My Art as Ink, My Skin as Canvas

I invited Brantwijn Serrah to provide a guest post for this blog to help celebrate the release of kINKED which includes her story, “For the Occasion”

My Art as Ink, My Skin as the Canvas

by Brantwijn Serrah

My mother had a rather amusing shitfit when I came home with my first tattoo. My dad gave me a good old slap on the back. This was not a gesture of approval. My back was where the tattoo was.

We all had a good laugh about it in the end, but only, I think, because I assured them the very simple, small cross on my shoulder blade was the only tattoo I was ever planning on getting.

Ten years and five more tattoos later, I think about where I’ll be putting down ink next.

Each tattoo on my body connects to my identity as a writer and the stories I’ve written (or my lifelong worship of little feline gods, but they are inevitably wound together with everything I do, anyway).

I lay down ink on paper. I take ink into my skin. I’m a creator, and a canvas, for myself. I designed a labrys tattoo for myself after publishing Lotus Petals. A figure of runes when The Pact made it past the editor’s first read. A semi-colon worked into the symbol of my fictional angel of life. A cross for the first book I ever wrote. A pair of stargazing kittens for me and my sister, my longest and most loyal supporter, beta reader, content advisor, and fan. Five cat’s paws—one with an extra toe—for my constant, magical “mewses”.

I love wearing my art, and not just in a literal way. I love the story coming together on my skin. The map of my worlds, which is, over time, extending over and between the individual symbols, to become a greater overarching tale of its own.

So what’s next? The cross, that original, initial design which got me started, feels like it’s ready for an upgrade. It started like my writing career itself started: a symbol of faith, explored in a long and very personal novel I will probably never publish but still keep close to my heart. My faith grows, though, and has grown in new paths symbolized in new ways as I write and publish more. At least two characters within my worlds have developed into personal reflections of the importance and character of my own spiritual beliefs, and I think it’s time to work those details into the once-so-simple tattoo.

There’s also the matter of the yet-unfinished fae tattoo, a commemoration of my Four Courts series. Tradition has inspired me to celebrate new tales with new ink, but upon the publication of Goblin Fires I wasn’t able to do so. The Goblin Fires tattoo has been a long time coming, a long time taking form and changing form and developing new imagery in my mind, and I think it’s time to honor the story as I’ve honored the others.

The tattoo for Lotus Petals and the other stories of Rhiannon Donovan also needs a bit more embellishment. The world and the characters have grown and flourished; I think the tattoo needs a little alteration to show that, too. What is right now only a few pink petals meant to symbolize lotus flowers or cherry blossoms may soon have to bloom into full flower, as the stories themselves now are.

My art is not only words, and the place of my art is not only in my journals and notepads and sketchbooks. My tattoos reflect a multi-faceted image of myself. Looking back now on that day I came home with my first, fresh tattoo, I realize I never intended to allow the symbol, one symbol, stand for all of me. Some day, the total composition is going to represent how much that first cross meant on the path to self-acceptance and self-celebration, and how it then lead to a bigger, more complex tapestry of my entire identity.

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