Tattoo Update. Bring on Operation: Cover Up the Cover Up!

#21 on my 26 Before 26 is to finally finish my biggest tattoo. In May, I decided it was finally time to get my arse in gear. A couple of months ago, I went ahead with it and basically lost all my money, bawled like a baby, and got shouted at by  the most insensitive, arrogant twat of an artist ever. But last week, I was lucky enough to find a professional who can FIX EVERYTHING!!

Long story short: probably half a decade ago now, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to get matching tattoos with the guy I was with at the time. (Told you I was a smart cookie.) You all know about the epic levels of crapola in THAT relationship, and we were both left with solid, giant black tattoos of our initials intertwined. All I can say is thank heavens we artsied it up a bit and you can barely even tell they’re letters, but STILL, I was branded for life with what felt like an eternal reminder of my younger self’s moronitude.

Flash forward to the present. One of my best friends happens to be dating an INCREDIBLE artist, who drew me up a gorgeous cover up based on the artist’s instructions – “has to be all black to be able to cover it up, and has to be pretty giant.” He designed something PERFECT, and I was so excited to get going with it – a phoenix, symbolising growth from the ashes of the past into something better. We got about a third of the way through the outline before I couldn’t continue – there’s no way I was lasting more than 20 minutes of someone telling me what a baby I’m being and tattooing way too deep regardless of the back pain situation.

So for the last few months, I’ve had this. A piece of outline of a cover up which doesn’t look like anything. I’ve been more okay with it than I thought I would be – the bottom line is it’s no longer what it WAS, and it shows it’s on its way to becoming something else. Which is a good thing. The bad thing being that it kind of looks a bit rubbish.

Last week, I met with someone at a studio close to where I work. A coworker had recommended it to me after she’d gone there for a piercing, and told me just to check it out, saying it was very clean, they were extremely professional, and they even had nurses on staff, so if anyone was going to understand the back situation, they were.  After a few weeks waiting to get in, I went on my lunch break, and met Ivy. AKA MY NEW HERO. She took pictures of my back so she could show me the “ghosting” that’s already started to happen on the outline part. Because he went WAY too deep (apparently if you know someone’s going to have a hard time with the pain for whatever reason, you can outline in a light grey so you can do it really fast), way too dark, and didn’t stop when all the blood started going to the surface (remember those exercise pictures?) so black (apparently the least viscous ink) bled into all the capillaries. Hence it already starting to bleed out. She also informed me the design had way too little white space and would eventually all become one black blob (original jerk artist told me he was going to redesign it with more white space, and DID NOTHING), so long story short: we couldn’t continue this design.

But before I started crying, she also told me black wasn’t the way to go. With cover ups, you use colour and shadow to distract the eye AWAY from the thing you’re covering up. With something big and black, there’s an enormous central focus which makes it look MORE like a cover up. She showed me pages of cover-ups of black tattoos she’d done. Big, gorgeous, colourful, organic looking cover ups that looked amazing. She said this was going to be one of the most challenging things yet, but yes, we can do it. We get to wipe the slate clean. Yes, it’ll have to be ENORMOUS. Yes, it’ll be a 20-30 hour piece. Yes, it’ll cost a fortune. But yes, it’s going to be AWESOME.  I can still get a phoenix. We just have to incorporate colour, a light source (so the left side can be in shadow), and now I get to pick whatever style I want.

So for the next little bit, I’ve been instructed to Do My Research. Find loads of pictures so she can pull together the elements and design something that incorporates the styles and colours I actually like. I’M NOT FATED TO A GIANT BLACK MAN TATTOO. I’m SO excited, and I can’t wait to move on with this!! It’s going to be a long process… but I’m ready, full of renewed hope, slight terror, but determination. The finish line is finally in sight. Bring it. 🙂


  1. It’s going to be amazing! Have you had any thought to what you’re going to do with it yet? I can’t believe that jerk from the first tattoo place messed it up so badly – you should take your pictures in and go and complain!

    1. So many people have told me I should complain, not to the shop but to the Better Business Bureau… I hate making a fuss though. Clearly I like to air my dirty laundry on the Internet instead lol – but it was pretty horrendous. Maybe I will.. 🙂

  2. That sounds so much better than the other studio! But it also makes it sound like they messed up even worse than you thought. Unbelievable! I hope this time you are able to finish the tattoo and it will be great.

