I wish I would've gotten this advice sooner - please learn from my mistakes!
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I started thinking about getting tattoos & piercings. All I knew is that I wanted a tattoo of Dopey from Snow White. It was a nickname of mine because I was short & had a tendency to wear oversized clothes. I started collecting Dopey items when I was about 17 & had the idea for the tattoo when I was 19.
Here’s a little background. It was March of 1999. I was a freshman, attending a small liberal arts college that was about 45 minutes away from my hometown of Hutchinson, Kansas. The weather was starting to get nice, & that meant the skin-showing season was growing near. I was considering my tattoo more & more carefully. I looked up designs on the internet, & found the PERFECT caricature of Dopey. I printed it out & kept it in my bag so I could admire it at any time.
One day, my friends Carolyn & Mandy said they were going to get tattoos & piercings (Carolyn a tattoo & Mandy her tongue pierced). They knew I was researching the subject & asked where I would recommend going. The only place I had really been considering was a studio in my hometown, Point Blank. They were going to go that day & I begged them to hold off for a day because I had a test & couldn’t go with them. They said they were both too anxious & were afraid of chickening out if they didn’t go that day. I understood, & told them they better give me all the details!
Of course I was distracted throughout my test, wondering what Carolyn & Mandy were going through. What seemed like hours later they made it back to campus sporting new mods. Carolyn got a frog tattoo on her side, which was TOTALLY her. The colors were awesome & the design was really cute. It made me that much more eager to get my own tattoo. Soon after their experience, I drove down there, myself. I met up with one of my best friends from high school, Heather, who was going to college in our hometown. Heather was going to get her eyebrow pierced. We excitedly made our way to Point Blank.
OK, here’s where I wish I would’ve done things a bit differently. At the studio, we signed in & told the front desk guy what we wanted. He went to get the piercer & the artist working that day. The artist happened to be a classmate, Matt, who had been a year ahead of me in school. Since I was 19 (almost 20) at the time, this would’ve made Matt 20 or 21. At the time this encouraged me somewhat, because it would be someone I knew working on me & not some scary guy. Of course I know what you’re thinking…and it’s something I really wish I would’ve thought as well. Because he was so young, he was NOT that experienced.
I showed Matt the printout of my design. He immediately told me he couldn’t do him in the colors that were depicted on the printout (Dopey’s green clothes & purple hat)…& now I cant remember the excuse but it was something like he didn’t think they’d take on my skin or something like that…which I know now was a load of bull. He suggested a brownish shade for the clothes & red for the hat. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I agreed to it anyway because I REALLY wanted the tattoo (yet another mistake on my part). So, he set everything up & began drawing on my leg. It really didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. In fact, standing with my leg at a weird angle was more uncomfortable than the needle! In about an hour, it was done.
Now, keep in mind that I hardly knew anything about tattoos or how to draw them, but I immediately noticed that he used the same thick needle he used on the outline to do the details of the drawing. I especially noticed that Dopey’s face was all smushed together & didn’t really capture the facial expression I loved so much in that drawing. I was disappointed, but hey, I had Dopey permanently on my leg, so I was happy. Matt gave me aftercare instructions & sent us on our way.
I drove back to campus & waited a couple hours before taking the bandage off for its first washing. As I examined my new ink, I discovered some more problems. Instead of using any color for Dopey’s face & hands, he had just left those blank, using my own flesh for the “color.” I was pretty disappointed about that. Also, for Dopey’s eyes, he had also left those blank, just putting a line to separate the white from the pupil. How the heck does that make ANY SENSE??? I was pretty upset when I saw that. It looked awful.
Despite not getting exactly what I wanted, when it healed I thought it was pretty great. I had a tattoo, & it was something fun. It was definitely a conversation starter. Everyone from people on campus to people at grocery stores would stop me and ask about it. That July, I decided I needed another one. I picked out a really cool labrys design (I’ve always thought that labrys was a great lesbian symbol) &, stupidly, headed back to Point Blank. I was alone this time, & that made me a bit more nervous. It wasn’t Matt who did this tattoo, & I can’t remember the name of the artist. I showed him my design & they made it into a transfer. They stuck it on my skin (I was getting it on my chest, above my right breast) & asked me about placement. I thought it looked good…but something stuck out to me. The transfer was a very simplified design if the intricate labrys picture I brought in. I figured maybe they were just using that as a guide, & they’d add the rest of the details freehand. Nope. A mere 15 minutes later, & they had just done a simple outline of what I brought in & said I was done. I was dumbfounded, & stupidly I didn’t speak up and say this wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I had gone in for at all.
Ladies, a bit of advice. I never really thought boob tattoos were cool. That’s why I got mine ABOVE my right breast, thinking it would stay there forever. Well…I have fairly large breasts…and after 11 years my labrys tattoo has drooped south. It’s definitely something to keep in mind when considering getting a chest tattoo.
Fast forward to 2002ish, 3 years after I had gotten Dopey. By that time, the novelty of my first tattoo had worn off, & I just REALLY wanted him fixed. Wouldn’t you know, I go back to Point Blank. I talked to an artist named Steve. I told him that Matt had done this monstrosity, & asked if he had been telling the truth about how he couldn’t use green & purple on my skin. Steve had no earthly clue why Matt would’ve told me that. He proceeded to set his station up for the touchup. I started smiling after the outline was done & he started coloring in the green & purple. My tat was FINALLY beginning to look like Dopey! Because the lines of the face were done w/ the outlining needle, all Steve could do was go over them again to brighten them up. He also filled in the pupils with black ink, where Matt had just left a line. It looked better, but it still didn’t exactly capture Dopey’s expression. I was 100% more happy with this touchup than I was with the original ink. The touchup was free because I got it from the same studio, but I still tipped Steve.
