Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ink story

I have a two-pronged tattoo policy: first prong, I have to sit on an idea for a tattoo for a year and still dig the idea. Second prong, tattoos have to be positioned as to be covered by a short-sleeve shirt.

The second prong is the white collar workplace clause. I worked for a museum for two or three years before my bosses knew I had ink, which didn't and probably wouldn't have mattered anyway.

I got my first tattoo when I was 25. The idea came from a British Romanticism class at Washington College. I was bowled over by William Blake (especially after suffering through Neoclassicism the semester before), his free-form, wild-eyed flow and his artwork. Flipping through books in the stacks in the college library, I saw it and knew:

I had several friends who started their ink affairs in high school. I always dug it, but never had anything I wanted to get. I didn't want a tattoo just to have one; it had to say something. About me.

So Blake was first. The second came via a Catholic priest who brought in a rune of St. Patrick and recited and discussed its inscription and the piece with a group of us. I don't think he figured it would wind up in ink on my right shoulder. I tabled the idea for a year and kept coming back to it. I took it to Jon in Salisbury, discussed, changed it up to fit a shoulder and there it sits.

The third came from Chogyam Trungpa's book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. It is the symbol he gives for the dawn of the Great Eastern Sun, a worldview of "seeing life as a natural process and tuning in to the uncontrived order that exists in the world.... seeing that there is a natural source of radiance and brilliance in the world--which is the innate wakefulness of human beings."

Each of my tattoos are a sort of personal symbol or icon that have revealed themselves to me at pivotal points in my life; points that have warranted, for me, remembering, have inspired me and which I carry with me. As well as being artwork that I really dig...

Taken together, they are symbols of reason, passion and understanding. They are literally and aesthetically a part of who I am: a walking (sometimes running), thinking, breathing work-in-progress, built upon certain building blocks.

Another trip to Salisbury may be coming soon. I've had a number of ideas tabled over the past couple years. Ideas that may become the next symbol(s) in/on my mobile lexicon. Either that, or I may just roll in and get Yosemite Sam with "Back Off" written under him or Woody Woodpecker...

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