Paint Me Like One of Your French Girls

The following is an excerpt of the social bond my graduate program shares. It’s a snap chat moment of time when several of my cohort members came together in support and witness. The events that occur within this setting might not reflect the views of my grad program, although honestly, I didn’t ask…

“Where are you getting it?” Jordan pointed to his right hip and said, “right here”. After looking through the designated Friday the 13th discounted tattoo designs and altering the sunglass picture slightly, he is ready to get his first tattoo. When asked about the implication behind his chosen design he said the Ray Bands sunglasses were significant to his personality and the hip location meant he could narrow down the number of people who would see it to a more intimate group. Standing in the lobby sitting area with several design students meant that tattoo designs were modified and multiple content items were derived from the potential meaning behind the sunglasses. It was an exercise in design collaboration, design insight and the meaning we give to the small things we carry with us.

To capture Jordan’s sentiment for this inking experience would be to say that it was “shockingly casual”. Between the hum of rock music and the intermittent fire engine, the voices of the seven cohort members wove in and out of conversation with coding style Git Init jokes and stories of their own tattoo experiences. The walls surrounding these friends were busy with artwork that reflected the surgical lighting from the center of the space. There were mirrors and sheathed Japanese swords that hung intermittently between countless sketches. The buzzing of the ink needle started and reactions swept over the group that kept a close vigil, but Jordan’s face remained almost without expression as he joked about Wu Tang with the artist applying his design.

With the buzz of the tattoo needle in the background, I cautiously approached my friend Brad about the subject of regret and tattoo work. His response to his own tattoos was matter of fact when he replied that “No, I got my first tattoo when I was 17. I got these super cliché nautical stars on my shoulders”. He continued by describing a landscape that transferred him back to when he was 17. “I felt like I didn’t have to give a shit about everything. I was stoked by the fact that I didn’t get carded and the shop was still doing renovations. Brad admitted that he “doesn’t really get the idea of regret with tattoos, there is a lot of canvass left and you can always tattoo over something or change the design”. At this point, Jordan chimed in that he could get someone’s face behind the glasses eventually. And the group cycle of brainstorming design started all over again.

We talk a lot about authenticity in this grad program. It seemed fitting that this little Denver tattoo shop could hold the expression of the term for this group of people. Jordan’s decision to get this design spoke to his buoyant personality. It was a culminating event that had taken so much time in planning and contemplation yet seemed to happen all at once and without much arrangement. I cannot speak about how this design will forge meaning in Jordan’s life, but I can say just standing in room with the sound of the buzzing needle and surrounded by the people in this program, I was inspired to take steps toward my own creativity.

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