how long does a forearm tattoo take ?
The question is how long does a forearm tattoo take. There are all kinds of answers to this question. It depends on the artist and the technique. I’m not exactly sure how long it takes, but I’ve been to more than 15 artists across the country and have always had an issue getting a tattoo on my own arm that I’m happy with. From the time I sign the contract to when I am closing up the cover-up is a process and I am trying to do it as quickly as possible.
Do you get nervous while getting inked?
I’ve only had one bad experience. I was in Seattle and someone did a terrible job on my first piece. It looks like they accidentally took a steak knife to it. I had to get inked multiple times with different artists to fix it. A tattooer in Chicago said it looked like he cut my arm with a machete, and the elbow is distorted. Not a good experience for a first impression.
When do you do your best work?
When I feel like I have great energy, the artist is fully engaged and they are working with me on a non-judgmental level. Otherwise, I have a terrible time.
How long does it take to finish a tattoo?
If I am being really honest, I hate tattoos. I don’t want to talk to them, I don’t want to look at them, and I don’t want to deal with them after they are done. My back and upper leg are way less problematic for me. I can tattoo three and four hours at a time, but I have to stop and eat. Most of my tattoos are eight to 12 hours.
Do you know your limits?
I have a tattoo from a man who was in charge of service for Black Panther movie costumes. I tattooed him when I was a backup to my regular artist. He was a beast and tattooed for 12 hours, and he spent seven hours on the first tattoo. It was insane. After the first half of the tattoo, the artist got sick and I had to finish it.
If I do over-saturate myself, I do start feeling the fatigue. Sometimes, I get itchy and get a headache. I think about that constantly and don’t do it.
Who are your tattoo idols?
Robert Van Winkle. I love his body art work, especially his tattoos. One day, I hope to have that body of work. Another tattoo idol is David Bowie. I loved his album covers and looks. I loved his song “I’m Afraid of Americans,” so that was a big influence on my tattoos.
What advice do you have for others?
Research your tattoo artist and your location. It’s important that you don’t have to travel very far to get tattooed. Another thing is that I wouldn’t suggest that you go to a tattoo parlor and have someone mark your skin without knowing the artist. I know people that have gone in and it was just a series of tattoos that were being done because they didn’t have the artist sitting there. They get half-tattoos and not what they wanted. I’d say to do your research and find out the artist, and the studio he or she works out of.
I also say don’t get tattooed in a heat wave. Get it done in the winter or if it’s below freezing. Make sure it’s a quiet environment, a little more of a personal experience, not what you see on TV, because it’s not what you’ll get in a parlor. If you go to one, it’s too much pain for you. My last tattoo was from someone in a TV studio. I think it hurt more than a real tattoo.
You said you do not have a favorite tattoo you’ve done. Why is that?
It’s not a good tattoo because it’s just a building. I love it, but it’s not an iconic piece.
The most iconic piece I’ve done is back in the early ’90s for Prince. It was a Prince symbol back in the ’80s in the style of a big old P.A. system. I had forgotten about it because we were doing the Halloween issue. He came in, and he said, “Hey, I want my old P.A. system tattooed on my back.” I had to pull out all the tape to get to the back of his arm. It was all fed up. It was so sensitive.
I said, “Prince, you’re going to be sweating so bad, what if I tattoo you on your forearms?” He’s like, “Yeah, we can do that.” We got the tape out, put the stencils on, got him to the station, and got him set up on his arms. He was dressed up as Batman at that time, the rat costume. So he’s all in costume, ready to go.
He got under the stencil, and I said, “Hey, you’re gonna sweat so much. Would you like this shirt on right now?” He said, “Yeah, I can’t wait to sweat.” So he had this shirt on under his costume. I said, “Don’t take it off. I’m not going to wash it after this.”
Then I said, “Prince, this is the same thing as the building tattoo. This is just a little guy on your arm. It’s not gonna last. So why don’t you keep it on?” He got it on his arm, and he left. I had to walk that damn back from State Street all the way to Canal Street just to wash it off.
You were doing me a favor because my guys were in the dressing rooms of all these venues we were in. So I’d have to walk that back with the stencil all cut out and everything. But at least it was all ready to go. Then I’d have to drag that back into the office and start all over again.
Then eventually I learned to use the dope. You know, I didn’t just draw it on, I drew it on real thin, and we’d go up there with some alcohol. You know, the whole “red, white and blue dream.”