Tagged: tattoos

The Art of Chris Guest

Chris Guest is 36-year-old painter living in London, he creates large-scale oil paintings featuring tattooed people. We chatted to Chris to find out more about his style of work, the people he has painted and the workshops he runs… 

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Do you have a background in art? I studied illustration at Bournemouth University, and at Brunel College in Bristol.

How did you learn to paint? Other than studying illustration at uni, I’m an avid reader of art technique books, plus I do a lot of life drawing (although this isn’t painting, it does help you see things properly). With painting, you just have to practice like mad, that’s the only way to get any good – nobody picks up a paint brush for the first time and paints the Mona Lisa – you have to put the time in to develop your skills. When I first picked up oils, my paintings were awful! I also think it’s very important to constantly learn from your mistakes, I always try to think of ways that I could’ve made my work better.

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What medium do you use? Mostly oil, although I do draw with pencil and charcoal a lot as well. Oil feels so nice to work with and is so forgiving, once you know how to use it properly. I love the history of oil, and the fact that it hasn’t really changed much in hundreds of years (pigment mixed with safflower oil). Despite all these acrylic paints you can buy, they still can’t make anything better and they’re nowhere near as nice to use. I like the idea of producing some watercolours in the not so distant future too.

Can you tell us about the exhibitions you are involved in? I will be exhibiting some pieces at this year’s London Tattoo Convention, so please check it out if you’re coming! Seeing art framed and well lit in real life is so much better than on a computer screen, as you really get to see all the brush strokes, and the scale of the work, and get an idea of what the artist was trying to convey. As well as originals, I shall also have prints available.

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How would you describe your style? The way I paint is quite classic in style and technique, similar to 18th century painting, but a modern subject matter, painting tattooed people. Obviously my work is quite realist, but you only need to get within a metre of it to see its quite brushy up close!

Who have you painted? Several tattooed models, probably the most well known being Cervena Fox. I’ve worked with Cervena on numerous occasions now, and feel we’ve built up a good working relationship. When we talk about what I’m looking to achieve for my next body of work, I always find Cervena gets my ideas, and really helps them come to life. When you’ve built a good working relationship and your models know you, you’re both a lot more relaxed, and it feels more like friends hanging out, rather than a work thing.

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Do you paint from photographs or real life? Both actually – there’s nothing better than painting from life, and I always find the results are more pleasing, plus its more fun. Although sometimes you don’t have the luxury of having someone sit for a four hour session, or if you’re looking to paint someone outside in a street, for example, you have to work from photos.

How long do the paintings take? Sometimes paintings just seem to work, and they feel finished and complete after a few hours. Other pieces sit in my studio for months and then get revisited, so it’s really hard to put a time scale on it. Also, due to the nature of oil paint, you have to leave a layer to dry for a few weeks before you can paint over it, so if you’re impatient, its probably better to try something else!

Do you do commissions? Of course – best thing to do is drop me an email at mrguest@hotmail.co.uk to discuss your ideas!

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Where can people buy your art? I have prints and art cards available on my website store. If it’s originals you’re after, best thing is to email me for availability, prices etc. I’ll have originals for sale at the London Tattoo Convention. I also put my work in several group shows in galleries every year, a lot of them happen to be in the US though!

Can you tell us about the workshops you do?  I currently teach a ‘painting a head from reference’ workshop, in several tattoo studios, mainly in London, and a few around the UK. It’s a great way to learn some basic techniques, as I go through colour, materials, values, stuff like that, to help you achieve good results with your painting. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never picked up a paint brush in your life, or you’re the next Rembrandt, it’s more about taking part, having fun and producing your own painting. If you’d like to attend or perhaps host your own workshop, best thing to do is drop me an email at mrguest@hotmail.co.uk for more information.

Dina Litovsky: Under the Needle

Brooklyn based photographer Dina Litovsky has created a series called Under the Needle, in which she captures the serene and painful moments of people being tattooed. The photographs were taken earlier this year at both the Empire State Tattoo Expo and the New York City Tattoo Convention.

 

Long Term Illness and Tattoos

Our guest blogger is illustrator and crafter Rachel Rawlings, creator of Rachel Vs Body blog. On her blog Rachel writes  about her various chronic conditions and how they affect her life and have changed how she experiences the world. In this post she talks about her tattoos and how they help her to regain control of her body… 

The human body is an interesting thing. Take mine, for example. In 2012, I was in my final year of studying for my illustration degree, working as a healthcare assistant in my spare time, spending most evenings in the week cooking and hanging out with my friends and coursemates. I was 20 and everything was – for the most part – working fine. But then, I got sick.

