Lynne Ingersoll got her first tattoo at 45.
The artist “tried to suggest a kitten or a little flower, something feminine,” Ingersoll says.
But she was looking for something else and ended up with a lion. For the retired librarian from Blue Island, that started what she describes as an “addiction” that has left her with 11 pieces of body art.
“Most of my ink is big cats and lately wolves and foxes,” she says. “I’ve always seen animals as my totem.”
Ingersoll says her tattoos give her “a connection to the natural world. Especially now, with so many species going extinct and habitats being overrun by humans, in a way it’s a means of honoring those animals.”
She got her latest in August, a big cat with wings and piercing eyes that appears to creep along her forearm, representing the Egyptian feline goddess Bastet.
“She’s the protector of women, which seemed appropriate,” Ingersoll says.
Bastet and six of Ingersoll’s other tattoos were done by artist Rick Villarreal, who owns Ricasso Artworks in Blue Island.
Tattooing older clients can be “a little intimidating,” Villarreal says. “They’ve been around the block. But then I’m honored because they’ve chosen me to do the artwork.”
Ingersoll says her ideas can seem “complex” until she sits down with Villarreal and talks them through.
For one piece, Ingersoll was thinking of having a big cat and a “spirit wolf” among grassy reeds and a crescent moon. Villarreal gave it a realistic feel, fine line details in the branches and twinkling stars.
“For her to keep coming back and trusting me with her artwork is awesome,” Villarreal says. “And, I mean, she’s a hoot.”
Ingersoll says some of her other tattoos honor people in her life who have died — including a friend who introduced her to tattoos.
“We’d been friends since kindergarten, and, when she died, it was shocking and very difficult,” Ingersoll says. “One of the many things she and I shared were tattoos.”
She also got the names of her sister and a former long-term boyfriend.
“It’s honoring them in my way and, for me, keeping their memory alive,” she says.
Getting inked for more than three decades, Ingersoll has some advice for anyone considering body art: “Be aware that there’s meaning to whatever you choose.”
From the start of her body art journey until now, Ingersoll says she’s seen the stigma surrounding tattoos fade.
“Some people are never going to accept it, and that’s fine, but people shouldn’t make assumptions about those who do get body art,” Ingersoll says. “It can seem foolish, but I think, in many cases, it’s thought out. Or, at least, in my case.”
Ingersoll isn’t sure what her next tattoo will be — or whether there will be one.
“In a year and a half, I’ll be 80,” she says. “Maybe I’ll think of something for then.”
A Sun-Times series on the stories behind body art.
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