DJDeepFried

Why do good people get bad tattoos?

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It's easy to say people are dumb or cheap or whatever, but there's got to be more to it than that. Can they really not tell the difference between good and bad tattoos? Do they not know where to look for good artists or even what to look for? Do they just not care? I'm not even talking about little Pinterest tattoos or a few words of script, which can be done well. I mean scratcher-level badness.

Edited by DJDeepFried

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I think they don't care and they think they're cool for just having a tattoo. Maybe in some situations they feel more in control because they're scared to give the artist the reins...

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Having spoken to a bunch of my friends after getting a bunch of my own...I genuinely think that  most people just do not know what good tattoos look like, or even why good tattoos are good in the first place. I've had a lot of friends send me links to shops near them going, 'what do you think about this person's work?' and half of the time the shading is terrible or the lines are wonky, but they just don't see those things. Even after I show them a bunch of examples of better work, they don't seem to internalize it quickly.

I do think there's something to the control aspect, though...that most look for an artist doing things like what they've imagined their tattoo will look like, even if what they want isn't going to make a very good tattoo. I dunno.

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I definitely think people without an artistic eye have a hard time making judgements on specific things like shading or linework. Also partly laziness or convenience. I have a lot of friends who go to the same guy, not because he is the best, but because he is local and someone recommended him once, so someone else went and then the rest of them. I think it can be easy especially when you are young to follow the crowd in that sense.  

In terms of "good" tattoos, I certainly had a lack of knowledge before my first about how tattoos age. I don't think mine counts as good in the sense that it will stand up 20-30 years from now. Not sure if I could go back if I would change it tho, it's beautiful now. 

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Interesting question!

 

When my wife and I got tattooed in the early 1970s, I think we just thought that "a tattoo is a tattoo." Like "ketchup" - generic. Similarly, I guess we thought that you go to a tattoo artist and get a tattoo, and it never occurred to us at that time that there might be good tattoos and bad tattoos. Granted, the situation was much different at that time. Most tattoo shops were in really bad parts of town, and were really scary places inhabited by really scary people. Honestly, we picked our tattooer because we knew someone who had gotten a tattoo from him, and his shop was the least scary place we could find. When it came right down to it, we just wanted to get tattoos. Quality never crossed our minds.

Today, there are so many artists, and so much information about tattooing. Every general interest article about "things to consider when you get a tattoo" advises people thinking to check out the artists portfolio, so there is really no excuse for getting a bad tattoo.  But I wonder if some people still look at it like my wife and I did: They just want a tattoo, and the desire sort of blinds them. So they just find a shop, go in, and get a tattoo.

I also wonder if after people get a bad tattoo, perhaps they realize it, but don't want to admit that they made a mistake in artist selection.

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I can say that in my own "tattoo journey," the first one I got was kind of on a whim. I went to a street shop with @TrixieFaux – she had an appointment; I was a walk-in – with an image that I literally printed out from Google Images, and that's exactly what he tattooed on me. It wasn't bad, just meh. It never occurred to me to do it any other way, but he also didn't suggest how he could make it look cooler or whatever. (Since then I covered it mostly because it was in prime real estate – my shoulder – but I didn't hate it.) I've since learned that's probably not the best way to do it. This was pretty much before Instagram, but it's not like I didn't have access to the information. I just didn't know to look let alone where. At that point, I don't think I had ever even seen a "good" tattoo on anyone in real life.

Back in the day when your only option was to pick flash off the wall you'd pretty much know what you're getting. So in a way this trend of "custom" tattooing means you might get a worse tattoo than you would otherwise if you don't know what the F you're doing.

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My one tattoo that I don't love (in process of laser reduction to redo) was one that I had put a lot of thought, research, even buying line and taking photos to make examples for the artist. He did a crap job on me. Seemed like he didn't care or was pissed or something. When I went back he was real defensive and ended up making it worse. The first laser blast looks to have removed most of his "fix", but I don't think I could ever get the deep blown lines from the first session out. I was reviewing some photos of what it looked like after that first session. I should have known not to go back (and this is a shop owner).

Lesson learned: walk away if not 100% satisfied with the stencil, and if the tattoo doesn't look done well, don't expect the same guy to improve it!

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It's not (always) stupidity, I know plenty of otherwise smart people who go full retard when it comes to tattoos.

