Okay, this should be easy.
First let me say that this is in no way a rant on the contestants. They all seem like competent professionals. Each had good days and bad days and if there is anything to rant on them about, it’s going on a ridiculous show in the first place. Granted, a hundred thousand dollars is a pretty sweet incentive.
There seems to be no justification for a show that claims to be finding the tattoo master. I mean there is no real objective criteria that could possibly be used to achieve that goal. Tattooing is not a competitive sport. One can objectively assess the technical quality of a tattoo if you are willing to ignore the fact that all skin is not created equal and that different parts of the body make technically good tattooing more or less possible. One cannot, however, look at a tattoo and tell someone else that it is better art. Deciding what is good art, or not, is subjective. Can anyone tell me that a painting by a classical master is better “art” that a Warhol or an aboriginal wall painting? You can discuss the merits of each and certainly go on about the technical difficulties and quality of each, but I would maintain that it is impossible to place an artistic value on one more than another. There are way too many variables in the tattooist/client interaction to objectively decide the winner in a contest of this sort.
I would also like to know what pin striping has to do with tattooing. I, could see the design aspect, as in “please design a pin striping scheme for this vehicle”. The fundamentals of design are very similar for tattooing on a three dimensional body and striping a car, but the tools and techniques are completely different. It would be like handing Van Gogh an airbrush and expecting him to create a quality piece, with a time limit no less.
Speaking of time limits, their use, in my opinion, is verging on criminal. A great example is the episode where one of the contestants agreed to attempt to cover the client’s entire head with tribal work in the allotted time. As a professional tattooist, the artist should have known better. Perhaps he could have pulled it off if the client had held up, but who would expect anyone to endure five solid hours of that kind of hammering? In a normal situation, the artist would have broken that up into manageable sessions and done a great job. The work that he was able to complete looked awesome. Hopefully there were provisions for him to be able to complete the piece at a later date. Otherwise I would think the show is criminally liable regardless of the release forms used.
And what makes Dave Navarro the expert on what constitutes a tattoo master? Sure he’s a successful musician who has a lot of tattoos, but that’s like saying Mama Cass should be judging cuisine finals at Le Cordon Bleu.
I admit that all of this does make good TV. There’s drama, suspense, and you do get to see some realistic artist/client interaction (unlike any of the other shows I’ve seen). I just fear the long term consequences of shows like this sculpting the public’s perception of what tattooing is about, what it is and isn’t, and more importantly, how to act at a tattoo shop and what to expect from your artist. The only place to learn these things is by visiting some tattoo shops, interacting with some tattooists and deciding for yourself.
Of course everyone’s experience and perceptions are unique, and perhaps that is what this rant is about. In a world of homogenized, commercialized, dumbed down, co-opted subcultures, I would like to think that the tattoo shop is one of the last bastions of reality. Come into a shop and talk to real people, feel real anxiety, endure real pain, enjoy the very real satisfaction of having worked through a ritual that is older than written history, and realize that this is not TV. This is life.
Very often a person will ask if I’ve ever tattooed anyone famous. God, I hope not. I mean you see the shittiest tattoos on celebrities. Really. You’d think with all that money and fame they could get the best work available. It almost seems like there must be some secret, chic thing about having tattoos that look like they were done in the laundry facility of a women’s prison. The exceptions are rock stars and athletes. They seem to know about performing and quality.