Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Regrets, I’ve had a few…

November 24th, 2008 by

The single largest problem posed to modern tattooing isn’t technically or even artistically based, it’s a philosophical one.  Today it’s possible to find artists that can render photo-realism and surrealism that was thought to be impossible as little as ten or fifteen years ago.  We’ve come light years in aftercare and disease prevention with the implementation of universal precautions and cross-contamination prevention redundancies that border (or transcend) the compulsive.  So what, you may ask, is the greatest threat to modern tattooing?  You are.  Anyone with a tattoo really, even good ‘ole wildo.

I’ll never forget when Pamela Anderson declared that she got Hep from a shared tattoo needle (though Tommy, the sharer, denies having the disease) and I had to answer questions regarding that assumption for months in the shop.  What about Angelina’s ‘Billy Bob’ or Johnny Depp’s ‘Winona Forever’?  Tattoo regrets by celebrities are well documented and publicized.  While I don’t think that the die-hard tattoo collector is at all influenced by these revelations, these aren’t the people I’m worried about to begin with.  I’m more concerned about the first time the right pastor’s/councilman’s/lawyer’s kid gets a crap tattoo and some self-righteous jackass takes it upon themselves to start a one person war on tattooing in some small town.  It happens.  So we should all do our best, beyond the obvious reasons, to avoid tattoo regrets.

The logic behind this is that anyone with a tattoo, good or bad, becomes an ambassador for the art.  As such, I’ve tried to be conscentious in regards to how I deal with people who don’t like or understand tattoo;  and I’ve done my best to prevent situations where I believe customers, coworkers, friends, and strangers (anyone reading this) that could lead to tattoo regrets.  Simple things like stay out of dirty shops and avoid tattooers you don’t get along with, don’t get joke tattoos or lovers’ names, these are easy suggestions that almost any laymen can tell you.  What they can’t tell you is the world of hurt you’re in if you get a tattoo that you’ll hate in three years.

So here’s how I do it.  #1. Hypothesis: I come up with an idea for the tattoo.  this is usually an abstract idea more than an image initially, what do I want the tattoo to convey?  I then start to build a reference file for images that I feel depict this subject matter, it may be a hundred pictures that I will snipe aspects of like lighting effects, perspective, or other compositional aspects.  It may be one picture that’s perfect and ‘says it all’.  #2. Experimentation:  I decide what the best location on my body will be for the tattoo and begin working on placement and flow elements, as well as how to best incorporate the new piece with existing work (color with color and black and gray with black and gray being a good rule of thumb).  #3. Documentation and amending of the original hypothesis: Based on my own spatial limitations I can have some difficulty integrating what I had originally planned on, it’s at this point that I must decide on whether to abandon the original artwork or continue refining it in order to have a complete project.  #4.  Wait:  I have quite a bit of coverage and some places that are already dedicated to other future pieces so real estate has become pretty valuable in my case.  I would hate to get a tattoo that I didn’t feel was the best selection for me just because I had ants in my pants, so I wait.  One year from the time I decide to have the piece done, if I haven’t changed my mind or found something better I get the tattoo.  This will seem like a long time for some of you but you must realize that during this time I can refine the piece even further, distilling it down to its core, falling in love with its meaning and purpose.  It’s also during this time that I locate and decide on the artist I want to perform that tattoo.  I rarely get tattooed twice by the same person anymore, preferring to explore different artist’s styles and personalities.  This works nicely if you have the cash to travel and pay top dollar for the work, but I’d never diminish the value of finding a single artist to dedicate yourself to.

These steps have given me peace of mind and a great deal of satisfaction with the work I’ve received.  They work, plain and simple.  For those who haven’t developed a similar strategy I would strongly encourage you to do so.  Figure out what tattoo means to you and discover the personal truths that lie within this artform.  Doing so will bring you greater happiness.  I tend to liken this image of the ‘tattoo ambassador’ to people who own pit bulls (which I do.)  Even though you didn’t sign up for it, your involvement through ownership puts you in a position of scrutiny.  Those of us who behave irresponsibly will make it harder for the rest of us, so we all need to be conscious of our actions.  This is the philosophical crux of the tattooed:  noone lives in a vacuum, so act accordingly.  Of course I’m writing in generalities, but I think we should all be aware of this in order to reduce and eliminate persecution and discrimination against the tattooed.  I hope this finds you in good health.


Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.