for tattooed people, and those who want to be

About those TV artists…


I used to watch all the tattoo reality shows. I thought they were a good idea, getting people used to the idea that tattoo parlors aren’t just places for bikers and sailors to hang out. But the more I watched, the less I liked what I saw.

TV test patternNaturally, a reality show isn’t really reality. The camera crews have to be there, and no matter how much the people in the show get used to the presence of the crew, they are never going to act the same for the TV show as they are when nobody else is watching. Plus, the show’s not going to waste time filming the humdrum events of the average day–they want drama and flash and stuff that’s out of the ordinary so as to attract the audience. I think “Inked” came closest to showing reality and that’s because it focused more on the artists and their interactions than it did on the customers. But how much can you do with a half hour show, especially in a shop where the owner is taking care of other businesses as well?

I’ve seen reports in several places that life on “Miami Ink” isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. The artists aren’t there every day, the people who supposedly spontaneously walk in to get a tattoo have actually been auditioned ahead of time, and so forth. I don’t know if all that’s true, but it certainly seems to be a common topic for discussion. It is pretty obvious that the entire process of applying the tat to the skin can’t be shown, because good, careful work takes hours, and the audience would go to sleep. Not to mention that they want to show multiple customers, not just the work that goes into one piece.

I haven’t watched “LA Ink,” but I did think Kat got a raw deal when they booted her off “Miami Ink.” Too many big egos in one small shop. I’m glad to see she got the last laugh. But I doubt her show reflects the reality of life in her studio any better than the previous one did.

Do shows like this encourage every Dick, Jane and Harry to go get inked? Does it mean that people have unrealistic expectations when they walk into the shop? Is the process shown clearly enough that people realize that it’s messy and painful and time-consuming to end up as beautifully decorated as you want to be? It just seems to me that cutting everything down into a few quick clips gives people the entirely wrong idea.

Anyone else have an opinion on that?

Creative Commons License photo credit: leedsyorkshire

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Author: infmom

I got my first tattoo when I was 46. I hope the people who read this blog don't have to wait that long. I love talking about body art.


  1. I do think those shows have the potential to create unrealistic expectations…but most people also have a modicum of intelligence and understand what they’re seeing isn’t necessarily a one-day thing, and that the art takes time.

    I’ve only seen a few episodes of Miami Ink and L.A. Ink; when I do watch it’s to see the end result, not the scripted (and I do think it’s mostly scripted) drama. I love to see what people come up with, and how it transfers onto skin.

    • I must admit I like the memorial tattoos best. People have come up with so many creative ways to honor lost loved ones.

      My mother really didn’t like my tattoos, so if I got one in her honor she’d probably come back and burn it off my skin. 🙂

  2. I agree with you 100%. I like the idea that it shows tattoos are for everyone, not just a select few.

    I do also agree that those shows don’t exactly show it accurately. The long hours, the uncomfortable positions, and the pain, oh the pain lol.

    It’s fun, it’s totally worth it, but it is nowhere near as glamorous as they make it look. The odds of just randomly walking into a shop and being able to get inked the same day is rare.

    Several members of my family are regular customer for our artist (We all go to the same guy), and even we have to make appointment, sometimes weeks in advance.

    • I certainly wouldn’t want to get a design the artist came up with in just a few minutes, put on my skin permanently. Not after going that route once and ending up with something I have never really liked. 🙂

      I think it also makes sense to make an appointment so that your artist knows how many people he or she can schedule for the day and give them all the attention they deserve.

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