A life Interlude.

Just a quick post this time, to let you know that I’m still working as hard as I can, but thinking of you all!
I try to draw every hour god sends, and when I’m not drawing, I’m sewing or documenting my journey on here, but I still can’t do as much as I’d like! I want to be able to write more often, there’s so much to write about!
It would be a lie if I said that my journey these past three months has been easy, although people have been wonderfully supportive and kind. Moving country has been tiring, stressful and emotionally exhausting. I left with nothing but a suitcase (albeit a large one) of belongings, and have been living with only bits that I can buy here and what I brought with me. I forgot some important art materials but probably wouldn’t have been able to fit more in my suitcase if I’d tried. I had to jump up and down on it to close it anyway!
I still miss my (now) Fiance, and the home that we had, our cats, our books, films, odds and ends, extreme clutter and our quiet little lives together! He recently told me that it’s only to be a month before he moves over here, and we have the flat ready and waiting, I will wait with baited breath! We’ve been saving what we can for the move.

In the meantime I have been living with my Father. I’ve never lived with him before so I think it has been quite the change for the two of us- the poor man!
I’m very much a nesting girl, and have moved things around in his flat, dusted everything, bought scented candles and put tablecloths and pillows everywhere.
There’s always a teapot somewhere about, and since I’m from the countryside I sometimes forget to lock the door when I leave, but all in all, I’m very happy here, grateful, and I think my father is glad of the company!
I will soon need to buy a desk for all of the drawing that I have been doing, but I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with the process of honing my abilities, and trying to work faster and study harder!
Things here in Norway are paced differently, you see people much more often but life has a slower speed. I still have a long way to go when It comes to settling in, but here’s a small photographic glance at what I’ve been up to, and what my life here is like so far….

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I hope you liked these- I’m always taking pictures whenever I can. The city of Bergen is so beautiful and I sometimes can’t believe that I am lucky enough to live here. This is my home now!
There’s still so much to do, lots to think about and worries galore, but I always try to see a little beauty in everything.
I’ll see you all again soon!
What do you think of the city? Have you ever been to Bergen?

The first Tattoo, a day of Reckoning.

It’s only natural to want a tattoo, surrounded by such beautiful ones on other people, daily seeing the excitement of others as they get theirs, first or not.
Not only this, I had wanted one so badly for so long, and it made me sad seeing people scan my arms when they come in to book an appointment, and if they were feeling daring, they’d ask where my tattoos are, and laugh at my blank skin and area of work.
It was about time, and after booking the appointment, I could hardly breathe for excitement!
I was scheduled to get a tattoo on my 18th birthday but I’m glad now that I didn’t. I’ve grown so much as a person since then, and I’m much more the person I want to be, and think I will be for many years to come. I’ve very much grown into myself so anything I’d have had then wouldn’t be ”me” now.
But now- I feel entirely prepared to make permanent decisions, hence my recent engagement to my perfect man! ❤

I wanted my first tattoo to be something entirely ME. It seemed important to get something symbolic at the start of this very important journey, something that I feel defines me and I am known for. The answer is simple as far as I’m concerned- cats and tea.
I have a whole leg’s worth of cats planned, and I didn’t want to start with something so big or serious. Tea it is!
There was no choice as to who was to design and tattoo this piece for me- Tomas (my boss) has been tattooing for 25 years or so, and makes some of the most beautiful designs and tattoos I’ve ever seen. I met him when I was only 13 years old, and have admired his artwork and toiled towards working for him since.
It was a symbolic decision to ask that he do my first one, and I knew that if he designed and drew it, it would always be dear to me as opposed to me drawing one. Nobody particularly loves their own work.. Do they?

I collected some of the images that inspired me the most- are you surprised that I chose the darkest ones, with thunder and rolling clouds, stormy seas and shading in abundance?

I chose a storm in a teacup based on many things- It had been a saying that I’ve always loved, it being particularly, quintessentially English. They have the same saying here in Norway only it’s directly translated to ”don’t make a storm in a water glass”.

