ART + SOUL
SOUL Ink: Andrew Stinger
September 28, 2016
ay Area instructor ANDREW STINGER takes us through some of his favorite tattoos and what those particular markings mean to him...
First tattoo you ever got?
My first tattoo is a bumble bee on my left shoulder blade.
What made you get it?
I got my first tattoo when I was 20 years old and in college. My last name is “Stinger,” so I thought it’d be cool and went to get it with some friends. My parents almost disowned me on the spot when they saw it.
Did you always want tattoos?
I was pretty “square” in high school. I did so many extra-curricular activities that they had to trim down my list to fit it in the yearbook my senior year. I wasn’t the most gifted athlete, but I ran all three seasons (Massachusetts offered cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track) and carried a heavy load of AP classes while working as a waiter. I worked hard to make my parents proud and fit the “rule follower” mold pretty well... until I got in my car by myself, cranked up the radio and busted out to whatever punk rock, emo or grunge I could find. (Okay, and sometimes to *NSYNC or country music.)
So did music influence your decision to get a tattoo?
My brother did a great job exposing me to the grunge and punk rock of the early '90s (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Green Day, etc.) and I think the aesthetic always stuck with me. Somewhere inside, underneath all these collared shirts and “yes ma’am”s was a little rocker trying to break out!
And here you are, rocking the podium! So tell us about your most meaningful tattoo.
On my bicep, I have a sailing ship with the words, “Disturb Us Lord” underneath it. The tattoo is a nod to the Prayer of Sir Francis Drake. The poem/prayer continues:
Disturb Us Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little
When we arrive safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore . . .
The words help me push forward with my chin up. If things are good, I’m reminded that sometimes I have to step a little further in courage to find things that may be even better. And if things aren’t going so wonderfully, I’m reminded that the tides and winds and seas change, and that I can learn something on the “rocky seas.”
That's beautiful. Do you have a favorite tattoo?
I have two tattoos that I got on separate occasions with my dear friend, Colleen. Colleen is simply one of those people who always shows up at the right time (with a hug, a michelada and/or tickets to go see our favorite high school emo band on tour).
We each have a riff on the traditional sailor’s swallow, which acknowledges a great journey traveled. Colleen has known me through so many seasons of life (she even came down to NYC from Boston to take one of my community rides during SoulCycle instructor training!), and I’ve known her through at least three hair colors, so it’s nice to remember the journeys taken in life with a great friend.
Several years later, we also got matching compass tattoos. In the moment, we picked the design because we really liked the concept art my artist in California had drafted. Afterwards, we had a moment where one of us (I forget whom) looked at the other and said, “Hey... I guess if you ever feel lost in life, you get to know that I’ve got your compass and will help you find your way.”
Tell us about your most whimsical tattoo.
Frog and Mouse homies!
I spent almost 10 years working in tech in various sales and consulting roles. One night, while out to dinner in Tokyo, colleagues from Singapore and Australia were asking about my tattoos (which they’d noticed when I rolled up my sleeves). After relating a few stories, one teammate proclaimed, “Sh** Stinger! You’re really deep, man!”
A few weeks later, I found myself drawn to the whimsical drawing of a frog and mouse walking side by side that Skylar at Polished Tattooing in San Jose had posted to his Instagram. I knew in a heartbeat I loved the design, and that it needed to come with me as a reminder not to take myself too seriously!
Skylar found the image in a photo book of British Sailors’ tattoos from the 1890s. So as far as I know, there’s no hidden meaning in the image. We’ve decided the frog and mouse are walking home after a long night working at the pub they own together (mouse is the jovial line cook in the back; frog is the grumpy bartender).
How many do you have now?
I think 16?
Are you planning on getting more?
I always say, “Okay... I’m good now.” The longest that’s lasted is eight months, so...
We look forward to your additions, then! So how do your tattoos describe you and your personal story?
I’ve always known these things I’m putting on my body are permanent, and I’ve been good with that. I like making a commitment and sticking to it, so the general concept of a tattoo speaks to that inclination.
Most of my tattoos have been done by the same artist, whose neoclassical aesthetic reminds me of the opportunity to refresh old things or change old perspectives. Several designs are rooted in faith-based concepts. While I probably won’t be winning any awards given out by a church, I think it’s important to have a foundation of belief and to be open to sharing it (perhaps literally wearing it on your sleeve?) and having conversations about it as your beliefs evolve and deepen.
Also, I don’t know what it says about me, but all of my tattoos are on the left side of my body. There’s probably some subconscious “good side/bad side” or “rage/love” dichotomy at work there.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering a tattoo, first time or otherwise?
1) Be sure to get what you really want, and
2) Don’t go thinking you’re a unicorn because you have a tattoo.
Regarding number two: Estimates range from 20-40 percent of adults having tattoos now. So, get a tattoo because it means something to you, you really dig the artwork and you’re ready to commit to it for your whole life. DON’T get a tattoo to shock people, piss off your parents or impress your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance/spouse/barista.
As for number one: Print a picture (or the words) you want tattooed on you and tape it somewhere you’ll see it regularly for a month or more, like your bedroom mirror. If you’re not sick of seeing it after 30+ days, you might be okay getting it permanently imprinted on your body.
Also, don’t expect to just walk into a tattoo parlor and get to work right away. Some designs may be too intricate for the size you want; some artists may want to offer an alternative interpretation of your design. You may have to make a deposit and come back later to actually get the work done. Throughout this process, don’t be afraid to share your opinion and DON’T RUSH THROUGH IT.
Anything else to add?
Yes: Tattoos hurt. But just like a solid SoulCycle class, why let temporary pain or challenge get in the way of something that’ll make you feel good for years to come?
Photography by Andrew Stinger