Artistic expressions through tattooing

By Kelly McCraddic

How do you express your physical individuality? Some choose to do it through clothes, lifestyles, piercings or tattoos.

Individuality has evolved and come full circle in the ancient arts of tattooing. In ancient times, people used tattooing to show personal accomplishment, bravery, loyalty or what tribe or group they belonged to.

Art techniques have evolved since then as well. Researchers are not positive where exactly the art of tattooing was created, but it was universal to all people as it is now.

The art of tattooing has different meanings to everyone. Nowadays, it helps us to express ourselves. I got my first tattoo when I was 16 years old. I may have been the first in my school to have a tattoo. I went to high school in a small town, so I stuck out a bit.

Even as recently as 10 years ago, having tattoos and tattooing carried a stigma, something like, “Only bikers and trashy people have tattoos.” I guess I was (and still am) “trash” since I now have seven more tattoos.

I love the art, but hate the pain! But once you’ve been inked, something like pride and passion overcomes you. (At least that’s how I felt after my first one.) Some people get what we call “tattoo fever.” Well, at least I did, as well as my mom (who has 13), brother (six) and grandpa (three or four). As a family, it’s something that we do together – family bonding. Some families use their money to go on vacations to the Dells or Orlando, Fla. We go to our local tattoo artist.

Everyone chooses to expresses themselves differently. People who have a love for the art of tattooing find so many awesome ways to show their inside personality on their sleeves. Tattooing has no limits. They can be reptiles, flowers, women on motorcycles, tribal, Celtic, zodiac signs, animals, skull and cross bones and even quotes or personal favorite phrases.

There are always the few who go that extra mile to raise an eyebrow or two, even to get a few gasps from people. I like to call them “extreme tattooists.” There are always the few who have the desire to take that one step forward. There are some people who have chosen to tattoo their entire bodies.

The one who comes to mind is the man who tattooed his entire body with shapes of a puzzle and then tattooed them all blue. And there are a few people in the world who choose to go the animal route and get their bodies tattooed with animal patterns. Remember, these are “extreme tattooists!”

Then there are the people who get things tattooed on them and we have to ask them, “What were you thinking?” One tattoo artist I know told me the craziest thing someone had asked him to tattoo on them was a bag of Frito Lays (yes, corn chips).

People are always curious about tattoos when they don’t have any. I call them “tattoo virgins.” There are a few questions they ask:

1. Does it hurt? It depends on your pain tolerance, but I would say “yes.” Because I have none.

2. Are you worried what it will look like when you’re old? This is my grandma’s favorite question with every new tattoo. I’m worried how I’ll look when I’m old regardless – the whole gravity versus women’s bodies worries me more than a tattoo of a bag of corn chips on my body. So am I worried if the tattoo of my lady bug moves after 10 to 15 years? Yes! But it’s totally worth it.

3. How do you know when you’re done with getting tattoos? I guess when I run out of ideas or space, whichever comes first.

You just never know anymore who has a tattoo or not. Not everyone gets tattoos to show them off, but why wouldn’t you want to? People always tell me I don’t look like the type to a have a tattoo let alone eight of them. Don’t judge a book by its cover, unless you can see their tattoos. Don’t judge – examine, check them out, and you may see one’s inner self out on their sleeve, so to speak.

Here is the final reminder when considering the art of tattooing – think before you ink! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be 80 years old with a bag of corn chips tattooed on my chest. But to each his own. Last, but not least, when you love someone, that doesn’t mean you need to tattoo his or her name on your body to prove it. Relationships come and go, but for the most part tattoos can be forever. Happy tattooing, NIU!

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.