Sunday, 9 August 2015

The weird and wonderful

Reading: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Listening to: "Fine Again" by Seether
Outside: The sun has set on Doncaster

There are those among us who walk in other worlds.

Writers, they say, are never fully present - we store and shelve our experiences, and we wonder if we could (or should, or can) use those experiences in a story somewhere. Is this the same for artists? (Any artists out there, do let me know!) And tattoo artists, this one's for you: do you envision your art in your daily life - do you see me as a canvas?

I ask these things because I had the enormous pleasure of attending Tattoo Jam 2015 at Doncaster Racecourse yesterday. I still have the wristband to prove it. I will probably never take it off; if nothing else, it proves I actually do have a life.

My friends and I enjoyed nearly eight hours of visual bliss. Now, first let me say I am no Tattoo Jam virgin. I do also have a tattoo (however small), so I am no stranger to the pain. I am a firm believer that once you have one, it's hard to stop. I itched for another, and the buzz of needles was just hypnotizing. I walked past stall after stall of tattoo artists etching this woman's back, that man's leg, turning these bodies into living, breathing, walking art. I could stand for hours just watching these artists work; and apparently they don't seem to mind, because I clearly wasn't the only fan. Each stall had its artist who boasted a big name sign and a table with a book full of pictures of their past work, a neat spray of business cards and a handful of lollypops as if to bring an essence of innocence to something that used to be viewed with disdain: tattoos were for sailors, convicts and drug addicts. Tattoos were grim, blotchy oxidized things. Tattoos were dirty graffiti.

But no. Not anymore. Now they are your brightest memory; they are your favorite taste. They are the man or woman you loved and lost. They are your past you. They are you now. Tattoos are story.

Picture from here.

And, being an artist myself - well, I can wrangle words - I am in awe of these folks who lean forward for hours, back-aching, toward a stranger's bared torso or neck or ankle, and mark that person's defining moment with black-gloved hands. The long, drawn-out pain of it: a bitten lip, the shading going on, a dash of green - suddenly a bicep's heart blooms with trees. It is a thing of beauty.

My friends and I walked past handbags and headbands, beard oil and baby clothes. I bought a dress for my little girl. I ate a chocolate fudge brownie with actual glitter on it. I fantasized about my future tattoo, of the meaning it would have, I revelled in its someday-perfection. I did not come home with a tattoo yesterday, or with any new piercings, but I was full of the weird and the wonderful. I felt like I got a little piece of everyone's dreams as they walked past me. I saw the story and the bravery, flashing brief and alive, of each of them, each one daring to be different.

I came across a design in a book that made me stop and read it over again several times. It was this:

"Faithless is he that says farewell
when the path darkens."

I've just research it and turns out it's a quote from J. R. R. Tolkien with a very slight alteration. I just love it. Despite everything, we go on. We mark the occasion with a milestone, or a drink, or a party. Or a tattoo.

As per, it was a great day to spend with friends. We chatted and laughed and drank, we looked, we gasped, we nodded in approval. We paid way too much for lunch. Some of us came home with new piercings. A couple of us came home with new ink.

I came home with an even greater appreciation for the pain that drives us on. Battle scars in life are sometimes invisible and sometimes not. It is up to the artists of the world - and we, walking canvases - to tell the stories that keep us involved, adored, heartened and sane.

We all experience heartbreak and rise on the crest of love's next wave; we lick our wounds and do well to be proud of such darkness - for without it, we never find the light.

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