It was just a virus to start off with, but over time, I didn’t get better. I was constantly in pain; I felt dizzy at the smallest motion; food became my greatest enemy, triggering nausea and cramps at the most pathetic nibble; my concentration was shot; walking became something akin to climbing mount Everest; and, above all, I was EXHAUSTED. Not tired; not fatigued; not sleepy or dozy; but that all consuming physical exhaustion that you get when you’ve had a particularly bad bout of flu. I was diagnosed with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalopathy) and P.O.T.S (postural tachycardia syndrome) on top of my existing health conditions (chronic migraine, IBS, eczema, eczema herpeticum and asthma), and three and a half years on I’m still undergoing tests to see what’s making me so unwell.

Moth by Paul Davies at Loki Ink, Plymouth

Things got progressively worse, and these days I can’t work or study as I’m mainly confined to my bed (although on good days I make it to my living room); I use a powered wheelchair ( or crutches if I’m feeling particularly perky) to get around because walking is so difficult; I’ve lost a lot of friends who can’t figure out how to cope with me being poorly. Trying to be well is my full time occupation.

With my body failing me in such an extravagant fashion, there is one thing that makes me feel like I have some modicum of control over it; getting tattooed. I got my first one in early 2014 while I was doing my MA and had been sick for a couple of years. It’s a small deathshead moth on my wrist done by Paul at Loki Ink in Plymouth, a subject matter I chose because of its connotations of transformation and freedom.

Connor Tyler at Joker Tattoo, Portsmouth

Getting tattooed is a bit of an ordeal for me. The actual tattooing is fine – I’m very lucky to have a high pain threshold (pain holds very little fear for someone on painkillers as strong as the ones I’m on) so I can sit under the needle for hours without it bothering me. The issue is everything else.

First off, I have to get to the place – which is hard. I usually only leave the house once a week, twice if I’m lucky, and always with someone else (it’s not safe for me to go out alone), so the logistics of organising that can be tough.

Then, getting there, I have to deal with the sensory overload of a place full of people and buzzing machines and music; with M.E., your senses are often in an extremely heightened state and any noise, light, touch can be excruciating. The noise is a particularly tough one for me as I get migraines and tinnitus, so I have to really prepare myself for the aural onslaught of a tattoo shop.

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Having to sit or lie in one position really still is hard for anyone, but when you get muscle spasms and convulsions on top of chronic pain, it can be … interesting for all involved. P.O.T.S causes tachycardia, dizziness and blackouts if you’re upright for too long, so I have to be in a position which is safe for my particular conditions. I have to bring my medicines, lots of water, layers of clothes, my walking aids, ear plugs, sunglasses, a whole bunch of nonsense just to get through the session. After a tattoo, I’m always in agony – but the tattoo itself isn’t the problem, the joint and muscular pain incurred is.

It took me a while to draw up the courage to get tattooed – not because of the pain (note the aforementioned painkillers), but because I was scared of doing something so permanent to myself. But my body was already permanently altered from the way it should be, so that was no longer an excuse. I was scared that people would judge me on sight – but if you’re a twenty-something having to use a wheelchair or crutches, people give you some odd looks anyway. So, sod it, I thought – let’s give them something to stare at.

Marcelina Urbańska, Rock’n’Ink, Krakow

It seems like a lot to go through just to get an image on my skin, but for me it’s worth it. After feeling like my body had turned traitor, I have taken back the reins and forced it into a form which makes me happy. Sure, I may be covered in scars, a bit chubby from the medication, pale as death and with eyes like pissholes in the snow, but I’m still in control of how my body looks – on a superficial level, at least. Tattoos have helped me accept the changes that have been forced upon me by letting me shape the way I look, even if I’m powerless to control the way my body works. There’s a lot to be said for a needle and ink and the power of positive thought – it might not make the crippled walk, but it can damn well make us feel good sitting down.

Street Spotting: Blackpool Convention

On Sunday 16th August our editorial assistant Rosie was at the second Tatcon in Blackpool, while she was there she did some street spotting, these are the people she met and the tattoos she saw…

Name: Wendy Freestone Age: 48 Lives: Stoke-on-Trent Job: Business owner and Studio mum at The Painted Pin Up Tattoo Parlour 

Tattoos: Chest piece is a rework by Natalie McShee. Business logo on her foot, hands and legs are by both Josie Morris and Natalie McShee.

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Name: Bex Harrison Age: 26 Lives: Manchester Job: Healthcare Assistant

Tattoos: Bows on her calves by Mike at Nostalgia Tattoo in Leeds. Monkey by Kirsty Sanderson

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Name: Laura Rafferty Age: 22 Lives: Newcastle Job: Sales advisor

Tattoos: Butterfly lady by Danielle Rose. Shiny shin by Hayley Parkin at Inkslingers tattoo studio in Newcastle.

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Name: Krystian Dranikowski Age: 20 Lives: Leeds Job: Tattoo artist at 1995 tattoo studio opening next month.

