Stephen Jay Gould was a brilliant essayist and scientist, an ardent Darwinist, he none the less felt it his duty to confront some of the unanswered questions in Darwins theory of Evolution. One of which is the fossil records annoying tendency to show long periods of stasis and then sudden (in geologic terms) appearances of modification in the same family of creature. In an effort to resolve this he posited and then went on to vigorously defend and provide evidence for what he termed “punctuated equilibrium”. Basically it turns out that species spend a relatively long period with only moderate changes visible, while generations of mainly uneventful mutations occur, it is only when these invisible mutations become so common that a wide swath of the species shares them that change becomes apparent, it appears to have happened suddenly even though the mutations leading up to these adaptations have been accruing for hundreds of generations.
Which is a very long winded way of saying that my tattooing seems to have its own periods of punctuated equilibrium. I feel like my work reaches a plateau of some sort and then for some time it feels like Im not getting any better, as if my tattoos are simply holding the line not advancing technically or imaginatively. Yet, all the while, new ideas and tiny technical changes are gathering behind the scenes and then suddenly I’ll have a rash of really bad ass tattoos (in my humble opinion) and feel like my work has taken a giant leap forward.
This week was one of those weeks. First I finished this Skullerpuss. .er. . . octoskull? Whatever.
We did the outline about 2 weeks ago and all the black shading. On the coloring session I had the idea to do the tentacles the same way I would color a traditional style snake body. In fact My intention at first was to keep the color palette really limited to the old school 3 color family (plus black), however the more i got into it the more I wanted to use some pastel type colors to contrast with all that flatness. I had a few moments of nervousness during this guy, wondering if i was fucking up by making all these Easter colors all over it, but in the end both myself and the customer dug on the result. I seldom have a fully rendered idea of what colors and ideas i want to put where, i feel like letting the piece (and customer) speak leads to more unexpected, and usually more amazing, results. its fun but it can also be nerve wracking to get to the end of a piece and have no idea what color the last bits need to be. Somehow it usually ends up being just right, like the old saying says “God protects idiots and children”. . .
A couple days later I got to finish a Day of the Dead-ish piece that was outlined a few weeks back. The customer brought in a tiny print out of a painting. The art was cool enough, but I felt like I could put a more tattoo-y twist on it so i redrew the thing from the ground up while still trying to keep that sense of tenderness and cuteness.
This was a long one, the coloring took over 5 hours but she sat like a champ and was game for any suggestions I had while still maintaining a sense of her own vision of the piece. I love when it feels like the customer and myself are working together to accomplish some art instead of me trying to prevent them from wrecking their own work with ill thought out notions. Its a fine line, many many times a suggestion that I was not in agreement with has turned out to be better than any of my own ideas, so its important to keep an open ear and mind to the clients wishes and ideas.
I don’t mind admitting that I love both of these pieces, they are not perfect (but what is?) but they do represent another step forward in my own tattooing. Of late i have really felt that this kind of stuff is what I enjoy doing and seems to come out the best, and to that end Ive started to turn down work that i don’t feel I can really do ‘next-level’. There is a part of me that feels like this is cheating or ‘rock star’ but frankly after a dozen years tattooing anything and everything that walked in I think its time to get a little more picky. Im booked about 3 weeks ahead, and that’s plenty, If I cut back on the stuff Im not excited about i might only be booked 2 weeks ahead, but I will be excited about every piece and the end result is that the customers will get better tattoos.
So in the coming weeks Ill be changing up the way i do things a little, Ill be telling more folks ‘no’ and that kind of blows, but I think necessary if im going to stay as in love with tattooing as I am now.
Cara has been stepping her game up and is fearless. Ill be able to funnel a lot of the stuff I don’t feel like tackling anymore to her which will be nice for her continued improvement and customers will still get the quality and friendliness we strive to make out trademark. She seems so much more together at 27 than i ever was at the same time. Chronologically we may be 10 years apart, but I know that if i was her age she would be so far beyond me emotionally and intellectually that I wouldn’t be able to hang at all. As it is I still feel like I’m learning something wonderful every day I get to spend with her.
Enough rambling! Im out.