Chance McKinsey – Tattoo Story

I wanted something simple for my first tattoo, and settled on my astrological symbol in the middle of a tribal sun. While looking for artists, I became inspired to start planning out my next, oh, dozen or so tattoos and found myself scribbling constantly in my sketchbook. One day, I banged out four tribal looking symbols for the elements: earth, wind, water, and fire. I was so pleased with the results that I immediately 86’d the idea of getting anything else.  And then, I found Dawn.

Dawn was a corporate graphic designer for ten or fifteen years before waking up one day and realizing she was unhappy. She quit her job, bought a motorcycle, and became a professional female bodybuilder and a tattoo artist. She told me all this to distract me while she inked up my chest, getting my attention most when she was going over the tender collar bone area. I was so inspired, I never forgot her story and repeat it to myself every time I worry about not knowing what I want to do with my life.

For a week afterwards, I wore button-down shirts so I could periodically rip them open and break into the Captain Planet theme song. Really, the symbols are just there as reminders of the love and awe I feel for the power of nature.

My most recent, and probably my favorite so far, are the words on my right forearm, “It’s always something…” I’ve always been a big dork, most of which I attribute to my mother and to my obsessive love of comedy in movies and TV. Saturday Night Live reruns were a staple growing up, and Gilda Radner was always one of my absolute favorites. Her character Roseanne Roseannadanna used to tell outrageous stories and conclude them with “It’s always something.” To me, it just means not to take things too seriously, because nothing and nobody is perfect. You’ve got to have a sense of humor about it all, or you go nuts.

My second tattoo was the wave design on my left arm. I was a water baby and have always found myself drawn to water, whether it be puddles, lakes, rivers, fountains, the bathtub, or the almighty ocean. The beach has always kind of been my happy place.

The hourglass on my left arm was next. I had the hourglass shattering, the top half carried away by blazing wings as clouds of the sand swirled in the middle.   loved the concept, and felt very much that it symbolized where I was in my transition at the time (the very beginning pretty much.)   wanted to much to break away from my past, to start something new, but I also wanted to hold on to the important things that had shaped me. That’s why I left some sand in the bottom half of the hourglass. The rest,  I scattered to the wind.

I added on to this just a year later, adding the turquoise and purple smoke, peace sign, stars, and the quote “Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici” (Latin for “By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the Universe”). I was big into the movie “V for Vendetta” at the time (it’s still in my Top 5) and have always been a bit of a hippie, growing up just 10 miles from where Woodstock took place in 1969. In the long run, I’m hoping to turn it into a ¾ sleeve with several elements from Greek mythology’s Garden of the Hesperides.

Then came the sugar skull on my thigh. I was in college and working at a Ben & Jerry’s that was located right below a tattoo parlor. I became easy friends with the tattoo artists and piercers upstairs through master smoothie and shake blending. One day, I jokingly asked my buddy if he’d give me a free tattoo before he moved to Atlanta, GA a week later. To my surprise, he said, “Sure, I’ll give you a free tattoo, but I get to choose what it is.” My jaw dropped, I started to stutter, but eventually said, “Holy shit, I was just kidding, but if you’re not kidding, then I’m totally not kidding!” He then asked how I felt about “a skull, and a rose, and a switchblade.” I remember laughing and declining the switchblade, then suggesting a sugar skull, which was only then starting to get going again in pop culture. The night of my 21st birthday, I got my free ink.


Live in San Francisco and have some ink you’d like to show off, or are a tattoo artist who just finished a really cool piece? Contact me about a shoot. I’m always looking for people with creative and interesting tats to work with.