Lochlan

"Tattoo what you want", misleading or true?

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This thread idea comes from the "Un-planned Tattoo" thread and a conversation I had the other day while getting tattooed plus my general way of getting tattooed....

As most of my tattoos are impromptu I either have a vague idea of what I want or just want to get tattooed so I show the tattooer the open space and say:

"Tattoo what you want"

OR

I give them a vague idea and say "Do what you want"

OR

I give them a few vague ideas and say "Your choice"

I always end up with something I like and often times a tattoo that goes beyond what I could have drawn up in my head then attempted to dictate back to them my "great idea".

Then when they show me and/or have drawn it on me I don't do, 'hey can you fix this" or "how about....." or what ever other thought that has me taking the creative autonomy back from the tattooer. Though from my conversation the other day and observations over the years it seems like more often than not when tattooers get the ol' "Do what you want" the customer ends up changing their minds and/or engaging in a back and forth dialogue on the most minor things.

So here are my two questions for tattooers:

1) Do you prefer customers to come in telling you what they want or giving you creative autonomy?

2) How many times is too many for you to have to draw and redraw a design for the customer?

Tattoo customers:

1) Do you tell the tattooer what you want or let them have free reign?

2) How interactive are you in the process once you see what they have drawn up?

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Great thread!

1) I like to be as vague as possible. Seing the stencil for the first time is half the fun for me.

2) The only situation I see myself asking the artist to change the design is if he/she has included some symbolism that I can`t relate to. We`ve already talked about swastikas in a different thread ;) I`m atheist so I probably won´t have any religious imagery tattooed, despite how much I adore the look of it.

I usually decide on design after I know who I`m able to book in with. I have no idea what I want to get tattooed next, but if suddenly, say Chad Koeplinger is doing a guestspot in town I wouldn`t have much problem coming up with something on the spot.

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I like to give the artist a rough idea of what I want. I can't draw, so I leave that up to them. And I agree that seeing the stencil for the first time is half the fun. When Tim Lehi unfolded the huge drawing for my tigers, I went wide-eyed.

I`m atheist so I probably won´t have any religious imagery tattooed, despite how much I adore the look of it.

I don't believe in dragons, but they sure do make awesome tattoos. Along the same lines, I'd still like a Rock of Ages and maybe a curly-bearded Jesus at some point.

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1) With my main tattooer talking with him with what what would work withen the rules of traditional Japanese tattoos. But my arms and chest panels are all his choice. My few other spots I'm going to have left either give them a few ideas and let them pick how they want it or show them the space and say have at it.

2) "looks great let's get that stencil on."

[edit] but seeing hoggs post reminded me 2 rules: no dragons and no koi. Just not for me.

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As a tattooer, I would like to get all of the input that I am going to have right up front. The way I see it is if I have to completely redraw something, then I didn't do my job in the consultation. I can tweak a drawing on the fly pretty easily, but for the most part I like to be pretty close. I don't mind a customer having as much or little to say as they would like, as long as they can communicate to me what it is that they want. As far as doing drawings, I will redraw it until one of us starts to get frustrated. At that point I will pass it on to one of my coworkers. We do this all the time, because sometimes it is just impossible to get on the same page.

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I agree with you train of thought @hogg , but I`m pretty sure most will perceive a religious tattoo as a dedication to someones faith as opposed to picking a design purely because it makes for a great tattoo. I can imagine getting asked a lot of stupid questions if I get it done, so I think I`ll just save myself the hassle and get panthers, daggers, skulls and flowers instead ;) Hell, most people can`t even believe that none of my tattoos have any deeper meaning than me just being really fascinated with tattoos and tattoo imagery.

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Since I lack creativity, I generally have a vague idea but it doesn't go much further than that. Like Iwar said, half the fun is seeing the stencil. Shit gets me excited.

I got an appt at 4pm today and all I told her was skull with a headdress, do whatever else you want. It's gonna be like xmas day, opening presents.

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I agree with you train of thought @hogg , but I`m pretty sure most will preceive a religious tattoo as a dedication to someones faith as opposed to picking a design purely because it makes for a great tattoo. I can imagine getting asked a lot of stupid questions if I get it done, so I think I`ll just save myself the hassle and get panthers, daggers, skulls and flowers instead ;) Hell, most people can`t even believe that none of my tattoos have any deeper meaning than me just being really fascinated with tattoos and tattoo imagery.

