for tattooed people, and those who want to be

on your marks… (thinking about your design)


It’s always best, as the old saw goes, to begin at the beginning.

When it comes to getting a tattoo, though, there’s a lot more to be done than just sitting down in the chair and waiting to be decorated.

Which comes first, choosing the design or choosing the artist? Obviously, neither should be done on the spur of the moment or because all your friends are doing it. This seems like a no-brainer, but cyberspace is full of stories of people who ended up with ink that they really didn’t want. That’s why tattoo removal is such big business these days.

When I was 16 I wanted a green flower on the inside of my left ankle. So much so that I carefully re-drew it every day, for years. If I’d been able to go ahead and make it permanent at that time, you bet I would have. I’d undoubtedly view it as a cute exercise in nostalgia if it were there today, and I could always hide it under a sock or a pair of black nylons if I wanted to. (I have a much more elaborate tattoo in the same general area today and I’ve hidden it under dark nylons a time or two. You usually don’t want to go to a job interview displaying your art unless you’re going to work for an artist.)

I’d personally answer the artist-or-design question by saying “Pick the artist first.” You can get a really good idea of whether you want this person doing something permanent to your body by visiting the shop, making it clear to the receptionist that you’re in the market for a tattoo, but not today, and taking your time to look at the flash on the walls (if any) and the artist’s portfolio, which should be available. No portfolio? Uh… try another shop. You’re making a lifetime commitment to this body art and if the artist doesn’t want to show off his or her work, you don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb.

You should also pay attention to how the artist interacts with the people he or she is decorating, and the general ambience of the shop, and the customers. Now, I freely admit that when I got my first tattoo, I did it on the basis of having seen a newspaper article about the artist and having decided that I really liked his attitude. When I finally went into the shop, I looked a bit out of place–a 46-year-old mom amongst bikers, truckers, kids, and eager candidates for World’s Most Tattooed Person. But looks aren’t everything. The artist understood better than I did what I wanted, adapted my original idea, and gave me something way better than what I would have gotten if I’d been left to my own devices.

As for the design, ideally, you would have one of your own, one that’s meaningful to you, something unique. But that’s not always practical or necessary. Picking flash off the artist’s wall or out of his/her portfolio is certainly the path of least resistance. And certainly one can get a spectacular tattoo that way. Just do yourself a favor and don’t be getting the world’s ten billionth copy of the Tasmanian Devil or Yosemite Sam on your butt, OK? As in all fashion, timeless design is the key.

I’ll talk more about coming up with my own designs in future posts.

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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.

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