  3. All I can hear is JTs Sexy Back. Take it to the chorus. Say look for Brett Domino on Yourtube. The Justin Timberlake Medley is best. Also, glad you found a tatoo artist worth something in town I’ve heard over the years that the best safest way to get tattoos is not to get them done in Winnipeg. Hope this person is the beginning of the change to a better standard.

    1. Oh I hope so! And lol on the JT front. I’ll have to check out the YT. There was a great jazzy cover of it by Corrine Bailey Rae on the BBC a few years ago too 🙂

  4. This reminded me that I need to have some more work done. I have an open shoulder that needs ink. I keep trying to decide what to put there (since I want to do something book-related) and I think it’s going to have to be an original design. Too bad I’m not any type of artist (except the bad type).

      1. I actually just finished doing a rough sketch of the idea I’ve been kicking around. It will be fantastic. Now I just need to find a real artist to render it, because I’m sure not putting anything on my body that *I* drew. I’d look like steve-o.

  5. wow em this is such good news!!! and i’m with karen you should definitely go and complain about the first a-hole. isn’t there some kind of business council you can report him to? that was a horror story and a half. do you know what you’re going to get design wise now? v. excited for you!!!

    1. Yes it was pretty bad 🙂 I don’t know if I’ll complain, I’m not very good at it! I’m still going with a phoenix – just not sure what style yet. She’s going to design something for me based on what I like… I’m excited to see 🙂

  6. I’m really excited for you, Emily! This tattoo experience has just been a rollercoaster for you so I’m excited to hear some progress is happening. Yay!

  7. I’m so mad at that last guy! Grr! But sounds like you’ve got someone you can trust now, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. It’s going to look amazing!

  8. Oh my! As I was reading this I was so worried for your back but I’m glad you have a bit of a happy ending. It’s seriously hard to find a good tattoo artist.

    I have two tattoos that are both small-ish but apparently both done by “amateur” tattoo artists. They are both meaningful to me but it does mean getting the outlines redone and I’m a bit of a baby with back pain as well so it hurts like hellllll.

    Good luck! I hope this tattoo artist does a great job!

  9. Yay!! I’m so that that you’ve found an artist that really seems to know her stuff. I hate that you had to go through hell with that horrible tat artist, but fortunately it seems to be working out toward your favor.

    I can’t wait to see the progression…. 🙂

  10. When I was 25 I got a tattoo with a girl I was with at the time. Yah, we are both smart. Durr.

    Anyways, don’t matter cuz it’s on my shoulder and is covered by my shirts. And it’s a dragon. That’s not TOO retarded. Not like I got a heart with her name on it.

    If that was the case, I could only date women named ‘Catharine’.

    Good luck with your tatoo. I’m sure it’ll turn out EXACTLY like you want it and you’ll be proud of it till you’re old and wrinkly and you can’t tell what it is any more unless you stretch your skin out when you’re 93 at the nursing home trying to impress the much younger 82 year old hottie that just moved in.

    1. Yeah – the thing I’m glad about is that we didn’t get each others names or anything obvious!! LOL about the nursing home. You have to wonder about that hey – so many people are covered in tattoos now, there’s going to be a generation of old inked-up rebels taking over the nursing homes!!

  11. I still think you seriously need to get that tattoo guy in trouble… He was SUCH a jerk. Had I been there with you… let me tell you, some things definitely would have been said!!! Good luck with this new artist, she sound like she actually cares!

    1. Me too! I’ve never had a tattoo actually designed by an artist just for me before! I’m doing my research and I’ve found a few ideas… I’m really looking forward to seeing what she turns it all into 🙂

  12. Yay that is such good news and this artists sounds like she knows exactly what she’s talking about! I bet it’s going to look AMAZING!

  13. I’m so relieved for you! It must feel like such a burden having a tattoo you dislike. This woman sounds compassionate and talented so I think you are in good hands!

    1. She was wonderful – I feel 100% comfortable going into this. I should’ve known not to go with the last place when I walked in in a summer skirt and got funny looks from Big Burly Men who made me feel completely out of place!

  14. So glad you’ve found something (and someone!) to get this resolved. Reading this made me want to get a tattoo, which I rarely feel anymore. Blaming you right now!

  15. That is fantastic news Emily! I am truly happy for you!
    I’ve been wondering if this is a problem for you with your wedding gown. (eg. if you will have it finished by then, will you want it covered up or will the dress do it etc.).
    I’ve had some experience covering up tattoos for stage and could let you know how and where to get the makeup if your interested?
    I can’t wait to see the finished results!

