One of the few things that I’ve not shut up about is wanting a large-scale back piece. It’s been the one major tattoo project I’ve had on hold, simply because I didn’t know what I wanted to get or how to put together the references I had.
And then like sands through the hourglass, I had a breakthrough. Last year, while laying in bed I came up with a concept I loved. It only took close to a decade, but when I wrote out the elements I wanted, I knew it was the right idea and the perfect timing.
I’ve said this before, but I got quite a few tattoos at a relatively young age (from 19 to 25). I don’t regret any of them, but sometimes you need to let ideas simmer for a bit. It’s important to allow yourself to have experiences that may drastically change your aesthetic.
I asked online and a few people were curious about my idea and this process. A large-scale project requires a lot of input, trust in your chosen tattoo artist and the willingness to wait. It will take a longer time to complete and it will be painful. I keep forgetting how much getting sucks, until right before we’re about to start which by then, it is far too late.
This is why I stress the importance of trusting your artist. You will be in pain and essentially this is an intimate, vulnerable experience – you need to know you’re in a safe space. I’ve been going to Tanya for the last three years, we’re friends and work together. One of the few friends who has seen me basically butt ass naked at their workplace.
Onto the subject of pain, the worst parts so far have been my lower back and anything related to my ribs. I have a lot more weight on my lower back and I thought it would be a cushion. It was not. In my last session, I shed a tear or two without shame.
While I can’t pinpoint how many hours it’ll take – I’ve had two sessions so far and we made quite a bit of progress. The outlines are great but we have a lot of shading to do.
The reason why I took so long to figure out the design was due to the fact that I didn’t really like the back piece inspo I was seeing online. Personally, I didn’t want a piece with a woman’s face or an animal taking up the entirety of my back. It’s great for some folks, but it just wasn’t for me. When I started getting tattooed, I wanted a lot of black and grey realism work. As I got older, I gravitated towards bolder blackwork style, pictured below.
While I don’t believe that every tattoo needs to be meaningful, this one has probably holds the most symbolism for me. I wanted to get something related to my childhood, add elements of spookiness and have an ode to my favorite fantasy author, Holly Black. So I’ll break down the basics.
In the middle of my back, is a house – which doesn’t resemble my childhood home but takes elements from the Winchester Mystery House. The home looks strange and a little spooky, which is the point. My childhood home was creaky, old and had a lot of stories to share.
Arching around the house are a set of bougainvillea tendrils, from my grandmother’s front garden.
On the other side, there are thorny branches, and are inspired by a line in Ironside: A Modern Faerie Tale – where a character mentions that life is like licking honey from a thorn.
And finally, the snake. I’d always wanted one as a child – so I decided to get it tattooed. In the Folk of the Air series, one of the main characters deals with a curse that turns him into a black snake.
Even though, this pain sucks and I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone – it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made lately. My back looks incredible, my artist did a stellar job and I can’t wait for it to be complete. I feel like this was the best way to enter my thirties next year.
I’ll keep you posted when it’s done.