Tattoo: His good friend Juan Martinez

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Blackpool Tattoo Convention

Our editorial assistant Rosie attended the second ever Blackpool Tatcon  held at Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool last weekend. After entering a competition on tattoo blog Inkluded’s Facebook page, Rosie won free Sunday passes. Here’s what she got up to on the day…

The convention ran for three days beginning on Friday 14th- Sunday 16th August. I travelled to Blackpool, somewhere I have never been before, on Sunday the last day of the convention. The venue was a castle shaped hotel right on the sea front and was home, for the weekend to over 100 tattooists and traders. The convention hall was made into corridors from the tattoo booths and there was a stage at the front to showcase the entertainment.

Rosie getting tattooed by Emily Dawson

I didn’t plan to get tattooed at Blackpool as I was there to blog Things&Ink and see the sea. But at conventions it is so hard to resist with everyone around you getting tattooed! The lovely Emily Dawson, owner of Holy Ghost Tattoo in Rotherham, created a cute cactus for me inspired by the art of Anne Knispel.

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The convention was packed full of tattoo artists demonstrating a wide variety of styles from traditional hand poked to realism, to watercolour and neo-traditional. There were artists from all over the country and many that I had not seen before. I love going to conventions and discovering new artists, styles and ways of doing things. As I am from the Midlands it was great to see so many artists from the North of England that I admire and follow on Instagram.

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Similar to many conventions the entertainment focused on burlesque performances, live bands and acts such as sword swallowing. Many tattooists commented that the music was far too loud, I had to agree as I was shouting when introducing myself to artists.

There were also awards at the end of each day for categories such as best apprentice, best small colour and best of day. These are a great way for artists to showcase their creations and be praised for their work.

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Jakub Hendrix won Best Large Piece on Sunday

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Ashley Luka won second place for Best of Sunday

There was also the Banana Ink stand, who were also at Liverpool convention, where convention goers could have a go at banana skins. The aim being that people will see how hard tattooing really is and the skill needed to do it, but I wonder if it will encourage people to buy a machine and have a go at creating tattoos at home?

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The organisers held a charity auction which not only had items gifted from the traders, including a taxidermy chick on a skateboard but also one of a kind art pieces. The conventions organisers prior to the event had sent artists skulls in the hope that they would decorate them in their own style. The most popular being an bio mechanical skull with a working camera in one of its eyes. All the proceeds went to haematology and Leukaemia charities.

chaThis is only the second year of Blackpool Tatcon, it is a really young and new convention, so I’m really excited to see what the convention has in store for next year… 

Focus Group: Tattoo Spotting

Last night we had a focus group in London to find out what our readers love and don’t love about Things&Ink magazine. We met these three lovely ladies who shared their opinions about our articles, layout and, of course, tattoos! There are lots of exciting changes ahead for Things&Ink

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Above from left: Columnist ReeRee Rockette, editor Alice Snape, editorial assistant Rosalie Woodward and our three panel members… 

We couldn’t resist the opportunity to street spot and chat tattoos to our panel members…

Name: Emma Age: 27 Lives: London  Job: Photograph researcher for Merlin
Tattoo: Skull by Ray Hunt at Diablo Tattoo in Kent

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Name: Laura Age: 40 Lives: Maidstone, Kent  Job: Dinner lady/ toddler rugby coach
Tattoo: Abi Cornell at Inkfish in Maidstone
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Name: Silvia Age: 24 Lives: London Job: Digital marketing executive
Tattoo: Lady by Angelique Houtkamp at Salon Serpent Tattoo in Amsterdam
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If you have any suggestions or comments about the magazine get in touch, email us at hello@thingsandink.com

Alopecia, body confidence and tattoos, by Drew Beckett

Embrace the change, don’t deny it.

We chat to 31-year-old civil servant Drew Beckett (@drewjbeckett) who lives in London about alopecia, body confidence and tattoos…

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Can you tell us a little about your background, and what first attracted you to getting tattooed? I grew up in Hertfordshire in a very middle-class environment and enjoyed an extremely happy childhood. I went to an all-boys private school and had very little exposure to anything alternative beyond what I might see in films such as Bound and Run Lola Run.  Once I was old enough to establish a bit of independence, I began to commute to London a lot and fell madly, hopelessly in love with a city of infinite variety. I saw tattooed punks in Camden and realised that there was another world to explore, and more than one way to look and live your life. I also hit puberty about the time Angelina Jolie was emerging as an alternative figure in Hollywood, which certainly didn’t hurt my perception of tattoos! As soon as I was 18 I went with my best friend to a tattoo parlour in the basement of a Camden nail salon. As luck would have it, tattoo artists Thomas Hooper and Nica LeHead worked there. Forcing Thomas Hooper to tattoo a rubbish tribal dragon on my stomach remains a source of perverse pride. But even though the dragon is terribly dated, it began a fascination with tattooing and the culture of tattooing that I doubt will ever leave me. I have very fond memories of that basement!

