I love stories of body transformations, particularly large tattoo work, so I thought I'd share a piece by Brian Dunn, entitled, "Kuniyoshi Dreamin'" on Medium's Human Parts collection.
In his essay, Brian writes on the creation of his Utagawa Kuniyoshi-inspired Japanese backpiece, tattooed by Jay Cavna in Mesa, Arizona; however, he shares more than just the process, but also the thoughts that run through one's head when making such a huge personal change: the leap of faith with the artist, finding the right expression, dealing with the physical pain ... and how to tell your wife. Brian is a really engaging writer and uses words like "sweet, callipygian backside," so how could I not share it?
Here's a taste:
Despite not having any recent successful
pain management campaigns to point to, I was confident that I would lie
like a cadaver while still recognizing that what men think we're capable
of is both wildly optimistic and grossly inaccurate. We consistently
overestimate our ability to do everything from throwing a football over
those mountains to drinking a gallon of milk in one hour. That I had
zero qualms about my ability to lie perfectly still while someone carved
into my dermis for hours meant nothing in the final analysis, but blind
self confidence was one thing I had going for me.
wasn't the only arrow in my quiver. If I should ever be writhing on the
table and looking to bolt, I need only remind myself that nothing's
more sad than an unfinished tattoo. Except the person wearing it. I've
heard of tattooers who, when tattooing dragons, save the eyes for last.
They claim that it's only when the eyes are done that the dragon comes
metaphorically to life. No one wants to walk around with a blank-eyed,
dead dragon adorning their skin. What's more, half-completed tattoos are
a tangible sign of failure. What example would I be tacitly setting for
my young daughter if, every time we went swimming, I ripped off my
shirt to reveal her father's lack of follow through in the form of
colorless peony flowers?
I also had my modest-patron-of-the-arts status to uphold. I support live
jazz. I've donated to NPR. I buy the occasional art fair original work
of art. When I ponied up the deposit for the tattoo a month before my
first session, I wasn't just saving a slot. No, I was entering into a
tacit contract with Jay to see things through to the end. Composition is
crucial for large tattoos, and I was making the man fit three large
animals, plus clouds and waves and flowers, onto a funky-shaped canvas
complete with curves, lumps, and crannies (see buttocks). His work was
markedly front loaded, and my tapping out after a session or two would
render his pre-tattoo toil for naught, effectively pissing off a man who
would see me naked and was at liberty to divulge to the entire shop the
relative size of my genitalia.