I agree %100. Most people tie a tattoo to some significant meaning (which some do have, that's cool too) But even most of my friends follow that thought, that it has to be meaningful. A friend asked me if my panther/skull meant anything..... Nope, they're just both badass

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1) I do enjoy freedom when designing a tattoo, but I have learned over the years to pry into the clients thoughts as deep as possible before putting pencil to paper. It's easy to spot a client who is willing to give me total freedom, but if I see an ounce of "control freak" in a client I spend the time consulting their ideas until I feel like we are on the same page.(even a walk-in)

2) I would redraw a design as many times as took to please the client. I have had many clients that simply wasn't happy until the design looks like a they drew it them self in 8th grade. Once it reaches this point I respectfully decline to do the tattoo.

I will add this. My rule is, I will do anything to please the client, but I draw the line when I have to send something out the door I'm not proud of.

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I enjoy the artistic license afforded me by my customer, with a general subject. I follow some simple old rules that have worked for a long time. When they look at a refined line drawing, they get the idea.

I hate seeing money go out the door, so I will draw as long as my schedule allows. Getting off my sometimes lazy ass and doing a color study usually results in a stoked customer and a way better tattoo.

I have noticed this, people come in with a better description and more willing to make the attempt at conveying their desire since the television shows. Some tattooers get grumpier with age, but the cool head always prevails.

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I normally just go in with either and idea or small piece of reference and then let the artists do what they want with it. Most of my work is done by the same artist so we're pretty much always on the same page (I hope) and I'm always happy for him to try out new ideas. There are only a few things I won't get tattooed on me but most of the time my reaction to a tattooers' idea is "Yeah sure." Even if it means coming out with roses twice the size I though I was getting :D

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Over the course of the last year and a half I got bit by the tattoo bug really bad. I've been in the chair 14 different times in that span, and it's all because I found the artist who can translate my ideas into tattoos i really want to wear for the rest of my life. Every time I've gone in to see him so far it's been one of these three ways:

1) "I've got this old tattoo from the (80's or 90's), would you be willing to fix it? You can do whatever you want to make it better."

2) I don't tattoo, but I can draw respectably well, enough so that I can take an idea to him on paper and say "Can you make this work where I want it? Do whatever you need."

3) Go in with the vaguest of reference materials and say "I'd like something with a lucky horseshoe and a black cat, do whatever you want." Almost shit myself when I saw what he came up with. And ended up with my current favorite tattoo on my body.

So far, trusting the the guy that is gonna tattoo me has been working out really well for me. Maybe it helps that I don't attach any deep meaning to any of my tattoos, I'm just really drawn to the style of art that tattoos represent.

Just my 2 cents.

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Well the first tattoo I got I had, what I feel was too much input. I ended up getting exactly what I asked for but not what I wanted. As a artistically-retarded individual myself, I try to describe the tattoo in as little words as possible. For me this gets me a better end result than what I would be able to hobble together in my non-artistic brain (I swear my artist sisters stole the right-brain genes and left me with only left!) While I know what looks good to myself, I cannot create.

@Iwar, I can understand (being an Atheist myself), but at the same time I love the strong emotions and history from religious imagery. Nothing stirs the emotions more than religious imagery, regardless if the observer is theist or atheist!

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When it's something specific (eg. the octopus on my foot), I usually bring in some reference images and my own sketch. However, I don't care how different the end result comes out - I've heard of people who are really married to their own drawing and wont let the artist make changes, which seems silly to me.

Other times, like for the sleeve that's currently in progress, I just gave the artist the basic premise (two women, what symbols they were usually associated with etc.), referred back to some of her previous work that I liked, and said "go for it". Though I admit to being one of those pain in the arse customers and asking her to "tweak" the drawings (but only minor things, and only once, I swear!).

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I totally agree @slayer9019

And there`s always the inner thighs I guess... (and if some stranger manages to sneak a peak there I`ll probably have other things to worry about than being confronted with religious dillemmas)

Sorry for getting off topic here. Maybe this subject needs a thread of its own.

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First off I write way too much!!! Sorry. Anyway, my consult setup has definitely changed as I've collected new tattoos. Mind you, I've only been tattooed by one artist so my trust and faith is pretty high.

For my first tattoo I was pretty specific what I wanted. Not necessarily clinging to a sketch but rather brought in samples of pieces similar to how I wanted the tattoo to flow on my arm and also specified details of what I'd liked in other tattoos my Artist had done of the same subject. I had a very clear image in my mind and in hindsight it may have left her little freedom.

