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Greetings! New to tattoos, but not for long.


Solea
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I've been reading some of the threads and this seems like a place with great information and a lot of nice people.

I've thought about getting a tattoo for 30 years or so, but only seriously since recently doing research for ideas. I found a tattoo artist whose work I love and I'm scheduled for May 2016. So this brings up a two-part question...

When I went in to place my deposit I was able to speak with the artist for a couple of minutes (she was in the middle of working on someone else) and she requested that I bring in anything I wanted to serve as inspiration, but not pictures of other people's tattoos. The impression I got from her, and my research, is that a really good artist won't copy or even riff on someone else's work, and someone who is willing to do so probably isn't all that good. Is this a fair assessment?

Which leaves me in a bit of a predicament. I have no artistic abilities myself, nor do I have any ideas rattling around in my head (I just want something beautiful ;) . But I know what I like when I see it, and yet I can't use any other tattoos as inspiration. Any advise?

Thank you all!

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Welcome!

If she doesn't want you to bring in pictures of other people's tattoos because she wants you to know she doesn't copy, then that's one thing. If she doesn't want you to bring in one to share elements that you like and what you don't, then that seems kind of stifling. What's the difference between showing a tattoo that has elements you like and showing a picture that has elements that you like?

I dunno.

IMO, if you have pictures of tattoos that illustrate some aspect of what you are looking for, then bring them and explain that. But you'd probably better bring in other references too.

The bit about not riffing or those who do aren't good artists is a little black and white. A lot of great flash is variations on a theme. Copying an obvious custom piece is a no-no.

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Pinterest, for all its hidden commercialism and hipster stuff has a lot of tattoo inspiration pins that are not tattoos. So does most of the rest of the network, and you can even go take photos of inspiring things (I'm a fan of stained glass, which I think is an excellent tattoo inspiration).

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that's quite a waiting list. mind if i ask who the artist is? when is your actual consultation?

The impression I got from her, and my research, is that a really good artist won't copy or even riff on someone else's work, and someone who is willing to do so probably isn't all that good. Is this a fair assessment?

i think every artist throughout history has riffed off someone's work... not just tattooers. it's just a matter of riffing and making it their own.

Which leaves me in a bit of a predicament. I have no artistic abilities myself, nor do I have any ideas rattling around in my head (I just want something beautiful ;) . But I know what I like when I see it, and yet I can't use any other tattoos as inspiration. Any advise?

you seem to have chosen this artist based on tattoos she's done... i think it's fair to bring in images of her work and tell her what you like about it. that can easily give her some direction.

you mentioned that you know what you like when you see it... with a such a long wait, you have the ability to take your time and do some good research to find stuff you like and think is beautiful. we have no idea what direction you're going in, since everyone's idea of beauty is different (as shown in the video below). you can find beautiful patterns everywhere, if that's your direction... in garments, rugs, architecture, nature, and on and on.

if you get a tattoo of this ^... well... you might need a hug.

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Long before pinterest and instagram, we went to libraries, museums, flipped through art magazines. Hell I found a reference for my dragonfly tattoo from a magnet on my mom's fridge. I've found inspiration from old church stainglass, science/biology text book illustrations, art books from asian bookstores, logos, paintings, album covers, etc etc. Used bookstores are great. There is so much in this world that can inspire a new tattoo aside from other peoples tattoos.

We need to remember tattooers aren't mind readers.

I think you need to have a better understanding yourself as to what you want tattooed on you and define it for the tattooer...aside from the vagueness "i just want something beautiful". That conveys the message that you just want the tattoo for the sake of having a tattoo. What do you really want? Flowers? A skull? Hot Stuff riding a unicorn? A shunga demon? These can all be beautiful tattoos...it sounds like the tattooer you've chosen truly wants to personalize a tattoo for you. Which is great! There are other tattooers that will slap on whatever off the wall and do a great job, and that's fine to if that's what you're looking for.

You've got 6 months to really understand yourself what you want and figure out how to express, articulate and communicate that to your tattooer. Good luck!

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If you have access to a decent library, why not ask for help at the reference desk? It's not clear from your post whether you've already chosen a subject for your tattoo, but if you have, the librarian should be able to help you find books that contain images so that you're not standing in front of a shelf and feeling overwhelmed. I keep meaning to go to the Boston library to do this, myself.

There's also this thread: http://www.lastsparrowtattoo.com/forum/tattoo-designs-books-flash/4244-your-favorite-reference-material-page7.html

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Long before pinterest and instagram, we went to libraries, museums, flipped through art magazines. Hell I found a reference for my dragonfly tattoo from a magnet on my mom's fridge. I've found inspiration from old church stainglass, science/biology text book illustrations, art books from asian bookstores, logos, paintings, album covers, etc etc. Used bookstores are great. There is so much in this world that can inspire a new tattoo aside from other peoples tattoos.

We need to remember tattooers aren't mind readers.

I think you need to have a better understanding yourself as to what you want tattooed on you and define it for the tattooer...aside from the vagueness "i just want something beautiful". That conveys the message that you just want the tattoo for the sake of having a tattoo. What do you really want? Flowers? A skull? Hot Stuff riding a unicorn? A shunga demon? These can all be beautiful tattoos...it sounds like the tattooer you've chosen truly wants to personalize a tattoo for you. Which is great! There are other tattooers that will slap on whatever off the wall and do a great job, and that's fine to if that's what you're looking for.

