First Blood 212: Choosing an Artist

Published: 25 June, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 213, June, 2012

Continuing our series of short articles for those new to the tattoo scene.

Tricky one this in just a couple of hundred words for a beginner. Simple as it gets in theory, slightly more complicated depending on what you want. Back in the day, all I ever wanted was a piece from Paul Booth, but the logistics of that, before I had even asked him if he would do it, proved to be more expensive and complicated than I was able to commit to at the time. Fact remains though, you should aim as high as you possibly can regardless of where that may be.

These days, the chances of getting an appointment with an earth-shattering artist whose name your mum would recognise (if that’s what you’re after) without having to take a holiday to go along with it are far more likely, bearing in mind some of the giant sized shows we have on the circuit. Those spots are likely to be swamped up very quickly indeed though once word gets out, so you’ll always need to be ready to pounce.

With your feet firmly planted on the ground, you need to look objectively at what you actually want. This Paul Booth instance that I name above? Doesn’t everybody go through a phase like that? I think they do, and it’s always achievable – and these days there are dozens and dozens of artists of the same calibre that’ll get the results you want.

If you’re looking to get work locally, our advice is to choose cleverly. Check around your local area for a start and get scanning potential artist portfolios. Don’t confine yourself to your own high street though – the UK is a pretty small place really and anywhere is within a days travel. If you can’t find a style that you’re into within the pages of Skin Deep or Skin Shots, you’re either going to be a hard client to please or not looking properly. The back pages of Skin Shots has a great artist list to begin your search.

The one thing that all of us here agree on, is that you should never walk into a tattoo studio with a picture from another artist and ask them to replicate it. It’s not fair on the original artist. That said, it’s perfectly feasible to ask your chosen one to develop the theme in their own style. Even if you’re “only after some script”, you should scope your artist well. Text might look simple to lay on, but for it to look great still takes no small amount of skill to get something done that will still look as good next year as it does tomorrow.

Finally – or as final as it gets in a nutshell article – if you choose right, you’ll soon learn the true meaning of loyalty. There’s something great about having the same artist work on your body time after time, and that feeling is priceless. But don’t forget to leave some room for those special occasions when Paul Booth really does show up down your street.

What makes a tattoo collection? Well, I’m sure if we asked somebody mathematically inclined, a collection consists of more than three of something. And a collection is normally themed as well, but that’s not always the case with tattoos. You can be quite an authentic collector with pieces by multiple artists. The collection is made into a collection by having just one thing in common. You.

There are two trains of thought with collecting. If you’re really wise, it’s conceivable that you could plan the whole affair out and instigate that plan – if you’ve got a good stack of cash, it’s even possible to get it done quickly too. In those circumstances, this is probably not the page for you to be reading.

The other train of thought is more likely, and is the road that most of us take because it’s convenient, fun, and spontaneous. And that is to get another tattoo added to the collection when and wherever you feel like it.

Hanging out at a show? Seen somebody’s portfolio that you’ve never heard of before? Free spots this afternoon… priceless! Hooking up with an artist from abroad who is coming over and wants to lay that piece down you’ve been talking about for the longest time? Just as priceless. Hanging out at a local studio and chewing over ideas with the artist there until one day you come in and find it’s all drawn up and ready to roll? You get the picture…

The great thing about a tattoo collection is that you can practically trace your life through it. You’ll never forget your first, who did it and where, and you’re not likely to forget any of the others either, which is more than can be said for some things when people ask “who was your first”. Even the tattoos that you got covered-up will be remembered fondly eventually.

But then, there are also people – many of them – who don’t view owning a lot of tattoos as collecting, and that’s fine too. The term ‘collector’ is bandied about far too freely now to have the meaning it once did. And if you happen to research tattoo collecting, you’ll find that many have tried to define what this actually consists of, often making bad comparisons such as how ‘people learn their own particular brand of deviance’, and how ‘thieves learn their trade from other thieves, so tattoo collectors learn how to interpret tattoos from those who wear them’.

This is looking at it far too deeply at this early stage of your journey. It will ultimately be up to you as to whether you view yourself as ‘having tattoos’ or ‘tattooed’ – and by then, you should have figured it out for yourself…