If It Itches, Scratch It

My most recent ink. (Of the legal variety)

My most recent ink. (Of the legal variety)

You ever get that itch? No, not that kind…but the kind that is more akin to an incessant craving. An idea sparks. Maybe for a hunk of chocolate you want to gnaw, a trip you want to take, or this thrilling activity you simply must experience. For us creative folks, the itchy idea can take the form of an image which demands to be painted, a character who wants to live, a new recipe which must be tested (and tasted). The crawling need to make this *thing* happen is all-consuming. It refuses to be ignored. And, no matter what, the only way to get rid of the blasted itch is to scratch it.

Yeah, me too. All the time.

Some itches have rules attached, and a decision must be made on whether you choose to follow them or not. For instance, I’ve been itching for another tattoo for a while. Tattoos have rules. Fun fact: Oklahoma finally legalized tattooing in 2006. If you are so inclined, you can now legally get your ink-itch scratched in all 50 states. But some states and localities set their own parameters. Such as:

  • You can’t get a tattoo if you’re under 18.
  • You can’t get tattoos on certain body parts—such as the face.
  • You can’t get a tattoo if you’re drunk or high.
  • You can’t get offensive or hateful words or images tattooed.
  • You can’t get tattooed at home or at a party, even if the artists is licensed, because the license applies only to the shop’s physical location.

Here in Ohio, that last one is law. A tattoo shop must be approved by a local board of health. Tattooing clients outside an approved shop is illegal. I have three friends who may or may not illegally ink outside the confines of a shop. Let’s pretend they do. If so, they have their reasons: indie personalities, lack of funds to do an official (expensive) pay-the-mentor apprenticeship, time constraints. Still, they hammer amazing images into more-than-willing tattooees. This system works because the tattooees have the itch for some ink, and the artists have the itch to create them. Simple supply and demand fueled by a pair of matching itches.

I have definitely been tattooed in official, legal shops. I may or may not have used indie scratchers to handle my itch in the past…

Let’s pretend I have. If so, I’m sure I experienced nothing but great, sanitary, professional scratching with amazing results. Assuming I may have gone the less-than-official route at times in the past, I am choosing to go mainstream this time around. The downside: my itch will have to squirm and twitch for nearly six months! A tattoo is obviously forever. Coupled with my perfectionism and pickiness, I want only the best. Especially for the subject matter I’m hankering.

There’s this guy, Joe, who once bought a human skull from me. (FTR, yes, it was legally obtained.) He happens to be a tat artist. And he also happens to do a.m.a.z.i.n.g. work. One more thing: he’s willing to meet this slightly random request I proposed. You see, the itch I need scratched is a full sleeve on my left arm. The images will be the 12 named sideshow characters from Phreak Show. Fluxxus the Human Chameleon, The Prince of Torture, Jules the Gender Enigma, Maestro Phineas Cocteau, Twiggy the Blubber Girl, et al. Even Romeo, the mechanical monkey, is getting some skin real estate. The negative space between the characters will be filled with the borealis-like aether from my novel.

So, cool, but a sleeve doesn’t sound like a random request. Tattooists execute those all the time. Yeah, but do they read an 86k  word manuscript to get a feel for the characters first? That’s what Joe has agreed to. We have discussed the style I want: hints of New School with bright coloring and exaggeration, along with high contrast, heavy-hammered black, plus skin-break highlights. Oh, it itches the more I think about it! And that itch is going to be prolonged. Remember how I mentioned Joe does amazing work? Well, that means he’s in high demand. He’s booked solid until November.

itch itch itch

I have 8 Saturday appointments scheduled beginning 11/16. In the meantime, Joe is reading Phreak Show while working on the image creation. If I may gush, I think that’s a kick-ass way to come up with a tattoo design. My words and ideas filtered through another artist’s interpretation. Even if I do have to wait six looooooong months.

Okay, confession, I’m too damn impatient to wait half a year to scratch my tattoo itch. I found another great artist of the legal breed, and am getting images for my first 2 novels inked on my right arm. Capritare’s appointment is in 3 shorts weeks. (Only a querying writer considers 3 weeks “short”.) You know what this is starting don’t you? A perpetual itch that will need to get scratched with each new novel.

If the craving kicks in for flash fic & short stories, too…Frankly, I’ll have to look into finding surrogate skin.

7 thoughts on “If It Itches, Scratch It

  1. he’ll show you sketches first, right? that’s a test for a writer, if the characters form in the mind of the reader as you’d like them to. I once sent an artist descriptive excerpts and what I got back was a whole ‘nother take on the character! oh, and you might want to wait for it to be published – hate to have you do this then have your publisher change/combine characters!


    • Yes, I will def approve the images beforehand. Plus, I’m providing reference images from my Pinterest boards as starting points, but giving him the freedom to play & adapt & create.

      As for waiting for publication, no way.
      1) Could happen 5 years from now. Or never.
      2) I love all these characters & want them immortalized regardless of whether they appear in the finished product or not.
      3) THE ITCH!


  2. Very cools idea for a sleeve. My mom and my daughter had tattoos done yesterday, so I spend a couple of hours in a tattoo shop. It definitely creates an itch. I hope your artist can bring your phreaks to life for you. Good luck.


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