Yes, tattoos hurt.
This was confirmed when Jonathan Fournier, now a storyboard artist in Los Angeles, started drawing on my skin with a needle gun back in March. The right arm was the spot and the decision was finally made after years of deliberations. Getting a tattoo is a big deal, unless you are someone who dreams of having their entire arm covered in a sleeve of ink.
I knew what I wanted going in, and that is the big idea when thinking about a tattoo. The cost, pain tolerance, and aftercare are all very important as well, so let’s go through it. Allow me to be your tattoo guide if you are thinking about inking up this summer.
HAVE A CLEAR IDEA
Please don’t go barbwire and call it a day. Don’t get a girlfriend’s name on your chest. Think about it. Take the time, because this is permanent. If it does come off, the price doubles. I had about 30 ideas for a tattoo since I was 17 years old, but not until I had a truly great idea that I needed on my body did I pull the trigger.
I honored my son and how home is where the heart is for me. When Vinny was just weeks old, he dealt with a rough heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White, which creates an extra electrical pathway to your heart that causes a rapid heartbeat. It affects less than 20,000 people per year, but it hit my kid at a fairly young age. He would eventually beat it, and a stomach condition, before his second birthday.
I dedicated my FIRST TATTOO to my son, Vinny. He beat a deadly heart condition when he was just a few weeks old.
The tattoo is a heart shaped house with a “V” at the bottom. He’s my home. Where I gotta be.
— Dan Buffa (@buffa82) March 20, 2018
I walked in and told Jonathan that a “V” and a human heart were the basis of my idea. Being the superb creative mind that he was, Jonathan came up with a wonderful concept. He pulled a picture of a real house and combined it with a diagram of the human heart, and crafted an image that now rests on my right arm.
You know when it was a good idea when people walk up to you and ask about the thing on your arm. They praise the lining and shading, or want to know what it means. It’s a conversation piece and a symbol of how much I love my kid and how life almost took him from me. I needed it.
So, get something that needs to be on your body. Something that shows people a part of who you are.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD AND PAIN
Yes, it hurts. At times, there’s a lot of pain and some blood. Remember, they are going to take a needle machine gun type device and repeatedly prick your skin. The needle is very small and doesn’t go deep into your body, but it does provoke a reaction. The first time Jonathan took the device and drew the right line on the structure of the house, I had a moment internally. By the time he was shading heart and veins around the roof, I was okay.
You will get used to it, unless your pain tolerance is very low. It will be like an aggressive massage after 10-15 minutes. It won’t stop hurting, but your body and nerves should adapt to the sensation. Once again, this is not a promise. You are different than me.
Keep in mind where you are getting the tattoo on your body. Location is key. The outer flesh portion of the upper arm is one of the least painful spots to get a tattoo. The forearm, shoulder, and upper back areas are also less painful. If you are getting it around the ribs or anywhere where there isn’t a lot of meat on the bone, prepare for pain. If you want one on your chest, bring a belt to chew on, because I’ve heard the pain is relentlessly inconsiderate.
AFTERCARE OF TATTOO
There are certain things to consider when getting a tattoo that have nothing to do with pain. Taking care of it correctly after completion is key, so it doesn’t get infected and look gross. When your tattoo is finished, the artist will-or should-wrap the area in saran wrap. This should stay on your arm for the rest of the day. You’ll keep it wrapped for at least 3-4 days, uncovering it for washing only. The idea is to keep the area clean, because, for the record, the tattoo is an open wound that needs care.
Non-alcoholic soap and lotion will be acquired and applied 2-3 times a day. The wound will peel like a bad scab and eventually look as pretty as ever. It will take a week to get used to having it on your body. Sleeping won’t be easy, especially if you toss and turn at night. Keeping it out of the direct sun for a few days is important, and contact with anything other than an extremely clean hand is recommended. Don’t let a baby near it. Protect it, because it cost you a lot of money.
GOOD ARTISTS REQUIRE GOOD MONEY
Tattoos are expensive if you want them done right. Let’s put it this way: if the tattoo was cheap, I would have at least one more by now. In order to get the tattoo which you see in the tweet embedded above, I paid Jonathan around $400 dollars. It took around two hours and included a lot of detail. I could have went somewhere else, but I wanted this done right. Once they prick the skin, it’s on, so there’s no turning back.
Please find the right artist. You will know him or her when you talk to them about your idea. If they look like someone taking an order for dry cleaning, walk out the door. The minute I opened up to Jonathan about my son and idea, a light flickered in his eyes and he started breaking down his idea. It didn’t take a month for the tattoo to go on my arm. I paid good money, because I knew Fournier was great.
Don’t be afraid to ask around. Get recommendations. Call, send emails, and do the homework. This is your body, and you are who you allow to stab you.
Well, that about does it. Remember, craft an idea that you really want. Don’t just get the Cardinals logo on your shoulder because they are cool and stuff. Make sure you want it badly. It will cost in a number of ways, so be ready.
Be warned. You may become addicted to tattoos. As soon as I find money, I am getting at least 2-3 more.
Thanks for reading and happy inking!