Blank Canvas…

This blog entry is quite a departure from all of my previous botanical entries. Having said that, there is a hint of nature in it after all. For years, I’ve wanted to take advantage of the blank canvas that is my body, my skin. The average person has between 16 and 20 square feet (1.5 to 2.0 square meters) of skin. Of course, there are places where you probably wouldn’t want a decoration of any sort, but there are other obvious places that beg for an artist’s touch. Yes, I’ve gotten a tattoo. There, I said it.

Homework and research is essential in an endeavor like this, and I believe that I have done due diligence. In keeping with my obsession with longleaf pine ecosystems, I have chosen a scene that depicts a stand of longleaf pines in the foreground and the edge of forest in the background. there is even a sandy path leading around the trees. Black was my color of choice, because it would show the most contrast and stand out on my meager canvas. The forearm was a choice that is not only easy to take care of in the healing process, but it also is easy to cover up if circumstances demand it.

Here is a before shot of my right arm. Before you say it, I know, there’s not that much room to work with, but it is what it is — I have thin arms:

Right forearm
Right forearm — before

I had tried to find a tattoo business locally, but I was not impressed with the place, and they failed to answer the phone the several times I called. So, I went to GOOGLE and located a shop in Asheville, North Carolina, a bit more than an hour from home. They not only answered the phone, but they also had 45 (soon to be 46) 5-star reviews on the Internet. This is impressive, I think. The trip up for the consultation was hectic, because there was still some ice on the road from our previous snow storm.

When I arrived at the shop, Victory Blvd Tattoo, I met a few of the artists and showed them the design I had chosen. They all agreed that Greg Lodato would be the best artist for the job. Unfortunately, he was not in at the moment, so I would have to come back to see him. He is a new addition to the staff and is not yet included in the crew portion of the website. Since I am taking a blood thinner, Xarelto, for my atrial fibrillation disorder, I consulted my cardiologist to find out how to proceed. I didn’t want to bleed out on the table! My cardiologist told me to simply discontinue the medication for a day or so before getting the tattoo, then resume it that night, after I returned home.

So I made the appointment for Thursday, two days later. Greg said that he didn’t have any concerns, and we set things up for 5:00 pm.

For the appointment, I dressed up in all black — T-shirt and jeans, so that if there was any ink splatter, it would not show up on my clothes. Greg explained the process and made sure I was comfortable before he began the tattooing. Here is a shot of Greg:

Greg Lodato - tattoo artist

As is evident, he is a bit shy and laid-back, but he said it was OK if I took his picture to use in my blog.

I had left a printout of my design at my first visit, and Greg had made a stencil copy of it to apply to my arm. This stencil faithfully reproduced the design on my arm and allowed him to have a visual image as he worked. This was my first tattoo, so I really didn’t know what to expect, pain-wise. As it turns out, there was not much pain involved, and he let me watch the entire process. Apparently, some artists discourage the client from looking on — I really don’t know why. Being able to follow him as he worked was important to me, and I believe it relieved some of my anxiety. Since I had come off of the blood thinner, there was very little bleeding. All went well. The entire process took about 2.5 hours from start (disinfecting and shaving my arm) to finish (application of ointment and a plastic barrier to prevent contamination while on my way home).

Here is a shot of the process as he is just about to complete the tattoo:

Tattoo almost finished

Here is a collage made up of three shots of the finished design. It doesn’t completely wrap around the arm, but it goes most of the way:

Three views of the finished longleaf pine savannah tattoo

Greg is a stickler for detail, and he even managed to include the little foot path through the left edge of the scene.

Well, you have made it this far, so I’d appreciate some comments from you. Dear Reader, don’t be shy. It won’t bother me if you wish to make either negative or positive comments — please, just share your thoughts in the comments section below. I’ll be happy to try to answer any questions you might have about the process. This will probably not be my last tattoo, because I think I will need a matching one on my left arm. The forest design appeals to me — perhaps a boreal forest next time with spruce or fir trees. Stay tuned to this space for future developments…

–Jim

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  1. Very nice, Jim! Almost a full sleeve. I have four myself – none quite as large as yours, although one (an intricate celtic knot arm band) that took almost 4 hours. Elaine has about 10, she was the one that actually started us. I guess we were late ’40s when we started. For a long time I planned on adding to one of mine, but the urging has lessened over the past few years, so it’ll probably stay as is…

  2. THAT, my friend, is pretty awesome. Not a big fan of tattoo’s but I may have to change that opinion after seeing this. The artist did a really nice, faithful rendering of a Long Leaf Pine savanna! One of your pictures?

    Look forward to seeing this in person!

  3. I admit if it were me I’d want it on a wall and not my skin (I am 67 so old school), but it is a beautiful design and very well executed. Enjoy

  4. Nice! Had to be a great conversation introducing the image and its significance. Always spreading the knowledge. Communication in any form is great.

    Good work Greg

  5. Wow, Jim! You are much braver than I am! My daughter’s BF is a tattoo artist up in Seattle and he’s been teasing me that I need to get a tattoo. Perhaps I will….in my next life.

    Very nice job by he way.

    Cheers!
    Ivo in AZ

    1. Thank you, Kathy! 2.5 hours “on the table” cost me $300, plus I gave him a tip before I left — it’s customary. It’s a cash-only business, just so you know…

      Get a quote on your initial visit before you begin. At this shop in Asheville, they quote by the piece, not by the hour as some other shops do. Some artists require a deposit before beginning the process because they have to do some mock-up art work in preparation, and that takes his/her time even if you supply the art beforehand. The deposit comes off the final bill. My art work was “camera ready”, but we agreed for him to delete part of the edge of the scene so it would fit properly on my arm. I expect that there would be more cost if the artist has to create the design from scratch (pun intended) 😉

      BTW, after a week, it is almost completely healed — just some minor peeling as one would expect with a mild sunburn.

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