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What can you do with a bad tattoo?

Posted by Anj Marth on 07/17/2014

BEFORE, with marker drawing on top of old tattoo.

BEFORE, with marker drawing on top of old tattoo.

AFTER. old tattoo is no longer visible.

AFTER. old tattoo is no longer visible.

If only there was an eraser that worked on skin! All those past relationships and bad decisions would be so easy to forget.

Unfortunately, laser removal is the closest thing to the magic eraser, and it is expensive and painful.

Getting a coverup is a common solution. Here are a few easy things you can do to make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice-

Pretend you have no bad tattoo. Imagine a peaceful world in which that tattoo never even existed.

Now, picture a good tattoo on the area.

What does it look like?

Hint- it will NEVER be a current lover’s name, or the same as the old one, and it WILL be bigger than the bad tattoo.

Got it? Good. That’s your goal. Keep that image in your mind throughout these steps.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Your new tattoo will be larger than the old one.
  • Your new tattoo may cost much more than the old one.
  • You may need to get areas removed with laser, or tattooed over more than once.
  • Your new tattoo doesn’t have to be all-black, or very very dark. It just has to be planned properly.

instead of covering up an old tattoo, sometimes you can repair it. If you like the subject of the tattoo but not the execution, this is a good option.

Find an artist. Look at every tattoo shop and website you can find. Shop around- at shops. Don’t go to someone’s basement or home to get tattooed. Look at professional artists only. It will cost some money, since coverups take longer to do, but it will be worth it to get rid of the old mistake. A professional artist who likes to do cover-ups or repairs will take the time to work with your already-existing work; they may send you to a laser removal specialist to get certain areas lightened (much cheaper than total removal), and they can make the old tattoo disappear under the new one.

Look at all the portfolios you can, and pick up a few tattoo magazines. Who is doing something that is similar to the style of your imaginary, new tattoo?

Try to find someone whose work resembles what you’re picturing as your new tattoo. Don’t look at the subject matter, look at the style. Look at the color choices, placement, and way of drawing.

If you like it, it is good. This is your personal art collection, and your taste is all that matters.

Talk to an artist. For coverups, you will most likely have to go in person to the studio and talk to the artist. Ask them if they enjoy doing cover-ups or repairs.

Getting a firsthand look at the problem is the only way to really plan a cover-up. Listen to what they have to say; take it into account. They cover up old tattoos often and will probably have some good advice for you about your particular situation. If they tell you something isn’t possible, listen to them. If they give you advice about ways to hide the older piece, pay attention.

Coverups must usually be much larger than the old tattoo. They also must have at least some areas of shadow to hide any pre-existing dark areas. Tattoo inks are translucent, and a paler color will eventually let a darker one underneath it show through. This does not mean your coverup has to be all black.

“Tribal” designs are actually a very poor choice for a coverup design, as they rely on areas of smoothly curving negative space to be attractive to the eye. The negative space is empty skin, and usually it takes a lot of work to coordinate this negative space in a design with what is already present.

You will not usually find a design ready-made to cover up your tattoo. Remember, it can come up through lighter colors. Your artist will have to draw something specifically designed to hide your previous work.

This may take time, so be patient. They may want to trace the area so they can use reference to draw on at home, or they may suggest freehand work.

floral tattoo

cover-ups don’t have to be dark!

Freehand coverups done by good artists are the best solution to covering up an old unwanted tattoo. By drawing directly on the skin (drawing is done first with marker, then tattooed on) the artist can take into account the form of the old tattoo, as well as your anatomy.

The most important step in the entire process is finding the right artist. Look for someone you like, whose art you admire. Try to find an artist who enjoys not only coverups but also really appreciates the same kind of artwork that you do. Since all coverups are custom tattoos drawn by the tattoo artist, make sure the artist you pick has the same kind of taste you do.

Coverups can be very expensive. Tattoo artists know that if you had valued your personal canvas, and their artform, you wouldn’t need one! Be sure to tip well when getting a coverup done. Most artists spend more effort and time drawing for coverups than they would drawing an original tattoo, and most don’t charge anything for their drawing time. Be aware of this extra work they’ve done and tip accordingly.