Fast forward to 2009. It had been 7 years since that touch up, & Dopey was looking pretty droopy. The lines of his face had almost completely run together. The entire outline had blown out & looked super thick. Also, this was around the time I had noticed the labrys was sitting quite further down on my breast than it had originally been placed. I had gotten 5 more tattoos since the labrys, & I had become aware of all the mistakes that had made as a noob to body modification. I had begun to give serious consideration to getting Dopey touched up again, but I was also afraid that there wasn’t anything that could be done about the thick lines of the outline, face, & other details.
I mulled this over for about a year. I also noticed a problem with a tattoo I had gotten from my preferred studio where I reside now. That is Skin Illustrations in Overland Park, KS. I had gotten some stars on my shoulder blades (the same stars seen on top of every page of the Harry Potter books) & noticed that the stars had faded in some spots. I decided to go to Skin Illustrations & talk to someone about getting the stars, the labrys, & Dopey touched up in the same sitting. I found another labrys design that I thought would make a great cover up for the initial tattoo. I was set.
When I went in for my initial consultation, I talked to Trey. I showed him my labrys & my stars & he agreed that those touchups would be fairly easy. But when I got to Dopey, he admitted that that touch up would be out of his league & he didn’t even want to attempt to fix it. However, he referred me to another artist, Chris, who would be in the following week. He said Chris had several years more experience than Trey, & he might have some ideas on how to fix Dopey. A week later I went in to talk to Chris. He admitted that fixing Dopey would be a challenge, but he said he had some ideas that he was fairly certain would work. He didn’t have any time that night, but he told me to come in the following day since they only take walk-ins on Saturdays, & to come early so I could beat the crowd.
I went in the following day, March 20th, 2010. Unfortunately I didn’t get there early enough, & a guy was already in line for a tattoo from Chris. I didn’t mind the wait. I had cleared that day so I could spend the afternoon there without feeling rushed. Besides, I love people-watching at tattoo & piercing studios! After waiting a couple hours, it was finally my turn. Chris wanted to start with the labrys first. Unfortunately, after several attempts at resizing the design I brought in, he just couldn’t make it work over my old tattoo. He asked if I would mind if he tried to freehand something. He reassured me that he would use markers to draw on my skin first, before taking a needle to me. I agreed, & he began to draw on my boob. After a couple attempts, he drew something I could agree with, & he got to work. The end product wasn’t really what I had in mind, BUT it turned out to have more depth & detail than the design I initially brought in, so I was very satisfied with the result.
The touchup on the stars went without incident, & before I knew it, it was Dopey’s turn. Even though Chris had already been inking me for about 45-60 minutes at that point, I started getting really nervous. I had a feeling this was either going to be really great, or it was going to be a disaster. Chris put me at ease, though, simply by saying “Let’s see what we can do for the Dopester.” I hadn’t told him this, but ever since I got the tattoo 11 years ago, I had always referred to it as the Dopester.
I should back up slightly at this point. The night that I had my initial consultation with Chris (aka the previous night) I had the brilliant idea to try to find the initial picture I had found for Dopey’s design. Luckily, it has been used several places on the internet so I found it in no time. Seeing the design again made me very, very upset. I hadn’t looked at this design since the original botched tattoo by Matt. There was a LOT of detail that had been neglected that I never picked up on. In the original design, Dopey had a belt. The belt had been completely left off. Also, Dopey has part of his leg showing because of the way he is standing. The leg had been colored in green like the rest of his pants. Chris fixed both of these things. Also, Chris inked an actual flesh tone for Dopey’s hands, face, & the bit of leg, instead of just using my blank skin.
The end result was incredible. Chris is a complete miracle worker, & I could not be happier. It’s like I have a brand new tattoo. What I’m most impressed with is how Chris reconstructed Dopey’s face. I’m not sure how he did it, but the details are all there & the lines are not mushed together at all. And, the eyes actually have WHITES and BLUE PUPILS!! I’m singing Chris’s praises wherever I can, & I’m telling all of my friends who are contemplating new ink to go to him. I can’t wait til Dopey’s all healed, & I’m looking forward to showing him off this Spring and Summer.
There are several lessons to be learned from my experience: 1. Don’t expect quality tattoo artists to work in smaller towns. In hindsight, I should’ve looked at studios in Wichita. The internet is a valuable resource. Unlike 1999, most tattoo studios now have reviews, portfolios, etc online. I really wish I had the robustness of today’s internet back then.
Be very wary of young tattoo artists. I don’t doubt that there are some talented individuals out there. However, I would definitely ask to see a younger artist’s portfolio. It’s actually a good habit to get into, regardless of the artist’s age.
ASK QUESTIONS!!! I continue to beat myself up over not asking more questions when getting those first 2 tattoos. First, I would’ve asked Matt why he thought the purple & green wouldn’t have worked on my skin. Obviously he was mistaken, since both Steve & Chris had no problem using those colors on me. Second, when they put the labrys transfer on me, I should’ve asked how they were going to make that into the design I brought in.
Inspect the artist’s work carefully before you leave the studio. If something doesn’t look right, SPEAK UP. This will avoid unpleasant discoveries when taking the bandage off later. And, if they’re truly an artist with integrity, they will want YOU to be happy with their work.
Here is how Dopey looked around the Summer of 2009:
Here's Dopey the night of Chris' touch up:
submitted by: AnnieB
on: 19 April 2010