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Old 07-07-2005, 05:05 PM
Gary Robson is offline
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I need some tattoo advice


I've been pondering this for quite a while, and I've decided I want a tattoo. It's a very specific tattoo for a very specific reason (and to answer this thread's question, it's for me--nobody else).

It's been almost two years now since my oncologist declared me officially cancer-free. I'm a fan of sword-and-sorcery fantasy books, and I identify strongly with my Scottish ancestors. To me, there are a lot of parallels between epic fantasy battles against various monsters and the epic real-life battle against the cancer.

I want a tattoo--probably on my biceps--of a victorious kilted warrior standing over the corpse of a dragon (or dragon-like creature) with his broadsword thrust through the monster's head. The dragon, obviously, symbolizes the cancer.

I'm not an artist. I know what I want, but I can't draw it. I'm not in New York City, or Mexico City, or London, or any other big city with a tattoo parlor on every street corner. I'm in a small Montana town. I can travel to a bigger city (within reason), but I can't afford to spend thousands on a trip just to get the tattoo, and I don't know how to select a tattoo parlor anyway.

How do I find an artist to do the work? Do I have the drawing done by one person and the actual tattoo applied by another, or does one person do both? What is this going to cost me?

Thanks for the help, tattooed Dopers!
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Old 07-07-2005, 05:32 PM
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There's several good questions here.

First, to choose a tattoo parlor, talk to the artist. You'll find that tattoo artists aren't always up with people. That's ok. Ask to see samples of her work (website or emailed photos will do fine for the initial screening.) Ask how long she's been working. Ask who she studied with. Ask about her techniques, her favorite pieces, and how the whole process works. Much of this may mean nothing to you at all, but the way she answers will tell you alot about her. Is she forthcoming and open? Or does she stall and stammer and not answer your questions while making you feel like you're wasting her time? You'll make your own choice, but I wouldn't work with anyone who wasn't willing to talk to me.

Quote:
How do I find an artist to do the work? Do I have the drawing done by one person and the actual tattoo applied by another, or does one person do both?
Some artists do their own artwork, but any artist will be able to take a piece you bring them and tattoo it. The amazing ones do this by hand, and even suggest alterations or changes which really perfect it and make it just yours. Others will photocopy it onto transfer paper and literally trace it onto your skin, then do the coloring and shading by hand.

I hope someone else has a suggestion of artists doing tattoo drawing and design from a remote location, because I don't, and I need help myself with my latest idea!
Quote:
What is this going to cost me?
That varies by location. Around here (Chicago) you can expect $60 or so an hour, and of course the time involved varies according to the size and complexity of the tat and how much you can stand to do in one day. It's not uncommon for a large. complex piece to be outlined one day, redefined a couple of weeks later, shaded and colored over a couple of sessions and finally touched up a few weeks after that. Only the very simple (drunken frat-boy) designs are done all at once. Something like a complex sleeve could easily get in the $600 range before all is said and done. Ask your artist, and they'll generally stick pretty closely to their estimate, only going over if you do something dumb and don't take care of your healing tat and pull out all the color. (They'll explain how not to do this.)

I love your design idea, by the way.
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Old 07-08-2005, 08:51 AM
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Thanks, WhyNot. Do I just look for tattoo places in the phone book or on the Web and call them? Or do you think I need to actually drive out to them and reconnoiter?
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Old 07-08-2005, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by InvisibleWombat
Thanks, WhyNot. Do I just look for tattoo places in the phone book or on the Web and call them? Or do you think I need to actually drive out to them and reconnoiter?
I'd start on the web and phone to make it easier on yourself. You're bound to be turned off by half of 'em just on the phone. (I wasn't joking about the "tattoo artists aren't always up with people" thing - they often have the combined geis of being a tortured artist and a counter-culture rebel. Makes some of 'em testy. Of course, some of the testy ones are the greatest artists - so YMMV.) Only visit two or three that you like from the phone call.
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Old 07-08-2005, 09:11 AM
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Three artists who I believe have done special commission tattoos come to mind right away.

Amy Brown (Has a section dedicated to commisioning images for tattoos on her site somewhere, and lots of her artwork has a Celtic feel to it.)

Stephanie Pui Mun Law

Rowena Morrill

You might also check out Janet Chui.

Good luck, I hope you find an image that suits you.
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Old 07-08-2005, 09:12 AM
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Adding, see the FAQ on Amy Brown's site for questions about tattoos using her artwork.
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Old 07-08-2005, 09:15 AM
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Gah, also meant to say, all of those artists portray dragons to some extent, and they also do artwork with a Celtic feel.
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Old 07-08-2005, 10:10 AM
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One dissenting note.

Tattoos are a turnoff to a *lot* of people, including me.