You can’t get a coverup on the spur of the moment, unless it is so tiny that it’s hardly visible to begin with. You’ll have to plan in advance and think quite a bit about your new tattoo. Hasty decisions are the reason coverups exist in the first place, so take your time and do some research before you buy.

Getting a coverup may limit your choices in some ways, but the subject matter is still wide open. Knowing that it may have to be darker and larger should not keep you from getting a tattoo you can be proud of, and if you find the right artist you may even forget the old tattoo was there. If you have an idea of the subject matter you want, you can find a way to make it work, as long as you find someone who is capable of tackling the job.

Posted in clients, coverups, female tattoo artist, oregon tattoo artists, questions, repairs, tat zap wizard, Tattoo, tattooing, you | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

why does everything have those three lines and/or dots in it?

Posted by Anj Marth on 07/08/2014

I always use three lines/three dots on anything I do. Sometimes they’re front and center, the focal point of the art, and Sometimes they’re obscured- hidden in the backdrop or repeated in a pattern so as to be less noticeable.

I began doing this because of the greek character Ξ, Xi. There’s a few layers of meaning there, and all of them combined made me interested in the symbol/shape, and that interest led to me using it as a part of my signature for a while. After that it migrated, getting further detached from my initials, and becoming more a part of the artwork. And from there it just sort of infiltrated every piece I make.

Back in the 80s-90s I was really interested in mindhacks and psychedelics and pTv and related art and music.

I did some work with sigils. I’m not a believer, not even agnostic, but I do know that our subconscious is a strong force, and that affecting it, changing it, tinkering in there, can bring some odd results. Working with visual symbols is one of my ongoing experiments- using an eye as the main focal point in a painting that is smaller and might be stolen from a gallery (even the most abstract eye affects the behavior of the people around it- see this study for details) or using hands, in various gestures, to suggest action to the viewer.

So while I have an abiding interest in all these things I am not any kind of believer. I do entertain the idea that Jung may have had a good point about how symbols and visual cues lead us, and have an impact on our lives, so it’s always been my effort to find ways to incorporate these things, at least subtly, into my work. The three lines/dots is a personal symbol, though, which I use in my art to influence MYSELF. So in the sense of it meaning something to the viewer, maybe- it’s done intentionally as a prompt to myself while working, though.

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Posted in art, artwork, deep thoughts, geek, interview with the artist, motivation, original art, painting, pictures, posts with links in them, questions, tarot deck, true stories, you | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

the struggle to decide; prints or not? downloads or not?

Posted by Anj Marth on 06/27/2014

(originally published Published on: Sep 5, 2013)

I always struggle with the question of whether to make downloads of my work available, or prints. In one way, I hate doing it, because I like the idea of something I made with my own hands going to your hands, as it is, with no other stuff there. Then I realize some things.

  • If I was a musician, I’d sell records, not just perform live.
  • I can only make so many original things, in so much time.
  • I’d like to be able to earn enough from my art to make it worth the time and energy (see footnote)
  • I have to eat.
  • Many people want to be able to enjoy my work but couldn’t afford the cost of an original.
  • I can’t manage shipping and storefronts online and promotion for all of that, and STILL HAVE TIME FOR MAKING THINGS.

I will take these point-by-point.

shirtsIf I was a musician, I’d sell records. I’d want more people to enjoy my work than I could perform for in person. I’d want people to be able to take me anywhere with them. If I was a writer, I’d print books of my work. I wouldn’t expect people to only access my work through attending readings, or by buying the hand-written manuscript. I’d want my work to be accessible, something people could enjoy.  I also would maybe still sell the manuscript, or some signed first editions…but the books would be published, out there, even on a kindle.

