Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Indie Ink Runs Deep: Kyle Mitchell and Spirtless But Actually Not


Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....


Today's ink story comes from Kyle Mitchell, who's recently released an illustrated collection called  Spiritless But Actually Not

Indie Ink Runs Deep: Kyle Mitchell

I’d still like to get a face tattoo but my mom paid me $400 in 2018 to promise to never. And $400 is $400. I was planning on getting “God is dead” in German tattooed across my left jaw, like Gott ist tot.

I truly, truly regret making that promise. Anyway.

Fast forward to summer 2021, I was lying in bed debating driving myself to the emergency room. My hand was swollen like a goddamn softball. Why?

(Also, I want you to envision this—like, literally, a softball. I was like, this has to be an emergency. But then I fell in love with capitalism all over again, thinking about how I have no medical insurance, I can’t afford the inevitable amputation. Panic, sleeplessness.)

Allow me to explain.

I tattooed my hand.

Am I a tattoo artist? No. Of course not. I bought a tattoo gun off Amazon for like $80 and it came with some pretty ink from China.

I took a ballpoint pen to my left hand and drew a pyramid getting split by lightning. (It’s a tarot card—the Egyptian depiction of card 16—the Lightning Struck Tower, indicative of cataclysm and apocalypse (two things I like).)

I then tattooed over that ballpoint pen—and hilariously I did everything correct. Like, sanitized everything. Trying to avoid, for example, a medical emergency.

But what I didn’t realize until I was lying in bed that night, literally having a panic attack—my hand the size of a SOFTBALL—I tattooed my fucking tendon. Like the tendon that connects your middle finger to your hand, that runs along the middle knuckle.

I shoved that needle so far into my skin that I tore up the actual tendon lying beneath. I went through the skin.

(And how do I know it was the tendon? Only because the pain was acute and excruciating, far more than skin deep. But I am, in fact, not a doctor…)

A normal, professional tattoo artist of course doesn’t even really go all that deep. There’s a sweet spot. I just wanted to make sure that the ink stuck, you know; I ran over that red lightning bolt a hundred times until the blood and ink were indistinguishable.

I find it hilarious, in retrospect. Took like 7 days but the swelling went down. I’m fine.


Kyle Mitchell grew up in Arizona. Existential exhaustion beneath panoramic sunsets, unable for one's life to place the mystery of it all.

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