Tattoo art is incredibly popular in today’s culture, having been around for at least 12,000 years. While a range of connotations surrounds it, about one in five Americans have at least one tattoo….now including me! Recently, I was lucky enough to have the talented Sarah Doe give me my first tattoo.
Ironically, I never liked the idea of tattoos. Many that I had seen looked ridiculous and seemed to negatively change first impressions. Plus how would a bajillion needles ever be worth it?? The past couple years, quite a few of my friends were getting tattoos. Surrounding me weren’t ridiculous doodles but beautiful examples of those individuals expressing themselves on their bodies. My earlier judgement was perhaps unfair. My friends' tattoos helped me realize that they aren’t necessarily drawn for the world to see but rather personally for the individual.
In early 2018, an idea struck me like lightning. I was in the midst of realizing some prominent career changes and what music meant to me. Danny Elfman has always been one of my - if not my biggest - idol for composing music. I even wrote an undergraduate thesis primarily on him and his unconventional music education. He has always reminded me that being out-of-the-box is often a good thing even if it doesn’t appear that way just yet. Also, The Nightmare Before Christmas has always been my all-time favorite movie. It was what sparked my dreams of writing music for movies and the stage. So…my tattoo idea was to write out a melody from the film on a wispy staff. I chose a motif from “Jack’s Lament” to remind myself that no matter what path you are on in life, inspiration is a beautiful guide even when it isn’t clear.
With this newfound appreciation for tats, I was intrigued to hear about this art form from Sarah Doe herself. I had been following her Instagram (@_doeadear_) and other local artists for months looking for which artist had the drawing hand I would trust. I couldn’t be happier with her work and so I asked her some questions about this industry and art form!
What got you into tattoo artistry?
“I got into tattooing about 10 years ago. It was a trade skill that offered steady work within the arts and the lifestyle itself was just something that fit my personality. I’ve always done art, even from a young age. It’s something that’s always been an outlet for me. I feel really lucky to be able to do art for a living.”
What purpose do you feel tattoos serve?
“I forget who said it but there was an anthropologist that I feel explained it best. This was in terms to art of any kind, self-expression aside. He said something to the effect of ‘the mere fact that decoration exists is proof of its importance.’ Meaning, the face that we decorate things at all: our homes, our vehicles, our office spaces, and in this case ourselves; is proof that it serves some sort of necessity, which in our puritanical society is not always given the value it deserves.”
What is one of your favorite tattoos that you’ve created?
“I feel like every tattoo is special in its own way and for each person getting it, it means something significant to them. A couple of standout ones in my mind was the baby sea turtle I did on the butt cheek of an 86-year-old woman. She was a pistol and a half that one. It was her first tattoo and something she was checking off her bucket list….
“To make art that’s meaningful for people like that truly is a privilege. I am grateful because it takes a lot of trust in the person doing the tattoo in the first place. And this is literally not just how I pay my bills, but how I put food on the table for my daughter, so anyone willing to give me that trust gets my highest respect and gratitude.”
Is there anything you wish more people knew about tattoo art?
“This isn’t just a job, it’s an entire lifestyle. For professional tattoo artists, often times we run off of a literal 50% cut, the other half going to the shop. Not only that but we have to pay for a lot of our own supplies. We are 100% self-made and self-governed. That takes a lot of discipline and long hours. We spend our entire lives on perfecting our craft and because of that our time is valuable. So if you want to be able to trust an artist, find a good shop and look at their work. If you like their style, chances are you’ll like what they tattoo on you. I guess what I would want people to take away from that is to stop price shopping and start artist shopping.”
Truly, I love my tattoo more every time I look at it. Now on the other side of that coin, I know it seems ridiculous to some, but just as I mentioned above I’ve learned that it’s not about the display, it’s about the individual.
Definitely follow @_doeadear_ on Instagram and look at some of the incredible art she’s created both on paper and people. Do you have any tattoos? Any stories? Comment below with a picture and deets!
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Cover Photo by Amanda Hornberger (trusted friend and distractor from pain)