Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Fine Art of Communicating with an Artist. A skill I am sadly lacking.

I got a bad haircut the other day.

I mean, it was a fine haircut, I guess. It was a little uneven, but I can get over that. It's just..... it wasn't what I wanted. It wasn't what I asked for. I asked for a trim, and looked away for a moment and the next thing I know the stylist had grasped a very sizable chunk of hair right on top of my head, and then, in slow motion, she. cut. it. off.

Everyone who has ever gotten a bad haircut knows that one, fleeting moment when you watch the scissor slice through a huge chunk of hair and you think to yourself:
"what the hell......."

And by then, of course, it's too late.
I mean, what are the options?
A. Stand up and dramatically throw your cape to the ground and storm out (awesome but impractical)
B. Say "WAIT! What are you doing?" (which will only make them nervous or offend them - either of which will virtually guarantee that there is no chance for a positive outcome)
C.  Say "Can we go a little longer/shorter/lighter/darker" and hope that they can get back on track without making them nervous or offending them
D. Sit there silently and pray to god that they have some sort of vision of where they are going with this, a vision that you do not see
E. Burst into tears

I usually choose the sit and pray method, which is just about as effective as the "pull and pray" method.
Which is to say not effective at all.
I just cannot bring myself to question someone's creative process, lest they feel that I am being critical. I know what you are saying, and yes. Maybe I have the right to be critical about what a stylist is doing to my head - but I'm not there yet. Which is why I am now growing out a bad haircut. I have grown out this exact same bad haircut before in 2002. And 2006. I know where this is going, and I am not happy about it. I'm facing about 2 months of looking like a chia pet.

But there is a bright side to ths very dark tale. A silver lining to the cloud. It may be because of this bad haircut that I was able to stand up for myself a few weeks ago when I went to get a tattoo.

My first tattoo, in 1998, was flash. "Flash" means I picked a generic illustration off the wall in a tattoo studio, a tattoo studio which was located in a trailer across the street from Stop and Shop.

I'll let that sink in for a minute.

I had someone put an illustration on my body - an illustration I will have on my body forever - that I chose in 5 minutes, off a sheet of paper taped to the fake wood paneled wall of a trailer in the parking lot of a decrepit shopping center. The illustration I chose had a number, I gave that number to a very scary looking man, and he found the coordinating tattoo in a book, and then he gave me that tattoo, just like the picture showed.

I ordered that tattoo like some people order an extra value meal.

But at least there weren't any surprises.

I don't do that anymore. I am now pretty clear on the fact that anything I have drawn on my body should be original. Should reflect something about me, my life, my experiences.....these days I get custom tattoos. I meet with the artist, discuss what I want, they draw something up, I review it and approve it, and then I get a tattoo. This means that I have other people's art on my body - and I am okay with that. I am not an artist. If I had my drawings tattooed on my body, it would be like a horrible, horrible game of Pictionary. Which is why I commission original art to be tattooed. (Bonus - I don't have to get it framed or try to hang it on the wall only to have the nail fall out because I don't know how to anchor things in drywall. Because these things happen when I try to hang art.)

Last week I took my brand new really awful haircut down to the tattoo shop to see the drawings for my new tattoo. I was so excited. I had met with the artist, and sent pictures, and then called and talked with her again over the phone. We had sketched out the general shape on my body. She had done another tattoo for me 10 years ago, and I had seen a lot of work in her portfolio that seemed to evoke the style and spirit I was going for with this latest piece. I had given her a general idea and some samples of what I liked, and then stepped back to give her some space to create something unique. I didn't know what to expect, but I knew her work and trusted her implicitly.

So when I got to the shop and was handed what I can only describe as an incredibly generic design that was about to be put on my body forever, I froze.

I had to make a decision.
I had to figure out a way to say no, or I was going to have a very large tattoo that was absolutely not what I had asked for, and not what I wanted, covering a very large part of my body. You can grow out a haircut, but you cannot grow out a tattoo.

The last thing I wanted to do was offend this artist. Well, the next to last thing.
The very last thing I wanted was to have that drawing tattooed on my body.

So I stood there, and my jaw was working, and I put my hand to my newly shorn head and I thought and thought and thought and the panic rose in my throat and finally I just said "Uh. It's not exactly what I had in mind."

And God bless her, she didn't get offended.
And I didn't get a tattoo.

The moral of the story is, say something BEFORE you are in a chair and someone is standing over you with a sharp object that will change your appearance forever. Because you are the one who has to live with the results.
You damn well better like them.

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