Hi everyone! I'm new here and have a question about a situation I find myself in currently. This might be long but I'm gonna try to include all the details to give a full picture.
I just started a full sleeve a few months ago. First ever tattoo.... I went big lol. The first session was about 5 hours and I just recently finished another 2 on the lower half of my arm and have my third 2 hour session scheduled. The artist and shop is very reputable and well known but I can't help feeling a little frustrated by the experience so far. I initially sent an online request for a ballpark estimate about 3 months ahead of time then stopped in one day to pay the deposit and set up an appointment for my first session. I very briefly spoke with the artist and she said she liked one of the design reference pics I'd emailed and just needed to know what type of flowers I preferred then discussed where I wanted the tattoo and some details about how it would be designed for the best outcome. In all it lasted maybe 5 minutes. I emailed her about 2 weeks before my appointment (while trying not to be a nuisance) to request a sketch. She said she typically didn't start working on the design until a few days before. I waited until a couple days before my session and still never heard anything all the way up until the night before. No response. She had mentioned if I arrived early the day of, we'd have time to discuss the design and make changes but I arrived 1.5 hours early and didn't get to speak with her until my actual appointment time. Since she ran late on the appointment before me I was given extra time at the end of my appointment. Basically the design was already printed on paper and she just wanted to know if I liked it and then worked on placement before transferring it to my skin. I was kind of shocked that I was being asked to make an on the spot snap decision about something permanently going on my body even though I had scheduled my appointment over a month in advance. The design was pretty so I went ahead. During the session there wasn't much conversation, in fact she had an earbud in one ear most of the time. I'd ask questions but it felt a little more like I was bothering her than just talking to someone. I know sometime you just aren't a "people person" but if your job heavily involves customer interaction, you should really make an effort. Especially for a first time tattoo customer getting a large piece. At least IMO. The last session was pretty much the same plus when I had several spots that needed touch ups (I was super careful about following the aftercare, not sure how, but the spots just happened) I was charged for it, which I hear is pretty unusual. It wasn't a set fee but was included in my session time and I'm being charged by the hour. Now that the lower half of my sleeve is almost complete I'm just frustrated that I don't feel like I'm being included in the design enough other than picking the type of flower and overall design which is flowers, mandalas & lace. Feels like the artist is just doing what she wants without it being more of a collaboration. I'm also not 100% happy with the way the roses turned out. They're not bad, but I find them a little too boring and would prefer more details. I really thought for $250 an hour (so far 7 hours and the lower half of my arm isn't fully completed) the design would be more unique and not just something anyone could take pictures from the internet of roses and lace patterns and mandalas and piece together. It's nice but not very original 😞
So long story short, I've seen the work of another artist in the same shop which is really good and I've chatted with him during my sessions while he's between appointments. I seem to click better with his personality (he's more talkative & friendly). He does a lot more planning with his clients before starting a tattoo, even for walk in customers. I've also noticed he's super fast and since I'm paying $250 an hour with plans on full sleeves for both arms that will make a huge difference in cost. My questions are 1- Is my experience with my artist's lack of planning and discussion so far normal for a larger piece? 2- Should I be paying for touchups when I'm already paying so much per hour? 3- Is this the price you'd expect to pay for a custom design not just a cookie cutter one or would it cost more for a truly custom piece? 4- Would it be an issue if I switched artists since I'm not completely happy at this point? 5- I was told it would be best to finish one full sleeve before moving to the other arm because the ink would look different if there was too much time between doing the lower half and upper half. Is that true or would it all look the same after it's fully healed even if there was a large time gap before doing the top half?
At this point I feel like I'm gonna end up paying a ton of money and not be happy in the end.
Thank you so much for any insight or help you could offer!