Image 1 of 26
I have been using and writing about Linux for over ten years now; to me Linux is much more than just an operating system. Linux has been a “frame of mind”, a career, a passion, a hobby, and a huge part of my life. And to that end, for the longest time, I have thought I should, at some point, get a permanent symbol of the Linux operating system tattooed on my person. Well, that point finally came. So I decided not only should I do it, I should also share the experience with the TechRepublic membership.
Now, I have plenty of other tattoos, so this experience isn’t new to me. I decided to go with a fellow worker’s recommendation, and made an appointment with local artist Caroline Moody at Electric Devil here in Louisville, KY. After phoning her and letting her know she would be put on the spot, she was totally down with the idea. So with camera in hand (well, my wife’s hand that is) I was ready to have Tux permanently placed on my right forearm where he would forever stare back at me, making sure my mouse never peeked through any Windows.
This is where Tux, the Linux mascot, will be tattooed onto my forearm. I was recommended by the leader of Derby City Roller Girls whom I work with at Hair Strobel. When someone is covered in tattoos, you tend to trust their recommendation. The artist, Caroline Moody.
He tried to stop me, but when I told him it was Tux that would be on my arm, he held up his hands in surrender!
The portable tracer
This was a great little tool they use to help them trace the images onto the paper that will allow them to transfer the image to the skin. Basically it was a small box with the top made up of an opaque glass that the fluorescent light could shine through enough to aid in the tracing. Here you can see the Tux penguin in its original form (taken from it’s creators’, Larry Ewing, Web site.
Here it is. I’m sure many of you know what this is without explanation. But I’ll indulge you anyway. The modern tattoo machine uses alternating electromagnetic coils to quickly move a needle back and forth driving ink into the skin. The machine was actually invented by Thomas Edison and was patented in 1876 (patent number 196,747 u2013 thank you Wikipedia.) One interesting point of note: Nearly all tattoo artists I have had have used rubber bands around the needle arm of their machine. I asked Caroline what this was for to which she informed me it was for tension. But why the makers of the machines didn’t incorporate such a tension device into the design of the machine? According to Caroline it was because each artist had their own preference for tension and the rubber band was the best method.
Anticipating The Pain
Yes I have had plenty of tattoos, but never one on my forearm (where I know it’s going to hurt.) But the thought of forever displaying my geekness makes the bitter pill of pain go down much more easily.
Wetting down the target
The first thing that has to happen is the target skin must be made moist with a soapy mixture so the ink from the traced image will transfer to the skin. Notice the latex gloves – ah the smell of sterility.
Most artists will make sure the location and size is what you want. On the first try, Tux looked perfect. It’s big…but so’s my love for Linux.
And the needle drops
And so we begin. From the very beginning you can see that I knew I was in for a long bought of pain. That face? Not relaxation.
Caroline is in her zone. Thankfully she started at the flippers. I knew Tux’ head was going to cause my brain to segfault. Little did I know the pain those flippers would eventually cause me.
Geeks were never known for their tolerance to pain. And that face says it all. And this was after only about 10 minutes. I only had about two hours left.
As you can see, not much is complete, but a short break from the agony was in order. Actually this was where Caroline had turned around to get more ink. The break was short lived. But as you can see, Tux is starting to get his flippers!
Assume the position
This is how a tattoo artist spends most of their day. I asked Caroline what was the longest she had spent on a tattoo in a single session. Six hours. Sounds like some coders I know hunched over their keyboards all day.
This is what Caroline references as she goes along. She uses the colored image to check balance, shading, and shadowing.
Marching up the arm
As Tux gets outlined closer to his head, the pain grows worse and worse. But he’s looking good. As you can see, Caroline stretches the skin to keep it from moving around. She’s also resting on my arm. My hand has no feeling at this point.
A steady hand
It amazed me how steady Caroline’s hand was. Chatting, laughing, it didn’t matter u2013 her eye on Tux never wavered.
Here you get a good shot of the electromagnetic coils used in the machine. If you’ve never had a tattoo then you don’t know the sound they make as they buzz and buzz and buzz. I think the machines are really made up of millions of nano-leopards that bite your skin and spit in the wounds. At least that’s how it feels.
Tux gets filled in
As you can see, Tux’ lower belly is filled in. So far, about an hour has passed. Just another hour of pain left.
Buzz and blot
As the artist goes along they have to blot the ink and blood out of the way so they can see what they are doing. That is one of the many reasons why tattooing is such a lengthy process. If they didn’t constantly blot, your tattoo would most likely look as if it were done by a Tribble.
Blood and ink
A little blood and ink never killed anyone. Yes, it is true, you do bleed as you get a tattoo. And why wouldn’t you? You’re being attacked by a needle controlled by electromagnetic coils! Fortunately tattoos artists are very concerned with health and safety (at least they should be.) So, yeah, I bled for my operating system. And you?
Yes, it did hurt a bit. At this point, Caroline had worked her way up to the softer part of my upper forearm u2013 you know, the part that never knows pain. Well, today my softer underbelly knew pain. Avast!
The outline and black filling are done. Now for the shading. What? Shading? More pain? Nooooo! Yes, being a good artist, Carline knows the real artistry of tattoos is in the shading. So it’s more suffering for me.
Time to switch needles. The shading needle is a flat needle with three to four “heads” (points). So, yeah, the shading hurts a-plenty.
A bearded Tux?
As I said before, it’s all in the shading. But as it looks, Tux has a beard. Caroline assured me this “beard” would fade and finally look like a simple shadow under his bill.
And finally, Tux gets a little color on his bill.
Tux drooling all over me
What you don’t see here is that, because of the nature of filling in with the lighter color, Caroline had to move the needle much faster so the skin bled more. The result, before wiped, the color was orange.
Tux is complete. Nearly two hours of pain to deal with before getting my uber-nerd stamp on my forearm. Was it worth it? You bet! I will wear my Linux mascot with pride. What about you?