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Choosing an Artist (The reality of a perfect match?)


cosmic indifference
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I have a larger tattoo that I am planning that will cover my arm from shoulder to elbow. I've found some artists whose work I've seen online that I am head over heals about but the problem is, none of them are local.

I live in LA, so obviously, there are tons of incredibly talented artists here who I'm sure could do an amazing job, but through all the portfolios I've looked through, I haven't found someone whose work I respond to the same as the out-of-towners. I can't tell if I'm picky or just have a very particular style that I'm interested in and I'm fairly new to tattoos, so I'm not exactly sure how to describe what I'm looking for. I just know that I can usually find a piece or two in any gallery that I like more than the others, but with a few artists, Ive felt like every single picture they have is just incredible to me, and they are unfortunately not local.

Is this normal? Am I looking at this the wrong way? What I'm saying is, am I placing importance on the wrong thing? Am I not looking hard enough in LA? I thank you in advance for your advice everyone!

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LA has tons of amazing artists. You do have to look at different factors, if you are looking at straight instagrams or portfolios, well some artists put more care into how their pictures look than others. Also what kind of tattoo are you getting? Depending on what style you want, you may/may not need to travel to see a particular artist.

I feel like nowadays, people get hooked on something they see on IG for example, thinking only THAT artist can pull it off when you probably have the talent in your own city already.

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How many local shops have you actually gone into, to check them out? If you are only looking online, yes you would be going about it the wrong way. There's more to things than this 2 dimensional world.

Maybe you have been going out and surveying the local territory, but I sometimes feel like this virtual reality is trying to remove the adventure of getting tattooed and turning it into just acquiring a "thing". The limitations are obscured by the vastness of information.

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@10PieceNuggets I like black ink, graphic stuff. I think 2Spirit in SF epitomizes the style I'm looking for. There are places nearby that focus on black, but as far as I can tell, not necessarily in the same way as 2Spirit. I would welcome any suggestions!

@JAllen Are you directing me to get off my computer and go into the shops to look at a 2 dimensional book? Or to talk to some artists? If I found an artist who seemed close I'd be down there for sure. For some reason though, I do feel self conscious to go into a shop and basically use other artists' work and style as a reference. That's the main reason I would at least like to start with someone who's in the ballpark of what I want.

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@JAllen Are you directing me to get off my computer and go into the shops to look at a 2 dimensional book? Or to talk to some artists? If I found an artist who seemed close I'd be down there for sure. For some reason though, I do feel self conscious to go into a shop and basically use other artists' work and style as a reference. That's the main reason I would at least like to start with someone who's in the ballpark of what I want.

Yes, that's what I'm saying. I know it might sound crazy, but not everyone has a website/instagram/facebook, etc. Go out, stop in a shop, talk to people. Maybe you see them doing a tattoo, maybe you talk and interact with people. Who knows what you might find out there...maybe you won't find what you're looking for but you also might find something you didn't know you wanted.

You don't have to take reference or make any commitments, I'm just saying don't be afraid to explore what's around you.

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First, I think there's a lot of truth in @JAllen and @10PieceNuggets suggestions.

But, if you do find someone's work appealing that's out of town, why not travel? You might have to save up a little longer for the tattoo you really want, but isn't that part of the deal anyway? It's been my experience that you can usually get places on-the-cheap if you are smart about it and plan ahead. Most places are more accessible than you think...

Here's a 'for-instance' for you: you live in LA which is EASY striking distance from San Diego and San Francisco/Oakland/Berkely/San Jose. LA to the Bay is 6ish hours, depending on where you're going/coming from. LA to San Diego is even easier. Between those three major metropolitan areas, it would be surprising if you couldn't find an artist to give you a killer tattoo in the style you want. Worst case scenario (going to SF or Oakland), you could leave early, be there in time for an early afternoon session, get a cheap hotel and be back in time for lunch the next day...not even a weekend trip!

Hell, if you check around for flights and don't plan your trip during a major holiday, the entire west-coast can be accessible for a few hundred bucks. An early flight in and a late flight back makes a day trip for places like Portland, Seattle, anywhere in Arizona, Nevada etc etc etc.

Hope that helps!

Edited by 9Years
other posts made while I was typing
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@9Years is spot on. If you were dead set on having Filip Leu tattoo you, that's a different story. LA to Lausanne is quite the haul. But LA to SF for a piece by 2Spirit? You should make that happen. One bit of advice: consider flying in and out Oakland, only for the reduced chance of weather delays in my beloved (but foggy) SF. I've been delayed 2-3 hours at LAX waiting for the fog to clear. Plus, you can BART from the Oakland airport to within about 8 blocks of 2Spirit's shop.
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I can't tell if I'm picky or just have a very particular style that I'm interested in and I'm fairly new to tattoos, so I'm not exactly sure how to describe what I'm looking for.

I think I know what you mean. Just this week I came across someone's work that I'd be willing to travel for. I'm in DC right now, and I really love the artists here who I've gotten work from, but I'm thinking about starting to get work on much more visible areas (like my arm), and though I have some trepidations about that in and of itself, I'm more excited and confident about it when I think about getting work I am WILDLY pumped about, so I'm willing to travel for that, personally.

I think it's a personal decision, and neither way should be said to be "wrong"! :)

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I find for myself that even though there are a ton of good artists where I live (Seattle area), I seek out shops in different states/provinces. Mostly due to a mild wanderlust and interest in meeting new people.

As has been stated before, there is no replacement for time spent in a shop. Especially when you are newer to the experience.

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thanks everyone, I really appreciate the advice. I feel like I may wait until I can plan a trip to SF to see Matt at 2spirit, which is pretty easy in the grand scheme of things.

In the meantime, I would like to physically check out more shops in LA. I have 2 small kids so my time away from them and work is limited, but do any of you have any recommendations for places that focus on black? I know there is some controversy around the terms 'blackwork' and 'dotwork' but 2Spirit for example certainly uses both of those terms to describe the shop, something I haven't found down here. Thanks again everyone :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
thanks everyone, I really appreciate the advice. I feel like I may wait until I can plan a trip to SF to see Matt at 2spirit, which is pretty easy in the grand scheme of things.

In the meantime, I would like to physically check out more shops in LA. I have 2 small kids so my time away from them and work is limited, but do any of you have any recommendations for places that focus on black? I know there is some controversy around the terms 'blackwork' and 'dotwork' but 2Spirit for example certainly uses both of those terms to describe the shop, something I haven't found down here. Thanks again everyone :)

What @9Years and @hogg said. I fully agree with checking out the local shops too. There's amazing artists in the city, but I'm a good example where it's not that the artist's in LA didn't do it for me, rather I just saw tattoos by someone in SJ who's work was exactly what I was interested in. 5 years ago I just wanted a tattoo on my arm and thought I'd move to someone else more local for other work. 2 sleeves, a piece on my leg, and a backpiece later, I still find it absolutely worth it to fly up to the same shop because it's exactly what I want. I'd just rather spend more for traveling and getting what syncs with my sense of aesthetics. Bonus points if your chosen tattooer and Shop Crew are cool.

Check out shops around LA. Not every shop tries to advertise and post their work or their latest work on the Internet. If you are in absolute awe of the shop in SF, go there. It's just money. Skip drinking out a couple nights or brown bag lunch for a bit. That travel fund will accumulate little by little.

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