A living canvas
Story by Ana Karen Perez Guzman
Photos by Brian Corey
Tattooing is more complicated than most people realize, says LaFarge, a tattoo artist at Chameleon Ink in Bellingham. Depth, angle of the needle, thickness of the line, shading and color are important aspects of making even the simplest of tattoos. The tattoo machine itself also has many different parts that influence the way a tattoo turns out; the way it is held is just as important as its actual parts. Holding a tattoo machine may look simple, but it is one of the most important techniques a tattoo artist has to learn, LaFarge says. Everyone’s skin is different. The texture, color and thickness of the skin all affect how a tattoo will turn out. The only way to control and make sure a tattoo comes out right is by controlling the tattoo machine. The amount of pressure from the machine on one type of skin may have different results than the same amount of pressure on a different type of skin.
“It’s not just about putting ink on skin,” LaFarge says. The grip and control on the tattoo machine varies every time, depending on what is being done, he says.
LaFarge has been tattooing professionally for about two years and remembers making his first tattoo: he had been full of confidence. He had practiced every kind of grip and technique possible on his friends before doing tattoos professionally. Practice helped him learn about different types of skin and techniques. LaFarge can now grab a machine and know exactly which technique he needs to make a tattoo on any person.
LaFarge grips the tattoo machine tightly and carefully, remembering the control he has over marking a person’s body. “You have to realize you are marking someone’s body for the rest of their lives,” LaFarge says. He puts the first line of color on skin, knowing every stroke of the machine is final.