I’ll be here today and tomorrow! Vegas people, desert people, now is your chance. xox
(originally published 07/04/2012)
I was reading both a blog post, and some forum posts, about the state of tattooing this past week, and had a startling realization.
There are tattoo artists out there who have never worked in a studio without being asked about a TV show.
The demand for tattoos, good tattoos, and the number of people tattooing, makes this a completely different subculture than it was when I started out.
Does this mean the magic is gone? Am I no longer a wizard? Did reality TV really eat the soul of tattooing?
Maybe a year or two ago I would have said yes, and ranted for a while about it. But right now- No. I don’t think the soul is gone, we are still wizards, and the magic is still there, and as potent as ever.
I will be at the Laughlin Tattoo Convention in late april.
I will be in Eugene at High Priestess – Downtown from May 2-8.
I will be back in Seattle at Laughing Buddha Tattoo and Body Piercing from May 11-16.
my books are open now and I’m already starting to schedule. Go HERE to get a time in the schedule!
I really like foot tattoos. I think they can look great, and it’s a good place to get a smaller tattoo done. That said, there’s a few things you should think about when you decide to get tattooed on your feet. First of all, there’s not a whole lot of room, so you’ll have to pick one idea, and keep it pretty simple. Any more than that and the inevitable spreading and wear-and-tear on the ink will make it indecipherable very quickly.
So next, make sure the image has a good amount of contrast. Edges! Soft stuff won’t hold up as well in the long run, and while you can get away with that in other areas, the feet aren’t the place to gamble with.
The next thing to think about is healing. When you get your feet tattooed, you’ll have to go without socks, and wear only shoes that do not directly rub against the tattoo while it heals. So if that means you can’t work, wait until you have at least ten days off in a row, to allow for the skin to settle down. Also, feet can swell a lot, so be prepared to elevate your foot the next day, and maybe even ice it.
Placement is super important too. It’s pretty obvious where the skin changes from regular skin to that wrinkled, shiny kind of skin that you find on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The areas that are very shiny or wrinkled won’t hold ink very well at all, at all. So plan to get the tattoo on the top of your foot, not out onto the sides very far. While you CAN tattoo back near the achilles tendon or off to the side a bit, it simply won’t hold as well as the normal skin on top of the foot does.
To keep your foot tattoo looking good for a long while, after it’s healed (according to the aftercare your artist gives you) then be sure, in summer, to use plenty of sunscreen or wear closed/covered shoes over it. Feet get a lot of sun and you might not even think about it! Sun is the biggest destroyer of tattoos. So cover them up or give them a good layer of screening to protect them.
The internet has so much imagery in it, it’s understandable why you’d want to use it to find good ideas for your next tattoo. But there are a few things to watch out for, and a few things you definitely shouldn’t do.
When you have no idea what you might want, it’s really tempting to just start googling “tattoos” or “tattoos for girls” or something, and look around at what other people have. There’s nothing wrong with this; this is a great way to get ideas, seeds of ideas. You have to be careful though, because these tattoos belong to other people. Either they belong to the tattoo artist or the wearer, one or the other, no exceptions.
They own them.
So, yes, use the images online of other people’s work to get ideas for subject matter or placement- but not as an exact thing to get tattooed. There are reasons for this; ethically, it’s theft for the tattooer who ends up doing your tattoo. They don’t get to really do their best work, because you’ve instead asked them to steal art from someone else. Legally, it’s also theft. The original artist who drew and tattooed it owns the no-shit actual copyright to that tattoo. It’s plagiarism and is considered theft.
You can bring in these images as ideas, as things you like the style or subject of- but you shouldn’t try to get someone else’s tattoo exactly copied onto your own body. I think everyone is entitled to their very own tattoo, and I think artists are entitled to be paid for their work in drawing and designing the tattoos.
The best way to use the internet for tattoo ideas is to follow the advice here, and use the internet to find the artist that did an awesome tattoo. That way you can go to them and tell them “I liked this piece you did and want something like it” and you will get exactly that, without any ethical problems. You find the artist you want first, then figure out the art with them, this is the very best way to get a very good tattoo done. (this applies to big or small, extensive or simple tattoos.)
If you bring in someone else’s tattoo and the artist is willing to steal it, they probably are not very skilled to begin with. Good artists won’t steal. Copying someone else’s tattoo is really, really a dick move. It makes you a thief, really and truly it does. I promise that if you find a tattoo artist whose work you love, they will do a MUCH better version of the idea for you, that will suit YOU and not some other random person you’ve never met. Find the tattoo artist you trust, whose work you love, and you won’t have to copy someone else’s tattoo to get something awesome.
Note that while this applies to other people’s tattoos online, it doesn’t work the same way for art in general. If you see a painting you love, and want tattooed, contact the artist who made it and tell them you want to get it tattooed on you. A large majority of artists will just say yes, go for it, or at most they will say “buy a print first please then go right ahead!”
