Tag Archives: tattooing

Inkin’ it Up Together

Kid time is the BEST time for messes…

mess 4And putting pink in your hair if you want to (like Myla asked to do when she was 3 or 4).

pinkAnd drawing on yourself!  Sadly, Myla’s school doesn’t allow for crazy hair color and excessive temporary tattoos (weird, huh?).  So summertime was a GREAT time to do all that.  And even best is when everyone else gets involved, too.  At our house, family visits usually mean the markers come out at some point, and Myla offers everyone some “ink.”

I’ve always loved how well our whole family (on Matt’s side and on mine) have always been so cooperative about getting all markered up.  This last visit, she got her cousin involved, and they even made a “menu” (unlike the old days, when she used to just draw whatever she wanted on you).

tattoo menuHardly anyone escapes the ink sessions…

family tattoos

It always reminds me of how ages ago, Myla & I had tried printing some of our own designs on tattoo paper….

IMG_5523So recently, when a sister-run company called Inky & Bear asked me if I’d like to try out some of their beautifully hand-illustrated temporary tattoos, I said “HECK YEAH!”  When our Inky & Bear tattoos came, we had a blast figuring out where to put them on.  Myla chose a lovely little mermaid, and a sweet lil’ narwhal for her arms.

inkybear-1And, like with most things, Myla always has a great way to kick it up a notch.  This time, by asking me to draw all sorts of sea creatures on her to go along with the nautical theme.  I doodled them out in ballpoint and she even added a little creature on her own hand.

inkybear-2So after a little ballpoint pen and a bit of pipsqueak Crayola markers, I had a pretty decorative, temporary-tattooed, inked-up kid!

inkybear-4She added onto my already-existing real tattoos (and an Inky & Bear mermaid), with a little dancing Donkey doodle.  (Do you know the story of Donkey?)

inkybear-6So there it is!

inkybear-7Messes are temporary.  So are marker doodles and temporary tattoos.  But they make for great memories when you actually let yourself join in!

If you want to print your own tattoos, try this tattoo printer paper, or go check out all the wonderfully painted temporary tattoos at Inky & Bear!

Angsty Disclaimer: Everytime I do a post about drawing on yourself, I get comments asking if I’m worried about the toxicity and danger of inks soaking into skin.  My response to that is that if you’re worried about it, don’t do it.  As for me, I’m not going to leave them on me or my daughter’s skin for very long, so it’s fine.  Artist Jodi Steel draws amazing drawings on herself and her friends with Sharpie Markers, and washes it off with coconut oil (and then gets a lot of nasty comments by people telling her she’s poisoning her OWN skin).  It’s temporary.  It washes off.  And ultimately, it’s not your skin, right?.  In my opinion, there is just as much danger of chemicals eating non-organic fruit or junk food–all fine in moderation.   But if it doesn’t sound right for you, don’t do it.  Go get some nontoxic facepaints and try doing the same thing, except with paints!   So take a deep breath, take it easy, get creative, and have a little messy fun!

I love BUGS.

Yes, I love bugs.  Insects.  Beetles.  Whatever.

Well, mainly, I really love the IDEA of bugs, and I love LOOKING at bugs.  (It’s a whole other story when they’re actually touching me.)  I don’t like squished bugs, but sometimes if they’re all dried up and pretty, I love looking at dead bugs.  I have a few I’ve collected here and there, that I’ve hung up on the walls of our house for the past ten or so years.  By “collected,” I don’t mean I’ve gone out & hunted them down myself–I mean that I either found them, bought them, or was given them by friends.

One day, while helping our daughter get ready for bedtime, my eyes tripped over a rhino beetle we had hanging in our bathroom.  It had been there for YEARS (in different houses, but in roughly the same spot), so long that it just sort of blended into the scenery of everyday life, overlooked.  But this time, a strange and very intense thought occurred to me, and it did so with a very loud voice:  “I wonder if I could paint on its wings?”