Don’t make a storm in a teacup.
noun: storm in a teacup

  1. 1.
    BRITISH
    great outrage or excitement about a trivial matter.

It’s a saying that alludes to those with a propensity to overthink, much like myself. Depression and anxiety can be extremely hard things to carry, even if you’re not under one of its darker clouds. What is so cruel about it is that it stays with you always, haunting each thought and situation, making you feel unworthy of love, praise, friendship and joy- you constantly doubt yourself and second guess every choice you make, and once you do make one it eats away inside as to whether it was the right choice, and whether people will dislike you for it.
It’s a battle that rages on the inside, ridiculous but one that you simply cannot help or switch off, and it can make social things very hard. I know many many people with anxiety, depression, bipolar.. etc, all of whom have told me of their similar daily struggles- so here’s to our small wars everyone! ❤
Overthinking things is natural now, and is a hard habit to break, so the essence of my first tattoo would be to remember that this doesn’t have to happen. I can fight NOT to think on things too hard, not to take things personally or to worry, and to have a more relaxed life where I don’t always doubt or second guess myself..

The meaning in the tattoo had been able to develop while I had been looking for elements to add to it. I love the rain and thunder, it’s my favourite weather- my entire social life in England, and even Norway so far, is built around the making and drinking of tea- people will invite themselves over with the message ”cup of tea?”, and who can refuse?
My fascination with teacups came from an early age- My grandfather on my mother’s side had a deep love of antiques and he shared this with me in our weekly appointments with the British TV programme ”The Antiques Roadshow”. This love was enhanced by my Nanny, my grandmother on my stepfather’s side.
I was the only grandchild careful enough to play with the teacups that she had inherited from her mother, so I’d often have tea parties on the living room floor with 20 teddy bears, each with a teacup and saucer of their own. It was wonderful, and i adored the beautiful flowers and birds that decorated the outside of the dainty china cups. It wasn’t wasted on me, the level of trust that was involved in me handling them, and I always felt so privileged to be able to play with the beautiful things..
All in all, a design that pulls from every corner of my life and reminds me of those that I hold dear!

On the day of the Tattoo, I have to admit, I was a little terrified. Not because i didn’t want the tattoo, I was so excited!
A colleague of mine described it as ”The day of reckoning”, and it sure felt like it.
I had a kind of nervousness that you get (That I get!!) before going to the dentist or somewhere equally unpleasant! I knew it was going to hurt, and as I hadn’t had a tattoo, I had no idea what I was in for, how it would feel, or how I would cope- what if I was a wimp?!
Luckily, my lovely friend Sigrid came to the rescue with cookies, iced tea and a hand to hold- just in case! I was so happy to see her, and it helped a lot to know that if it was going to hurt I’d have somebody there to talk to me and distract me from the situation.

It was a little more than just fun that I wanted to get a tattoo- I had been impatient for one for many years but it was also nice to know what other people were feeling when they got theirs. I had already seen countless clients in the tattoo chair and watched the tattooing process, everyone reacting differently to the pain-  as the saying goes ”never trust a skinny chef!”. Would you have a tattoo from someone without any tattoos? It was to be a huge learning curve in my tattoo education, so was entirely necessary.
Tomas was wonderful with me, understanding with the design and would change it according to what I wanted, he was gentle with the stencil and made sure I was ready before the tattoo began- even testing to see how I felt about the line work when we started the tattoo. He was lovely! I couldn’t have been more supported- not to mention all of my colleagues coming in to check on me too!
Some places hurt more than others, the under arm section closest to my elbow being an absolute sod! It even hurt more than the areas closest to my wrist, which was unexpected.
I’m happy to say that I surprised myself, and everyone else apparently, when it came to my pain threshold. I’ve been through some rough scrapes in my time, so I should have had more faith in my ability to weather a storm (In a teacup! Tee hee!).
Here it is!

