The day has come…I am very proud to reveal to you all my tattoo. This personal journey was worth the wait and more importantly, the money. Tattooing is not a cheap gift to one’s self. I am very thankful Justin Nordine from The Raw Canvas in Grand Junction, Colorado is only a short flight away because I absolutely love his style and know already that I will be commissioning another piece with him down the road.
When I initially provided a deposit, I had in mind a negative space tattoo which in some way incorporated ‘freedom’ written in Arabic. I knew with my year timeframe to fruition I could hone the desired result and certainly events over the past year changed my opinion about how I saw this piece and how I saw my body. There’s a lot to say about my experiences during OIF 2-2 and because I am no longer in the Marine Corps, I am not limited to placement or size of a tattoo to stay within regulations. I did not know when this journey started what the finished product would look like although I did know I was finally ready to commemorate my military service.
The images I provided Justin as we got closer to my appointment included:
- A photograph of the Euphrates River (to emphasis an important blue to include in the color work);
- A photograph of the 1st Marine Division logo (again to emphasis an important blue);
- A door located on Camp Blue Diamond (for the scrollwork);
- A photograph of Peruvian lilies (the meaning of these flowers are friendship and devotion); and
- I discussed the dual names attributed to the second assault into Fallujah (in lieu of an additional photograph).
I didn’t realize how much I was asking of Justin when I provided these images but during our phone consultation we touched base on making a new memory. He reminded me I am commissioning a piece of art. I had been putting so much pressure on finding the right way to speak to the complicated nature of the deployment and he reminded me quite gently that I knew what the tattoo meant and if a concrete representation was important that he might not be the artist for me. I think his willingness to have this conversation so I was happy with the final product is very important and because his talent truly speaks for itself I made the decision the tattoo did not need to convey all these things. This opportunity was the first time I allowed someone so much control over something I would carry with me for the rest of my life and I am happy with this adventure.
After providing additional images to Justin for review, I waited until our meeting to see his creation. Originally, we discussed doing an upper arm piece and he crafted a sprig of black sketched lilies capped by a geometric pointillism design which pays tribute to my appreciation for Islamic architecture. Behind the flowers, a beautiful wash of colors included green, blue, rose pink, and orange. The orange, by far, is the color that fascinated me the most. It was so unexpected. Since he had layered images of the sketched flowers and the pointillism separately I was able to see how the design could be easily altered to fit my forearm which didn’t need a cap like the shoulder.
I do have a tendency to carry extra weight in my upper arms (which I never noticed until I was pregnant with my daughter!) and was a bit worried if I don’t always maintain my upper body physical fitness consistently, my tattoo might not look the way I want it to look over time. However, my forearms always look pretty nice even if I don’t hit up the gym regularly and I was very happy to see how the flowers complimented my body structure. He was right that by having the piece of my upper arm I could control who saw it but by having it on my forearm it is available for public display; this decision is not a light one to make depending on who you are and the industry you work in or may choose to consider for professional opportunities. For me, I am past that stage in my life. I wanted my tattoo to be a highly visible work of art I see and share daily with others.
My journey is unique and I am grateful for Justin’s ability to give me a beautiful way to honor that experience.