Australian Ink – Authentink Article – November 2009
By Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal
After spending over 85 hours in an airplane recently whilst circumnavigating the globe to the farthest points west as you can go before hitting the other side of our friend the Pacific Ocean and then coming back east on a different route stopping at 8 major International cities along the way I can certainly tell you one thing; that tattooing is alive and well all over the world in a way it never has been before.
Of course this is a fantastic boon for the myriad of great artists out there who no longer have to struggle to find people to wear their art or try to convince people to open their minds and start with large coverage and bold colors etc. Tattoo culture is plastered all over the set everywhere you look now. Airports feature large advertising displays using tattooed models, brand name banks even touting tattoos as a symbol of diversity, etc etc.. even product packaging itself playing a role with tattoos as the ‘skin’ of the box, bottle or package. Guilty as I am of contributing to this with one of my dragons featuring the on outside of new energy drink in Australia, but that’s not what this article is about.
What concerns me is amount of biting going on in the tattoo world, the copying, the watering down, the mediocrity that seems to be permeating this thing I love. Like with all things, the lowest common denominator sets the standard and tattooing is no different. Listen, we’re all fucking pirates’ right? Tattooers that is… and everyone looks at everyone else’s work… but there is being ‘inspired by’, revering and referencing other great tattoos and the artists who make them and there is outright copying… what seems to be taking place is the bad tattooers are ‘referencing’ and copying line for line and design for design the real tattooers work right from their photos in magazine and myspace and doing it badly, and selling it as their own. This is bullshit as it is not only plagiarism of someone elses hard work, it also hurts tattooing by diluting it with crappy art.
Some styles that are only a few years old, like dot work and geometric body designs, suddenly have hundreds of artists doing it, and mostly doing it badly. The good ones of course went to get tattooed by the innovators, saw it being made in person, got to know the artists and learned from them directly. There is a huge difference between that and just copying shit out of a magazine.
And you know whose fault that is? Yours. Don’t bring your potential tattoo artist a photo of someone elses tattoo by some other artist, and tell him ‘I want this or something close to’ because you know what? That’s what you’ll get, a shitty version of someone elses tattoo… And the story goes on.
Your best strategy to getting a great tattoo and contributing to the great art of tattooing is this, and seriously, it is all about contributing, if you’re not helping your hurting, and no one likes a parasite. The first thing any potential tattooee should do is learn to tell the difference between a good tattoo and a not-so-good tattoo and by doing that you’ll be able to tell the difference between an ‘ok’ tattoo artist and great tattoo artist. Spend a minute educating yourself. Check out the most well-known, bad-ass, legendary tattooers’ works and see what the real deal looks like. Even if you can’t afford to get tattooed by them, or travel to where they are then at the minimum see what a legit tattoo looks like. And then find an artist whose work you like and reference his or her own work. Or bring them source material that isn’t someone else’s tattoo, help create something fresh instead of just Xeroxing someone one else’s stuff.. Because we all know what a photocopy of photocopy of a photocopy ends up looking like. Crap. Look at art books, old and new, prints, pictures, such as if you want a lion portrait on your arm, bring your artist a high resolution picture of a lion in.. not a picture of someone else’s lion portrait tattoo. You’ll get much better results and end up with something completely yours! Enough said.
Which brings me to my next topic: lettering tattoos. From my travels it seems a lot of artists these days view lettering tattoos as the new ‘tribal’. An abundance of fast and easy tattoos that supposedly doesn’t require and talent or homework to pull it off, in short, tattoos to be banged out as quickly as possible with little or no thought or care as to the what, where and how.
I love good script and lettering tattoos and ‘writing’ is really a style unto itself. So naturally it pisses me off to no end to see tattooers just fake it and scribble some shit up or worse yet print it out from the computer and stick it in a random spot and tattoo it there forever. It pains me to see this.. so do me a favor, don’t patronize those tattooers. If you’re keen on some nice writing, find a guy or girl that likes doing it, that has put it the work and will give you something to be proud of! There are many different styles of script writing you can get with varying degrees of filigree (fancy stuff) around it and as many different ways to shade and shadow it. A well-done script tattoo is truly a piece of art. I still study lettering whenever I can and suck up as much information from visiting artists who are better than me or do it in a different way, like with all the arts, you never stop learning.
So in closing, get some fresh inspiration for both you and your tattoo artist, don’t bite other peoples work and remember to seek out the right artist for the right job and someone who is the genuine article. We can help stop the parasites if you stop giving them money. Keep it real.