why that tattoo pain chart is meaningless.

I’m sure most of you have seen this image, or a similar one,  floating around the internet by now:
10557382_10152123344372126_495203462800773378_n

I’d like to point out that these images aren’t really telling you the whole story. As I’ve posted about before, several times, placement is only one of many variables that will make a tattoo hurt more or less. I’ll begin here just by saying- your frame of mind, your health, and your general attitude about the tattoo matter more than anything. Tattoos, generally speaking, don’t hurt very much. If you have had waxing done, if you’ve ever broken a bone, if you’ve ever had road rash or a bad cut…you’ve been through worse than a tattoo. You can do this. It’s on the level of…a beesting, a cat scratch, an annoyance.

But let’s take this chart for a minute, at face value- and just talk about areas where tattoos may hurt more or less.

The first thing to think about is your own personal sensitivities. Are you ticklish? Do you have previous injuries (even long-healed ones) in an area? Do feet freak you out? If you have any kind of area-specific thing going on in your mind or body, that’s going to affect how you feel while getting tattooed.

Then, there’s the idea that joints and areas with thin skin will hurt more. This isn’t necessarily the case. A tattoo on the side of the neck seems like it should be the worst thing ever, by these rules. Hell, in the image it’s a red zone! But in the image the center of the neck, the throat, is the red zone too- and those two areas feel very different. See, the only areas where you really have a big cluster of extra nerves are the

  • hands
  • face
  • genitals
  • solar plexus
  • throat
  • nipples

Everywhere else on your body is pretty much the same, as far as the sensitivity of the skin itself. Now some areas also have bone or underlying structures without much padding of muscle or fat. For some people, these areas are EASIER, for others, HARDER to get tattooed. It all depends on what kind of pain you dislike the most. If a deep throbbing or any kind f pressure just slays you, then areas without bony structures are going to hurt more- areas like

  • stomach
  • sides (below the ribs)
  • side of the neck
  • inner arm and armpit
  • inner thigh

if, for you, a stingy sensation is the worst thing, but you don’t mind pressure very much, you’re going to have a hard time with areas that have muscle right under the skin. Areas such as

  • lower back
  • top of shoulder
  • deltoid/front of arm
  • tops of thighs
  • calves
  • buttocks

Now if you don’t mind stingy feelings, and throbbing and pressure are no big deal, but you don’t like the feeling of papercuts or slices or the like, you may dislike bony areas the most. It seems to me that most people feel this way. This means that to at least some degree, the image has a few areas properly labeled for someone like that. The areas that would hurt would be:

  • ankles
  • hands/wrists
  • feet
  • collarbones
  • center of chest
  • shoulderblades
  • spine near center of back
  • ribs
  • kneecaps/elbows

Your body’s size and shape and composition matters too. If you have a lot of fat deposits, your hips may not be such a bad spot. But areas underneath rolls might hurt more, as they’re less exposed to sensation and touch in general. If you’re big and muscular, areas with tightly-stretched skin might hurt more- meaning a calf, one of the places the chart says is EASY, would be more painful to you. If you are scrawny and bony, areas with visible tendons may be the worst.

All of this talk of pain is so variable that you almost can’t pin it down and make any sort of universal chart.

Now let’s talk about where this dumb and inaccurate chart actually came from.

 

Something you can do, though, is make a chart showing areas that are the hardest for the artist to work on. This chart looks almost exactly like that “pain” chart, and versions of it used to be used in shops to show which areas would cost more than others for the same design. I have a sneaking suspicion that some client, at some point, saw this pricing chart and assumed we charged more for “hurty stuff”. This is not the case.

In fact, in some shops, the pricing system was worked out by square inch and placement, not by time. In the Before Times many shops would have all the available designs and flash up on the walls with prices attached. Nearby would be a chart exactly like the “pain” chart, saying, “areas in red cost $20 more, areas in blue $50 more” or something to that effect. This was not done because of how much those areas hurt the client- it was done because those areas are harder for us to tattoo.

acetate with square inches marked off.

acetate with square inches marked off.

So you lay that clear sheet with the inches marked on it, over the tattoo design. Any square containing ANYTHING counts. You have your minimum price, then you add however much per inch. So a shop with a $50 minimum, 20 per inch, a tattoo that is 2″ costs 90 bucks, base price for the easy-to-tattoo zones. Now you go to the chart. You want it on your wrist? Price goes up by ten bucks. You want it on your ribs? Price goes up by thirty bucks. And so on…This is one of the old ways of pricing tattoos, and strangely enough it often works out almost exactly what a tattoo would cost hourly. Those expensive areas just take longer so the time is extended anyway. Also, some areas are risky to us so they cost more.