    1. I’m hoping to have a little bit more done before the wedding – realistically, financially, I could probably only go for a couple of sessions before then, but as long as it’s not what it WAS when I am walking down the aisle, I’m okay 🙂 I worry about makeup rubbing off on the dress – and I’m completely comfortable with it showing (although it will only be barely – I’m having my hair down with extensions so my back will mostly be covered) now that it’s on its way to becoming something else 🙂

      1. Nice to know. You’d probably not want to spend extra on makeup anyway.
        if by chance things change, you’d probably be fairly safe with your dress as this is stage makeup and requires a fixative. It works quite well.

  16. Well yay that it can be covered! That is fantastic news! Nothing is more important than you feeling good about yourself. Can’t wait to see pictures!

  17. I’m so glad to hear that you seem to have found a MUCH better place to get your tattoo cover-up done. Plus, I kinda think it’s awesome that she suggested a colored tattoo instead of a huge black one. I hope it goes well!

    1. I hope so too – I’m a bit gutted I didn’t go to her FIRST and avoid that whole experience completely but I’m just thrilled I can get something decent!!

  18. Oh my goodness, lady, I can’t wait until it’s done and then we call all look back on these troubles and sigh happily that it’s over! 🙂

  19. I am SO happy to hear this!! Thank goodness you didn’t finish out with this guy! Can you imagine a BIG BLACK BLOB on your back in a few years?? Dude. What a freaking JERK.

    So even though you’re out a little money and some intense pain, you get a second – second chance. 🙂 I can’t wait to see it, Em! ❤

  20. Wow! Your tattoo debacle is totally a metaphor for our lives, isn’t it?
    “…it shows it’s on its way to becoming something else. Which is a good thing. The bad thing being that it kind of looks a bit rubbish…”

    How many times on the road to becoming do I look at myself and say, “i’m just a bit of rubbish” — only because I forget, I am no longer what I once was. (thank God!) And I am not yet all that I am to be. How glorious a thing to be in the midst of ‘becoming’!!!

    thanks for this! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you (and your lovely back)!

    1. Aww, thanks! You’re right – I guess we could use that as a metaphor for life; I’m in the same place right now – I’m not 100% where I want to be yet, but I’m a work in progress 🙂 Thanks for the insight!

  21. I’ll be getting a tattoo removed (starting next month) from MY not so smart youngin’ days. It was in memory a friend who lost her battle with cancer when I was in high school. Back then it was a great idea. I was 18 and wanted to “honor” her. Now I’ve learned that loving someone doesn’t mean getting all scribbled up. I do have another one though, on my lower back and that one I love more than anything else. I still doubt I’ll get another one, but who knows 😉

    I’m glad you’re walking away from this experience with a new sense of now… and then. It’s going to be EPIC!

    1. Where are you going to get yours removed? I’ll be crossing my fingers for you – I hope it’s not too painful. I heard it can be more so than tattooing itself 😦

  22. Arghhh, it makes me upset to think about that jerkface hurting you unnecessarily!

    I’m so happy to hear that things are on a good path now! Ivy sounds great and so willing to work with you. And now you’ll get some color! Can’t wait to hear about the process and what you come up with 🙂

    1. Yikes probably not – she said it could end up costing about $3,000 in total (!!!!) and I’ll probably only go for an hour or two every month or so – I think it’ll take a good year or two to finish in total, but I’m planning on having a bit of it done before the wedding definitely 🙂

    1. Aww, I don’t know if I can agree with you on the ‘tough’ front lol I’ll probably still bawl like a baby – but I AM determined to get there in the end 🙂 Thanks so much for the encouragement!

  23. Don’t complain to the Better Business Bureau, but do tell us the name and location of the artist so people know not to go there!

  24. Oh, I’m so happy to hear you’ve found a good artist! Looking forward to see what you come up with together… yay for being able to now get something you really, truly love. 🙂

    And I just have to say, I’m still pissed at that other guy. For his behavior at the time, and for what the new artist has told you about his work. Grrr. What a jerkface.

  25. Oh yea! I am so glad you found a talented place that can help you! I know covering this up will be a big step in the right direction for you! So, so, so happy you found someone that will work with you on this – and treat you so kindly! That last guy was such a jerk! 😦

  26. I agree with complaining! A strongly worded email to the shop manager is what I would do (because I HATE making a fuss too!), or the Better Business Bureau (or similar) – they shouldn’t employ people who are going to do more harm than good. At the very least? Write a scathing review on (and any review site you can find) as a warning to others.

    Ivy sounds like a TRUE artist and it sounds like she is going to do an amazing job. I’m excited to see what you pull together!

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