Tattoo Artists and Art

Back-piece cover-up tattoo by Jo Black: session one

After session 1 on a huge cover-up tattoo by Miss Jo Black

After session 1 on a huge cover-up tattoo by Miss Jo Black. Excuse my holiday tan and white ass

I’m so excited to finally share this with y’all. Yesterday marked the first day of a brand new tattoo journey with Frome-based tattooist Miss Jo Black.

This week saw SESSION ONE / 4 HOURS in which Jo has made an absolutely insane start on this new design. It’s a raven and crystal skull scene with much more to be added at a later date. Jo’s lined a huge chunk of it and begun shading on the skull and raven.

As this is going to be one epic long-term transformation, I thought I’d share our progress in a series of new blogs after each appointment, starting with a little guide about everything you need to know about this tattoo of mine. I hope this is helpful for anyone planning a similar project!

A recent tattoo by Miss Jo Black

A recent tattoo by Miss Jo Black

What am I covering up and why?

On my back already I have an old quote and lower back symbol which are joined together by some 6-year-old black and grey roses that have faded slightly (to be expected).

I am not covering this old work for any dramatic-Tattoo-Fixers-esque reason. My current roses are beautiful and were done by a reputable artist. For those of us who get more and more heavily tattooed, as we begin to commit ourselves to the inevitability of complete coverage, we begin to think about what we can cover and how, in order to wear the larger pieces we always dreamed of.

In short – sometimes, if you want cool new stuff (and really want to do the new piece and the artist justice) you have to be prepared to cover old stuff.

Raven in progress by Miss Jo Black

Raven in progress by Miss Jo Black

I spoke to the original artist behind my roses in the lead-up to planning this cover-up, to gain his approval and opinion. As he so beautifully put it: “I think there is a difference between people who get tattoos, and ‘tattooed people’. [The latter], we just start becoming more tattoo efficient with the free skin space we have left…”

I absolutely love the notion of ‘tattoo efficiency’ and for me it sums up many of my recent tattoo motivations perfectly. Like me, perhaps you began all those years ago with one or two small tattoos (quotes, etc), and a decade down the line you’re planning regular much more larger-scale pieces and thinking about how to incorporate the smaller bits.

Meaning/memories and aesthetics have to go hand-in-hand, and as you become someone who appreciates the sheer beauty of a larger art-work, you often have to sacrifice the former for the latter. We don’t always cover-up old work because of regret or drunken nights in Magaluf. Some of us just seek more effective ways to adorn our bodies in the best way with an art-form which we have fallen in love with.

A recent tattoo by Miss Jo Black

A recent tattoo by Miss Jo Black

Booking an appointment…

I hear from tattooists every week that believe the influence of tattoo TV shows has greatly mis-educated the general public about how unbelievably difficult a cover-up tattoo is. If you’re wanting to cover over old tattoo work, you need to be aware that so many things need to be taken into consideration.

Think you can choose any design and whack it on top of what’s already there like a sticker? Sadly, it doesn’t work like that. Designs need to be created to draw the eye in certain ways. Certain colours cover others more successfully. It’s not just as simple as “oh, its darker than what’s there, so it’ll cover over it”. Cover-ups require extreme talent and knowledge from the artist and often, even laser removal may be the best option for you before you approach someone to tackle your existing work.

You also need to be prepared to have less control over your design in comparison to a normal tattoo. Want to put a watercolour butterfly over that old tribal? Your great idea may be physically impossible. Often going to a tattooist with the simple question: “what do you think would cover this, if anything?” could be your best starting point.

Raven close-up

Raven close-up

After wanting a tattoo from Jo for a while, I knew that her gorgeously dark and detailed style was exactly what I wanted to dress my back with. She’s worked on awesome cover-ups in the past and I initially contacted her to see if this was the sort of thing she’d want to take on. Take note – all artists are different. Some love the challenge of a cover-up, and for others, it just doesn’t suit their work, style, personal ambitions or whatever, and you have to respect that.

When booking any appointment, giving the tattooist as much information as possible is always key. When I first emailed Jo, I sent through many photos of my back and included my own ideas (if she needed them) and listed my available dates in the next few months.

A back-piece is a huge commitment and is a collaboration that needs to be entered with your awareness that it will not happen overnight. I’ve got three upcoming appointments booked with Jo throughout the rest of 2017 and that will no means be the end of this journey.

Digital design by Jo Black

Digital design by Jo Black

The pain…

For me, the back is one of the most painful areas on the body to get tattooed. Not only does it hurt like hell but is terribly sensitive and ticklish which makes for unpredictable twitching and uncontrollable jerking. I’m happy to admit that I wasn’t the perfect client for Jo on Wednesday and owe her a huge thanks for bearing with me whilst I wriggled and moaned!

I had the three-hour drive back to Warwickshire to contemplate the incredible pain of this first session and came to the conclusion that, actually, as tattoo wearers – would we have it any other way?

It’s been a long-time since I sat for a full-day session with any artist, and it’s reminded me of those feelings of accomplishment that we do feel afterwards – that terribly emotional mix of self-pit and pride that always arrives about an hour after the tattoo artist puts down their needle.

A recent tattoo by Miss Jo Black

A recent tattoo by Miss Jo Black

I’ve often referred to the process of getting tattooed regularly as a ‘journey’ but I don’t think we really understand the meaning of that word until we commit to a huge piece of ongoing work. We definitely have a different connection to a piece of art on our bodies when there’s a year – or perhaps longer – for us to reflect on it. There’s something to be said about having to work for something you’ll love forever. Good things come to those who wait.

Until next time…

Session 1 on a huge cover-up tattoo by Miss Jo Black

Session 1 on a huge cover-up tattoo by Miss Jo Black

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