my first tattoo

my first tattoo closeup

It turned out beautifully, didn’t it?
Tomas said that when he drew that tattoo, he imagined it with brighter colours, something that I had initially been a little against. He kept the colour palette dark, but added some beautiful colours to the decorations on the teacup, also keeping the tea ‘tea coloured’ with the argument that the reference would be wasted if the liquid in the cup was blue. He was as usual, absolutely right and I was left with a complete beauty!
I’m overjoyed with the way my tattoo looks and couldn’t be happier if I tried. It’s more and more beautiful the more often I look at it, and there’s so much personal meaning tucked into that ink!
It means the world to me, and I’ve learned a lot from it, not only about the process of doing a tattoo, but also about myself.
It’s healed quite well now, so maybe I’ll start planning my next one..?

Flash! (Aa-aaahhh, Saviour of the universe!)

When you think of a tattoo shop, you more than likely think of walls and walls of framed images, all examples of things that you could display on your skin, foreverrrr.
This is what comes to mind when I imagine a tattoo shop, so it’s entirely natural! Flash tattoos were at one time, the most popular thing to have tattooed! My mother has a small one that she chose from the wall of a tattoo shop, as do thousands of other people! Panthers, skulls, roses, swallows, butterflies, knives, suns…. the list is endless, but many artists have a folder of their own original flash tattoos at their disposal, either for future reference, or as an example of what they can do!

flash tattoos
I’ve trawled every flash design we have at the shop, looking at the exmples we have- some of them are absolutely beautiful, complicated and bright, others are much more simple, smaller designs that can be done quickly and without much fuss.
I love these (above)- such classic designs, solid- even block colours, but very old school- these are usually the ones that stand the test of time and are still recognisable after say.. 20- 30 years.

I ADORE the weird flash designs above! So original, with odd line work- but such cute designs! I’d absolutely have the bat with the little skull, or the beetle with the eyes on his wings! I have just the right space for them…
These might not be the most viable to have, with such fiddly detail, but I suppose these best show the nature of flash tattoos- either line or colour, preferably both, work that shows your style and ability. You get the point!
This was our second task in our training- we spent the past few weeks drawing roses, and now was our chance to show how much we had learned. We were to design our own flash pages with the roses that we were the most proud of, so making the beginning of a portfolio that we could use in the future to show the style of our work.

I had HUNDREDS of roses to choose from, but have to say that I wasn’t DELIGHTED with too many of them. They just didn’t seem to reflect the things that I wanted to do with my designs, or they seemed too boring and unimpressive to display on a flash page..
After narrowing my choices down to around eight roses, I pulled out around four and decided that it was best to draw one or two from scratch..

The two top roses are ones from previous drawings, and the outer bottom two are ones designed from scratch- you’ll recognise the same vague design in the centre from my stencil practice!

my first flash

Tattoos are just as much about spacing and positioning as they are about design work, and the way that you space your flash on the page can have some indication of how you will space and design things in future.
I was advised that it was best to space things openly, but to leave a border around the edge of the paper.
After a whole day of cutting and sticking, repositioning, and sighing, I had something I was happy with..

my first flash, section

Doing line drawings to a good standard is one thing, but when it came to the colour, I stalled a little.
Colour is something that  have not really held too much stock in my abilities to execute, and I was terrified that at this late stage, I would let myself down and find that I had no skill with colour pencils at all! As well as ”every cloud has a silver lining” and  ”love is always the answer”, it’s a good motto in life to have the idea that you’ll ”always muddle through”, so jumping in at the deep end is sometimes the best thing to do.
Sometimes I can be timid with the colours I use, and use too many highlights, creating insubstantial designs without enough contrast, and was advised to get rid of so much damn back lighting!
I coloured over the work I had already done, in harder more saturated colours, muted the leaves to bring my roses forward, darkened the black shades to almost solid black- for a first flash, i’m satisfied..
What do you think? Would have one of these as a tattoo?!
first flash colour

The first proper stencil! It begins.

