I took AJ a picture of Taime Downe – the lead singer from Faster Pussycat. I showed him a close-up of his tattoo of a nurse’s bust with ample cleavage showing through her jacket, capped off with a nurse’s hat and a cigarette in her hand. I told him that was the kind of design I wanted on my arm and he said to come back some days later once he had a chance to draw it up. When I retuned and viewed the design, I liked it... but I wasn’t sold on it. Something wasn’t right about it – she wasn’t as pretty and sexy as the one on Taime and it made me nervous that once inked, she may look even uglier. AJ and I talked about it and decided to: change it to a skeleton instead of a chick, make the jacket into a classic leather jacket, switch the nurse’s hat to a top hat like Slash (from Guns N’ Roses) and change the cigarette to a whip as I was retiring my Marlboro habit. Plus, Faster Pussycat had a great song called Where There’s A Whip There’s a Way. That summed this day up for me.
So a month after our wedding, I turned 21. Another month later, and appropriately just days before Halloween in 1990, I sat in the chair for four hours and got my first tattoo on the outside of my upper-right arm: a black, white and grey skeleton design that oozed hard rock to me. I loved it – my parents hated it. I didn’t care. It was my body and I was doing what I wanted to with it. It was a well spent $400 in my opinion.
It wasn’t too much longer before I discovered the truth in the saying that “tattoos are like potato chips: you can’t just stop at one” as I began to formulate my next tattoo ideas. I liked the horror theme and wanted to build upon it and continue on my right arm. Again I looked at pictures of my favourite rockers and to me, no one rocked harder or cooler than Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue. He had sleeved out recently, so there were plenty of design ideas and inspiration to help me develop a piece that could become mine. I wanted to also add a touch of colour this time and decided a purple moon with bats set above and behind my skeleton would be awesome. Nikki had a great moon and bat design and I took a large picture of it to AJ. Before long I was in the chair again and my skin’s artwork had its first addition. It took one-and-a-half hours and cost $150.
It was then a few years later that I felt the itch again and started to think about getting more ink. I wanted to turn my existing pieces into a short-sleeve. Talking with AJ, he thought the horror theme should continue to fit in with the existing design and I certainly agreed with him, wanting more dark and macabre images. He showed me a couple of large pieces of skull flash by the famous Paul Booth in New York. I liked them and we began planning the number of sessions and hours probably required to ink them in a greyscale form, plus the rest of the filler required for the short-sleeve.
One of the pieces was a vicious wolf skull. The wolf tied in to my art as a creature of the night to fit with the existing moon and bats (and my own nocturnal tendencies). The wolf is also a powerful spiritual character often symbolising ferocity, darkness, stealth and even demonic possession. But instead of howling at the moon, mine looks more evil as it was in skeletal form, angrily baring its teeth. The placement of this piece on the rear of my arm is symbolic as a protective gesture to repel any would-be attackers from behind.
The other piece placed on the front of my bicep was also a Paul Booth designed skull. This skull is a bit abstract due to the odd perspective of which the piece of art is presented. One of its eyeballs has fallen out along the way and it is poking its tongue out in a creepy way, so whilst it still reeks of evil it, it was like no other skull design I’d seen before.
On October 6, 1995 I had the outlines completed of both these large skull pieces. As filler to the sleeve, a melting face amongst some licks of hellish flames was hand-drawn with a biro pen before being inked over. The 2 hour session finished at 5pm with me handing over $200.
Exactly three months later in January 1996, my next 3 hour session also finished at 5pm after having all of the black ink work completed on the two skull designs. Another $300 well spent I thought, as my short sleeve was really starting to take shape now.
Financial commitments made it hard to for me allocate further money to the arm for some time, so it wasn’t until November 11 that year that I was able to get back in the chair again. AJ commenced the session at 2:30pm that Monday afternoon and it took 2.75 hours to ink the grey and white of the bicep skull and wolf skull. As I paid my $250, I looked in the mirror thinking how it’s odd that the ink goes in brown yet heals to be grey. I was really happy with the pieces and liked their demeanour as I got used to them being a part of me once healed.
AJ performed his last work on me on February 9, 1998. I had a gap between my two large skulls running up the inside of my arm that I wanted filled with something complimentary. It had been bugging me for a little while so I decided it best to extend the melting faces in flames. These new flames and the previous ones were coloured with bright orange and yellow ink – my eternal flame.
Rounding out the outside top of my sleeve, I also had a red and black skyline with stars placed in behind the moon and bats (which were also re-coloured). The specific star design was mimicked from some that Nikki Sixx has on his shoulder blade. Fittingly, these eight-point stars are said to represent completeness. This session took 3.5 hours and cost $350. Finally, my half-sleeve was finished on my right arm after 16.75 hours under AJ's tattoo gun for a total sum of $1650.