Regardless of what you personally think about tattoos, you must admit that A) they are usually very personal for the person getting them and B) some are very cool art. Mine qualify for A) and for me B) as well, though opinions on art quality are very much individualistic.
I got my first tattoo at about 20 years old and my last a couple of years ago at 36. I don’t regret any, but certainly appreciate that other’s perception of mine may be different than my own. My wife doesn’t particularly like mine, but she’s got her own favorite style and mine are for me. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have done things a little differently, but for the most part my tattoos don’t look like a random hodge-podge pile of shit like many you see at the county fair. Though done over a period of years, I was able to roll in existing work into a semi-thoughtout half sleeve of a large family tree concept. It includes my wife’s family crest carved into a tree, representation of my kids, and something for my immediate family roots. Forgive the poor presentation of a partial arm:
So why did I decide to permanently ink myself with a family crest of my wife’s family? Or with a family tree idea? First, my representation of my kids on the outside and most visible part of my arm (not shown) will always be a large part of who I am. They are integral to my daily presence and even when grown, moved on, and out of my house, will be a reminder of what the love of two people can create (regardless of what can happen from now to eternity). Second, my wife’s family name is my daughter’s middle name, and the crest is both a a representation of the combination of our two houses as well as a nod to my children’s family background from their mom’s side. I don’t have a family crest of any sorts, and feel very much part of her family anyways. It’s not an epic fail like a name if things were ever to go awry.
If you are interested in getting tattoos, here’s some general advice:
- Think long and hard. It’s a very personal decision, but often not getting one is the right choice
- Where you place them is always important. Personally, I like to have mine in places that can be covered up if needed. They are visible at the pool, and peak out of short sleeve shirts, but besides that I’m the professional looking dude if needed. Mine also aren’t scattered all over my body, which provides, in my opinion, a cleaner look and one that looks better.
- If you like them on your back, recognize that you’ll never see it. Sounds dumb to state that, but I have one on my back, and it’s often forgot about.
- It’s fine if you want one that is clearly visible (on your leg, on your forearm, on your neck), but recognize people will be judging you without even knowing you. It may not matter to you, but may impact certain life/job options for you.
- Finding the right artist and tattoo shop is critical. This can’t be overstated. If you are just getting a chinese symbol or peace sign, it probably matters less, but any real art should be done by the best you can afford. This requires some research. If you don’t know who you want to go to, visit a few shops and ask to see the various artists portfolios. Make sure they are up to snuff with cleanliness.
- Figure out your style. My wife likes more realistic, asymetrical works, while I enjoy more traditional pieces with linework. I’m not sure what holds up best over time (they will fade and the crispness of that first year will sort of melt, so consider that when deciding your work). Then find an artist who matches your style. Yes, most artists can do most works, but they often have a preferred style as well, along with strengths and weaknesses.
- Don’t neglect the artist vibe, walk away if it’s not right. One of my pieces, I used an artist a friend recommended. The vibe was off, his artwork had to be redone before inking per my request (and in the end, it still didn’t capture the vibe I was looking for), and I wish I had done things differently. It looks good, and I’m mostly happy with it, but the experience wasn’t great and it could be better. Contrast that to working with an artist who matches your energy or vibe. You’ll be much happier. Most tattoo artists aren’t happy go-lucky Mary Poppins type, but you should connect on some level with your dude or lady who is working on you.
- Work with your artist on the design if you don’t have the chops. While a few of my pieces were cut and dry, most were designed as a collaborative process with the artist. They often have some great ideas on things to make them look better.
- Plan for the future. If you get one, think about if maybe you want a bigger piece (like a half or full sleeve, or larger work on say, your back) and take the time to plan out an option to roll in pieces to look like a planned conglomeration instead of a hodge podge of shit.
- It will hurt. Getting inked is somewhat annoying to fucking annoying depending on where you get it. Truth. Deal with it like a man.
- Follow aftercare instructions. This is critical. If you are picking tattoo scabs, your skin can scar making it look like shit. My typical aftercare instructions included gently washing with anti-bacterial soap like dial, and putting aquophor healing ointment on it. This has been great for me, but your recommendations may be different.
- Item 1 again – think long and hard, often the best decision is not getting one.
If you want a good book (rated 4.5 stars on ‘Zon) on the what it’s like on the inside, I recommend Jeff Johnson’s Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink. I found a copy at my local library, which always my preferred choice for you and me.
So there you have it. But what tattoo post would be complete without some lovely tattoos. Happy Friday.