Making good flash designs is a process that is still so alien and mysterious to me- I want so desperately to be good at it! It is the foundation to being a good tattoo artist, after being a good artist in general of course, so achieving this cornerstone is essential!
I am surrounded by people who are so infinitely talented with everything they do, and every design that they make seems perfect for the purpose, person and position of the tattoo (The three P’s(I just made those up)!!).
Me and my fellow trainee, Karoline decided that the best way to gain some sort of idea on stencil and tattoo design was to create some of our own and stick them on each other, therefore proving our stencil prowess, and learn stuff at the same time!
We chose a space on each other to pop the stencil, so that we would be able to shape the design to the designated spot, and chose the best motif.
We’d been told to practice roses as though our lives depended on it, so it seemed like the most common sense to choose these as our stencil/ potential tattoo design.
The spot that I chose for Karoline to tattoo was my upper arm, and she did two full and beautiful roses to fill the space. The space that she chose for me was her lower under arm, an area with a long triangular shape, prone to a changing design based on how you hold or flex the arm..
I had been spending the last few days I’d been peering at thousands of tattoos on the internet and trying to decide on the sort of thing that I would like to do, what style and what things inspire me, and I had (have) decided that life long habits will die hard, as well as good taste and will stick to all things dark, morbid and Victorian, a good example being the work of Jurgen Eckel. (Instagram link below, please see his stuff!)

https://www.instagram.com/_eckel/?hl=en

Such stunning work!! So dark and moody… everything I love-
This was the first tattoo epiphany that I had- I was awestruck with the ultimate realisation that this was the kind of tattoo artist that I wanted to be. All of these designs were stylistically very suited to the kinds of things I have spent my life enamoured with, the clothes I coveted and the books I hid myself inside!
Over the weeks, I’d also been peeking at some old Victorian illustrations, loving the meanings that they were used to portray-
Different hand positions meant different things- Friendship, romance, protection, connection, loyalty, faith, remembrance and mourning. Different finger positions meant different things, perhaps most famously, the ”devils horns” which were actually an early 18th century symbol ‘mano cornuto’, meant to ward away evil spirits!
I’m a sucker for a bit of symbolism or hidden meaning so this was getting personal!


I’ve always assumed that the kind of colours that I would most likely design in a tattoo would be dark ones, but looking at the ones above, they’re just so charming, almost to the point of being naive! Sweet pinks and hopeful creams, despite the possibly grim idea that these could be flowers of remembrance for a lost loved one. It’s such a sweet juxtaposition! Awhh ❤

hand stencil first

The final design of the first draft… I was very happy with this design initially, the rose pointed the right way and opened up the movement of the hand, and the bones sticking out of the wrist mimicked the ragged leaves at the top. It seemed like a nice enough design.

I always like to ask about a design before I declare it finished, and it was the same with this one.
I was happy with what I had done, and was ready to say it was finished, but was still anxious to check. The feedback was that the petals int he rose were very close and tight, making colouring a little more difficult, and maybe making it so that the tattoo would age less well.

As we’d been drawing roses, this was an easy thing to fix, and I trawled through my previous designs to find one that I hoped matched the classic style, redrew it, and then traced the overall design.

Done!

hand stencil

I always love getting feedback on my drawings, even when the advice is that the design is wrong or needs changing because I always learn a little something. In the end, even though the design strayed a little from what would be considered ”Victorian style”, it gained something with a more classic tattoo feel, and allowed room for much bolder colour.

Luckily colour wasn’t something I needed to worry about too much with this merely being a stencil design, but I resolve to colour it one day…

It’s such a shame that I don’t have a picture of the stencils after they were done, none were taken!! I apologise, but I can give you a photo where I look awful after some other stencils we did!

Enjoy!!

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What do you think? Good enough designs? xxx

 

How NOT to complicate things..

