I asked. “Just sketching out what I want to get done with a needle!” He said. “Just the act of drawing is a part of the process.”
His tattoo process is simple if you stick to a few rules. First, make sure you’re familiar with the ink formulas and the rules of what it means to take a pencil and ink and put them all together on a piece of skin. Second, he’s never tried to draw with a real pen. That’s the biggest mistake. That’s when you get into trouble. He draws with a permanent marker and a pen and paper. He thinks that’s the way it should have gone in the old days, but the only way to get a tattoo done is to do it right.
The more I asked, the more my face burned.
This is what his mother and his therapist tell me when they see him. “I always said it’s not going to be easy. You know, it’s not a natural thing in the sense that it is a gift. The way we do it is unnatural and unnatural is when we’re looking at a drawing of a human and you’re imagining looking down on this human.” The therapist goes on, “He’s probably going to feel a little different.”
So, I said to my young artist, “How long will he need to stay in treatment?”
“Well, it depends and it depends on the patient’s level of anxiety.” The therapist suggested that if the kid can’t tolerate the pain, he may be out of there.
In a sense, he’s right. He says no one knows how long a man needs to stay in treatment, and I am beginning to understand that maybe I haven’t gotten everything I’m owed.
But my art isn’t done, no matter how much I try to change my ways. The fact is that in order to work as an artist, you have to first be a tattoo artist who specializes. And that means I have to teach him the tools of the trade. So if my parents ask me to draw them, I’m going to have to teach them how to draw a human. Which, as I found out when I began drawing on one of their daughters, is not easy.
The man’s name in my mind was Joe. He’s been in recovery since he was 16. Now he’s 47, so he and his girlfriend are in and out of rehab. The girl, also sober since she was
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