Australian Ink – Authentink Article – April 2009
By Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal
It really is true that books are judged by their covers, and people get the tattoos they deserve, whether or not they should or shouldn’t be isn’t the issue, fact of the matter is that first impressions are hard to live down if the cover is all that gets seen and you get what’s given if you don’t ask for something specific.
Tattoos can be viewed a lot like book covers in the modern world, used to differentiate oneself from the masses and stand apart from the mediocrity of urban culture that pervades our lives, even some tattooing is part of this lukewarm landscape.
Which brings us to my point; tattooing has become so mainstream, so accepted by soccer moms, bankers and everyone else, and so co-opted by the status quo that it’s time for the first timer tattoo-curious, the serious collector and the persons wanting that authentic tattoo experience to look deeper into the rabbit hole and find the real artists out there that are producing master class tattoos.
Nothing is more important than ones first tattoo, as this sets the tone for the rest to come, and rest assured there will be more, there always is, as few people who get a good tattoo stop there. Of course a bad experience can turn a person off for a few years, but a good experience stokes the fires and has first time clients thinking about their second, third and fourth tattoos while the machine is still putting in the outline of their first.
I have done half sleeves, full sleeves and even entire back pieces on first time clients who had the foresight, the desire and the determination to make the leap of faith that this was the right thing for them to do, and in the end they were all very happy with the decision and came back for more. They wear their tattoos proudly now and know they made the right choice by not accumulating small ‘tester’ tattoos in the sweet spots of the arms, chest and back and therefore spoiling their skin for when they decided to get their ‘real’ tattoos once they saw what was possible and the fear of the unknown was gone.
Although tattoo laser fading and removal is accessible and affordable now it can easily be avoided in the first place by making the right decisions before getting tattooed. And this means choosing the right artist, the right shop and having the right attitude yourself when dealing with the artist you choose.
If you’re not sure about what I am saying then go down to the beach on any summers day and have a look around at all the small blurry tattoos that people have randomly placed on their bodies and ask yourself ‘is that how I want to look after getting tattooed?’ The answer is probably no.
There is definitely an art to getting a great tattoo and hence making you look good, forever. You are representing yourself when you permanently mark your skin and too many people overlook the obvious fact that tattoos are for your whole life and should be taken a bit serious, at least as serious as getting a haircut. Pretty girls with crappy tattoos are not a good look anymore than well groomed men in nice clothes and expensive watches don’t suit haphazard tattoo work on their arms.
Do your homework on the Internet, take your time to find an artist whose work you like in the style of your choice, many good artists specialize in a particular style, be certain your artist is well versed in your style of choice. For instance a portrait artist is probably not the best person for tribal designs or traditional Japanese work and an artist who specializes in black and grey work is not the artist to go to for bright colorful pieces. This may seem obvious but many clients think they are challenging their artists’ skills and doing them a ‘favor’ by encouraging them to go outside their normal scope when in fact most tattoo artists spend years developing their own style because that is where their passion lies.
Don’t be discouraged if your artist is out of state, travelling to get tattooed is a common thing now and many people travel to get the tattoo they desire. Make contact with your chosen artist and find out how they prefer to do business, with consults etc and then you can get the ball rolling.
One of the most important things to do after all that is to gather photo reference of things that you like and/or want to incorporate in your tattoo, these can be tattoo photos (for inspiration not copying), pictures from art books, paintings, prints, statues, etc.. visual clues as to the direction you want to go in, it really makes the consultation process much easier for both client and artist.
Listen to your artist and respect what he says. If you were drawn to a particular artists work based on their portfolio, and their attitude is agreeable with you then by all means put some faith in what they say and give them some license to create something nice for you. Did I mention respect? Have respect for the person about to mark you for life, show up on time, be sober, clean and calm and try to refrain from bringing an entourage with you. Tattooing is not a spectator sport. Once you find an artist that you can relate to and work well with, the rest as they say is history… oh yeah, and be prepared to wait. Most good tattoo artists have a waiting list for a consultation, in some cases up to a year or two. This is usually a sign that you’re onto something and once in you’ll get the tattoo you most definitely deserve.
Kian Forreal is a professional tattoo artist with 16 years international experience and specializes in traditional Japanese tattoo work. He has worked all over world and has studied under some the leading tattoo artists of today. He is based in Sydney at Inner Vision Tattoo in Surry Hills. His website is:
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