Drew and his tattoos

When did you get alopecia? Can you tell us a little more about what alopecia is and how you got it? Alopecia is an auto-immune condition initiated when the body attacks itself. There are three types – areata, totalis and universalis. Universalis represents total hair loss, and that’s  the type I have. There are many theories as to what triggers alopecia – from genetics to lifestyle – but there’s been very little research and no cure. The general consensus is that my alopecia was triggered by stress, though I choose not to dwell on the cause too much. I began noticing the symptoms  in 2011. At first it manifested itself as a hole in my beard about the size of a 50p coin, before clumps of hair fell out until my head looked as if someone had shaved a map of the world onto it. I saw a specialist, but by this point my hair was falling out at such a rate that there was nothing they could suggest, and any suggestion probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. I remember crying in the back of my parent’s car for around one minute once I realised doctors couldn’t help me. That was the first and last time I’ve cried about it. Soon after my eyebrows fell out, then my eyelashes, then everything else. Be grateful for having nostril hair – I now have no idea when my nose is running!

Drew – Before
Drew’s alopecia was brought on by stress and began as a small patch in his beard.

What artists have tattooed you and how did you pick them? I consider myself extremely lucky with regards to the artists I’ve been tattooed by. 14 years later, and the shoulder caps Thomas Hooper did for me still look amazing. Being tattooed by Nica LeHead changed my life in ways I didn’t understand until I was considerably older, but gave me access to places like Into You and Divine Canvas. I have a sleeve by Duncan X and the genius Delphine Noiztoy from the Lacemaker’s Sweatshop has begun an epic front-piece that I can’t wait to continue. I collect hearts as well, to which Alex Binnie and Matty D’Arienzo have contributed. My hands were tattooed by L’ain Freefall, and I have some awesome work from Paupiette, who designed the sexiest bald pin-up for me. I’ve also got a sleeve of Frith Street designs, and a cool Godspeed You! Black Emperor tattoo from Dwam. A lot of thought went into my Duncan X sleeve, but beyond that everything else has come about fairly organically. Alopecia was strangely liberating; by removing a certain level of control over the way I look, I was forced to find ways to re-define my image and have been able to be a more experimental and carefree as a result. My time at Into You was integral to that process as they are such a nurturing family of artists. Since then, Delphine has been instrumental in helping me rebuild my confidence and reshape the way I feel I’m perceived. So tattoos have formed two functions; the aesthetic and the therapeutic.

What is your favourite tattoo? There is no way to answer that question as I don’t really think of my tattoos as distinct pieces, more as components of an ongoing whole. I’ve always been proud of Duncan’s script of a Frank O’Hara poem on my arm, as well as the fact I have an example of his actual handwriting permanently inked onto me. Sometime I have to pinch myself when I think about how lucky I’ve been.

 

What tattoos are you working on at the moment? The main project is my front-piece, and I don’t think poor Delphine quite realises how much I’ve got planned. She is the only person I trust to tattoo my head and neck, which I think will be an extremely exciting project.

Drew was a model at an ‘Art Macabre’ life drawing evening at Somerset House last year. Photo by Heather Shuker

What next? What tattoos do you have planned? Beyond my work with Delphine, I haven’t got any concrete plans. I have a ‘party’ leg of random designs which I’d like to add too, particularly as everything on it so far has been done by artists I’m close to. I have saved my left leg for Paupiette, and one day I look forward to starting that – which will hopefully be a design that’s planned in advance!

Does alopecia make tattoos hurt more or less? Or does it make no difference The only difference alopecia makes is that you don’t need to shave the area getting tattooed, but after that the pain is just the same for everyone!

Do you think that getting tattooed is an important part of body acceptance? For me, yes. I was able to take control of how I presented myself to the world. If I was given the opportunity to have my hair back, I wouldn’t take it. But this is a personal and subjective decision. I certainly don’t think body acceptance is predicated on body modification. Tattoos aren’t for everyone, and I think there are other ways for someone with alopecia to mitigate their loss without the need to black in their nipples. Thanks to the democratisation of the internet, there is a lot of inspiration online for anyone wanting to own a condition they didn’t choose. Once you get your agency back – by whatever means – alopecia becomes much easier to handle. My outlet was tattoos, but I have seen some sufferers find all sorts of creative outlets to embrace the baldness, and that’s incredibly inspiring.

