Tattoos go deeper than skin: student feels ink is part of her


Kayce Stevens / Hilltop Views

Elyssa Koog shows off one of her many tattoos. She uses designs she finds online and puts her own twist on it.

Junior social work major Elyssa Koog wanted tattoos for a really long time.

“There used to be someone who had a lot of control over my life who told me I couldn’t get them,” Koog said. “That’s kind of what pushed me to do it.” Koog now has six tattoos.

Each of Koog’s tattoos have a meaning, but she doesn’t hold on to the meanings behind them super tightly, and that doesn’t discourage her from getting them.

“I think it’s realistic to assume things may or may not change in regard to the meaning or story behind my tattoos,” Koog said.

Right before Koog got her first tattoo, she was no longer in contact with the person who had told her she couldn’t get them. Since then, they are on better terms.

“That person now plays a very different role in my life,” Koog explained, “because that was a temporary situation, it’s not exactly what the tattoo means anymore.”

One of Koog’s tattoos is a scarab beetle with an emerald inside that she drew herself.

“I got my beetle tattoo when I was going through a goth phase,” Koog said. “Even though it’s not my style anymore, because it’s art on my body, I think it’s still beautiful and I love it even though it’s not exactly what I would get now.”

Koog doesn’t believe tattoos have to have a super deep meaning. Instead, she views tattoos as a way to display art.

“I think tattoos are like the highest form of art appreciation. You love the art so much that you’re putting it on your body,” she said.

One night, Koog saw a drawing that an artist from San Antonio posted on Instagram and loved it so much that she decided she needed it on her body. She contacted the artist and ended up driving to San Antonio that night to get the art piece tattooed on her.

Koog has let the artist decide where most of her pieces should go because she recognizes that they have a conception of what will flow with your body best. As a result, she’s been able to see for herself how her tattoos are a part of her rather than separate from herself.

All of Koog’s tattoos were either her own design or a pre-drawn design that the artist retired after it was tattooed on her. She’s passionate about her tattoos because she knows they are personally and uniquely specific to her by not being on anyone else’s body.

“Unless it’s a very common design, the tattoo is something that either the artist or client or both wanted individually, and a lot of them are very personal,” Koog said. “If someone else were to get them tattooed on themselves, that’s like somebody stealing art.”

Tattoo theft is a fear of Koog’s. Her advice to others who see a tattoo they like is to take it to an artist and say they want something similar, but not the exact thing.

“It gives you something personal and your own at that point,” Koog said.