In this three part post, I thought I would talk about tattoos, because I love them, I have them and I am just about to get another!
What I REALLY want to attempt is a very simple, very straight-talking guide, to getting tattooed. I’m not just talking how to get what you want, what you should expect and how much you should pay, I’m also going to be brutally honest about how to be a good customer, how to trust your artist, and whether you really should be getting that tattoo at all!
The ‘before’ steps…
REALLY WANT A TATTOO?
Just ask yourself ‘why?’. Why do you want a tattoo.. disregard what the design is for a second, sit and think long and hard about that shit being permanent, and then ask again, why?
A lot of people wouldn’t expect me to say that. A lot of people want me to go ‘oh hey yeah, get tattooed, it’s the best ever’. But here’s why I won’t do that…. The only answer to the question ‘why?’ should be ‘for myself’.
Any reputable tattooist would never coerce or persuade you into getting tattooed, and any good friend wouldn’t either. Put simply, if you are asking the artist, or a friend, five minutes before the needle hits the skin ‘do you think I should get this?’ then you absolutely shouldn’t get it. You need to be 100% sure in your own head, without seeking approval first, that this is what you absolutely want to do.
WHAT SHOULD YOU GET?
By golly, this is a difficult one. Chances are, if you have no idea what to get as a tattoo, you really need to leave it be for a while, and wait until the inspiration comes to you. Don’t try seek something out just for the sake of getting it tattooed, I speak from experience, that you do not want to be left with two hearts’n’crossbones on your hips because you just wanted SOMETHING.
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with getting a GOOD piece of flash tattooed. (Flash is the name given to the sheets of designs that hang in tattoo artists studios). By good, I mean a well sourced, well researched piece of flash. If you know what you like, chances are you know which artists flash to look for, and if you know who you want to get tattooed by (usually because you already like their style), there could be a piece of flash by them just waiting to adorn your skin. Generally though, it isn’t a great idea to walk into any old studio and just pick something. Do your research!!
I can’t tell you what to get tattooed, I can tell you what I think works, and what doesn’t work, what I think will be timeless, and what will date in five minutes, but ultimately, it’s up to you, and my opinions are just that.. opinions. I am no authority on tattoos, I don’t claim to be and I don’t want to be, but I won’t deny that I am somewhat informed.
You should probably avoid anything fad-like or something that will only be significant in the very near future. ‘Fashions’ in tattoos come and go, and have never made any sense to me. A tattoo is a very personal thing, so getting something because a celebrity has it, or a lot of other people have it, really isn’t a good reason.
There are a myriad of different styles of tattoo.. black and grey, traditional American, Japanese, realistic, abstract, bio-mechanical, tribal, new school… the list is pretty much endless, and it’s your choice, and ultimately yours alone as to what you want BUT….
TRUST IN YOUR TATTOO ARTIST!
If you have done your research carefully, and have chosen someone because you value their artistic vision, have faith in their technical ability and totally adore their work, then please, for the love of whatever god you do or do not believe in, just LISTEN TO THEM!!
If you have picked a truly great artist, then your tattoo artist knows best in terms of design, and the technical aspects of your tattoo. They know how close the lines can be, so it doesn’t turn into a blue blob in five years, they know whether something will look confusing if you try and add too many elements, they know that most of the time, subtlety can work wonders. If you disagree with anything your artist is trying to tell you regarding the design or technical elements of your tattoo, please don’t demand the tattoo ‘your way’, instead go away and think about it, or source a different tattoo artist to realise your vision.
I will mention here, that I realise if you have been looking at a design you want that you have seen on the internet, or in a book, or that a friend has drawn for you, that you will most likely want it to look EXACTLY how it does on paper. I can promise you though, that is not practical.
Many tattoo artists have to politely explain to customers that getting a design exactly as it appears on paper, or exactly how it was drawn by someone who isn’t a tattoo artist, isn’t a good idea. Put simply, your tattoo artist knows how a design will flow with the curves of your body, they know what kind of line thickness will be needed to achieve the best results, and they know how big and detailed they are physically able to go with something without it looking weird. Please be open to interpretations of your design, and work with your artist to create something that will really work on your body. I guarantee you, you will love it more than the original image!
