The Taste of Ink

The Taste of Ink

Tim was not one for symbolic tattoos, even though he had lots of them. When I met him, I was pro tattoo but hadn’t actually taken the leap. Neither had many of my friends. In fact, my only real experience with tattooing was going with my best guy friend in high school to get his back done. He almost passed out, and I had to go to the grocery store next door to buy him a Sierra Mist to get his blood sugar up.

I got my first tattoo, a horse shoe, in 2011 by an artist Tim found in Austin. It was on my foot, hurt like a bitch but only took 20 minutes to complete. After years and years of trying to figure out what I liked enough to put on my body, I loved the little horse shoe. Whenever I wore flats I could see it as I walked, and I thought “Yes I’m cool and part of this sub-culture!” You know, because I’m an exceptionally cool person like that.

Tim was much, much more tatted up. When I first met him they were jarring, but after the years I didn’t even really see him anymore. He had…

  • 50’s blonde pinup girl on his calf (I told him it was me… it wasn’t)
  • Celtic knot on his shoulder
  • Pacific Northwest Totem kind of artwork on his other shoulder
  • Blue flame skull on his chest
  • Red flame skull on his chest
  • Giant line of Japanese mask on his back… that I hated very much and told him so
  • BT’s portrait on his upper inner arm
  • Doctor Who Dalek on his lower arm
  • Robot riding a motorcycle on the inside of his lower arm

After he died, I pretty much immediately knew that I wanted to do a companion to my horse tattoo on my other foot. That became my “Ponies” tattoo, which I love. It’s perfect and it’s the missing puzzle piece to my horseshoe tattoo. Even though it’s in his handwriting and is partially a memorial to him, I always knew that I wanted to do a second, larger tattoo.

Though I like ink, I’ve always hesitated taking a major plunge with larger work or work in a more visible place. I used to tell Tim all the cute little tattoos I wanted to get, and he would say “You know it’s really trashy if you just have a ton of tiny tattoos.” Thanks, love.

With that in mind, I knew that I wanted to do a larger work that made me think of him. The problem was, I had no idea what to get. I floated a ton of ideas around, but nothing seemed right. The more I searched for a deep symbol that represented my relationship and loss, the more I realized that there wasn’t one. Plus, Tim was not one for symbolism when it came to his art. Upon meeting him, I would ask about each tattoo, “So what does this mean?”

“Nothing. I liked it.”

“You what?”

“I saw something similar in the shop and thought it was cool, so I got one.”

For someone who had spent years trying to figure out what was meaningful enough to tattoo on myself, this concept was baffling to me… but it did help me make a decision for my tattoo. When searching for galaxy tattoos online since stars had a special meaning to us, I came across a simple elephant filled with galaxy art. For whatever reason, the idea stuck and I made the appointment.

Since my artist has a several month waiting period, I had some time to think about my tattoo. I’ve been asked by some, “Why an elephant?” My initial response is mostly, “Why not?” but there’s more to be said (there always is).

Tim always liked elephants. When we used to go to zoos together in our travels, he would always want to linger by the elephants and watch them lumber around. It wasn’t that I didn’t like elephants, but I was drawn to more exciting animals like playful otters and awkward giraffes. He liked the slow and peaceful beasts, and I learned to appreciate them more.

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One thing I have always loved about elephants is their ability to remember and mourn. When I was in high school and super into my art days, I did an ink piece of an elephant. It was referenced from a photo of one hovering over a skeleton. The idea that this animal could feel more than most was fascinating to me. I’ve also said on more than one occasion that I have the memory of an elephant, because I don’t forget much that was important to me.

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Pen & Ink Circa 2001?

Of course we all know I’ll never forget Tim.

The last thing I added to my tattoo concept was the last few words of one of my favorite poems, John & Mary by Stephen Dunn. It’s my favorite kind of poem – one that starts with simplicity and even a little bit of frivolousness, and ends with a deep punch to your heart. I had those punching words ascribed on my arm forever yesterday.

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Waking up this morning, I love my new tattoo even more. It feels nice to have something permanent and visual to remind me of him, but it’s also a tattoo for me. I loved this poem before I ever met Tim, and it brings me comfort now. I like looking down at my shoulder and seeing the little trunk curl upward at me as the starry animal keeps steadily walking forward.

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40 thoughts on “The Taste of Ink

      1. I know what I want to do, and the artist I want to do it. Waiting until after the wedding to decide where I might put it, if I ever actually go through with it!

  1. I am not a tattoo person, but I saw the picture of this and it just made me stop and stare and take it all in It’s both gorgeous and captivating, and absolutely perfect for you.

  2. Just beautiful! I really, really like it!
    I’ve been pondering my own tattoo… but I’m going to have to find someone to draw it on so I can wear it for a while just to make sure it’s really right… LOL

  3. It’s beautiful, and it’s perfect.

    I am really looking forward to my next one, in honor of Apollo. 🙂

  4. Congrats, that looks really good! I have two tats, one of which I need to have covered up thanks to a less than talented artist. I have no idea what to get to cover it though.

  5. Without the story, this is one of the most gorgeous pieces I have ever seen. With the story, it takes the cake. Beautiful.

  6. I occasionally toy with the idea of a tattoo, but don’t currently have or know if I ever will. That said, OMG I love your’s, it is so beautiful and perfect!

  7. I love this! The stars are so perfect! It’s a great blend of meaningful and whimsical, and really fits you.

    I’m with you, I like the things I tattoo onto my body to mean something to me, either a remembrance, a symbol, or a moment. I have a small fund saved up for a horse tattoo that I’m working on. I can’t wait to add it to my existing art.

  8. Love it! I’ve always been big into tattoos but shortly after Craig died a really good friend called me one afternoon and we grab Lindsey and of course headed for ink. I now have Winnie the Pooh holding Piglets hand as they walk off together. Love it! But Lindsey and Craig shared a special bond for Harry Potter so on her foot she now has each of their “house ties” crossing with the Potter quote “the ones that love is never really leave us”. It’s pretty amazing and also it is a form of great healing for us. P.S. She also has a pony horse shoe tattoo on her other foot.

  9. Oh my gosh it’s beautiful!! I’ve been on the fence about a tattoo for a while…I have the design in mind, but I don’t know where I want it!

  10. LOVE!!!!

    I love the stories (or lack) behind people’s tattoos. Your’s is perfect!

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