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

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.

You are cramming ten pounds of shit into a two-pound bag.

Pick one thing. One thing. We can make one tattoo from it. A huge tattoo, or a tiny tattoo- pick one thing and get it done. Your backpiece of all six of your sibling’s favorite animals? THAT IS SIX TATTOOS. You do not have one backpiece, you have six tattoos on your back, and some poor artist had to figure out a magic way to make them all look enough alike to fit there.

ok fine- you can have two things. BUT THAT'S ALL.

ok fine- you can have two things. BUT THAT’S ALL.

You want to incorporate words, text, dates, names, astrology signs, symbols your grandma drew, a mercedes logo, three star wars symbols, and a galaxy night sky into this tattoo. Note: one word, yeah you can do that and make it look good. A saying or some text? A few words, you can make it work (although it will definitely weaken the overall art to slap that shit on it). A paragraph? No. That is another tattoo entirely! dates and names? Is this the census? No! Get something, some single image, that represents “family”- now you have a tattoo that covers all of them. If you are likely to forget your children’s names, perhaps you are not mentally capable of signing the release form for the tattoo. A logo, a symbol, and a galaxy are all tattoos of their own.

You’re asking for ten tattoos.

You’re only going to get one. MAYBE two, if you’re making the tattoo huge. I know that you have probably browbeaten some artist into shoveling a pile of things into one tattoo. Most tattoo artists won’t tell you this so directly, won’t tell you how much they hate this shit. Tattoo artists hate this shit. They really do. Despite what the television leads you to believe, you do not need to use everything that has ever been meaningful to you, in one single tattoo. There is no tattoo shortage. We will not run out of them. You can get as many as you like. I promise.

In my last post (and probably in this one soon enough) plenty of tattoo artists will tell you that they LOVE this shit, they will plaster their customer-service smile on and tell you it’s ok, they disagree, they’re not like that.

These are the same artists I see posting in private forums about how much they hate being forced to do tattoos with too much subject matter in them (or with hearing too many sob stories). They’re the same folks who will do what you ask for without a single saying of nay- because they are afraid to lose your business. If you read the comments on these posts, you can find artists who disagree, for sure! I’m only one person and I do not speak for everyone, of course. Also, if you want a tattoo artist to listen to your life story, the artists who disagree with that post are a good place to start! If you want ten tattoos done as one tiny tattoo, the artists commenting on this post are a great place to begin!

See, tattoo artists nowadays feel like they have to kiss your ass a little; they have to be nice, presentable, patient. Things have changed, and more of us worry about customer service than we used to, but we’re all still annoyed by the same stuff, and all too worried about our clients getting upset to say them in public.

dragonfly tattoo

one thing. dragonfly. it’s one thing. and some background.

When you rely on goodwill and personal connection to your clients by word-of-mouth  for your advertising, you simply cannot afford to be honest in public about the things that aggravate you or bug you about clients. This isn’t so much dishonesty as a wish to spare your feelings. All tattooers love their clients, for the most part. I think maybe there’s one in a thousand that I don’t like for some reason- and I don’t tattoo them! I send them along to another artist for their work. There’s maybe on in ten, though, who try to add as much as possible to each single tattoo. If I’ve worked on you and you’re like that, you’ve already heard this entire post from me!

The reason I have the rapport I do with the people I work on is because they know I am direct, and bitchy, and I will not lie to them about what works in a tattoo or how I feel about their ideas. If you tell me you want ten things in one tattoo, I will tell you no. No, you can only get one tattoo at a time. I can only do one tattoo at a time. So pick one, and get started.

(oh yeah, and check out my prints for sale if you wanna see more stuff than you have room on your skin for! xox)


Published on: Jan 6, 2014