Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Tattoo of My Life

Ever since I arrived back in Canada from my trip, nearly two years to the day, I've wanted to etch it on my skin, a tattoo to commemorate an experience so rich it changed my life forever. At some point shortly after, I settled on the idea of a half sleeve, still undecided of how I wanted the layout to wrap around my arm. It definitely had to include the jungle, so many of my most memorable experiences were had there (PNG, Thailand, Philippines). I wanted something to do with Buddhism, as many of the countries I visited were Buddhist, and while I am not aligned to a religion, I have massive respect for the aformentioned religion and the peace and respect it teaches. I also wanted it to fade from black and white to colour, a representation of how much life that trip brought to me.

Last December I tracked down and booked a consultation with a very talented tattoo artist, Jen, who had done a band of maple leafs on my arm a few years back. We hashed out a format and booked my first appointment for April. Two days before the appointment we got in touch to discuss the design more, and went back and forth with new ideas. How about this? Would that look cool? Could a crocodile work? At first I had tossed the idea of having one of the Baining Fire Dancers tattoo'd on my arm, I didn't like the way the format worked. Then she sent me a picture of a mask from PNG, most likely from the Sepik region. I was a little skeptical, but told her to go ahead and draw it up. When she sent me this I was blown away:

Yes! That came together with some many memories I'd had of PNG: the artwork, having a baby crocodile around my neck, and the raw energy of that country I found so fascinating. I told her it looked amazing and in two days she was tattooing the outline on my arm. It was a three session tattoo, each session being around five hours. The photo below is from the first session:

The first to be filled in was the gecko. Almost everywhere I went had geckos roaming around my hotel rooms, a reptile that would become synonymous with my trip. They keep the bugs out of a room, and they make a really great sound when they call out. The design I chose was inspired from a photo taken by my friend Mitch, in Hawaii. Unfortunately due to Edmonton's dry winter climate that little fell'er didn't heal up so well and needed to be massively touched up on the second session, pictured below:

I'd thought the outline of the mask looked cool without colour, but it was a thousand times better when the colour was filled in! The third session would see the back and underside of my arm filled in:

And it hurt like a bitch. For some reason the underside of the arm is very tender thus painful to tattoo, but I got through it like a champ. The Mani Stone are painting of Buddhist peace prayers on rocks that line the trails in the Everest region of Nepal. This part of the tattoo checked three items off the list: the Buddhist element, something that represented hiking for me, and the black and white part of the tattoo I'd wanted. 

I'm not very proud to have something to profound in my life tattoo'd on my body. And with a lot of blank real estate left on it, I have plenty more travelling and experiences to rack up before I book the next appointment.

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