Ink Tips for First-Timers From the Girl With 40+ Tattoos

Jillian Knox Finley
PHOTO:

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

The best thing anybody's ever said to me about my tattoos is "no one cares." It was a phrase uttered in jest on the heels of my response to being asked why I have Bob Dylan's handwriting permanently etched on my forearm. Indeed, body art does not rank on the basic hierarchy of human need. One never needs a tattoo. The ink you choose will carry the significance you assign to it, and that is all. That is what I love best about the 40 (I had to count) of my own. What I love least: talking about them.

I grew up in Texas going to conservative schools. I don't have a memory of the first time I became enamored with ink. In the dark recesses of my mind, I've mulled over the possibility of a through-line between tattooing and the incessant Southern habit of monogramming everything in one's possession. (Lunch boxes! Backpacks! Bible! All the trappings of my youth were custom-stamped.) The first tattoo I ever wanted was of initials. It raises an eyebrow.

While I am loath to explain the meaning behind most of my own tattoos, I will enthusiastically field any number of questions about the process itself—especially from those looking to go under the gun for the first time. Everything about the art form fascinates me, from taboo cultural norms to needle technique. I love tattoos. Having them changed many things for me. I'm about to expound upon the how and why.

Alternatively, if you've come here simply looking for some unsolicited advice, skip to the bottom of this essay and cruise through my answers to friends' FAQs on all things tattoo related.

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