Tiger Says: Choose Your Ink Wisely

Dusty and Nicole, our good friends who own Durban’s favorite tattoo joint, have been kind enough to tell us what makes a tattoo kak and how you can make sure you’re not about to get the scribblings of a two-year old permanently scratched into you. My advice, don’t even read it, just go to Dusty and Nicole the next time you get ink. #topclass

John Doe walks into my studio. Asks if I do cover ups, I say yeah ovcourse I do. In a perfect world I wouldn’t. I ask to see the offending piece. He lifts his sleeve and on his upper arm is the most offending image I have ever seen, a tribal tattoo with a wolf and red-Indian beadwork. The only reason I know this is because I have seen the flash (stock imagery of tattoos) and this piece has sort of the same shapes. The tribal looks like an octopus, the wolf has a lazy eye and its snout looks as if it has been smashed in and down, the beadwork is all over the place. The lines don’t touch, the colour is faded and the black has been buried into the skin causing unsightly bumps and scars. I ask where did you get it done? He tells me “a friend”. I ask if the guy had hands or did he do it with his feet.

I cant tell you how many times someone has walked into the studio and said I don’t like this tattoo is there something you can do with it. The actual tattoo is varied but they are all ugly, either they are badly done, the subject matter is badly chosen or the composition and overall aesthetics are horrible. I decided to write this article to folks who are in the market for a tattoo or are now wanting to cover up that ugly tattoo besmirching a body part. I write this as a tattoo artist who loves cover ups, I enjoy making old ugly tattoos into new pieces of art, using clever cover up techniques and strategic placing of new tattoos to send that ugly old permanent blemish into the history books. I have done hundreds of these cover ups, re-inks and fix ups. Surprisingly it makes up almost 30 – 40% of clients that contact me. So there must be something horribly wrong in the beginning, those first choices that your making. There are a lot of factors when choosing, so choose wisely.

 The factors for choosing a tattoo must be thought out, you don’t have to spend a year researching and compiling a thesis on the subject matter and publish a book on the referenced imagery (some folks do this). Rule number one, know what your looking for, never, never ask for something cool because I promise you I will suggest a massive phallic shaped monster on your forearm that will ensure you will never get a job or a girlfriend (so far no one has gone for it, much to my disappointment). I don’t know you, we have just met I don’t know what your into, it’s the same as getting someone you don’t know to go buy you clothing, I like death skulls and snakes on clothing difficult to where that when you’re a priest. Subject matter of your tattoo is so important, the reasons for getting a tattoo are as varied as the tattoo designs, just keep in mind this thing is forever, that is the defining characteristic of tattooing as a whole, you will die with this mark on you. It is one of the only things in life that wont change. Think about it, think about it a lot. You don’t have to have the entire idea fully formed, that’s what we artists are for, come in for a consult lets talk, I’ll show you some reference and design the piece up. This is an important point, getting your artist to design your piece is a great test of that artists artistic abilities, sometimes the artist will charge for design which is fair enough because they are providing a service, our studio just adds on the fee, you don’t see it, we’re interested in the tattoo first, payment for service second. As with anything a good base to work with ensures a good end result, if the idea is great the rest will follow perfectly. So know your idea, spend some time on it, book a consult and let your artist bring the idea to life.

 Your Artist

A very touchy subject. This is the person you are putting a massive amount of trust in. Most of the time you don’t know this person,  and most of the time tattoo artists are intimidating to begin with, with their piercings, black clothing, tattooed body and aggressive rock n roll playing in the back ground. Remember one thing, this person is supplying you with a service. When it comes down to it, it is a service, it’s an artist service but still a service. So the person supplying the service must be up to scratch.

And here are a couple of ways to check your artist; first and foremost ask to see a portfolio. Being 2012, most artists should have a web presence and will showcase their artwork there. They would probably have a tangible portfolio at their studio as well for you to browse through. (Make sure their artworks look the same – some artists have been known to pass off other artists work as their own). If you’re getting a piece designed from scratch ask to see some of their design work. Check the walls for any personal art, awards, etc (although, not all artists participate in conventions in this country, so it’s not a prerequisite but a bonus). The general demeanor of the artist is important. Are they willing to help you regardless of your request? Are they forthcoming with advice or information? Another way of finding your artist is reputation. If you see someone with what you think is a great tattoo, go up to them and ask them where they had it done – don’t be shy, they’ll no doubt love the compliment!

In This Day n’ Age, Pricing Is Important

Straight away I’d like to inform you, that cheap tattoos aren’t good, and good tattoos, aren’t cheap! Tattooing is fairly expensive because it is a specialized trade. There is no school for this, you have to go the hard yards, training over a long period of time with no payment. Doing an apprenticeship with another artist willing to pass down his/her knowledge of the art. So once a person becomes qualified enough to do tattooing, like any other specialized service, the better the service, the more the cost. Here’s an analogy for you, you spend over a R100000 on a car; the car will give you fifteen years some change life. A tattoo is a fraction of the cost, and it lasts as long as you do. It is a lifelong investment. You should treat it that way. Backyard neighbourhood tattoos are cheap, sometimes free. Keep in mind, where did that guy get the money to buy top quality equipment and supplies. Always remember, you get what you paid for. As with most things in life, there are people who will take you for a ride and cheat you. Be weary of prices being too high, as with your tattoo idea, research tattoo prices, get quotes from different studios, find out what the average price is. The location of the shop often dictates the price of the tattoo. If a studio is in a mall or shopping complex, the prices will be comparatively higher because of rent. Whereas with a neighborhood studio, prices will be lower. This is not a reflection of the artist, but be weary of how high the price goes. It must be stressed, that some artists are incredible at what they do. Therefore find your artist, and decide if they’re worth the money.

Boom! Just like on my space case!

A Quick Word On Technique

Choosing colours for you tattoo is important, and often a prerequisite of the style of tattoo. Some tattoos look better with black and grey, some with colour. Your artist will advise you. The pigment of your skin also dictates what colours can be used and will compliment the tattoo. This includes tanned skin, pale skin, and of course, ethnic skin tones. For darker skin don’t choose lots of colours, go with the bolder black and grey design. For paler skin go mad with colour – but ultimately the decision is up to you and the artist will advise. Also, be sure to look after your tattoo when you leave. Do not pick and peel the scabs off – this can and will cause damage. Good artists will know the difference. We can’t go home with you, so make sure to take care.

In conclusion; tattooing is as popular as ever. Therefore tattoo artists will come out the woodwork. Do your homework. Be careful who you get tattooed by, how you get tattooed, and what you get tattooed.

Regardless of who you get tattooed by, feel free to email with any questions, im glad to help so that crappy tattoo’s don’t effect the industry and tattooing becomes even more popular, no regrets so choose wisely.

All our love, Dusty Rich & Nicole P of I art ink.