What do you enjoy about the aesthetic of your tattooed body? First and foremost, I enjoy wearing my friend’s work and their love on my skin forms a permanent armour that I carry with me every day. Aesthetically there is something incredibly empowering about having a giant skull on my chest, and I enjoy the heightened feeling of otherness the combination of my tattoos and baldness give me. I hope to continue to explore that union and harmony, and eventually perfect a look somewhere between androgynous alien and Mad Max War Boy. There is nothing better than wearing a well-fitting suit with tattooed hands though!

Any advice to others who have alopecia? Alopecia is a deeply traumatic experience which no-one can fully empathise with until they’ve experienced it. As a result, it’s rare that people will accept how emotionally difficult the loss of control over your body is. So firstly, I would reassure anyone that it’s OK to grieve for what you’ve lost. Secondly, I would suggest (though this is a matter of choice) not fighting it. When my hair began falling out, Duncan tattooed ‘Adapt and Overcome’ on my neck. Embrace the change and style it out. Alopecia gave me a modelling contract, left me better dressed and – most importantly – forced me to become a kinder person. The process of change is wrenching, but once it’s over you have the opportunity to be reborn, to reshape your identity both spiritually and physically. Alopecia can grind you down, but it can’t kill you. You’ll still be hot without hair, you’ll still be charismatic and you’ll still be an amazing human. Embrace the change, don’t deny it.

Festival Tips

Our music writer Amber Carnegie gives you her top tips for surviving festival season… alongside photos from her own festivalling experiences… 

So when it comes to festival essentials, you’ve probably already got the tent down – and hopefully your ticket – but what about those added extras that could stop you making those fatal festival virgin errors? Read on, so you don’t end up stranded, hungover and soaking this summer…

 

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Groezrock at sunset

Keep Those Toes Dry (and safe)

If you’re festivalling in the UK, you should never expect sun for the entire festival. You can wear wellies to keep those toes dry, but to keep them warm and safe when in a mosh pit you should really invest in a pair of Dr Martens. When you’re jumping around a field and everyone else is basically wearing  rubber socks, your toes will be toasty… you’ll have made every single penny spent on those DMs back.

Keep Connected (that doesn’t always mean an Insta selfie)

If you still have your good old brick phone, I suggest taking that with you to use – it shouldn’t need charging the whole time you’re there (remember the days of phones lasting three days on one charge?!). But if you’re uber-trendy and like to use social media to organise your whereabouts, invest in a portable charger. Although most festivals have power banks to charge up, this is a quicker cheaper version that you can carry in your handbag… You can pick them up online for under a fiver and they let you cling on to every last per cent of that extra charge.

Carb Up (and keep up)

You are entering a world of overpriced food, so it’s better to be prepared and carb up for those all-day drinking sessions, rather than spend all of your money on chips that add up to more than the cost of your ticket. Cereal bars, crisps and my all-time favourite brioche aren’t going to leak or spill anywhere and will keep you going while you pound your liver.

 

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Keep Clean (you don’t always need to shower)

In a field with sweaty bodies and portable loos, hand sanitizer is going to be your best friend – do not let it leave your side. We know you’re roughing it, but no one wants to get poorly mid festival! Having your own loo roll is always a bonus and a wet wipe shower will never go a miss. And if that isn’t enough, don’t forget that typically aerosols are not allowed into the campsites so roll-on deodorant is a must. If dry shampoo is on the no list, pack a little bottle of talc to perk up your sopping mop.

Ear Plugs (your ears will thank us)

Ear plugs will not hinder the music and you will thank us when you can still hear those same tones decades from now. Getting a decent set of molded ear plugs could make all the difference.

Torch (this is a must-pack item)

Weaving through tents in the dark may make you feel like a naff spy navigating a laser maze, but the second you trip on a rope and fall into a tent you won’t be making any festival friends. A torch will help you locate your tent and may even help you find the right end of your sleeping bag.

 

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Hevy Fest

Safety First (always)

Aside from the one person in every group who has the whole first aid kit with them, you probably want to make sure you’ve got your own supply of pain killers, plasters and even a few Berocca to help that hangover taste a bit better. You also don’t want to wake up to find a stranger spooning you and feel that instant pang of fear. Pack a few condoms and don’t let yourself get caught out.

And if the sun does come out… remember to protect those tattoos, which you’ve spent your life collecting, with some decent sun cream. And never let yourself get dehydrated. Sunstroke is not fun, so do not forget to drink water. You can push through a hangover but paying to miss bands is never fun.

Duct Tape

Because you never know when duct tape might just save the day… you’ll just have to trust us on this one…

What festivals are you going to? And will you be taking any of Amber’s essentials?

Tattoos that Change Lives: Realistic Nipple Tattoos on Breast Cancer Survivors

45-year-old tattoo artist Ron Antonick creates nipple tattoos for women who have had breast cancer. Often his clients have had re-constructive surgery or are unhappy with the options offered to them by medical practitioners. We talked to Ron to find out more about his experiences helping women to regain their confidence after breast cancer. 

