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Truly Painless Tattoos – InkedMag


Tattoos have become exponentially popular over the past few years, with people seeking unique and meaningful ways to express themselves. While the process of getting a tattoo typically involves some discomfort, an emerging trend has caught the attention of both enthusiasts and skeptics alike—going under anesthesia for a painless tattoo experience. This article will explore the concept of using anesthesia during tattoo procedures, discussing its pros, cons, and the potential risks involved. We went to Artem Bor, a CRNA, MSN, APRN of Elite Anesthesia Ink and Romeo Lacoste, a world renown tattooer of The California Dream Tattoo Shop for their input on the matter.

Understanding Anesthesia 

Anesthesia is a medical technique that aims to induce a temporary state of unconsciousness or numbness to relieve pain during surgical or medical procedures. It involves the use of various medications, often administered by an anesthesiologist, to achieve the desired effect. While anesthesia is commonly used in major surgeries, its application in the context of tattoos raises ethical and safety concerns.

Artem Bor (CRNA, MSN, APRN) of Elite Anesthesia Ink explains that client safety is their top priority. They predominantly use moderate IV sedation anesthesia. With moderate IV sedation, the client is in deep sleep, breathing spontaneously with supplemental oxygen. Bor continues that they utilize American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) standard monitors, including continuous EKG, oxygen blood saturation and blood pressure, and continuous vigilance from a professional, licensed anesthesia provider who continually watches and monitors the client.

Before going under, clients must complete and pass a pre-anesthesia/medical clearance. Based on the client’s clearance and ASA score, Bor’s team then determines the safest anesthesia for the client. In some cases, clients with an overweight BMI may not handle sedation well, requiring general anesthesia—this is when the anesthesia provider assists with breathing. Bor delineates that his team prefers to use MAC anesthesia—this is when the client is deep asleep and breathing spontaneously. The American Society of Anesthesiologists offers a detailed chart that Bor and his team refer to in order to ensure their client(s) aren’t falling into the categories that prohibit them from being placed under anesthesia. If the client does fall into these categories, they are considered “high risk” and are not eligible for the service and ultimately will not be able to use it.

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The Appeal of Painless Tattoos 

Pain tolerance varies from person to person, and while many individuals embrace the pain as part of the tattoo process, others find it unbearable. The appeal of painless tattoos through anesthesia lies in the promise of a comfortable and stress-free experience. When the area is numbed, the procedure can be performed without any significant discomfort, allowing individuals with low pain thresholds or medical conditions to enjoy the benefits of body art. We asked Romeo Lacoste what he thought about the stigma of being tattooed under anesthesia as “taking the easy way” and he responded with, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but there is probably something to learn from those who work so hard to afford these sorts of luxuries. If you can afford the additional cost for anesthesia, be healthy enough to endure the procedure and healing process, I honestly don’t see why anyone else’s opinion would matter.”

Lacoste maintains that tattooing clients under anesthesia is something that sets him and his team apart from others in the tattoo industry. He’s never been one to concern himself with what “the norm” is or what everyone else is doing. Lacoste continues that he personally would have never achieved a fraction of what he has in his career if he simply followed what the next artist or shop was doing. With that being said, this sort of collaboration has proven to be quite fulfilling for him and his team. He feels it might be an unpopular opinion in tattooing, but together everyone can achieve more. Furthermore, Lacoste states it’s “truly rewarding when you work with others towards a common goal. We all get the credit in a collaborative way and when you’re doing something like this with the right people, it is enough.”

Timing and Limitations 

The first thought one may have in regard to getting a tattoo under anesthesia is, “how long?” How long can you be under, how long is too long, how short is too short, are there any issues with either? Bor gave us an anesthesiologist’s insight on the best timeframes and options. He simply states that there is no limit to the amount of tattooing when the client is asleep. From an anesthesiologist’s point of view, what matters is the duration of time the client is under anesthesia.

For example, by law in the state of Florida, a client cannot be anesthetized for more than eight hours in an outpatient setting (surgery center). Any procedure requiring anesthesia for over eight hours must be done in a hospital setting. At Elite Anesthesia Ink, they provide anesthesia services for a maximum of eight hours. Alternatively, Bor stated that they can also safely and easily provide anesthesia for as little as a one-hour session. But when it comes to the payment aspect, Bor clarified that unfortunately, the logistics (for a one-hour session) are not profitable for their company financially. This is something he said they’re working on, but for the time being, they must charge for a four-hour minimum, the justification being for the logistics of the medical center and anesthesia team setup. It takes time to evaluate a client, obtain clearance, set up an anesthesia plan, have an anesthesia provider, recovery team, etc. As of right now, getting tattooed under anesthesia continues to be a luxury of the opulent.

