If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, then you might know that this year I started getting a tattoo sleeve that features audio drama references/imagery. Well here is my story behind the upper arm half of the sleeve (aka what we've finished so far).
Audio drama tattoo!— RESA (@resachiic) March 10, 2022
-Left sword @starfallpodcast (by @smolghostings)
-Right sword TPP
-scroll colors @brightpodcast
-cassette tape for all tape recording podcasts
Artists: @painterlyfiend @bmatthewstattoo pic.twitter.com/2YBs46s1ce
More additions to my audio drama tattoo sleeve! This isn't finished yet, but the new ones this time are: @OmenPodcast @VALENCEpod @theflamemusical @thedeepvault— RESA (@resachiic) November 19, 2022
I've been a fan of audio dramas for about 2-3 years now and I felt so attached and connected to the stories, more than any fandom I've been prior to them, that I was like... I want a tattoo dedicated to audio dramas. (Yes, more than Kpop. I have an anime-themed leg sleeve that has been 5+ years in the waiting- I just need to find an artist for it). Then in 2020, I listened to The College Tapes, ep 19, and heard Adam Hayes say "You painted a fuckin' kaleidoscope in my heart" and I fell in love with that quote specifically. So much that, even if the rest of the episode (or the character) didn't mean all that much to me, that quote I wanted on my body so badly. The line sounds so cool, so badass, so meaningful (even without the context of the episode or the characters), and very fuckin' gay.
I began going through my favorite audio dramas or shows with cool imagery and research which ones I could build a tattoo around that quote. I also began to research into the local tattoo artists near me. Whenever planning on getting a tattoo, do your research and take your time- this will be a very expensive piece of art permanently on your body. This was my second time getting a tattoo and I highly recommend this channel on preparing for a tattoo [link].
Anyways, fast forward to 2022. Technically what happened first was that the tattoo artist I wanted for my anime-themed leg tattoo had a rare flash party and one of the pieces included a cassette tape. And we all know how many creepy tape-themed shows there are in audio dramas, so I had to get that ASAP and hopefully connect with her for my eventual leg tattoo. Still on the waiting list for her though, but at least I got started on my audio drama tattoo! I ended up finding another artist that had the style I wanted and was available and he's been the one I've been going to since.
How I picked the shows & which elements to incorporate? When it comes to "fandom" tattoos, I don't like making them "obvious"- I prefer to have them subtly blended in together as if it was a normal piece of art unless you look closely and realize "Heeey I recognize that show!" So I looked at covers, official art, behind the scene art, and even merch for design ideas (and also asked the shows for permission where I could! And the ones that replied were positive!) I also quickly realized that because audio dramas usually don't have visuals, not all my favorite shows that I wanted tattooed could be tattooed. For example, Blood Crow Stories was 1 of the first shows I wanted tattooed, but at the time only their old art was available and I did not want their old art tattooed on me.
How did my artist and I design the tattoo? I gave him several (bad) edits of different formations of the shows' artworks on photos of my arm. He gave suggestions including being realistic about sizing (after all, my arm is a round column that can only fit so many things), we cropped out shows, switched out show art that fit better. In the end, I wound up narrowed down to shows that I liked that had good art and, admittedly, a few shows that just had cool art, even if I wasn't super attached to it. I personally don't think it's totally necessary for every detail on a tattoo to have super deep meaning- at the end of the day, this'll be a piece of art I want to feel and look good for and about myself, no one else. When my artist transformed my rather ugly edit of the Starfall & Penumbra swords inside the Bright Sessions/College Tapes scroll, and blended it into the cassette tape, I was literally shook and in awe. When he figured out how to place the Valence lightning, the Mabel rabbit, and the Deep Vault art together, I was mindblown. So yeah, make sure to go to an artist that you trust and like.
So, how did the tattoo sessions themselves go? The flash session with the cassette tape went by... in a flash, and I wish I could chat with her long enough to begin discussing my anime leg sleeve. One day! As for the rest of my arm- Ben Matthews was amazing. When it comes to tattoos, you're paying for an artist's experience, equipment, time, and make sure to go to a good one that vibes with you, especially when it gets painful. Having the right vibes can make or break the tattoo experience and I definitely recommend him. Now my neck tattoo surprisingly didn't feel like anything, the cassette tape tattoo was on a fatty/muscle-y enough spot that it wasn't too bad either, and I've never been scared of needles. So here I was thinking that I have a high pain tolerance. However, my shoulder joint and the inside of my elbow where the radial/ulna nerves meet, hurt like a major bitch! In fact, I ended up twitching involuntarily so bad. I ended up joking that the Valence lightning (the spot with all the nerves) actually felt like lightning going through my body.
You can see in the photos what the designs for my upper arm part of the sleeve looks like so far. To explain the specifics:
Outer arm: the quote that started it all, got shortened down to "You painted a kaleidoscope in my heart" (no way I was going to include "fucking" on my arm) from The College Tapes, written on a blue-to-green-to-yellow gradient scroll (The Bright Sessions reference), that goes around a cassette tape with the word "Recording" on it. "Recording" references Archive81, The Sheridan Tapes, and How I Died, most specifically, but the concept of a recorder and a cassette tape are in a toooon of other audio dramas, including The Magnus Archives, The Black Tapes, Wolf359, Jar of Rebuke, Lake Clarity, and many many more. Inside the scroll, there is the swords from Starfall and The Penumbra Podcast's Second Citadel, and extended out from the of the bottom scroll is the necklace from Dreambound and part of the cover art from Omen Podcast. On my shoulder, is the swan from Strange Case of Starship Iris and the waves extend throughout the scroll and (in my next session) into my inner arm as well.
Inner arm: the front of my bicep is Jet from Under the Electric Stars, the back my tricep is the crow mask from Blood Crow Stories, and then from top to bottom- the Deep Vault logo, the Mabel rabbit, the Valence covert art lightning, and The Flame torch, with the Valence cover art cityscape below everything and going into my outer arm as well.
What's next? Well definitely listen to your tattoo artist for instructions on the healing process and be wary of what life habit changes you'll need to make to accommodate the healing. As for me specifically, there's some final touches (including the SCOSI waves that will go onto my inner arm). It might be some time before starting on my lower arm (and potentially hand) because some of my favorite shows might get new art that I'll like enough to tattoo or I might discover a new show I really vibe with. But more importantly, I might make a show myself, and if I do, I absolutely will get a tattoo of my own show. I've already participated in a few anthologies and I know that if given the time and stability, yeah I think I would find some friends who'd be willing to help me make a show.
I'm not going to tell you how much it cost me (a lot of money, time, and pain for sure). But I can tell you that after making sure I follow the aftercare healing process correctly, I can look in the mirror, flex my arms, and feel a very specific version of happy and cool and powerful. And I think that's a feeling only permanent body mods can do.