There are very few artists in this world who object to people getting tattoos of their work- but you should always ASK first anyway, because the artist owns that art. They own it. They own the rights to it, and using without permission is stealing. This applies to paintings, photographs of flowers or wild animals, every image has an owner. There are exceptions (copyright-free websites, tattoo flash that your tattooer has paid for, etc) but things that you find on google are NOT NOT not free for the taking. Those images all belong to somebody. If you can’t figure out who the original artist is, ask your tattooer to help you out. A lot of the time we can find out for you.
If your tattoo artist has flash on the walls of their shop, or books of images for tattooing, it’s because they paid for the rights to tattoo those images. This means they’re not stolen, they’re totally fine to choose from.
For tattooers, take your photographs so that the tattoo is seen at an angle or so part of it is obscured. Use a strong watermark across the image to make theft more difficult. And rest assured that only assholes steal; your work being stolen is not any detriment to your reputation, but to theirs.
A real asshole can and will use your tattoo image to make a stencil of sorts:
Further advice for tattooers on retaining copyright is available in my seminar.
I know that the real wise advice I could give you would be; “Get it where you want to see it.” Because after all, the pain is temporary, right? The tattoo is what lasts. But I get asked this question a lot, so I’ll give you my honest, true answer.
Get it on your outside calf, shin, or on the front or outside of the thigh.
These are the easiest areas to get tattooed. They hurt the least, look the best, and last the longest with clarity to the original. Even if you gain and lose weight, these areas won’t change much. Even when you get ancient, the wrinkles on the rest of you won’t really effect these areas so much.
If you have to hide tattoos for work, high socks or knee-length skirts will cover one or the other of these. The areas are capable of being used in either a very soft, flowing and feminine way, or a blocked, solid masculine manner- so either way, the space can be used how YOU want it to turn out. It can emphasize the curves or obscure them. It can accent muscle or smooth it.
A design with a strong s-curve looks great in either place.
The skin structure is good and will be more solid and consistent than ANYWHERE AT ALL ON THE TORSO. Your torso twists, bends, and the skin changes all over it with every pound gained or lost, every gym day or potato chip, every pregnancy, every time you reach for a thing your torso skin gets stretched a tiny bit. Every wrinkle and sag is concentrated on your ribs, waist, and chest. It’s the worst possible area for a tattoo really.
Going back to the start of this whole thing- calves and thighs hurt less than any torso tattoo as well. AND they will last longer. It’s win-win.
So, if you want my real advice, and not just the thing I am supposed to say, then listen to me and get your calf or thigh tattooed. It’ll look amazing there. Promise. Big or small, get it there.
Small tattoos look great just above the ankle bone, or just below the hipbone on the thigh. Big tattoos look great all over the leg.
The only “bad” leg areas are the knee, the foot, and the groin. All of these areas have odd skin and won’t last as long or hurt as little as the calf and thigh. Plus the nice, flat areas of the calf and thigh make the design less likely to get distorted with movement, making them a good place for geometric work, or images with faces or human figures in them.
Get your legs tattooed. It’s awesome.
Geometric tattoos and “mandalas”, while they’re in resurgence in every part of the globe right now among modern tattooers, are a very old way of marking the body.
Given new technologies, they’re different than traditional geometric work, but do they follow that same tradition? Is this really a trend within tattooing, or has it been there since the beginning? Do you think we will see more of this in the years to come, or will it peter out (like westernized tribal work has petered out a bit)?
These geometric designs aren’t limited to one region, race, or culture- from the far north of europe and the arctic circle all the way around the globe, equatorial and islands, jungles and deserts- straight down to the southern tips of Africa and the Americas, these sort of designs are found everywhere. Most modern interpretations draw on multiple sources, new and old, and don’t snag directly from any one tradition, don’t appropriate meaning the way some westernized tribal art did. (Although there are exceptions as always). Almost every person can look back to their own heritage and find base images to begin working from- or they can use modern maths to create something entirely new, that fits within this style.
I’ve been planning a few art brut tattoos lately, using this sort of layout for the body forms, and have done my share of geometry and radial symmetry tattoos as well. I’m wondering what everyone thinks of this little surge in demand for these.
Also here are some amazing images culled from various sources, of tattooing in this style. Feel free to add your own images or thoughts in the comments.
White ink on the hands.
Plenty of tattooers won’t even do this. For good reason, too! White ink does not heal white. It heals slightly lighter than the skin tone, and often unevenly. It ends up looking a bit like a pale scar, nearly invisible.
Most tattoo artists who will do tattoos in white-ink-only, will not guarantee it, do a free touchup, after it heals. It’s acknowledged that it will not look right when it heals. There’s a very, very rare person for whom it heals and looks ok- but that person is truly rare. I’ve only ever met one, in 16 years of using white alone in tattoos.
All that said, I will do white-ink-only tattoos. And I’ll even do one free touchup, just like with any other tattoo. BUT, I try to make it really clear that it’ll never heal just right, never look perfect. That it’s going to fade into a pale hint of a tattoo, like a scar. Barely there, and that this is likely to happen unevenly, too.
Here are two matching tattoos, freshly tattooed with white-ink-only.
This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!
Please upgrade today!