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Safety Concerns and Precautions 

  1. Choosing Qualified Professionals: Anesthesia-assisted tattoo procedures should only be performed by licensed and experienced medical professionals, such as anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists, collaborating with skilled tattoo artists.
  2. Comprehensive Medical Evaluation: Individuals considering anesthesia for their tattoos must undergo a thorough medical evaluation to assess their suitability and identify any potential contraindications.
  3. Informed Consent: Prior to the procedure, individuals must fully understand the risks, benefits and alternatives associated with anesthesia-assisted tattoos, giving informed consent based on their own judgment.

The Importance of Proper Aftercare 

After receiving an anesthesia-assisted tattoo, proper aftercare becomes crucial. The recovery process may differ from traditional tattoos, and individuals must follow the given instructions meticulously to avoid complications such as infection or delayed healing.

During our interview, Bor commented that with regard to healing and amount of area covered, their establishment does not recommend, for example, a full-body suit done in eight hours. Bor continues that this would cause the body to have a challenging recovery with increased risks of stress, infection, etc. because the area that is healing is so large. Instead, they partner directly with the client, tattoo artist, and anesthesia team to decide the safest amount of ink/time per session. This decision is highly individualized and tailored to each client.

Furthermore, Bor explains that a tattoo is considered “an open skin wound” and that anesthesia IV sedation (the method they use) doesn’t affect the healing process and helps with pain management during the tattoo process. Elite Anesthesia Ink provides specific instructions for proper aftercare as well as what to expect during the healing process. Below are examples of recovery expectations:

   – Expect significant swelling, bruising, and tenderness for the first 3-5 days.

   – Use ice packs to help reduce swelling.

   – Take over-the-counter pain medication as directed to manage discomfort, avoiding aspirin which can increase bleeding.

These are just a few examples. If you already have tattoos, then you understand that these guidelines are exactly what you follow while healing any tattoo, showing us that going under anesthesia for a tattoo doesn’t necessarily affect the healing process as some have previously thought.

The trend of going under anesthesia to get a tattoo offers a novel solution for those who find the pain unbearable or have medical conditions preventing them from undergoing traditional tattooing methods. While it comes with advantages such as pain management and increased accessibility, the use of anesthesia in tattooing also presents risks and ethical considerations. Ultimately, the decision to pursue anesthesia-assisted tattoos should be made after careful consideration, weighing the potential benefits against the associated risks, ensuring the involvement of qualified professionals, and prioritizing overall safety and wellbeing.

A Glimpse into the Future


Prior to the late 1990s, tattoo culture primarily existed on the outskirts of the mainstream. A badge of honor amongst sailors in the U.S. Navy and cultural subgroups, as well as an artistically rebellious symbol of expression for curators of punk, metal, goth music, and more. Subsequently, during the 2000s, the painfully enticing trend of getting inked transcended emo, hip-hop, the NBA, Hollywood, and the corporate world. Near the turn of the 2020s, a number of tech companies began implementing inventive ways of tatting up their clientele with new software, 3D tattooing, eco-friendly methods, and more. In November, Blackdot, a tech company based in Austin, Texas, introduced the “V1 Device” as part of a game-changing initiative that also includes an online tattoo marketplace where consumers can purchase signature designs from entrepreneurial-minded artists all over the world. Blackdot’s V1 Device generates body art in high definition, utilizing an unprecedented technique that serves as a fresh alternative to modern wireless tattoo machines and traditional hand-tapping methods. The future is here. But, according to the company’s CEO/Founder Joel Pennington, it should not deter tattoo enthusiasts and artists who view the time-honored process as a rite of passage.

“Blackdot is not a substitute for the experience found by way of various traditional tattooing methods,” explained Pennington. “Instead, Blackdot offers an entirely different tattooing experience; it’s an interesting option for tattoo seekers looking for something new and forward-looking…The Blackdot device can be thought of as a futuristic stick-and-poke device whereby each dot that we tattoo is intentional…We use continuous suction for ink removal and are therefore able to tattoo without the need to wipe-think-tattoo-repeat.”

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Alongside Pennington at the forefront of the Blackdot technocentric movement is the company’s Chief Technology Officer Yan Azdoud. The pair of business partners met in 2017 after Pennington took on a mentorship role with a startup established by Azdoud called Project Canary. This experience gave Pennington an up close and personal view of Azdoud’s penchant for navigating scientific principles. It also sparked a resolution about how their ideals in the tech world could add a new dimension to the tattoo industry.

“After the three-month program, I debriefed with Yan Azdoud,” recalled Pennington. “Yan had a great deal of experience with hyper-elastic surfaces, medical devices, and mechanical design–he was uniquely qualified to help bring my vision to fruition.”