If I am working on an area that is difficult to reach, my chance of a needle stick goes up. Slippery, sweaty areas are especially scary this way. If I’m working on an area where the skin shifts in response to ANY movement by the client (like ribs and center chest, for example) then I’m going to have to work harder to pull a straight line, to get things even and perfect. This extra work translated to extra pay, based on a chart like this one.

It had and has nothing to do with how you, the client, feel during the tattoo. The original of this color body chart is simply a  pricing guide for tattooers, not anything to do with what you will feel during a tattoo.

 

handy pricing chart used in some older studios.

handy pricing chart used in some older studios.

If I were to make a chart about the actual pain? I’d simply put a blank body form and have people print it out and color it in.
Put red any place where you are sensitive to tickling or have any kind of weird feeling about being touched. Also any place that folds over, where the skin touches itself and is rarely exposed to air or touch.
Put blue on your genitals, hands, and face- AND on any area that has a previous injury, even a healed one.
Put yellow on any place that is often exposed to touch and friction, that has a lot of exposure to air and sun.
Put green everywhere else.

This is your personal, very own pain chart. Everyone will have a different one. Unlike the tattoo artist’s perspective, where all armpits are pretty much the same to work on, the perspective as a client will be totally individual and unique.

Here’s a few stock images you can color in.

fat-slim-woman-white-background-30620793 Posture Template 1woman

 

 

Oh yeah- you’ve probably seen this garbage floating around as well. It’s crap, and it’s demeaning to you guys who are my clients, and I hate this kind of shit. Strangely enough I don’t have too many clients who pay no taxes or go to prison. There’s some slut-shaming in there too. What a load of crap.

tattoo-locations

 

(for a great article about pain and tattooing in general, my friend Deb wrote a great one here)
(for a chart to figure out how much of yourself is tattooed, you can look at matt gone’s awesome post about this here.)

weird ways people have found this site, and their quick questions.

2008, work gear.

2008, work gear.

It’s time for the yearly list of weird searches that have brought people here, and questions that I can answer in a few words.
I can see search terms that people have used to find my site so every year I trawl through them and find the ones that make me giggle- or the ones that are simple questions I can answer. This year was a good year for this.

4 reasons why tattoo clients can’t be “stolen”

will bodnar, cicada tattoo, anji marth, high priestess tattoo, at tattoo conventionI was having a conversation with someone who mentioned that they tried to keep artists at their shop from “stealing” clients from the shop, or each other. It really disturbed me, and here are a few reasons why (I hate writing in list format)

4 reasons why tattoo clients can't be "stolen"

will bodnar, cicada tattoo, anji marth, high priestess tattoo, at tattoo conventionI was having a conversation with someone who mentioned that they tried to keep artists at their shop from “stealing” clients from the shop, or each other. It really disturbed me, and here are a few reasons why (I hate writing in list format)

Dying is easy, life is hard

if you don’t like spoilers or are too fragile don’t read any further and avoid the comments.

ethel the actress

this dog was not harmed in the making of this death scene

I usually only watch horror films, spiced with the occasional psychological thriller,sci-fi indy film, or action flick. So recently when someone asked me what my favorite death scene was, from a movie, I first piped up with an obvious one from one of my favorite horror movies.

“No,” she said. “I mean for the impact it had on you. Not for the plot to advance.”
I had to think hard. I mean, very hard. There are so many deaths in the movies I watch, you see, and yet most of them are plot devices, not seriously meaningful beyond that. Not the kind of thing that affects me, really. I mean, even when I watch emotional movies, I don’t get very emotional, and I’ve never cried during a movie (books, yes. movies? no.)

So after a few days of deep thought, I’ve made a list. There are a lot of spoilers in it, and if you don’t like spoilers or are too fragile to handle knowing the end of something don’t read any further and avoid the comments. I’m serious, I’ll just delete comments complaining about spoilers. 

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Mandala, or mandorla?

karmic eye

mandala

I want to talk a little about why I paint and work with mandorlas rather than mandalas.

A mandala is a circular pattern, sometimes used ritually, which is built on radial symmetry. Each section of a mandala will be the same, drawing the eye into the center.  The eye moves into the middle distance, being drawn past the paper or surface and off into what it perceives as a distant center. This is subconscious and happens because of the radial symmetry. We’re accustomed to seeing lines of perspective radiating from the distant horizon in art, so our eye interprets the center of a mandala as being far away (even if the artist has used every means to make it come forward at us, visually).

I think this is all fine and dandy. But-

mandorla

 

Mathematically speaking, a mandala is based on the circle, a single-edged shape. They are often meant to represent wholeness or unity. A triangle has three edges, a square four, and so on. Each of these shapes, symbolically speaking, have their own meaning- their own particular use. For example, the pentagram has been used as a symbol for humanity. Arms, legs, head- making a five-pointed star. The symbolism of triangles with fertility (mother, father, child) or some kind of trinity of gods, is common. A square is often used to represent a church, an institution, the law. The circle, used as it is to represent oneness (since it is a shape constructed of one line) is well known among many religious traditions.