FWIW....
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Old 07-08-2005, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InvisibleWombat
It's been almost two years now since my oncologist declared me officially cancer-free. I'm a fan of sword-and-sorcery fantasy books, and I identify strongly with my Scottish ancestors. To me, there are a lot of parallels between epic fantasy battles against various monsters and the epic real-life battle against the cancer.

I want a tattoo--probably on my biceps--of a victorious kilted warrior standing over the corpse of a dragon (or dragon-like creature) with his broadsword thrust through the monster's head. The dragon, obviously, symbolizes the cancer.
I don't know Clothahump, I'd say they have their head on straight.
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Old 07-08-2005, 10:14 AM
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My tattoo advice: don't get one.
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Old 07-08-2005, 10:36 AM
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To echo WhyNot, some tattoo artists are real jerks for various reasons. I've noticed that most nice-up pretty quick if they know you've already got ink, or you're determined about your design. My first tattoo, the artist treated me like a little girl who knew nothing about anything (which, let's face it, I was) until I was in the chair. I knew what I wanted, I picked my design, and I got complimented for being so "brave" while under the needle. I don't think it's a matter of bravery--I think it's because I'm a masochist, but whatever.

I love the design idea you have, and I definitely think WhyNot has the artist-selection method down, too. My advice would be to choose someone who's as excited by your design as you are.
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Old 07-08-2005, 10:38 AM
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The tattoo you pick should be reflective of you and your interests. It should also be something that you won't look at when you are 65 and say to yourself "what the hell was I thinking"?

I would recommend against words (the last thing you want is an idiot without a dictionary inking you). Stay away from sports team logos- teams move and loyalties change. I also don't think that portraits are a good idea, at least not at first, they just seem to require a great deal of fine needle work which means lots of time in the chair and lots of $$$ out of your pocket.

Last thing - for the love of Og (and I know some will disagree with me here) do not get a tattoo from a stock design in a shop. That tells me that you didn't really want a tattoo, but liked the idea of having a tattoo - which is a bad combination.
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Old 07-08-2005, 10:42 AM
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Thanks, Zabali! I sent an inquiry off to Janet Chui regarding my pregnant faerie circle tattoo. Here's hoping she doesn't think I'm bonkers. (Pregnant faeries? WTF?!)

Clothahump, Licentious Ectomorph, the OP wasn't asking if s/he should get a tatto, only how to wisely go about it. Your comments don't really fit the thread.
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Old 07-08-2005, 10:45 AM
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Oooh, I definitely want to see a draft of the pregnant faerie circle! That sounds fantastic.
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Old 07-08-2005, 10:51 AM
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As for finding an artist, I'll echo what the WhyNot said. If you start with the phone book, you can then talk to the ones you're comfortable with and then go to their shops to take a look at photos of their past work and discuss the type of design you want to get. You'll quickly find out if it's someone who can do custom work well and is someone you feel comfortable working with.

As far as cost, that's going to vary a fair amount depending on the artist as well as the size and complexity of the design you settle on. It won't be cheap, by my guess. The guy I like here in Minneapolis charges $125 an hour, but he's well worth it.

And congratulations on the cancer! That's fabulous news, and well worth commemmorating.

As to Clothahump and Licentious Ectomorph's comments: the OP wasn't asking for advice on whether or not to get a tattoo. InvisibleWombat already said he had decided to get one. This was a question about how, not if. I realize you don't like tattoos, but that doesn't mean you should try to rain on someone else's parade just because they disagree with you.
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Old 07-08-2005, 11:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrklutz
And congratulations on the cancer! That's fabulous news, and well worth commemmorating.
Hehe. I know what you mean, but this sounds so odd out of context.

I agree with all the "finding an artist" stuff here. If you know anyone with a tattoo, ask to see it and ask where they got it, if they like the place, etc.. Talk to people about who they like. Ask on messageboards (livejournal is a good place to get info from the tattooed masses, but of course, take it all with a grain of salt).

Don't forget, when you talk to the tattoo artists and visit their shops, ask about cleanliness. It should feel clean and they should assure you about new needles, individual pots of color (no dipping from common pots) everything sterilized, gloves, etc.

Good luck.
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Old 07-09-2005, 09:38 AM
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Thank you all for your comments and suggestions--well, most of you, anyway, as I don't particularly care whether Clothahump finds me a turn-off. I've been pondering this tattoo for over a year now, but reading tat Web sites wasn't answering my questions. As mrklutz said, defeating the cancer is an event worth commemorating, and after going through chemotherapy, tattoo needles don't worry me a bit
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Old 07-09-2005, 05:21 PM
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It's probably a bit far for you to go (Pueblo, CO), but this place does some nice work (I especially like some of the ones in Gallery #3).