Can you tell us a bit about your studio? I own Sacred Tattoo in Wickliffe Ohio, just east of Cleveland. It is a private custom studio, not open to the public. I am the only artist there.

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How long have you been tattooing? I started tattooing professionally in 1988, working at a local street shop before doing a bit of travelling and guest spots around the country and then opening my own shop in 1997.

How did you start tattooing nipples? For the past decade or so, most of the tattoos I did were portraits or photo realism of sorts… so when a friend’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, they went to see the doctor together. The doctor explained about nipple reconstruction, where they attempt to create the nipple again or at least a bump of skin for lack of a better term and then have the nipple and areola tattooed to look more natural. He proceeded to show them a portfolio of nipple tattoos done by medical professionals that looked like peach or salmon colour circles but not anything close to what a real nipple would look like. So my friend called me and asked if I would do them for her when the time came and of course I said I would be honoured.

How did you perfect the technique? I started to research it and found some other artists doing them, with very few artists doing them well. I began drawing different types of nipples, sizes, shapes, textures and colour ranges to see what looked most realistic and what fell short. I worked with slight shadows and light sources to give them the most 3 dimensional appearance I could. When I had done enough of these drawings that I considered successful I then started to advertise for breast cancer survivors, that I could tattoo for free in order to gain some experience.

I had no shortage, almost right away, of women who contacted me looking for help and most of them already had been tattooed by medical professionals unsuccessfully and really wanted them to look natural.  The only stipulation I put on it was that I expected to take anonymous before and after photos which most had no problem with. I was shocked to find out just how many people this was affecting and that many of the women were so young. I would always make sure to take time to sit and talk with each client before hand to make sure they were completely comfortable with both myself and the process before starting anything.

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Do hospitals ever refer patients to you? Yes, it all started with my friend talking to his wife’s surgeon, saying that I would be better suited to do her tattoos, at first the doctor seemed uninterested. He persisted each visit telling him more and then showing him before and after photos of tattoos I had done and before too long he was opening up to the idea. His wife later set up a meeting between myself, her surgeon and his assistant that went very well. I met with Doctor Steven Bernard of the Cleveland Clinic and his assistant Jaquie Frazee. Dr. Bernard was also a part of the team who did the first successful face transplant so needless to say I was very nervous meeting him. I explained what I do, that I have 27 years of experience as both a professional tattoo artist and business owner, I showed them my portfolio and studio. I explained that I use only Fusion Tattoo Pigments because they are all natural organic pigments which are also vegan friendly. In closing he told me he felt that him and his partners clients would be well served by me and he would be referring them to me in the future.

Who was your first client? The first client I had was a woman in her early 30s who drove up from southern Ohio to have her existing nipple tattoos reworked by me.  I reworked her tattoos, correcting colour, adding depth, texture and shadows to give it a more realistic and natural appearance and she was extremely happy with the results! I spoke with her during the healing once and after the healing to make sure everything healed well, colours held up and the results remained, which happily they did. I say this because working on scar tissue is completely different than working on healthy skin tissue. It can be damaged much easier than normal skin and sometimes if not careful in the application of the tattoo , the pigment is more likely to lighten or even fall out of the skin completely during healing.

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Do you tattoo other things other than nipples? I still do regular tattooing  and as rewarding as it is to see a beautiful tattoo on a happy client, it just doesn’t compare to the look of joy on a woman’s face when she sees herself in the mirror for the first time after tattooing nipples on her. It absolutely helps to restore their sense of beauty, self image, confidence and makes them feel somewhat whole again, also in most cases giving them a sense of closure. Now they can move on from the cancer experience and feel comfortable with themselves again. The tattoos help to camouflage scars and in some cases make the breasts look a bit more shapely where they may be slightly misshapen due to surgeries. It feels so good being told afterwards and getting phone calls weeks later telling me that they don’t avoid seeing themselves in the mirror anymore.

Do you do any cosmetic tattooing? I have started getting inquiries about other issues that the doctors and nurses have referred clients to me in hopes of helping them. Some women after being treated for breast cancer never have their eyebrows grow back so I also have started doing these as well as correcting pigment colour on scars. I had a recent client who had hair plugs done in the 90s and since decided he wanted to go with the shaved head look but was self-conscious because he had multiple rows of small round scars that were much lighter in color than his normal skin colour. I matched the pigment and we did a small test area and let that heal to make sure he would be happy with the results before having him shave completely.