Then I wondered, if beetles could customize their wings with painted “tattoos,” what would they get?  Beetles often fight, so maybe they would be aggressive battle scenes with intimidating imagery.  But not the typically intimidating human skulls, since beetles lack an internal skeleton and therefore it wouldn’t mean the same to them.  Perhaps instead of a skull and crossbones, they’d have two sticks and some decayed leaves around them?   Maybe a Japanese fighting beetle would have ornate scenes of fighting beetles emblazoned on their backs, or a fear-inspiring giant sole of a boot, since their main natural predator might be our own feet trampling down on them.  Maybe there would be peaceful, hippie-tattooed beetles.  Or images of their larvae with birth dates.  Or a portrait of  “mom.” And what on earth would a DUNG beetle get?

Yes, these are the kind of thoughts that sometimes go through my head while staring at the shell of a beetle and getting our daughter ready for bed.

So, like most ideas I have, once they’re in my head, they won’t go away until I do it.  So I did.  At my husband’s suggestion, I drew a preliminary sketch.  I don’t always like to do this–I often like to just wing it (haha, see what I did there?).  But this time (like most times) he was right.


Apparently, this beetle had been sprayed with a kind of varnish (because I bought it at a store and of COURSE they sprayed it to preserve it), so it was a little like painting on plastic.  I used acrylic paints, and took my time going over and over and over it, layer after layer, since the paint had a habit of beading up.


But with each new layer, the image started coming together, and the basic layout was falling into place.


Thankfully, the wing shells were pretty sturdy, and although they had the slightest give, they didn’t really move much.  Since I am impatient, I tried using thicker blobs of paint to cut back on the amount of layers I’d need to repaint, but I still needed to go over and over it again and again to bet the basic underpainting.  Once that was dry, I could go back and add the little details and shading and fine-tune the whole thing.


And here it is:  the final beetle!  I really REALLY wanted to put a skull on his head, but that didn’t make sense, so I put a tiny leaf that ended up looking a bit like a snowflake from a distance.  Still, I like the little “skeleton beetle skull with crossed sticks” (instead of a skull & crossbones) on the inside of his back.  And instead of “bad to the bone…”  Well, you know.  Because beetles don’t have bones, right?


So I had SO much fun with that, that I immediately looked around the house for more insects I could vandalize.  Some of my nicer ones are contained completely inside wooden frames and sealed plexiglass, which makes breaking into them nearly impossible (probably for the best), but I was able to accost one of my dragonflies.

So what would a dragonfly get?  There are so many different styles of tattoos!  This one is a tribal-style dragon on dragonfly wings…


Those wings were hard to paint, by the way.  I was hoping for more detail, but this guy died about 14 years ago, and is really fragile.  Plus, dragonfly wings, with all those little cells, are almost like tiny little tissue-thin accordions.  Keeping a straight line was pretty difficult.

And the last one was this brittle old moth.  (The light one, not the dark one who just happens to be glued next to him.)  I gave this guy old-school flames, because of the ol’ “like a moth to the flame” standard, and because moths love light, right?  So he’d probably tattoo some daring flames on his wings to show off his bravery at dancing close to danger.  Or something.    Anyway, they didn’t turn out as detailed as I had envisioned either, because moth wings are fuzzy, and it’s like painting on a tiny little carpet.8

So there are my painted insects.  I immediately went on Amazon and ordered a few more beetles to paint on, but apparently I didn’t notice they’re shipping from THAILAND and will be here in like three years.  Or two months.  Either way:  a long, long time.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your ideas:  with all the different styles and influences, what do you think different types of insects would get if they could customize their wings?

DIY Printable Tattoos

photo 5

YOU GUYS!!  Did you know you could make your own temporary tattoos from doodles you already HAD?!?  …Okay, well I didn’t.  But I experimented with them, and here’s how it went down.

First off, I’ll warn you that I only tried two brands–one was HORRIBLE and the other was not too shabby.  But neither one of them came out like the ink ones you get at the store or in a pack of gum–instead of transferring the ink, they both had an adhesive backing to them, so it’s basically like putting a very very very thin sticker on your arm.  Or like letting Elmer’s glue dry on your skin.  (I have super sensitive skin that doesn’t like adhesives, so for freaks like me, that might be a problem.)

photo 4I used this brand, which says you should use it with this special die-cutting machine, but you TOTALLY don’t have to (Sorry, Silhouette).  You take your images, flip them, and print them out.  There’s a plastic sheet you rub onto it once it dries, to sort of hold the adhesive down.  Then you have to cut out your “tattoos.”

