hands, feet, or head tattooed, you are tougher than me. One of the more painful spots was on my back, because I was about 40 pounds heavier, and when he did the “fat monkeys”, it hurt, because he was tattooing fat. I find the spots where there are muscle directly underneath is the best, though if the bone is close, you are going to hurt some. Or a lot. Don’t listen to your friends. What hurts on them, may not hurt on you. What hurts on nobody else, may hurt like the dickens for you (ask my calf)
- Get exactly what you want. In theory, you will have it the rest of your life. That being said, personally, the only names I will get on my body are of my kids. Wives come and go, but your kids are forever. I also don’t like sayings tattooed on me. What was deep and meaningful at 20, will make you scratch your head at 40. Flash is cool for a night out of fun, but myself, I like custom stuff, so I will plan, and make sure it is something I like, and generally entertain me. If going custom, make sure your artist, is an artist. Make sure you love the design. It is a part of you, so it better be something you can look at daily. (unless it is a back piece, because I love mine, but forget I have it because I rarely see it. Do NOT listen to your friends and let them decide, they are idiots and assholes, and will only pick something that amuses them.
- Don’t pick at it when it is done and over with. I will lotion it for a week or so, then not touch it until it is fully healed, then I lotion them on occasion. I have dry skin, so it doesn’t hurt. I see people who are lotioning them for weeks, dicking with them, and then have to go back in for a touchup. They are going to itch, learn to live with it. As for lotion. Most shops sell you a lotion. I use Aveeno. No alcohol, no vitamin E or aloe, and no swimming until it is healed. I also don’t tan, and if I am in the sun, SPF is my friend. (anything over 50 is a waste of money) Alcohol dries the skin, and vitamin E and aloe heal the skin, and also kicks the ink out, same with chlorine. Sun fades. I have enough ink on me, I could buy a used car with the money I spent, I’m not doing anything to damage it. Now they have wraps that you keep on for a week after the tattoo that work great. As a hairy guy, tape doesn’t stick to me well, But they are nice if you prepare beforehand.
Gang, that’s about it. Just remember, when you are getting your first, you are already planning your second. When I got my back piece done, we discussed my next tattoo, and I had to wait 3 years to get it, so sheer torture.
Myself, I like tattoos that entertain me, or amuse me. I have little hidden things in them, from my tattoo artist’s band on a poster in the back, initials that I can no longer find of an ex, to my phone number on an alien ship (still visible after all these years)
Some people like memorial tattoos, think they can’t get one that it means something. That’s great too. Whatever floats your boat. I like stuff that makes me laugh, my friends laugh, and get a cheap pop out of Scott and Adam. I have a chest tattoo idea that makes them laugh every time, but it would mess up the epic chest piece I have planned.
One last tattoo story, and then I promise you I will stop. I was once in a fantasy football league, where we all threw in $25, and my tattoo guy promised to do a smaller tattoo on the loser of the league. Oh, and the winner got to pick the tattoo.
Luckily, I won the league. After some controversy, Phil M ended up the loser, because the playoffs did him in, and he didn’t bother playing them, and finished last, thinking we were going by regular season standings.
But, being the honorable man he is, Phil not only got the tattoo, but it was his first one. Phil is a diehard 49er’s fan (probably from a head injury), and being a Rams fan (by the glory of Krom), I thought it would be an excellent idea for him to get a dancing hot dog holding up pennants saying “Go Rams”. He picked where (upper thigh), and until this girlfriend, when wearing shorts would ask ladies if they’d like to see his wiener.
Gang, if you want to show me your tattoos, @jaycanchu on Instagram or Twitter, I am on Facebook as well. A lot of my tattoos are on my Instagram, I encourage all of you to stalk and like my stuff.
Most of all, have fun kids. Getting tattooed, or living life, we are limited, so don’t be a miserable bastard like me, and smile some.
J “I need new ink now” R