I have two hands. If I work the equivalent of fulltime hours, I can make maybe four things, of substandard quality, in a week. I can make maybe one or two things of good quality in a week. I can make one great thing a month. Now…how much is minimum wage? Should I set all the art aside and get a job at McDonald’s? Because if I can only sell a piece of art one time, mcdonald’s will pay better, and maybe I should set this art stuff aside permanently and get a real job…I can only make so much stuff with my own two hands. But if I sell prints and let people download the works, I can post it – set it and forget it. I can sell those while I am busy making other new things, and can continue to make money from a piece for years sometimes, long after the original is sold or destroyed.

I love making art. I spend all my time making things. I do have to eat. So therefore I have to charge money and sell my work- my choice is, work a job which takes all my time, and rarely make anything, or sell my work at a reasonable price and live off that money. I love making art. The process of actually making things, well, I will do that no matter what. I’ve had my Kafka years, working fulltime then coming home and putting in another eight hours painting. But my work wasn’t as good. And I had no time to show it to anyone. I need the time to show my work- to scan it, photograph it, share it, post it. If I don’t make any money from a piece, I’ll still MAKE the piece- but I will not spend the time posting it and discussing it and sharing it with you, or with anyone. If I was lucky enough to have inherited wealth maybe I’d have that kind of luxury, but I don’t. I wish I did, really.

EPSON MFP imageAnd yeah- YOU GUYS are broke too! I mean everyone is hurting. Being poor shouldn’t mean you can’t enjoy or own art! I want to make things accessible to everyone as much as possible. So- digital downloads. Most people have a printer- or access to a library with a printer in it- and can pay me a few dollars for a file, take it there, pay a buck or two to print it, and hang it up. Prints are next in line- the quality will be better, professional grade, the print will last longer, years even. Limited run? Why? It seems like a waste of time, of energy. I put my initials and a number on them and they’re magically worth more somehow? No. I do handpainted prints though- the next higher price things- and those are fun. I can take an hour and embellish a painting I already did- make new details on it, play around. The buyer gets something unique, like an original, and I get to play…

I spend maybe an hour or two a day online writing copy for my work, explaining it, discussing it, sharing technical stuff, writing, posting, and keeping track of what has sold. I spend another hour or so every day taking photos, scanning, fixing the damn scanner. And another hour every other day packaging stuff to mail out, trying to keep track of what goes where. I am not good at any of these things. They are REAL WORK, hard work I don’t enjoy very much. I’d rather be actually making things. So this work- I need to streamline it, make it as handsfree as possible. Selling originals is difficult. I have to post it everywhere, and hope the right person sees it, and then once it’s sold, do it again, the entire process, from documenting the work to explaining it to answering questions and pricing it and packing it and shipping it. All that work has to be done completely from scratch, every time I sell an original.

A print? I scan it, touch it up, post it, and it’s done. I can leave it there, just like that, for years. People can buy it a year later, without any additional work from me. It’s what they call a secondary income stream, and as an artist working alone I NEED that to happen as much as possible. It frees up my hands for making more better things. The digital downloads are the same- even easier, in fact. There’s no parameters to set, no material-checking, no worrying about quality control. It’s set and forget.

EPSON MFP imageSo, in order to be able to make more and better art, and in order to live, I sell originals, downloads, AND prints of most things. I charge people a tiny bit extra if they buy an original and only want me to do a limited run of prints. I charge A LOT extra if someone buys something and wants me to make no prints at all…for example, A painting I make- the original is a hundred bucks. I will probably (if it’s a good painting) make another two hundred off of prints and downloads of it over the course of a year. For me to sell ONLY THE ORIGINAL and still pay my rent, I have to charge three hundred for that original, now.

Should I do that? Sometimes I want to. Because I love the idea of something I made with my own hands, being in YOUR hands, with nothing in between us. Also because I like originals myself. But I can’t manage to, or figure out how to, promote myself well enough to always sell my originals, let alone for three times what I have them priced at now. So unless a magical fairy of promotion comes and makes me famous or rich, without charging me anything or requiring more of my time to work it…I will keep selling prints and downloads, of nearly everything I make.

I love you guys. Those of you with two bucks, and those of you with a million. You’re all people I like, and I want you all to be able to touch and enjoy my work.