I’ll warn you that NOT cutting closely around the image means you’ll get adhesive everywhere there’s blank space, as you can barely see in this closeup picture:photo 1-2

Not cool.  So take my word for it, and just cut closely around your image.

photo 2-2

The rest is like a regular temporary tattoo:  peel off the plastic sheet, and place it face-down where you want it on your skin.  Again, a word of warning:  You’re essentially putting a very very very thin adhesive on your skin, so if you have super hairy arms, you might want to opt for a less-hairy spot.photo 3-2

Wet the back of the “tattoo” and peel it off.


And temporarily cover yourself in your own awesomeness!   Woohoo!

photo 3

Tattooing Myself

Remember that time I tattooed myself? People have asked me about my leg tattoo, and I’m not TOO sad about how it turned out, so I’ll share.

(Let me put it out there that if you don’t have prior training in the art of tattooing, I would suggest to NOT try this at home.  Go to a professional.  They are paid BECAUSE of their experience, and a good artist is DEFINITELY worth it. I have some prior training, professional experience & equipment, and I STILL don’t always know what I’m doing.)

I wanted a derby tattoo. Not one that had allegiance to any certain team, but one that just represented a love for the sport and what it did for me.  I joined derby in Alaska a few months before my husband’s deployment and it was a good distraction from the stresses and worries of life and a 2-year old. I worry about EVERYTHING, but once you get to practice, you pretty much have to leave it at the door and focus on your drills. I loved it, and put a lot of time, energy, and creative effort into it. So I wanted something to sort of mark that time. I found an old black & white retro photo of a girl skating with a pillow on her butt, which I found hilarious, because she’s all-out jumping at the same time. This is sort of my personality, too. And to top it off, the little girl in the pic had curly hair like my daughter. Taking time for myself away from my daughter, even for something I was passionate about, was very difficult for me, but I think it made the deployment a little softer a blow (we all know the key to a deployment is distraction, distraction, distraction)…


I made a couple of modifications to the original photo. First, I was initially hesitant to add my derby number, but it’s a number I associate with my husband, so I decided it was safe. He had always been so super supportive from the minute I joined.

Second, the girl in the original pic had old-school strap-on-your-shoes roller skates. I traded them out for a portrait of my favorite pair of skates…Reidell Minx 965s with Sure-Grip Avenger 45 degree angled plates. I’m cheap when it comes to clothes, and I’m not one for designer bags, so this was a BIG purchase for me. But, lemme tell you, those boots were MADE for flat-footed folks like myself and they were HEAVENLY. And the Avenger plates were like skating on butter. I LOVE them.  They were so sweet & sassy, I called them my “Darth Skaters.”  My Caddilacs.  I have leather toecaps on the ends with cute little red skulls, so I added those, too.

As for the tattooing itself…..well, it could’ve been better.  Tattoo artists have warned about tattooing yourself; you’ll be overly critical, you’ll obsess about it.  As your work improves, you’ll regret your earlier work.  But I thought if I was willing to tattoo on someone else, I should trust myself to tattoo myself.

Turns out the tattoo artists are right, in a way.  The lines were QUITE wobbly because I was SOOO nervous about how it would turn out.  There is a technique for artists where you draw something from a reference upside down, so it loses its preconceived shapes and becomes just the shading & shapes that you need to translate to your work.  I have never been good at this technique, and despite my practicing drawing it several times, I wasn’t crazy with how it turned out.  The face, more specifically.  Looking back now, it’s such a smaller tattoo that the details (or lack thereof) of the face don’t matter much, but I was REALLY down about it at first.  I thought I had butchered it.

All in all, though, I am pretty happy with the final piece!  It means what I wanted it to mean, and I don’t think it turned out TOO bad for tattooing it upside down on my own leg.


%d bloggers like this: