Anatomy of a Tattoo


I am in the process of removing blogs from another site before they are all lost, as that site no longer maintains all post.  I found in searching for old blogs that many are gone and I didn’t have them backed up.  So I am moving them out and I thought that this was worthy of a repost…

Well, I was going to just write about my tattoo, but things seem to unfold in a strange way.  I posted my pictures from my first session on another page that I have. When I woke up in Saturday morning, my message box was jammed.  I have no clue how many comments were on the pictures in total, and I continued getting messages all day asking about it, and some telling me stories about their own tattoos.

So I figured what the hell, I posted a status comment that requested my friends to share with me, the story of their favorite tattoo, or any tattoo story they wanted to tell me.  The response thus far has been amazing, and over all touching. There are not many people I know that does not have some ink on them somewhere. But it is not very often that we share the story of how any one certain tattoo came about.  From my experiences, they are born of a deep love or equally, deep hate. Those of us with tattoos, for the most part have a certain passion for life, we are an adventurous group.  Tattoos have moved so far into the main stream that I thought I would throw down some fun facts for you.


According to  that nearly 36% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 have at least 1 tattoo? 40% of those between the ages of 25 and 40 have at least one according to a fall 2006 survey.  This is for a total of 15% or 40 million Americans.

Did you know that Democrats are more likely to have a tattoo than Republicans?  SERIOUSLY? I don’t think I even know a Dem… ANYWAY… here’s how that breaks down.

18% Dem 14% Rep 12% Ind Nearly equal in percentages 16% were male and 15% were female.

Then there are the Stats for people without tattoos and what they think of us

As quoted by

Many Americans who do not have tattoos said they think that people with tattoos are less attractive (42%), less sexy (36%) and less intelligent  (31%). They also think that those with tattoos are more rebellious.  (57%). In contrast, only 29% of those with tattoos think they are more rebellious.

The word TATTOOS was the 3rd most popular in 2002.  According to

In July of 2002 “tattoos” reached its highest ranking ever, coming in as the number two most requested search term on the internet. “Tattoos” was requested more often than Britney Spears, marijuana or Kazaa, illustrating that skin ink is more popular than “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll!”

My Ink

I have been tattooed 6 times.  There is really nothing special about them other than the fact, that I am a true Aquarian.  I am adventurous and artistic. I am a rebel of sorts.  My Hibiscus tattoos were marking the memory of trips I had taken to Maui. I knew that someday this piece was going to grow into something spectacular.  I gave Rachelle of Maui Tattoo the opportunity to do what ever she wanted on my second trip, she declined to do so. So my little hibiscus has stayed they way they were.

My Fleur d Lis

I have wanted a Fleur de Lis (Flower of the Lily) on the back of my neck for a very long time.  The Fleur de Lis bares much history notably the mark of French Royalty, and in that sense depicts perfection, light and life.  Also it has been adopted by the Church as a symbol of the trinity as it depicts the three petals.

The Fleur de Lis for me holds something far simpler and more profound for me.  I have been to Louisiana on several occasions.  Each time I have been there I have had a very odd feeling, something that each time has touched my soul in a way that I could never put into words.  It is the feeling of being home.  This pull in my heart and my gut, a feeling of never wanting to leave a sense of calm and belonging I never wanted to lose. I find the people warm, the traditions deep and there is a way of life that can not easily be explained. It is after all, The Big Easy.  I did not learn until the night of my father’s death, that my grandfather was born in Louisiana and spent the better part of his childhood there before finally moving to Texas to work the oilfields.

Dave Hartman of Big Fish Tattoo did my Fleur de Lis, and it is my mark. It seems to be my connection to something deeper and really beyond my own understanding. 

I love this~

Then the desire to finally do the BIG one, the one I have been rolling around in my head for almost 2 years could wait no more.  I drove my ass the 75 traffic ridden miles to Solana Beach and met with Dave,“Here’s the deal,” I told him, “Just do it.” I really put no limitations to it other than color, and I want my children’s names included into the work. He e-mailed me a sketch the next morning. In his original drawing he had included a monarch butterfly. No Monarch for me.  He does a beautiful Monarch, but I wanted something different, and I wanted blues and lavender.  So as we sat and talked that afternoon, he was looking at his sketch, suddenly he wadded it up and tossed it in the trash.  “Can I draw on you?”  “Sure you can, let’s do it.”  So there I was, for nearly two hours, Dave doing his thing.  I am a believer that when a writer is writing a story, it just happens; the beginning, the middle and the end, it can not be forced.  The same goes for art, any kind of art.  A good artist knows his flow and his limitations, when it is done, when it needs more or when he has gone too far.  I let Dave use me as his canvas.

The Drawing

Inking without a plan gives Booth freedom to explore the desires of those seated in his chair, he says, to feed off their energy, allowing his clients’ demons to help guide the needle.  ~Joshua Lipton, about tattoo artist Paul Booth,

“Bad Skin,” Rolling Stone, 28 March 2002

Other Tattoo Stories

From Glide Rider:

When    my mom passed away in April of 2007 I wanted to get a memorial done. She    was interested in so many things, Drum corps, Bingo, painting, Norman Rockwell    and more. I wanted one of his paintings but it was too big to do. So I  thought about a time she laughed and smiled. Back when I was racing    motocross we went to the season finally of the Nationals out in Tenn. I bought her  an air freshener for her car, I am somewhat of a jokester and smartass, it  was a “Bubba Duck” air freshener, a little fuzzy duck with a Mohawk.    My sister started calling her that for some odd reason. While she was in    the hospital fighting for her life and fighting to regain strength one of    the things she responded to was being called bubba duck. So I then knew    what to get, it’s a rubber duck with a little attitude and a Mohawk with a halo,  and her initials taken off a check she signed.

From Chris:

My  favorite will always be my first. The wheel of fortune from the tarot. My    British aunt was a Mystic. A multilingual ghost writer. Anyway she also did    the tarot and when I was ten visiting her in ….York…. she sat me down for my first    reading. She dealt out and didn’t like what she saw. Did it again and    didn’t like it. Did it a third time and said the cards don’t lie but she    insisted it never made sense but never told me why. All three times she    pulled the Wheel of Fortune card on my reading. She gave up but said always    keep this card with you forever. I still have that card she gave me in 71.    Got the ink too.

From Karlie as relayed by her Father:

Karlie took a job a few years ago at Target.  She made friends with another young woman who worked there and they became rather close.  One night as they drove home from work, Karlie was unhappy about some situation in her life and was sharing it with her friend Renee.  They arrived at the Renee’s home and before she got out of the car she told Karlie, “It will be ok, you can stand under my umbrella.” 

The next day Karlie got a call from Renee’s friend. After she dropped Renee off, she decided to go out for the evening; that night she was hit by a drunk driver and killed. 

Karlie now carries a tattoo of a small purple umbrella on the inside of her wrist in memory of her friend that offered her kindness and shelter in her time of need.

 Ruth~ Wild Child.

As a personal Friend, I can attest to that

Tattoos are worn to memorialize an event, a loved one or a passion.  I have one friend that has a tattoo of Jesus shooting up heroin.  The piece is as stunning as it is profound, I could NEVER relay the story of it here.  He is a recovered addict of more than 20 years, and a believer in God  He has told me the story of his ink.  It is one of the most moving I have ever heard.  It’s those stories that sometimes make me think that my ink is of little to no consequence in the scheme of things. That somehow he, and those like him have earned the right to it more than I have.

With Tattooing having moved so far in to the mainstream of America it has made us walking story books.  We carry the stories not just of our own lives, but the lives of others on our backs, arms and shoulders.  9-11 brought about more memorial tattoos than you can shake a stick at. Thousands of men and women carry the memories of those lost for everyone to see on their bodies in the form of art and ink everyday.

Photographer Vinnie Amesse Police Officer Mathew Spoto. His tattoo reads, “In memory of our fallen heros.”

Check out the Firefighter Memorial Tattoos at

The Tattoo Artist

Each artist I have spoken with share somewhat of a similar story.  They started off in one place and ended up in a tattoo parlor.  Dave is not any different.  He started in the corporate world of New York and wound up in Solana Beach doing some of the most beautiful tattooing I have ever seen.  His work and his style are distinct, and I am almost certain that I could pick out a Dave Hartman piece anywhere.  I’m proud to wear a little bit of Dave on my body.  I find that he is a truly amazing man, a proud father and husband.

Photo Courtesy of Sam Allen

 Dave Hartman ~Big Fish Tattoo Solana Beach, Ca

My Birthday:

On this day “Handsome Dane” walked in to do a little looking through the stacks of books Dave has to see what he might add to the work going on with his arm.  He watches us for a while, then Says he is off to go have a margarita.  It is his birthday and he is playing hookie from work. Dave and I both urge Dane to bring us back one. “We’ll see.” He says, and he’s out the door.  Twenty minutes later he’s back with grocery bags.  Great Tequila, limes, triple sec and salt too.  He was a mixoligist for 6 years he tells us.  Off in the back he does his thing. So there I am getting drawn on by a very funny man, and another is handing me a margarita. I got the life!  We have some great conversation, by now we have moved into the actual line work. The names are rather painful, so the distraction is welcomed.

 Big Fish just opened this past July, only days before the first time I walked into his shop.  I wish him all of the success in the world.  He has made the ink I carry with me special and the memories made just getting it done will last as long as the ink itself. 
“My body is a journal in a way.  It’s like what sailors used to do, where every tattoo meant something, a specific time in your life when you make a mark on yourself, whether you do it yourself with a knife or with a professional tattoo artist.”  ~Johnny Depp

My Birthday Margarita

At the End of My First Session

The End of Session 2.  More than 7 hours

At the original writing of this I did think that I was done with this piece… But I have decided that it is not.  I have plans to make some additions to it.  It will not get any larger but filled out in some places with other elements that are important to me. To me this piece is who I am, it is wild and untamed, it says a lot about who I am, more on the inside than on the outside.



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