I know this is supposed to be a rant, but today was slow and the best type of customer came in. The type of customer that comes looking for you because they’ve seen your work and wanted some. The kind of customer that tells you they want a bird kind of like a picture they brought and kind of like several you’ve already done. The kind of customer that looks through the art books that you normally steal good stuff from, understands why you steal, and tells you that whatever you choose is fine. The kind of customer that doesn’t ask how much it will cost or how long it will take. The kind that trusts you to do a great job and charge fairly. The kind that rarely comes in the door. The kind of customer that gets your best effort and most reasonable price, then tips generously and appreciates your effort. The best kind, thank you.
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.
Check out this awesome video. Close up slow motion tattooing.
Conversation between young couple who are about to mark each other’s names on themselves forever. The girl is getting her boyfriend’s name on her neck in fancy script. Upon seeing the design…..
“That’s perfect, but I think I want it bigger.”
“Oh baby, don’t get it any bigger. That would be trashy.”
You can’t make this shit up.
I actually love this shit. This guy remembered the tattooist who did it and DIDN’T want it covered up. I have a lot of respect for that. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. That’s tattooing and it’s forever (or at least as forever as you are). You get it, you live with it, period. Cool.
It’s amazing how people choose their tattoos. So many surf the web for tattoo sites and find something like that they want among the millions of tattoo photos available. Then they come in and ask for their “custom” tattoo. They say that what they really want is a unique tattoo and be sure to “put a little of your style into it”. No sooner do I have a drawing done, changing it enough to be comfortable with the fact that we are just ripping off some other person’s design, than they pull out their original photo, the one they found on the web, and start picking apart all the differences. What they really want is the exact tattoo, they just don’t want to admit it. They want to somehow believe that it’s their very own unique tattoo, but they don’t seem to have the balls to actually have a unique idea for one. Upon seeing it on another person it is somehow legitimized. If they haven’t seen it as a tattoo, they are hesitant to accept that it is actually okay to get, to risk their skin on. I’ve often created designs that, even though I am obviously biased here, have blown away the crap that they brought in, only to be rebuffed and forced to redraw it into something just as hideous as the original ripped off design.
It’s not that I ‘m against ripping off designs. I do it all the time. It’s a time honored tradition in tattooing. Ever look at a Sailor Jerry flash book and then find some much older Brooklyn Joe Lieber designs? Straight rip off. What I object to is stealing shitty artwork. If you are going to steal designs for your tattoo, you should steal only the best. Have the balls to find some great piece of original art, take it into your tattooist and have him turn it into a tattooable design, and have it done. You’ll have an original tattoo based on a nice work of art instead of some third generation, watered down pile.