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How do you match the tattoo to skin colour? As far as matching skin pigments for different women, I just ask them to describe what they had, what they prefer as far as tone, texture size etc and do my best to make it look as natural as possible. I end up doing a lot of mixing pigments to get the right tones for each individual and always keep in mind, as well as tell each client that because of red or pinkness of the skin after being tattooed that there will be a 15-25% lightening in tone once the tattoo is healed and the skin irritation subsides. I also encourage if possible that they make a follow up appointment about two months after to make sure the healing went well, that the tone is correct and if needed do any layering or touch ups that may be needed ,which is all included in the cost. I do both bilateral (meaning both) or unilateral (meaning one) and the unilateral is always more difficult because you are trying to match the existing nipple colour, size and texture but is by no means impossible.

You have mentioned that you do a lot of free tattoos, how does this work? I did quite a few sets for free the first 8-10 months just trying to get as much experience as I could and feedback. Unfortunately I do need to make a living and feed my family as well but I feel good knowing that I am doing an amazing job for less than a third the cost of what most hospitals are charging – and a few hundred less than what most of the other professionals are doing. There are so many breast cancer survivors in need without the means to pay so I put aside 10% of every nipple/areola tattoo that I do and then reapply it to someone who cannot pay. So in short, every 11th nipple tattoo is done on someone in need who can’t pay, which helps keep me feeling balanced. In a perfect world, I would do them all for free.

boooo

 

How long is your waiting list? My waiting list is normally anywhere between a month to two months depending on the season, but I see that filling up more and more as word spreads, as I network with more and more medical professionals and breast cancer resources. People can always reach me via email at ronantonick@gmail.com or my cell # which is 440 226 0069 although it can take a while for me to reply as I am extremely busy.

To find out more visit Ron’s website BreastRenew

Create a life you love with Sarah Starrs

Sarah is a 27-year-old writer, coach and creator of SarahStarrs a Punk Rock Personal Development blog. We chatted to her about her journey of self-love, achieving your goals and her beautiful tattoo collection… 

Can you tell me a little about your blog and what people can find on it? You can find my blog at SarahStarrs.com, where I help women get their shit together & create a life they love. I mainly write about self-love, personal development, lifestyle design, creativity, and achieving your dreams. I believe that it’s absolutely possible to achieve your big goals and that it all starts with learning to adore yourself. But this doesn’t happen by sitting idly by and wishing for good things to happen. I show people how to get down and dirty with the universe to make magical things happen. But you have to do the work. That’s why I call it “punk rock personal development.” I’m launching a podcast with that name on 14th August, which I’m very excited about!

How did you become a blogger? I’ve been writing online in one form or another since I was a preteen – I had Angelfire, Geocities, Livejournal, Myspace, etc. My current website, SarahStarrs.com, was born out of my old website The Laughing Medusa, which I launched in 2011. I started blogging that time around out of a kind of necessity. I felt really stuck and strangled in my job as a magazine editor. I was longing for a creative outlet and editorial freedom, so I decided to start a blog. At the same time I was undergoing a lot of personal transformations as I learned about personal development and got into healthy eating, so my online space became a place for me to explore these new interests. It began more or less as a personal/lifestyle blog, but has evolved a lot over time to become the business and resource it is today.

Where do you get your inspiration from? I’m most inspired by people who are balls to the wall following their passions and going after their dreams in an unconventional way. A lot of my writing is inspired by the things I learn from these types of people, as well as my own experiences learning to transform my life. But, as cliche as it sounds, I find that inspiration can spring from anywhere: a great conversation, an interesting film, a beautiful pattern, catchy lyrics… anything that catches my attention and gets me to look at things in a new way.

You are an advocate for self love and following your dreams how did this come about? Oddly enough, it started in a university philosophy class about existentialism. People know me as a positive, upbeat person who gets an idea and runs with it, but I wasn’t always like this. In truth, I used to be a bit of a neasayer. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression all of my life, but I also just didn’t think the things I wanted were possible for me. I let fear rule my decisions for a long time. Existentialism is based on the idea that all of us is radically free. We all face limitations imposed on us by physical realities, our histories, material circumstances, etc. But we’re always free to choose our actions and reactions. And that’s who we are: the product of our choices and actions.

That really struck a chord with me. To be honest, I resisted the whole thing at first. It’s hard to accept that our destiny is in our own hands. It’s a lot of pressure! Around the same time that I was taking this course, I started delving into the world of personal development, reading bloggers like Gala Darling and Alexandra Jaye Johnson. I saw a lot of similarities between the concepts of self-love and existentialism – namely an emphasis on personal responsibility and taking control of your own life. I started incorporating the things I was learning into my life and my mindset started to shift. As it did, it was like my whole world started opening up. Not all at once, but slowly I started to take risks because I knew I had to take complete responsibility for my life. The things I want were possible and it would be my choice if I denied myself them. Since then I’ve focused on making bold, sparkly choices and intentionally designing my life.

