Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sitting 5 - All Ribs, No BBQ Sauce

Date: January 10, 2012
Tattooing Time: 2.5 hours
Total Tattooing Time: 17 hours

"You never heal well around your armpits," Rube said. "It's all that jumpin around you do."

(Ed. Note: I don't jump around. At all. Ever. I attribute it to the toxic waste that my body secrets from my armpits)

Today was my first day getting tattooed at the Bowery location of Kings Ave, which was great for a plethora of reasons: 1) It's an utterly gorgeous shop. 2) I've been staring at the artwork in Rube's "booth" in Massapequa for close to five years now, so the change of scenery was nice. 3) It's only two subway stops away from my house (and local bar) rather than a hour on the Long Island Railroad. 4) The always hilarious - and very talented - Grez holds it down on Bowery and I had missed his consistently ridiculous banter in the shop. 5) Did I mention that I didn't have to travel out to Massapequa?

It was a packed house at the shop for this sitting, despite Rube and Grez being the only tattooists working that day. A photographer had come in to shoot Rube while he worked (and hence, take a lot of photos of me lying in what I call my "Boticelli Pose"). My lovely lady, Marisa, had come by to keep me company and I even got a visit from my friends Ian and Jess (the latter whom you might know as the shop manager on NY Ink). All in all, a lot of chatter going on in the open-layout shop combined with the whir of the machines grinding away.

We started with filling in the clouds just underneath the dragons jaw in that lovely blue-black that Rube has conjured up. It's already making the dragon "pop" beautifully. If I haven't mentioned it before, I utterly hate it when the machine runs over my spine. I feel it in my whole body. I feel like an insect that's being tacked to a board as part of some entomological display. The pain radiates from asshole to eyelids and out to my fingernails. I suppose that's to be expected when you're banging tiny needles into the home base of your central nervous system...

We then moved on to fill in the wind bars on the right side, running from armpit down to my pelvic bone. Admittedly, I was mildly terrified about this enterprise (I've been told time and time again that the ribs are one of the most painful places to be tattooed). Well, not for nothing, but it was pretty smooth sailing. Outside of when he started drilling into my pelvic bone (which happened shortly after Marisa said, "notice how I haven't asked how you're doing?") the pain was entirely localized and manageable.

We managed to log another 30 minutes on the left side, too, filling in the wind bars over my left lat, which turned the sterile sheet on the table into a crime scene photograph worthy of a Manson Family slaying.

It may not be noticeable in these photos, but I've bruised up a little bit. I attribute this to the thinness of my skin (I'm fairly lean) rather than make any comment on Rube's touch. That said, I want that black to last and stay black, so I say, "Grind it in there, man!"

We haven't scheduled the next block of sittings just yet, so this blog may lie dormant for a little bit, outside of the occasional random musing. Considering that Marisa and I are trying to get away to the Caribbean in February, this might be for the best (wait at least three weeks before putting your fresh ink in a pool or the sun, kids!).

I'd also like to thank all of you for reading the blog and commenting. Looking at the traffic, I'm kind of amazed at how many of your are following along with the transformation of my body. Admittedly, I started this blog more as a time capsule for myself but, now that I have an audience, I'll be sure to chronicle the experience as diligently as I can.



  1. Really enjoying the blog, keep up the good work, have a great holiday and look forward to seeing another post when you're back!

  2. Thank you very much! Spread the word (and the URL).

  3. Another awesome update Brian! Would have been cool to stop by the shop to check out the work in person and intro myself. I live like a 15 minute walk from the Bowery location and I cannot agree with you more on how much better the commute is versus heading to Strong Island. Don't get me wrong, it's awesome seeing the crew out there, but its a pretty long hike on the LIRR and during the winters, it can be a bit brutal.

    Since you mentioned to Rubes to grind in the black, I was curious to know if he ever had to touch up any of your previous pieces because the color or the blacks didn't completely set in? Henning has gone over some parts of my sleeves a few times because my skin is not the greatest and add the fact he wants it to be perfect too. Of course it stretches out our sessions and brings back the pain but well worth it.

  4. Great blog Brian.

    I'm loving watching this progress, but am also completely jealous! Looking forward to all future updates.

  5. @Ricky - I have indeed had touch-up work on previous pieces (usually as a "final" sitting for each piece). any area around a joint is usually subject to more wear and tear than the average expanse of skin, so those areas get scabby and don't necessarily heal very well.

    When we were working on the peony on my right triceps, I dropped a fair amount of the light blue that he had used. Rube commented to me, "That's weird, I usually only see that reaction on olive-skinned people - people from the mediterranean."

    My reply? "Yeah, well, my mom is half-Lebanese, so there ya go..."

  6. Brian, very useful blog. I've read it over and over in anticipation of a Rubendall backpiece and 3/4 sleeve I'm beginning next week. I'm really looking forward to the pain you describe so well. Sounds great. I had my consultation with Mike last week. You could feel the mental energy as he turned his focus to the work. I got the sense he was already problem solving and coming up with yet more awesome work. What's your experience with Mike's creative process?

  7. Joe - My experience with (and advice for) Rube's creative process is thus: "Give him an idea and let him roll."

    I know exactly what you mean about being able to see his "gears turn," so to speak. Rube is not only a wonderful artist and fine craftsman, but he's also a "designer." All good designers - and I fancy myself to be decent one - ask the question, "what is the problem?" (in this case, getting a 2D image on a 3D body) and then "how do I solve it?"

    He's great at working with the contours of the human body and I guarantee you'll be pleased. Good luck, brother!