Shortly thereafter, Blackdot entered a developmental phase that lasted nearly half a decade. Two years into the stealth period, during the Summer of 2019, the company administered its first-ever tattoo on human skin. In addition to presenting Blackdot’s inaugural recipient with hi-res body art, Pennington wanted to ensure that the gift from his company also came with quality that would stand the test of time without the common necessity of tattoo retouching.

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“Our first human tattoo was executed on a gentleman named Chris Harvey,” Pennington said. “We then developed the first version of our automated tattooing device (the V1), followed by the commercially viable version we’re using today—the V1c… Blackdot is able to minimize the discomfort associated with tattooing. As for healing, we use a slim needle and do not tattoo deeper than necessary. We’ve conducted [more than 90] tattooing sessions over the past five years and have never caused bleeding or scarring.”

Today, Blackdot is fully operational with plans to expand to major U.S. cities like Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Las Vegas. In recent years, these regions have hosted some of the biggest live events in sports entertainment, from Super Bowl LVI, WrestleMania 39, and Rolling Loud to ComicCon, EDC, and the Met Gala. During his exclusive interview with Inked Magazine, Pennington floated the idea of teaming up with notable fashion lines to provide attendees at similar affairs with customized body art ranging from the song lyrics of iconic recording artists to Marvel Comics’ sketches and skateboard decks from old-school skaters. For now, shoppers can purchase their next tattoos at the company’s flagship location in Austin, Texas, or remotely through the Blackdot Certified Artist Program. The BCA allows online shoppers to survey Flyway designs drawn by prominent visual artists such as Tyler Hobbs and other notable creators.

Kevin Rose, a California-based entrepreneur, recently stopped by Blackdot’s headquarters where he became one of the first costumers to procure Hobbs’ signature Flyway design. The on-camera session depicted the founder of Revision3 resting comfortably in an exam chair while the V1 Device tattooed the image of three birds on his inner right arm. As for the founder of Blackdot? Pennington suggested that the next time he is under the V1 Device, he will get a tattoo that combines the love of his youngest daughter, Naiya, with his admiration for the Smashing Pumpkins. Pennington and his staff met up with Jimmy Chamberlin and Jeff Schroeder from the two-time Grammy Award-winning band in the Winter of 2022 after being given backstage access. 

“I found myself sitting on the couch beside [Schroeder], a Pumpkins guitarist,” Pennington said. “I struck up a conversation and eventually asked if I might show him some tattoo designs made by my young daughter…His favorite was the dragon holding the guitar. He let me take a photo of him holding the drawing and signed the back of it. Naiya would be thrilled. I looked up to see my team was already chatting with [Chamberlin]…They were discussing how he might potentially be able to help Blackdot…I later showed [Chamberlin] Naiya’s designs and asked him the same question. He also went for the dragon holding the guitar and signed the back of it. Naiya’s drawing of a dragon holding a guitar, affectionately referred to as ‘The Pumpkins-approved tattoo,’ is likely my next tattoo.”

Blackdot was made with advanced technology. But if Joel Pennington’s company grows into a well-known commodity, it will likely be due to principles based on diversity, where everyday people and his kids have input just like his business partners and favorite Rock stars.

Psychedelic Visionary Art in Ink


 

By Anne-Marie Pritchett

Alex Grey is renowned for his multi-dimensional depictions of the body, exploring anatomical, psychic, and spiritual forces. For nearly five decades, his art has centered on consciousness and psychedelic visionary experiences. Grey and his lifelong partner, Allyson, underwent a transformative mystical experience in 1976, shifting their perspective from agnostic existentialism to transcendentalism. They have since co-founded the Foundation for the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM), a 501(c)(3) charity, opened the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in NYC, an inter-spiritual art church, and erected Entheon, a stunning 12,000-square-foot exhibition of the finest original works of Visionary Art located in Hudson Valley. 

As a visionary artist somewhat on the fringes of contemporary art and connected with psychedelics and outsider culture, Grey’s association with the band TOOL changed the game for his art and career. More people came to know his work and began tattooing the imagery onto their bodies. We sat down with Grey to discuss inspiration, transformation, and innovation in the ever-emerging world of psychedelic art. 

How has your art transformed over the past five decades? 

I have often used human anatomy as the basis of my art. The body is the conduit through which consciousness is experienced. The mind is formless and invisible, except to the clairvoyant seer or tripping psychonaut who perceives multidimensionally, viewing the light-body flashing its chakras, auras, and thought forms. Transcendent spirit can be symbolized as light, tunnels, and expanses of eyes as the ultimate symbol of consciousness. Infinite eyes represent infinite awareness. 