I posted the link because there's some great pictures there. Also, these folks seem to get around in the tattoo world. If you contacted them, maybe they could recommend an artist in your area.
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Old 07-09-2005, 06:09 PM
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I don't suppose there might be a convention near you anytime soon? That's a good place to get a lot of window shopping done at once. The amount of stuff on-line is mind boggling, and maybe get yourself some magazines and find someone whose style you like. It's amazing how many ways there are to interpret what you described. Don't check only tattooing mags and books, there's lots of good stuff out there done as traditional art that could be great inspiration. I know at least a few artists actually sell their designs for others to ink. That's how a lot of places get their flash, but it may be a way for you to get the design you want out where you are.

Once you know what you want, be really, really picky about the rendering, especially when it comes to the face, because those are one thing that has a tendency to come out looking funky. Research like crazy and don't be afraid to wait until everything's right.

One thing I've noticed some people don't consider is size and color. A small tattoo and/or one with dark colors and lots of detail can look like a blob on your arm unless the viewer is very close. If it's important to you, you might want to take a couple of steps back from the design before you get started and pretend you've never seen it and see what your impression of it would be. Squint your eyes and see if anything sticks out or looks odd. Also tape it to your arm where you intend it to be placed and make sure muscles or the curve of your arm won't make it look odd.

Not to criticize, but your design idea makes me feel sort of sad for the dragon/creature. Make sure he looks good and evil so nobody sympathizes! Before I forget, there's a show on Discovery tonight about tattooing and some of the places are on line like Triangle Tattoo. Good luck.
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Old 07-09-2005, 07:55 PM
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Pat Fish does some custom work, I believe, as do others. Here are some links-

http://www.luckyfish.com/

http://www.tribal-celtic-tattoo.com/

http://www.celticlady.com/flash/


These are people I have looked closely at for work of my own (that I still haven't had done, after 15 years of thinking about it!).

Good luck!
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Old 07-09-2005, 08:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clothahump
One dissenting note.

Tattoos are a turnoff to a *lot* of people, including me.

FWIW....
This just makes me want to go out and get my arms sleeved and get a big black goldenpalace.com tattoo on my face.
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Old 07-09-2005, 09:12 PM
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Yay! Janet Chui's going to do my pregnant faerie circle design. She says she's "very excited" about the design (and said no, it isn't the weirdest request she's gotten, but "it is one of the coolest!") She also said she's got some huge projects coming up, so mine sneaked in just under the wire. She updated her website today to say she can't take any more commision work right now.

So thanks again, Zabali! I'm so excited to be working with a fantastic artist who's also excited about working with me. Or with my design, anyway.

I'll be sure to post pics when it's all done.

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Old 07-09-2005, 10:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Licentious Ectomorph
My tattoo advice: don't get one.
Second this.
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Old 07-09-2005, 11:07 PM
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A tattoo is like trying to find a cute way to request that people only give money as wedding gifts: even though you might really like the idea and may even enjoy it for a while, it will do a great deal to define you -- for a very long time -- that you might want to consider beforehand.

Another good rule of thumb for a tattoo should be: would I hang this same work of art on the most prominent wall of my home, where everyone would see it and I would see it more often than any other artwork?

So, if I could get Julian Opie to ink me... Just a small one.
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Old 07-10-2005, 04:31 AM
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Show of hands, how many people read the OP, and the reason for the tattoo before giving a glib response? To re-iterate, the person is symbolically depicting their battle with cancer, which they have prevailed in, which is what the tattoo commemorates.
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Old 07-10-2005, 08:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zabali_Clawbane
Show of hands, how many people read the OP, and the reason for the tattoo before giving a glib response? To re-iterate, the person is symbolically depicting their battle with cancer, which they have prevailed in, which is what the tattoo commemorates.
You're absolutely right. Giving opinion that wasn't asked for is an impulsive thing to do. It was done without the forethought of how it will affect others down the road.

A number of my friends have tatoos. My younger friends have really neat ones that are vibrant in both color and composition. My older friend's tattoo’s don't seem to have the artistic flair of today's youth and they appear to need re-inking. I don't know enough about tattoos to offer advise other than to ask if it is possible to revitalize (redraw?) one over time to keep it looking good.

Alas, I don't have the option. Both sides of my family get age spots at a higher than normal average. I started my own collection at age 40. There doesn’t seem to be any rime or reason to their location.

Beating cancer is a pivotal event in anyone's life. Commemorating it in some way seems only natural. Just reading about it makes me want to punch the air and say "YAH". The suggested design sounds both interesting (and complicated). It reminds me of the Caduceus (staff of Hermes) or the staff of Asclepius, which is often used as a medical symbol of healing. The Canadian Cancer Society uses a daffodil as their symbol so you might consider sneaking these into your design. The amount of time needed to do the job right should be properly estimated so that provisions can be made (if it's an out-of-town venture).