HAVE A DECENT BUDGET
I am not about to tell you how much your tattoo should cost. I would never, ever attempt to do that. If you are totally new to getting tattooed, and you are worried because you have no idea what a reasonable price is, do your research and find well trusted, technically great artists to look into. Any decent artist would never hike the price up for a new customer, it’s bad for the industry and bad for their business personally, every good tattooer will quote you a reasonable price from the off.
I have had many conversations with people about the price of my tattoos, just as a hint though, it is a very rude question to ask someone.. you are essentially saying ‘how much money do you have?’.
There’s a saying, that translates perfectly to what you can expect for your money from a tattoo artists price quote. ‘Cheap work ain’t good, and good work ain’t cheap’. Be prepared to spend good money on that thing you so desperately want on your body forever, or you will quickly regret it!
Oh, and please understand.. Paying a deposit is not only normal, but extremely important. Your tattoo artist is committed to giving you the best tattoo they can, they need to know you are committed to getting it. Pay the deposit, don’t be difficult about it, and expect that if you cancel without adequate notice you will lose that deposit.
Please bear in mind that you are not just paying for the time it takes for the artist to expertly craft that tattoo into your skin. You also pay for their experience, their years of learning and knowledge that is being used to create something beautiful on your skin, the hours it takes to research to perfect reference material, the faffy task of placing orders for supplies, the lack of social life because of their dedication to the craft, the draft after draft of design, custom made for you, and the time taken to create a final drawing, which leads me onto..
DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR DESIGN
No one likes to be awoken at 1am by text message, when they were just trying to sleep. I’m pretty sure tattoo artists don’t like it either, but I know it happens. Don’t be that customer who texts, emails and calls into the studio, weeks before your appointment, to ‘have a look’ at the design.
Tattoo artists are busy people, the chances are, they haven’t even thought about your final design yet. A lot of artists draw up final designs just a day or two before your appointment. I appreciate this tattoo is important to you, but your artist has other clients, and is constantly working, they will get to your design when the time comes. This doesn’t mean they don’t care, they are simply doing their job.
If you need to constantly ask to see the design, this means that trust we talked about earlier isn’t there, and you need to re-think whether this is the right artist for you. Talking of re-thinking…
DON’T BE A NO-SHOW
Think about how long it’s taken on this blog post, for us to get to this point, and I still haven’t even mentioned anything about what happens when you actually get tattooed. Now imagine that all these things we have been through on this post, have actually happened and you have been planning, and have booked in, your tattoo. It can be a fairly long process, a fairly long and sometimes scary process, but it would be a great shame to spoil all the build up now by not showing up for your tattoo.
There are many reasons people don’t show up… fear, lack of funds, family disapproval, unable to get time off, etc.. but there is NO excuse for it (aside from maybe sudden hospitalisation or violent illness, but don’t lie… that shit’s just plain wrong)
Every tattoo artist would rather you let them know the very second you decide you won’t be able to make it, and also the reason. If you are scared, an artist would rather have the opportunity to put your mind at ease, and still be able to create that beautiful artwork for you, if you are broke, you need to suck that shit up, forget your pride, and be honest. Whatever the reason, you simply HAVE to tell them if you can’t make it.
Not turning up to your appointment is the equivalent of your work phoning you to say they don’t need you to go to work, and they won’t be paying you. Tattoo artists have rent to pay, they pay bills, they have to feed themselves, they also may have families to support, projects to fund or simply nice things they are saving up for. Please remember that!
If you let your artist know with enough time to spare, they may be able to move your appointment, instead of cancelling it, they will be able to book someone else in, so they still earn money that day, and most importantly for you, you won’t lose your deposit.
You’re almost ready for your tattoo! In part two, I will talk you through what to expect at your appointment, how to behave in the studio, and how to make the whole experience really enjoyable for you and your artist! Stay tuned, and if you have any questions for me, please ask!