The Taste of Ink
“Delinquent,” “unemployed,” “have-nots,” or the gravely degrading “criminal.”
These are the words used by former generations to define people that embraced a niche of self-expression under the barrage of needles and inkblots — in the form of tattoos. In the Philippines, getting a tattoo is still one of the subjects that are still considered taboo. Tattoos are still infamous for most Philippine households and parents alike.
A high form of art
“For me, tattooing is one of the higher forms of art,” said Jerald Lacuna, a local tattoo artist that started plying his trade in 2018. His deep regard for the tattooing subculture stems from where a canvass that a tattooist uses for this type of art is a living human skin.
Before its artistic value, getting inked was only accessible for people that have served some time behind bars or as an act of rebelliousness by teens to embrace their’ coming of age.’ However, when famous figures in film, music, and visual arts have started to have tattoos, more people have followed suit.
“Tattooing is comparable with blacksmithing in ancient times. There are no shortcuts in this work of art. If you want to achieve a great outcome, you’d have to work hard in getting intricate details done,” he added.
“It’s always worth the wait. As what was told to me by older contemporaries that we should never skip any processes as there are no shortcuts in tattooing.” Jerald’s pièce de resistance is Pointillism, a neo-impressionist technique developed by Georges Seurat that turns to use dots to produce an image. He enjoys doing such a technique — however, time-consuming.
Doing tattoo works is no easy feat. Jerald admits that there were instances that he encounters difficulties in doing client-preferred designs that have greater details. “Another pressing matter in tattooing is the darker complexion of some of my clients. There were times that color tones are harder to achieve,” he said. Despite all that, he expresses joy with every finished output after every tattoo session.
In the sight of discriminatory eyes
Jerald is no stranger to exasperating jeers that have become one of the foundations that have fortified and gave robustness to the tattooing and tattoo culture. However, he doesn’t care and just decided to be someone that understands.
Albeit being slowly accepted by modern society, discrimination is still rife towards people that have tattoos. Jerald has this to say, “We cannot control each people’s opinion towards every matter around them. In various aspects of the world, there’s discrimination,” he implied that such manner might have originated from a person’s early developmental stage.
“A person cannot wholly find a true good manner and acceptable conduct inside classrooms. Let’s just let them spew offensive remarks about what we have decided to have on our own body,” he said. For him, the ones who truly know and understand the deal about each meaningful embedded skin art are the persons who have immersed themselves in tattooing culture.
Love, devotion, and dedication
The negative connotation about this particular art subculture may be far from over — it might take another decade or two. Nevertheless, Jerald has decided to be one of the relentless bearers of a tattoo machine that helps the curious and loyal patrons continue experiencing the liberating self-expression that tattooing provides.
He shares some of his encounters about the hustle and bustle of his noble trade, “There were times that I’ve been inconvenienced, and it is imperative to do time management in this trade.” He continues, “If you don’t, you’d be dealing with time constraints,” he expressed that in getting a tattoo, having a particular design with large sizing and mind-boggling designs will need lots of time to finish.
“As a client, one cannot hurry to finish a certain piece. If it does, expect the worst one that they’ll have on their skin,” he stressed. As with every client he serves, he conveys his undying love for the culture he belongs to and helps cultivate everyone’s awareness. “I’ve found my happiness in this particular job. It doesn’t matter if I go over time as long as I did good for my clients,” he said.
“Until there is someone that believes in my talent and efforts, I will still carry on.”
For him, it is both fulfilling and humbling to look at his client’s ecstatic faces after every finished tattoo. “With that every experience, I can tell that my efforts were repaid a hundredfold whenever I see them be proud of what I did for them,” he said. For long as his hands and sight permit him to continue, he will never stop doing tattoo works.
“Until there is someone that believes in my talent and efforts, I will still carry on,” he said. Jerald revealed that one of his true happiness is finishing a rigorous design that he thought he could never bring to life. He added, “There were certain designs that look simple at first glance, but when you get to scribble it on the skin, it suddenly comes to life.”
Jerald’s unconventional choice of profession has brought him side-by-side with people from different walks of life. It showed him reasons to stay humbled and persevere for his expertise and efficiency. He conveys his message of love and humility for those who support and respect the tattooing culture.
“Broaden your minds. Discrimination has always been shadowing the tattooing itself. You don’t have to live by the judgment of others — you are your own who has control over your life, and nobody can ever do that for you,” he concluded.