Subsequent pieces, like the piece on my leg and my back piece, I've loosened up and only told Jill (Bonny) the subject matter/location and then she'd go to town in creating something. Or in the case of my right sleeve, rather than even specifying a subject, I've asked for her suggestions on what would pair off well with the left. By the time the left was finished I just ran with it.

I agree with everyone regarding seeing stencils for the first time too. For my back, I specified the subject Oda Nobunaga. Having been happy with all her previous work, I was vague with her for the very purpose of wanting to see what she would come up with. When the time came to start the piece, upon seeing the stencil I was not disappointed. During the consult, we'd arrived at a rough idea of what would be cool, but later she turned it on it's head and came up with something that was completely different but embodied what I'd wanted even better. Now that we're expanding and adding background to it, she suggested what she thinks will work and I just follow along having faith in her experience and vision for what she has planned. After all, I'm not the artist, she is. Besides, even if I wasn't rusty at drawing, I certainly haven't designed a back piece before, right! I just had a session this past Thursday where she added a pair of namakubi (decapitated heads) to the back of my right thigh. She set about applying the stencil and went to work. I didn't even see the tattoo or placement until I got home. Jill had shown me the stencil of one of the heads prior to starting so I had an idea what was being placed but I would have ran with it even if I hadn't.

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I like to give the person applying the tattoo the leeway to do what they do best. Seeing the stencil or watching the artist draw on my skin is enough for me. I choose the artist for their skills and might as well let them use em! Last tattoo I got I was asked to look in the mirror after the stencil was applied and declined. My thoughts are do I really know what I'm looking at???? What error could I find? I enjoy the finished product, so I stay out of their way.....

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i pretty much let people do whatever. i'm playing off of stuff i already have and filling spaces. i can draw and paint i don't know how to tattoo. i would never get anything i drew tattooed on me unless i did it myself. and then i would probably hate it. half the fun of getting tattoos for me is being surprised. i usually just give someone a theme lady head skull flower etc. the last tattoo i got was on the back of my leg so i couldn't see it at all. i saw the outline and that was it. we discussed colors. i was thinking hmmmm i don't really like those colors but i trust you so go for it. then he added some other colors and if he would have told me i would have really thought hmmmmmmmmm wtf. but when i saw it when he was done i was stoked and surprised. love the tattoo.

but i also wouldn't got to someone who's work i didn't like and give them free reign. i am not a fan of some of the neon colors some people use so i wouldn't get work from them.

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I've never said just do what you wan't.I always give an idea,then let them run with it.I guess the only time i may just say do what you wan't,is if i was getting tattooed by a world famous tattooer like Filip Leu.

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the whole 'do what you want' fills me with dread, mostly cos every time it crops up bar once they never really mean it. it usually involves me having to think about ideas, since they arent giving me anything to go on and taking time to develop them into a design.

the few times it's been requested of me, ive mentioned skulls or animals and i could see them shrug ever so slightly and then the words come out, 'i'm not really a fan of skulls...' or 'i was thinking more of a girl with a pocketwatch/magpie/victorian artefact...'

my thing is, that if you just want something, ask for it, dont tell me to go crazy then say youre not into what i just said, specially when im not even pushing the boat out.

it's not doing me a favour letting me do what i want, its giving me a headache, i much prefer some direction or a seed of an idea. the combination is much better than starting out cold. also, one week i might really wanna do a blood thirsty warrior and maybe i wanna do a 2 headed medieval dragon the next, my reference and influences change from week to week, i dont keep a list of things i wanna do, maybe some tattooers do but i dont.

my conclusion on this is, only ask your tattooer for whatever they wanna tattoo if you are 100% sure you can live with yourself wearing whatever they come up with on your skin forever, and if you can't, then give them a couple of ideas or ask if theres something theyve been thinking theyd like to do recently and keep it open.

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It does seem that there is a sliding scale running from 'do whatever the hell you want' through to 'I want my snake to have 600 scales and make sure that the monocle is the right prescription', with everything inbetween. I'm a writer and whilst I do see things visually, I do not have an innate ability to create images. I know what I want in terms of concept and some content, but I'm more interested in picking the right artist and letting them run with it.

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I always have a good idea what I want. For me its important to choose the tattooer based on what they specialise in and excel at.

I also take into account if I think the tattooer will enjoy doing the tattoo. If their heart isn't in it, it will show in the finished tattoo. Sometimes I will make my choice from some recent flash that the tattooer has produced. Of course the tattooer is going to be well up for it. I get a great looking tattoo and the tattooer has fun doing it.

Like @Iwar said, though, its always exciting seeing the stencil for the first time.

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