Posted in artwork, complaints, deep thoughts, ethics, how-to, interview with the artist, money, original art, other media, painting, politics, posts with links in them, prints, questions, stuff for sale, you | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Things your tattoo artist doesn’t tell you. (Part Two)

Posted by Anj Marth on 01/06/2014

hourglass and candle tattoo

hourglass and burnt candle. two things.

Part one is here.

You can only get one tattoo at a time. I can only do one tattoo at a time. I know you have ten things you want to put into a tattoo- but that’s ten tattoos. And we can only do one thing at a time. Each important concept should have its own singular tattoo.

Most of  the time, you can pick two things. One object and one word or phrase. Two objects. And a color or mood for the background. That’s the limit, pretty much, for coherent, cohesive art on the skin. How big or small the tattoo is doesn’t really matter too much, with this. Good tattoos have flow, and are good to look at. Adding too much subject matter to any one space usually ends up terrible.

You have six siblings and you want to get a tattoo that represents ALL of them. So you think of six tattoos, and then ask us to somehow make that into one tattoo.


You can only get one tattoo at a time! If you need a tattoo for each of your siblings, I am sorry but you will either need to pick one thing that represents all of them, or get six tattoos.

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Posted in clients, complaints, deep thoughts, female tattoo artist, questions, Tattoo, tattooing, true stories, you | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

burning my face off

Posted by Anj Marth on 12/23/2013

full (16)I love fire. I was afraid of it as a child, but as I grew older and began to challenge myself to other new and frightening experiences, I decided it was time to meet flame and make a connection with it.

A few years ago, in the middle of a bad relationship, I watched my lover breathe a huge fireball. In a very unsafe and exaggerated manner. But Oh! it was beautiful, billowing out of his mouth. I was hooked. I learned through friends who had been doing it more carefully-to look up into the sky and send the breath with the flame, to sputter just right so as not to splatter, to use the right fluids…to wet down my hair and tie it back, to clear the area first…all the standard precautions. I began to breathe fire often, at most occasions, dancing under fireballs at parties, on the beach, even alone, in the desert, on a solitary road trip. Just to see it dancing. Just to feel the glare on my face.

I love fire.

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Posted in brag, health and safety, interview with the artist, journal, oregon living, personal, pictures, questions, true stories | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Three things I miss about 1989.

Posted by Anj Marth on 12/15/2013

tumblr_llv78nlRaH1qepg0fo1_500I miss watching Female Trouble a few times a week.

It was the first movie I had ever seen that completely acknowledged how I felt about life, that made perfect sense to me. It was reassuring in all the right ways and it influenced my speech, my life in fact. It made me feel all right about being a xenophile, and being unable to fit in. We were strange people and the world shit on us regularly- and somehow this movie made it all ok, because it meant there was a whole world of other strange people out there, and they all had been through it and survived. 

And yes, it came out in 1974- around when I was born(ish). But I saw it in 1989 and that for me is the era I associate it with, being that I was only a toddler when it was made.

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Posted in geek, hobo, interview with the artist, journal, learning, love, old school, politics, posts with links in them, posts with lists in them, questions, true stories, videos | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

the 6 worst pieces of promotion advice for artists, and the real solutions.

Posted by resonanteye on 12/12/2013

After countless suggestions of sites to use for promotion, I’m starting to realize that several things do not help at all:

1. Selling on more sites, adding more print-on-demand stores, or more marketing profiles.


When you ask most people “how should I promote my art?” you will often get well-meaning people, telling you “you should sell at *printsite*!” or “are you on *marketsy* site yet?” or even “maybe you should sell them on *auctionworld*!”  “Do you have a *deviantshit* profile???” It’s as if they purposely misunderstood your question! “But I already sell on *somesite*!” You protest. “I already have a *americanartprints* profile, do I really need to be on *shirthoarders* too?”
You know, and I know, that you already ARE selling your work on a site like these. There is already at least one site out there with your work on it, for sale, clearly marked prices and all. What you need isn’t TEN MORE OF THOSE, you need PEOPLE TO GO TO THE ONES YOU ALREADY HAVE, and spend their money on your work. Yet asking how to do this never gets that kind of response! This is because most people have one or two sites they have heard of, vaguely, or bought something from once, and so they assume- if you are asking how to promote, it’s because you don’t even know where to list shit.

