Have you ever thought about the meaning of your tattoos? Or, have you ever thought about the meaning that your tattoos could take? I usually, as an example, try to persuade and explain to people why they should not tattoo subjects that represent things that are out of their control. I’m really against tattooing names of girlfriends, band names, football teams or political views, because
things change. Your girlfriend can leave you, your band can change style to a point that you can’t stand it, your football team can be relegated to the League 2 and your politicians will definitely turn out to be corrupts. But, could the same happen to the portrait of a pet?
It is obvious that they have a meaning, it’s undeniable. They have meanings even if the silliness of tattooing something that lacks of a particular meaning is the actual meaning. When people ask me which of my tattoos have a meaning and I think about it, I realise that all my tattoos have one, but I usually tell them the least silly ones!
Something that happened to me this week made me think about it. It’s a story that I heard. Before continuing, I must say that I have a portrait of my cat on my thigh, done by the talented Enzo Barbareschi. It is very meaningful to me as the cat and I are very close to each other (if you have a cat, or other pets, you may understand that). At that time he said he never had tattooed a cat portrait, instead, he did loads of dog pet tattoos as people used to prefer to tattoo dogs other than cats. It has changed slightly.
Sometimes, as tattooists, we don’t ask much about the meaning behind our customers choice of subjects, because it can be something too personal or too silly to ask. Depending on the level of empathy between the two, customer and tattooist, (hence “the skin is in between” choice of name for the blog) you can have a more deep insight on that.
I’ve been tattooing Chris and Charlotte for a few years by now. I tattooed Charlotte’s sister first tattoo too, and did all Chris’ tattoos since his first. Now he’s got a full sleeve, that’s is related to his wife and now we started his second sleeve, that so far is related to his pets. They have no kids and the pets are their family. They have a few pets, cats and dogs. A dog. Well, the dog is not around anymore.
First portrait Chris asked me to do was of his young Border Collie named Roxy. She was a beautiful dog, and he supplied me with a few great photos of her in their sunny green backyard. Perfect material for a perfect tattoo.
When I think about placement for a tattoo, I think the body as having prime areas, good areas and not so great areas for a portrait. Let’s say that you will not choose to have a portrait of your mother on your bum cheeks, or the portrait of your father on foot. I’d suggest that you tattoo them where you can easily see, where you can easily show people, be proud of it and enjoy the most of your piece. So did Chris, choosing the top of his left arm for the portrait of his pet dog.
After having that portrait done, he later came for a funny portrait of his cat named Catface, and last week he came in for another portrait of his cat named Kitten, wearing a Mexican wrestling mask!
I follow Chris and Charlotte on social media and noticed that Roxy has passed, however, the reason for that didn’t matter much to me at the time and I only thought about their loss. I wasn’t aware that Roxy was around 1 year old at the time of the tattoo, so I reckon she died of natural causes. But she didn’t.
I’m getting ready to tattoo Chris and I asked him if they had a good Summer, and that’s when he told me about Roxy.
“Not so good” he said.
Roxy has develop some kind of mental illness that will come and go randomly, switching with no apparent reason between a lovely dog and a snarling and growling one.
A crucial fact in this family life was when Charlotte was bitten by Roxy. With no apparent reason, while Roxy was asleep been pet by Charlotte and suddenly woke up and bit her owner in the face, cutting seriously her upper lips in 2 places. It must have been a dramatic moment for both. Charlotte wasn’t aware of the gravity of the situation. She could have lost her nose.
Since then 2 months have passed, Charlotte is recovered and the scars can be barely seen due to a great prompt treatment by NHS.
While Chris was telling me all this, it occurred to me what would be his (and Charlotte’s) thoughts towards Roxy, and more specifically about Roxy’s portrait on his upper arm. At the moment I thought about what would have been if Charlotte have been lost her nose, or an eye, or ear…
Have you ever thought about the unfortunate tragic possibility of this dog had been attacked a child? Poor Roxy, bless her, she was ill, but what would have been the fate of this tattoo and feelings towards the portrait? Would Chris be happy to still live with it? And Charlotte? Would she be ok to look at the portrait of the dog that could have been damaged her face forever? I’m not defending any points here. I’m only raising some questions as this sad story made me think about it.
Roxy has been put to sleep at home. She is dearly missed.
Now what’s left is memories, a little scar and a tattoo.