I think most people do it based on price. The same artists who post on their Facebook pages "I charge $50 an hour" or whose shops advertise "buy one, get one free tattoos!" do shit level work. Most people are just bargain hunting and choosing whoever is closest and cheapest. In their mind, all tattoos are more or less the same because all they've ever seen is these shitty local shops or "good" tattoos on TV shows like Ink Master and they probably think "Those guys are good, but they're famous and on TV, I could never get something that good," not realizing how poor the tattoos on these shows often are. Even Chris Garver's stuff on Miami Ink was wayyy inferior to what he's doing off the show! I think if people would a) quit being so stingy about something that's on them forever and b) look around outside of your town, they would see what's possible and get better stuff.

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Being young and careless? Not knowing any better? Rushing into a decision? All or none of the above? I'd say it's a case by case basis.

The first large tattoo I got, on my forearm no less, is not necessarily something I would get today. I still like the tattoo, but it's in some prime, very visible real estate that I may have otherwise used for a much different, and probably much better, tattoo today.

At the time I was younger and far less informed, latched on to a particular idea pretty early, and didn't really consider all possibilities. I rushed into it. Fortunately, I didn't end up with one of those horror stories, but despite liking the tattoo, I'd still probably do things different today.

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In order to find the best things in life (food, music, people, tattoos, whatever-the-fuck you're into) you have to give a damn beyond a cursory level. You've got to put in some work. Most people don't want to do this in my opinion. More so if they're not going to be into tattoos as a continued hobby. 

Or they're just busy with other things that are more important to them. They probably don't understand why one would settle for a terrible interest rate on a loan or something...

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11 hours ago, DJDeepFried said:

At that point, I don't think I had ever even seen a "good" tattoo on anyone in real life.

I think this is the main thing.  Most of the time, you're just comparing different flavors of bad.  I have had untattooed people express shock at the fact that my visible tattoos weren't awful more than once.

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4 hours ago, polliwog said:

I think this is the main thing.  Most of the time, you're just comparing different flavors of bad.  I have had untattooed people express shock at the fact that my visible tattoos weren't awful more than once.

I was really surprised the first time I got that, but then thinking back to all the old issues of tattoo magazines form the 90's and early 2000's...

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19 hours ago, polliwog said:

 I have had untattooed people express shock at the fact that my visible tattoos weren't awful more than once.

This usually shows up for me with strangers asking where I get tattooed, and saying 'your tattoos are really different!' But since they're not very different from other good tattoos, I can only assume this means that most of what they see is not good.

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On July 6, 2016 at 11:26 AM, pidjones said:

 Lesson learned: walk away if not 100% satisfied with the stencil,

Fortunately I haven't had to do this but I have decided that I will be willing to. I have been happy with my tattoos and now that I know better what I want I am not inclined to get one that I don't want. That said, I tend to go to good artists at good shops and then put my trust in them. There have been a few times that an artist stopped before I thought the tattoo was done and in all of these cases the artist was correct to have done so. 

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My first tattoo was a bad one.  It was a mixture of a) no planning or looking for information and b) not listening to the artist.

My first tattoo was an impulse thing.  My little sister suggested we get matching tattoos, I said yes, next thing I know I was in a shop somewhere in St. Marks Place in NYC (don't even know the name of the shop).  We said we wanted butterflies, and showed him a pic.  Artist looked at us like we were stupid, but said "Ok, what size"  We told him to make it as little as possible (ended up being like 1.5 inches in length).  He said that wouldn't look good,, I didn't listen  He did it just like I requested.

Second tattoo I researched artists in my area.  I knew of a good shop nearby with amazing artist, looked at all of their portfolios (looked at things like line work, shading, healed tattoo photos, etc).  Made an appointment for a consultation with one who's work and style I liked.  Discussed what I wanted.  Listened to the artist when he told me that it wouldn't age well and that the size I wanted for the area was too small.  I ended up with a really good tattoo the second time.  I was also 36 vs 21 and had a bad tattoo experience under my belt.

 

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I'm not going to lie, I've made some terrible mistakes when I was first tattooed, my problem was I started stupidly young I got my first one when I was 14 and spent the following 2 1/2 years getting shit I liked instead of thinking things through, thankfully because they're that old they've been easy to cover. A couple of examples of my vanishing mistakes. The shoulder design is currently being extended on to my chest with a Koi Carp which is covering another two abominations.

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The Start.jpg

The cover up.jpg

Before.jpg

After.jpg

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Good tattoos come from a combination of serious research, planning and searching for a GREAT artist. Instant gratification, impulse and other factors lacking the first three elements usually contribute to less than satisfactory results.

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Another reason is that many people don't value art in of itself. For them, art is merely a means to an end. A tool that if functioning properly, should bend to the whims of whatever purpose it's being employed for. 