Has it taken you a while to love yourself? Do you have any advice for readers? I like to make it really clear that I am not finished learning to love myself; I do not have it all figured out. Self-love is a lifelong journey. I still have my bad days when my inner critic gets the best of me or I start comparing myself to other people and I want to give up on everything. I still struggle with my mental health and have dark periods that are difficult to crawl out of. The difference is that I now have a toolbox of strategies, practices, rituals, and mindsets that help me navigate those times with love and kindness for myself. Those are the things that I want to teach people. I know now that my mind can play tricks on me and my thoughts are not always real, but I have the ability to choose a more loving thought.

I’ve created a whole course on starting your self-love journey but if you’re looking for a simple place to start, I would look at incorporating some simple mindfulness techniques into your daily routine. I’m working on a post about this right now but a simple way to start doing this is just a spend a couple of minutes connecting with your breath and noticing your thoughts, perhaps labeling them as “planning,” “worrying,” etc. and then letting them float away. As you practice, you’ll strengthen your ability to clear your mind and you’ll gain more control over your thoughts. I’d also recommend either writing down the things you’re happy and excited or grateful for or just taking note of them mentally. It’s a great practice to do first thing in the morning and before you go to bed, so you’re starting and ending each day filled up by the good things in your life.

What first steps did you take to achieve your goals? I’m still very much in the process of achieving my goals, but I guess the first step was learning to put myself out there. It can be so difficult to share your dreams or your creative work when you’re so far from where you want to be, but that’s the only way that you’ll learn and grow. You have to take action or your dreams are just fantasies. When I started blogging, the work I was putting out there was so reiterative and my inspirations were so obvious. I had to write myself into my voice and find my unique message, but if I hadn’t put that early writing out there, I never would have gotten to where I am today.

Can you tell us a bit about the courses you have on offer? I offer a self-guided ecourse called Romance Yourself: A 40-Day Journey to Self-Love. I think of it as the guiding hand, encouraging voice, and kick in the ass I wish I’d had when I started my self-love journey. Self-love is pivotal to living the life of your dreams, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Romance Yourself will show you the way. The course provides a daily practice for you to start cultivating that feeling of love for yourself as well as daily insights and exercises to start exploring your thoughts and beliefs and creating a practice that is unique to you.

For anyone who’s feeling a little bit lost, I also have a free Define Your Dreams workbook to help start creating some clarity around your goals and what you want your life to look like. It’s completely free and you can download it from my website.

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my new course, The Daydream Revolution, which is by far my biggest and best offering yet. It’s an 8-week course on achieving your dream and making big shit happen. If you have a bigger-than-life idea, whether it’s starting a business or going on an international adventure, or anything in between, but can’t seem to make it happen, this is for you. Through the course we’ll overcome resistance, tackle your fears, and drag your big dream into reality. At the end of the course you’ll walk way with a detailed action plan, a clear picture of how you can afford your dream, and the tools to stay motivated. Registration isn’t open yet, but if you hop over to my website and sign up for my newsletter, you’ll be the first to know when it does + you’ll get an exclusive discount.

What was your first tattoo? How old were you and do you still like it? What do you think about tattoo regret?  My first tattoo is a line of text that says “Dance like nobody’s watching” in my own handwriting around my wrist. I was 19; I got it for my birthday. It’s not my favourite tattoo but it’s unobtrusive and it’s part of my story. It’s not the quote I would be most drawn to now but it sums up my personal philosophy of living life on your own terms and always being true to who you are.

I think tattoo regret is part and parcel of being a tattooed person, the way I sometimes wake up and absolutely hate my hair, some days I wish I could wake up and erase one of my tattoos. But I’ve never experienced any lasting regret about any of my tattoos. I plan to be more or less covered in ink, so if I end up with a tattoo that I’m no longer wild about, it won’t stand out that much in the bigger picture of the canvas that is my body. And they’re all part of my story.

Which is your favourite tattoo? Do any of them have a special meaning?
All of my tattoos have some sort of special meaning attached to them, even if it’s just an association with a particular time in my life. If I had to narrow it down to my favourites, they’d be my chest piece which was done by Jessi James in Newbury. It represents self-love and personal transformation. And also the rose and bee on my knee by Cassandra Frances; I plan on getting the other one done to match. That tattoo was born out of a silly conversation with my friend about being “the bee’s knees” but I absolutely adore it.

Do you have any future tattoo plans? Are there any artists you admire? I want almost my entire body tattooed, but I like to think of it as a collection and I’m happy to curate it slowly as I can afford to get the work I want. I’m particularly keen to get pieces from Tiny Miss Becca, Emily Rose Murray, Rebecca Vincent, Peter Aurish, Danielle Rose, and Antony Flemming.

How would you describe your fashion style?
I describe it as technicolour punk rock chic! I’m a big fan of bright colours, fit & flare dresses, vintage silhouettes, statement jewellery, & motorcycle boots.