You've got 6 months to really understand yourself what you want and figure out how to express, articulate and communicate that to your tattooer. Good luck!

back in the early 80's it was still cool to pick pieces from the flash on the walls of the shop.

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  • 3 months later...

Thanks for all the input! Life got busy and I forgot about my post.

I realize I was vague in my original post. What I was trying to convey was that I felt the only way I could communicate what tattoo design I wanted was to provide a copy of something similar. I wouldn't be asking the artist to copy it, but was afraid she wouldn't be open to that because she wouldn't want to even use it for reference. Not sure I'm making it any more clear. I guess I'm nervous about just letting someone create a tattoo without me having a more concrete idea of what I want. Even though I like her work.

Thank you all for responding!

- - - Updated - - -

While waiting and reasearching for my first tattoo consult in May, I found another artist whose work I just love and she was available. So May will be my second tattoo.

However, I need some advice. There's a communication issue between me and my tattoo artist. Its probably too late to change the outcome, but I don't know whether I should tell her what my POV of the situation is. Out of both my need for "closure" and for her to learn as well.

I just got home from the second session on my first tattoo. The first session went great. All black outlining. It came out beautifully and I was very pleased. Today I went back for what I thought was going to be more black shading and a little bit of color. But it looks like I'm going to end up with a full color tattoo.

At the initial consultation we decided on what the basic design would be. At that time I said I wanted mostly black with some color as an accent/counter point. She said she would work something up and brought up that I could decide how much or how little color I wanted at a later session.

After all the black outlining was done at the first session she described how she would shade it in next session. She even showed me a couple of pictures of blackwork tattoos from her Instagram to illustrate what she was going to do. Again she said we would discuss color at the next session.

Today she seemed to want to do more color (both in intensity and coverage) than I wanted and than I thought we had discussed. I showed her a picture of a tattoo that had the kind of minimal color shading that I wanted. She seemed to be on board. The first areas of color came out with more coverage than I wanted. I didn't tell her that. I didn't ask why it was so different from what we had talked about 30 min ago. It was too late to do anything about it.

As we talked about the next section of color I could tell the conversation was going off the rails. I tried to steer the concept back to mostly black, minimal color. I asked about the black shading she had said she would be doing. I don't remember exactly what she said but it was non-committal. She wasn't dismissing me but she wasn't connecting with me either. She was probably frustrated. I was frustrated, but I wanted to trust her. She does beautiful work.

At the next stopping point she asked me what I thought. Again, way more color coverage than I believe we had agreed on. This time I only said that, probably due to the lighting, I couldn't see much difference between the first color and second color. They were meant to be in the same color family, it's just that I couldn't tell the difference.

I probably should have said nothing.

It was at this point she said she wanted to stop. That my indecision was causing her to doubt herself, that she felt as though she was "working blind" because I wasn't sure what I wanted, and that she didn't feel she could do her best work under this circumstance. She even implied that I was questioning her work in such a way as to undermine her standing with her colleagues. (She's a guest artist at the studio.) "See that girl over there? She's trusting him to do his thing. I work best when I can do the work in the way I know will result in the best tattoo."

I was floored! Her tone wasn't rude, yet I still felt as though I'd been scolded for being a bad client.

She asked me to think about what I want and to bring pictures next time if I could find any that showed what I wanted. Seriously? I just did! It didn't produce the result I wanted.

I have no idea how or where it all went so wrong. Two weeks ago we were on the same page (or so I thought). I don't know what happened in the intervening two weeks.

I don't know what to do or say. I don't know how we could have such widely different interpretations of the words each of us were speaking. If I express, again, what I want, even if I can find pictures, I have no idea if she'll be on board or feel like I'm interfering with her creative process. If I try to revisit our conversations and remind her of what we talked about I don't know how she'll take. Will she see me as difficult? Just try to get it finished and get me out of there?

I'm so bummed that what started out as such a positive experience turned into something so wonky. It got weird and I don't know how to fix it.

Just to be clear, if I just let her do what she wants and feels is best, it will be a beautiful tattoo. She's very talented. But it won't be what I wanted.

Any advise on how to handle this going forward?

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This is a lot of text and no photos! A photo might be able to get you some advice on how to make the current colors work without adding any new color.

Anyway, don't end up with full color if you don't want full color... Why you don't want full color is beyond me, but it sounds like a pretty big tattoo (3 sessions right?) and it would be kinda weird if you just submitted into getting something you don't want..

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Hi lape. I didn't post a picture because I'm not asking how to fix the tattoo, but how to fix the communication issue. Or would I be making it worse because we're already past the point of no return relationship-wise?

Also, I believe her work is fairly recognizable and calling her out is not the purpose of my post.

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How about couples therapy? :p

Honestly, it sounds like you are way too accepting and she is way too insecure.. I think need to you set yourself on something (ie only black or tiny amounts of color!) and approach her in a friendly manner, and decide what you are doing pre tattooing. An idea could be to outline the areas together, so that you both agree on what areas that are getting color and which aren't going to be touched. Be very clear in your choice of words and make sure that you understand each others.

Sure, she'll probably see you as difficult, but do you want a tattoo that you want or not? It's fairly simple. You aren't going to marry the girl, and I'd assume that she is professional enough to do a good job even if she hates your guts.

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