 What was the first inspiration behind the TOOL album covers, and how did your visions for them evolve over time?

 Adam Jones, lead guitar, visionary artist, graphic designer, and filmmaker, asked me to collaborate on the album art and then the animation for Lateralus. He wanted to create anatomical overlays, as seen in health books, printed on clear vinyl. Some of my previous art featured the flaming eye, so the symbol came to me as I was trying to visualize “illuminated consciousness” woven into the anatomy of the figure. The heart, the hand, and the throat are three eyes/centers of creative expression. Adam designs each album as a TOOL.

 For the 10,000 Days album, Adam called when I had been working on the Net of Being for over a year. It had not been published anywhere, so I sent a picture to Adam to propose it as a possible solution to the album cover art. He loved it. For the Fear Inoculum album, Adam inquired again as I was developing studies and a maquette for my twelve-foot by eight-foot painting, The Great Turn. Computer graphic animation helped me visualize the final image. The way the video became part of the innovative package was pure magic for this Grammy-winning album.

 What’s important to you that someone captures in a tattoo they get of your work?

 That the tattoo artist works very carefully and offers the best possible translation of the painting onto the skin is my highest and deepest wish for anyone’s tattoo. I reverence tattoo collectors and artists of my work, and I pray that they will offer the same sacred respect for my artwork. 

 Allyson and I and the CoSM crew are fully engaged in raising funds to complete Entheon with a sculptural countenance of monumental faces that will wrap around the entire outer Entheon structure. Tattoo artists and collectors who earn their living using my work might consider making an offering/donation to CoSM to help complete the Sanctuary of Visionary Art. You would be part of helping build something together. We ask that tattoo artists and collectors provide us with a good photo document of the piece, and please email it to [email protected]. A wall of the TOOL Shrine in Entheon is dedicated to honoring myriads of tattoos (and even a few scarifications) of my artwork and symbols. Gratitude to all the amazing folks over the years who have committed my art to their skin.

 What’s the best tattoo of your work that you’ve seen?

 Some of the full-body tattoos are outrageous and inventive. Saw a few cute butt tats. The head tats are next level. I can’t say the best one because there have been so many. 

 Net of Being has become so iconic. What does it mean to you when you see it tattooed on someone?

 Well, it means that they are part of the great net of beings! And they probably love TOOL!

 

 Tell us about Entheon and the Portal, and walk us through the exhibition.

 Entheon exhibits the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, plus many significant works by myself, notable art by Allyson, and artwork by accomplished contemporary visionary and psychedelic artists. First-floor exhibits include the All One Gallery Inaugural Exhibition, the TOOL Shrine, the Psychedelic Reliquary with display relics that include the glasses that Dr. Hofmann wore when he discovered LSD, the ashes of Ralph Metzner and Timothy Leary, and historical artifacts and ephemera related to the history of psychedelics. 

 The second and third-floor galleries exhibit the CoSM Collection of works by Allyson and myself, identifying our common subject as Transcendental Light. The Chaos, Order & Secret Writing Gallery features artwork by Allyson. Progress of the Soul Gallery presents a selection of my paintings that “x-ray” multiple layers of reality, while the Performance Gallery shares video and photographic documentation from selected pieces, including Prayer Wheel, Living Cross, Goddess, Meditations On Mortality, Wasteland, and Burnt Offering. The Great Hall features the largest and most transcendental of our paintings, including Cosmic Christ, Net of Being, and Godself.

Electro Man_scan, 6/7/18, 7:43 PM, 8C, 7686×9558 (312+360), 100%, Default Settin, 1/12 s, R79.7, G34.7, B49.3

 How does someone begin to stimulate awareness of their vital sources? 

 Learn to meditate. Psychedelics may help catalyze your awakening consciousness, but consider the risks. Many of us have taken psychedelics without guidance, and it has been enlightening and turned out fine. But if you question your mental stability, have personality disorders, or have a history of mental struggle, seek a guide before self-medicating. We are fortunate to be entering an age when treatment is readily available, and even psychedelic psycho-therapy is becoming accepted.

 What are you currently working on—any new pieces/collections you’d like to share?

 Allyson’s and my drawings and paintings continue to evolve. We have long-collaborated on a 35-foot-long mural called Stardancers that we intend to complete this year. The most exciting project on our horizon is completing Entheon by creating and mounting the building’s sculptural outer “faces.” Those who would like to participate with us in building a Visionary temple can say a prayer for its realization, become a member of CoSM, attend a CoSM event, make a contribution, and buy a beautiful object or work of art from CoSM Shop on the CoSM site or online store shop.cosm.org. All proceeds coming our way go toward sustaining CoSM and taking this next creative step. 



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