Most people aren’t trying to sell art. They’re buying it. So yeah- if ten people suggest *randomprintplace*, you should check it out, maybe. Because you already know ten people shop there. But be wary of paying for a bunch of shops or profiles on these sites, because they usually don’t offer much return. (If you DO need to know which sites to sell on, you’re not ready to promote the art yet. concentrate first on listing it, a lot of it, all in one place. I like redbubble for print-on-demand and squareup market for direct sales of originals. )

2. Writing in-depth or posting art directly on social media sites instead of your own.


I keep my favorites to the left.

Let me guess- you post your work to facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram, googleplus, wanelo, weheartit, pinterest, linkedin, and maybe even a few dozen other places like this. You’re exhausted. You put off making stuff because you spend way too much time in an endless round of liking and sharing and pinning and chatting with people who never buy a damn thing. Then you get caught up in talking to friends and family, and somehow the day is gone and you actually didn’t do anything you could call “work”. I know. OH TRUST ME I KNOW. Then you go look at your own site, your own blog on your own domain and there’s only like two views. Ghost town. Well, of course it’s a ghost town! You don’t live there, you live in social networks, and you don’t invite anyone there- you talk to them on facebook!

How many people on there do you NOT know? How many people on there BUY things from you that way? I know I get sales to previous clients or friends on these sites sometimes, so it’s tempting to post there a lot, and spend time interacting, and all that…and call that “promotion”. But it’s not, really. It’s not work-related, it’s not promoting, if you do it that way. It’s either time spent with friends hanging out, or you’re just creating content for free so someone else can make money off of your work.
How social sites work, you see, is that people who make things and write stuff, they post these things on that site. That site then slaps ads everywhere and rolls in the dough. If they find out they can charge you to post your work too, they will. They’ll take the ad money YOU and YOUR WORK attracted, and ALSO charge you too. Without your work and your writing and your time spent there, THEY DO NOT MAKE MONEY FROM ADS or datasharing or…or any money AT ALL. YOU ARE PAYING THEM TO GET PAID. There are solutions to this, which will be in the next section (if you click through)

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Posted in artwork, complaints, deep thoughts, how-to, interview with the artist, money, posts with links in them, posts with lists in them, questions, stuff for sale, tech, you | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

6 reasons to post your art online (even if you’re nervous)

Posted by Anj Marth on 12/11/2013

shy owlI know, you’re shy! It’s ok, so am I.

Posting your art online can feel very exposing, much like a gallery show. Posting it to social media or other sites can feel scary; and a lot of the time the fear of negative response keeps people from presenting their work online. You don’t have to be afraid, though. Yes, you may get negative responses to your work. You may get criticisms, or even personal jabs at you. But there are benefits to posting online  that definitely outweigh the emotional turmoil these things can cause.

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Posted in artwork, learning, motivation, posts with lists in them, questions, you | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

ACEO and mini paintings.

Posted by Anj Marth on 12/10/2013

I’m still not quite sure how I feel about working so small. I do like the idea of people without a lot of spare cash being able to own my art, though. So with a little nudge from some friends, I decided to paint a few.

I had done a few mini deer paintings before. I’m thinking of doing more- does anyone collect tiny art? What sizes do you like? I don’t even know how much to price things at, that are this small.

Do you paint mini-size, or ACEOs? What’s been your experience with them? I find it really hard, because for things like this I usually use a round nib on an ink-dip pen, and had to use such a tiny nib- also I am accustomed to doing BIG soft washes, so switching down to tiny-brush-size felt a bit odd too.

I suppose I will wait and see how much people want them too, before I make up my mind!

Let me know in the comments, if you have any thoughts about small media. I have a few more tiny frames for new ones.

Posted in aceo, art, deep thoughts, original art, painting, pictures, posts with links in them, questions, stuff for sale, Tattoo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »


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