I am a fan of complicated.
Not as a way of life, of course! Sometimes you can’t help a bit of complication, things always tangle as lives and opinions entwine and clash. Aint it just the way?
I do however, tend to complicate things that I draw- my designs and ideas come laden with bits and pieces, ideas, morals and symbolism, and sometimes in the world of  tattoo design, less is more.
It certainly is a good way to start, especially if you illustrate things that end up looking like an incomprehensible mess, toning down will only make things easier in the long run!
I’ve seen some illustrations and designs that grabbed my eyes and brought them in close for a loving hug, then invited them in for tea, but these may not last the test of time when it comes to ink on the skin…

(God machine tattoo, above)
God machine has done some stunning illustrations, not to mention my absolute favourite shown below, but the absolute level of black and teeny weeny lines means that it may morph into a bit of a blob later in life…

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Such a beauty, but i probably can’t have it as a tattoo…. a shame…

Grey wash could probably be used for the stunning work of Lauren Marx, but it would probably have to be a back piece to show the wonderful detail that she manages to fit into her designs.. to get them and smaller would be ab absolute waste, and if you’re as small as I am, you’d end up being swamped under a beautiful, but painful back piece.

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Lauren Marx has recently become one of my most beloved and admired artists- he work is stunning despite it being grotesque, an the details could have me entranced for hours.

I myself am guilty of adoring such work, filling my own with pointless minute details to prevent the eyes from becoming bored. Little did I know, none of this was necessary- It was detail that I would by no means be able to fit into any sensible tattoo design, nor would any of them be seen in the long run when the ink in the skin spreads over time! It’s also a good idea to start simply as an apprentice tattooer, and not overwhelm yourself with too many lines and such!

As a tattoo artist in training, we give ourselves little tasks to carry out, so that we might practice our common sense and our skills- this is the second stencil that me and my colleague gave each other, I was excited and had a mind swarming with ideas. Ideas that I unfortunately tried to cram into one single chest-piece tattoo!

moth stencil first

Two pages haphazardly sellotaped together, and every other piece of design that I could fit in. Roses, mushrooms, acorns, oak blossoms, chrysalis, caterpillars, berries, leaves, rose-hips, and ivy. The cotton was a reference to the silk worms that create a web to rival that of a spider, and the pin was a reference to Taxidermy.

There was so much in this one- I looked up the flowers I wanted, and included bits and pieces of the British countryside. It’s always been so charming and lovely, who wouldn’t want to be covered in it?
After hours of drawing and a sore hand, I was finished and had about everything I could possibly fit in.
I was proud, and knew it was detailed but was excited to show it to Karoline, and swap stencils.

moth stencil colour

Work is probably the most educational place I have been, and in general I learn more here each day than I did in school! I showed the design, and although it was appreciated I was advised to tone it down as much as I could, and pick the pieces that I liked the best, and bring them out.
Sometimes I can only cut away so much, before I can no longer see what needs to go but luckily I work in a place where asking for help is encouraged at all times (if needed), and I was helped to get rid of unnecessaries.

moth stencil2

Snipping away at bits of the design was easier and less painful after it was explained that details would eventually be lost anyway, consumed in the background colours and others distracted from the way the tattoo really needed to be- simple and a little more bold!
Karoline explained that she liked the design, and appreciated the effort that had gone into it, but said that some of the sections that I had included were not quite ”her”.
The needle and thread and the pins for example, were things that she imagined that I would like in a tattoo rather than for her.
I explained the reference to taxidermy, but conceded and removed them anyway, It’s her stencil, and I want her to be happy!! I always go off on a little bit of a tangent to try to make each design unique and a little more different, but sometimes I worry that it takes away from who the person is and will cause me more work in the long run, editing out what it was I added to the design – It’s nice to include a little something for the person I am tattooing, but I need to try to remember to make it appropriately specific…

moth stencil

The above was the final design, but this is currently unfinished- The line work is a little off, and I need to go over it in fine liners, but it just goes to show, a little simplicity goes a long way! You can see all of the roses I wanted, the oak flowers too, and I got to include the acorns, symbolic of transformation, great change, wisdom and growth.
I’ll have to update when we make the stencils for this one, as we’ve yet to try them out- but it was a lesson in designing that won’t be fast forgotten!

Which do you prefer? The first one I made, or the way it turned out?