The mandorla? It’s really only used as a backdrop. As a containing symbol for other objects. I think, though, that it can stand on its own. It’s less often used, less the subject of an image, than a circle or a triangle. Hell, even seven-pointed stars are more common than a two-sided shape. Why is this?

I was going to write something helpful today…

praying mantis shadowbox with teethI had planned to update my old post about lettering for tattoo art (because I’ve learned a lot since then)- but then…

today I looked over what it costs me to keep my websites up ad-free. two hundred bucks a year. It’s a lot, maybe too much. every year it takes a chunk and I always wonder if it’s worth it, that’s money I will only have if my car repair is cheap and I don’t go to the dentist. You know? That’s two months of internet and phone. That’s a doctor-bill payment.

The ads wouldn’t pay me anything, this is a non-commercial site, and I’ll never MAKE money from it. Even if I downgrade and allow the ads- they won’t pay me anything. This site is considered “adult content” so I can’t have any google ad network ads on it- and even if I did, my numbers would pay out maybe five bucks a year. Then there’s the content of those ads the hosting company would run, they’d be for crap I don’t endorse (THANKS GOOGLE YOU JERK) like tattoo schools (SCAM), unlicensed equipment (WTF), etc… and all it would do is lower my cost yearly to around thirty or forty bucks if I let them run them.

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5 big mistakes people make when planning their tattoos (and how to avoid them)

Comments welcome!

1. Putting the cart before the horse (trying to get art together instead of finding an artist first)

owl tattooYour most important decision isn’t going to be the art itself, but the artist you choose to apply it. Before you even start putting together any images, you should start looking for an artist to do the tattoo. Most people assume they have to come in with some kind of finished piece and then hand that to just any artist, and they will get a good tattoo. This is pretty much backwards!

Look for a tattoo artist whose work you like, who works in a shop with a decent reputation, and who shows interest in your idea. The best way to do that is to simply search online, plugging in the name of your area or region and “tattoo artist”. Or, alternately, ask people you have met who have tattoos that you really like. Word of mouth is a good thing!

Choose the artist by their work. If they are doing tattoos that you think look awesome, it doesn’t matter if it’s the same subject you’re looking for. For example, if you want a bird on you, you don’t have to look for someone who can tattoo a bird. Every tattoo artist can and will tattoo a bird- it’s the WAY they will tattoo it, that you need to think about. Look at their STYLE. Do you like it? Not your mom, your partner, your friends. YOU. This will be your tattoo. So if you like their style, that’s what matters.

You can usually send an email to an artist or contact them online and present your subject matter to them, and see how interested they are. Sometimes your idea is fine but not exciting, and that’s ok…but sometimes you get lucky and the idea you have is one that THAT particular artist would really love to work on, and that’s always a good thing.

Once you’ve picked out a tattoo artist, go have a consult with them. They will make the art for you, as part of the tattoo process. Seriously. Finding an artist whose vision you trust means you don’t have to pay anyone else to draw for you.

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Attention is the currency of the internet.

I’m paying attention to you for a moment.

I’ve been trying to express this for a while now. For some reason, it’s very hard to explain; I can’t quite grasp the right words to get my point across.

Websites that provoke, they just want traffic, and they get it by being intentionally offensive to you. A site that is poorly built so that you have to click around to find the one thing you went there for? Each time you click it counts as “traffic”.

When you share, or repost something you find horrible or rude, it creates more links to it- making it more relevant in searches online, so that even more people get to find it.
Let’s say you have tattoos, and have just read an article saying that people with tattoos are scumbags.
Don’t link to that article, repost it everywhere, talk about it, give it attention- because it makes that result rise higher in searches for “tattoo”, you see?

Instead, write your own opinion. A rebuttal or explanation. And link to that, talk about that.

And for people wondering why e-commerce sites don’t fix things since they “want our money”…THEY DON’T WANT YOUR MONEY. (especially if you are a seller, a user, and not a buyer)
They want your TRAFFIC, so their stock value goes up, so their ads and affiliate links pay them more. They want you clicking on their site, that is all.

No matter what the site does or if there are ads or not, attention is the currency of the internet, and clicks/hits/views are how that currency is measured.

And if you find something you agree with, that you like- well hell, share that link. Reblog, follow, add, share, twit, whatever it is that you use or do- share the good things around.

I’m through paying out attention to things that don’t feed my mind and to derivative shit.

Spend your attention wisely. ( Jun 6, 2012)
(Reposting to add, I’ve found donotlink helpful in my efforts to spend my attention wisely.
http://www.donotlink.com/dnl/faq)

 

 

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

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.

fff

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.

nooo

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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