Take film. When people who take cinema seriously - filmmakers, aficionados, academics, film students - discuss questions like greatness and legacy, the conversation essentially boils down to one question: to what extent does a given film utilize those elements of the medium of cinema that make it distinct from other artistic mediums? Or put simply, what movie ... is the best at being a movie? 

Not which has the best story. Not which has the best characters. Not dialogue. Not originality in writing. Certainly not revenue. 

Think about the cinematic canon and the sorts of things that come to mind when various titles are listed off. The common thread is that these movies are remembered not for the stories (or lack-there of) they tell or the characters they flesh out, but for *how* this is achieved in the context of the medium.

One of cinema's most memorable characters is a red light. That's it. A light. Doesn't move. Doesn't change. Beyond its flashing, it is completely static. It was how it was presented that insures it sticks in our head. Image and sound. 

Other examples.

Godfather: the baptism/hit scene. Montage 

The Passion of Joan of Arc: The close-up

The Shining: Danny navigating the Overlook Hotel in his big-wheel (camera movement)

Star Wars: Luke longingly gazing out onto the three-moon horizon (framing and blocking) 

Many Great movies lack any sense of story *or* character, yet are still recognized for its greatness due to the ingenuity with which it exploits those unique elements of film: l'Avventura (literally "The Adventure", an ironic nod to how barren the plot is, it being a movie about boredom and malaise) , PlayTime, long stretches of 2001: A Space Odyssey. People love these movies because they love film. 

Today, many moviegoers depart from this state of mind. They go not to enjoy a story being told in a way only film can tell it. Rather movies are just carrying cases for fan service. Their job is to recreate the experience of reading the book or comic as faithfully as possible, even if that means the actual movie suffers or that acres of potential is left on the table. People want to see the hero in the same exact costume they remember from their childhood. They want them to sound the same, fight the same, and act the same. They want the warm feeling of recognizing their childhood on a slightly larger screen. This is how they judge a movie, by its fidelity to an arbitrary, cold list of details. They care nothing for the medium. 

Same thing with tattoos. For the types of people who browse forums like this, the attraction of a tattoo *is* the fact that it's a tattoo. We're not concerned with any one image. Our interest is in style (traditional, Japanese, etc. The common denominator being that they are suited to that canvas exclusive to tattooing: human skin), and the history and culture that stems from them. As well, individual artists within those styles count for a lot, even individual shops. The actual images are usually of little importance. An image may matter only so far as it boasts a historical and spiritual connection with a style: hence no one here believes you can ever have too many eagles or skulls. Tattoos are not a means to an end for us. They are the end. We get tattoos to feel closer to tattoos. 

Our love of tattoos means, logically, that we love those elements that make up tattoos: design, colour, lining, shading, placement. We seek quality in these areas because the better the execution of these elements of tattooing are in a certain piece, the more prominent that piece's essential *tattooiness* becomes. A meal is only as good as its ingredients. This is not always strictly the case with tattoos. In some instances, the individual elements may not demand appreciation, but the way those elements come together nonetheless creates an impression that once again emphasizes the art itself, not what that art is trying to communicate. Picasso had to learn the rules and craft of classical painting before he could deliberately break them. 

Most people are like the comic book movie fans, though. They see it as a vehicle for their purposes - purposes that exist outside tattooing. They want a Star Wars tattoo so they can communicate to the world that they love Star Wars. That's the end game. The quality is of little importance. Who cares who the artist is? What matters is that those around them recognize the picture on their skin as Star Wars. That the work is shoddy and longevity questionable is irrelevant. The goal is for other people to go, "Hey. Star Wars!" You don't need to do any research, spend much money, or give really any damn about the art of tattooing to achieve those ends. If people can see the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich, they can surely see Pickle Rick in a blown out, oddly proportioned tattoo. 

Maybe it's a memorial tattoo, in which case sentimentality does not require artistic quality. 

Or maybe they want to look tough. Here in the west, tribal tattoos are associated with masculinity and thick-necked gym rats. People get tribal assuming these associations will graft onto them. The quality is irrelevant. All that is required is that people *recognize* the tattoo as tribal. Appreciation is optional.

It goes on and on. 

Art has been reduced to its capitalist utility, meaning its ability to allow for people to assert their identity and self worth to both themselves and those around them via association with consumer products, taste, and arbitrary distinctions like nationality. We're all walking advertisements for our own desperate grasp at individuality, belonging, and humanity under a system that by design undermines all three. To this end tattoos are just another genre of marketing, like clothes, like the car we drive, and the social media profiles we so carefully curate, all serving to project just the right image we desire others to see in us. 

 

hal.jpg

Edited by JasonTO

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