Whatever design you choose, give it a lot of thought. Patience is free, “do overs” cost extra.
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Old 07-10-2005, 10:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magiver
My older friend's tattoo’s don't seem to have the artistic flair of today's youth and they appear to need re-inking. I don't know enough about tattoos to offer advise other than to ask if it is possible to revitalize (redraw?) one over time to keep it looking good.
Absolutely. It's done all the time to counter the effects of aging and/or the sun.
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Old 07-10-2005, 10:27 PM
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Why not get your clan crest?
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Old 07-10-2005, 11:59 PM
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Actually, I considered working in my clan crest, or the clan motto, but this artwork will be intricate enough as it is. I don't want something that will turn into an unrecognizable blob.

As for Gorgonzola's question: yep. I would definitely hang this artwork prominently in the house or office. You bet.
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Old 07-11-2005, 12:18 AM
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Then, FWIW, I'd suggest you ask people with admirable-looking tattoos in your hometown who the best tattoo artist around is. We had a friend who was an excellent airbrush artist, and he was very good at putting someone else's vision up. There is likely at least one tattoo artist nearby who will be moved enough by your story to try working with you.
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Old 07-11-2005, 02:09 PM
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Did anyone catch the show on the Discovery Channel? One gal reminded me of this thread.

She was a survivor who had had a double radical mastectomy (both boobs gone). She went from hating herself and her scars to loving herself and being very proud of the amazing work of art that covers her chest and torso.

I have seen several similar stories.
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Old 07-11-2005, 03:06 PM
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I'd consider getting it placed in a slightly less conspicuous area.
Even if it's wrong to judge people on their appearances, a ceo would be hard pressed to hire an associate with a tribal tattoo creeping up his neck.

I took that into consideration when I got mine on my right upper back/shoulder.
It is hidden from view and that allows me to still remain "professional" in certain situations.
I've had friends who have them on calves and biceps but still feel a little odd about them if they have to go golfing with their boss wearing khaki shorts and a polo shirt.
The only time someone in public could view mine is if I had my shirt off. And in these situations (swimming, beach, outdoor sports) a tattoo fits in fine with these casual activities.
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Old 07-12-2005, 02:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EJsGirl
Did anyone catch the show on the Discovery Channel? One gal reminded me of this thread.

She was a survivor who had had a double radical mastectomy (both boobs gone). She went from hating herself and her scars to loving herself and being very proud of the amazing work of art that covers her chest and torso.

I have seen several similar stories.
That woman's tattoo is a work of art, I was thinking of her story when I replied to this thread in fact.
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Old 07-14-2005, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Gorgonzola
Then, FWIW, I'd suggest you ask people with admirable-looking tattoos in your hometown who the best tattoo artist around is.
I have, indeed, begun doing that. Funny story, in fact: last night, my wife and I went out to dinner at a steakhouse we frequent. I noticed a waitress' tattoo, and asked her if she had had it extended since I saw her last. She explained that she'd just had it re-inked, and we got in a conversation about artists and her favorite place.

When we finished, my wife said, "That's a great way to handle it. When you see someone, and you like what she's got, ask her about it." I almost spat my drink on the table. My wife started laughing and said, "You know what I mean!"

I have a feeling that line will be used again...
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Old 07-14-2005, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Hampshire
I'd consider getting it placed in a slightly less conspicuous area.
Even if it's wrong to judge people on their appearances, a ceo would be hard pressed to hire an associate with a tribal tattoo creeping up his neck.
That's true, but he said it is going to be on the bicep, there's no reason to assume it will also go up the shoulders and onto the neck. I would say that at most, the bottom of it might peak out of he wore a short-sleeved shirt to work. Of course, depending on his job, tattoos and/or shirtlessness might be a good thing.
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Old 07-15-2005, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by WhyNot
Yay! Janet Chui's going to do my pregnant faerie circle design. She says she's "very excited" about the design (and said no, it isn't the weirdest request she's gotten, but "it is one of the coolest!") <snip>
So thanks again, Zabali! I'm so excited to be working with a fantastic artist who's also excited about working with me. Or with my design, anyway.

I'll be sure to post pics when it's all done.

Cool! Meant to say this earlier, but didn't so saying it now. I'd like to see the original concept design on paper, and the healed tattoo if you're up for it. The healed tattoo at the least, I'm patient.
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Old 07-15-2005, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by bouv
That's true, but he said it is going to be on the bicep, there's no reason to assume it will also go up the shoulders and onto the neck. I would say that at most, the bottom of it might peak out of he wore a short-sleeved shirt to work. Of course, depending on his job, tattoos and/or shirtlessness might be a good thing.
I'm planning to keep it on my biceps, so it will show when I want it to.

My job? I'm a writer, and I own a bookstore. I can do the former wearing anything I please. As for the latter, it's my store, so I can still wear what I please.
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