Those that follow me on Twitter and Facebook know that a week and a half ago, I had my third sitting for my Mucha backpiece tattoo.
It was only four hours and I sat much better this time than last. I have it down to a science now. Unlike all the fashionistas that show up on LA Ink, I come in my sweats and my sweatshirt. I fortify myself with my pain relievers, snacks, water (it's gotta be Fuji and lots of it) and my pillow — yes, I bring my own pillow to get tattooed.
Comfort is important to me, especially when I'm sitting for hours while I voluntarily let some guy carve into my skin with needles. (OK, not just some guy, but a talented and experienced tattoo artist.)
I've had many ask me the significance of the images I'm getting permanently inked on myself. It's not as easy as simply decoding the image's iconography. This tattoo is about the images and the process.
Coming up with the images was the easy part. I'm a very visual person. I love looking at images, buildings, people, pictures, artwork. And I'll look at the same stuff over and over again, because the world is so beautiful and interesting.
I knew I wanted something feminine, organic and beautiful. At first I though that I just wanted more floral elements, maybe a dragonfly or a swallow. But then while going through my dear friend Tracee's book on the artwork of Alphonse Mucha, I was moved by the grace of line work and the elegance of his figures and flowers.
I borrowed Tracee's book and spent hours pouring over the images. His graphic work was already two-dimensional and linear and would translate easily into a tattoo.
I looked at all his flowers trying to decide which ones I wanted to add to my existing, lower-back tattoos. But I kept coming back to one image, this one:
Mucha's personification of emerald. I love her beauty and confident gaze. I love the lines of her drapery and of the gargoyle upon which she rests. I love the stylized snake that twists through her hair and its manifold meanings.
I wanted her. But I've seen way too many bad tattoos of human faces. Instead of yielding to my fears, I found the best tattoo artist in the valley, Erik Campbell at The Raw Canvas and hit the go button. As luck would have it, he not only knew the artwork of Alphonse Mucha, but had been wanting to do a Mucha tattoo.
While my girl is from the emerald image, Erik has been borrowing flowers from the other three images in Mucha's Precious Stones series: ruby, amethyst and topaz. All symbols of grace, beauty, elegance. I love these images.
The image was the easy part. It's the tattooing that's the challenge. For me, this process is not just about transforming the skin on my back into a work of art. It's about coming to terms with who I am inside and out.
I've never been happy with the way I look; too fat, too bulky, too lopsided, too big, too lumpy. And it's taken every ounce of will power to post the photo above and below as they show my flaws — my ugliness along side my self-inflicted beauty.
I so wanted to crop off the bottom of this picture. Showing my stretch marks and love handles sends my anxiety into overdrive.
But this is what I look like. This is my woman's body. This is me. And through a regular, not-media-tainted lens, it's not so bad.
But I'm forcing myself to write this. There's still a huge part of my scarred psyche that wants to temper these remarks, make fun of myself, because I know I could look better, more like the women on TV. But I don't.
And as much as I want to be fine with it, I'm still working it out.
As I say to Bill quite often these days when I flare up over tiny things and have a hard time coping, "My dust it up."
All my feelings of insecurities, all the pain and sadness, feelings of loss and inadequacy are floating around my brain, taking over. I usually keep them watered down, but now I'm forcing myself to keep them up and active. I keep shaking them around like snow a Christmas globe, hoping that I can learn and grow from dissecting them and ultimately learning to love them.
Throughout my life, I've thought that if I'd just lose weight, I'd feel better about myself, I'd be happy with who I am. Never once thinking that my problem isn't 25 pounds.
Now I am. And this process, through its physical and mental pain, is proving itself to be transformative in ways I never thought possible.