The eternal search and 26 tips of how to find a good tattoo artist:
There is nothing really new happening on the market, after I wrote about amputations and about magnet implants. The newest thing is called “Brain Piercing”. Unfortunately I can’t write about it at the moment since I’m still doing some research on the subject, this way I will be able to write an article worthy of all of you.
But, I thought that my latest experience was very interesting, not very extreme, but so far the most interesting tattoo I’ve got. Thinking about the few rejections that I had I thought that many people might go through the same problem. So I decided to make it public.
For the last few years I had this idea for beautiful a tattoo. It was supposed to be a line of mirrored phoenixes starting on my neck following down on my spine down to my tail bone.
Easier said than done I guess…
So a few months before my 34th birthday I started to look for an artist to do the work. As many people know, Brazil is a well known country in the tattoo industry. We have really great professionals down here.
So here I’m with the project, but because I’m very picky as to who will tattoo my body, I could only choose a hand full of professionals among hundreds. From many portfolios that I saw I thought that only those guys would be able to do a decent job out of my very full of micro details idea.
From those five ultra qualified professionals none wanted to do the tattoo. All of them told me that it was literally impossible. And the only one that was going to take the challenge, because I did agree to make the phoenixes a bit larger than what I wanted, had a family problem.
Time passed, I became older and no tattoo. For my tattoo addicted friends and readers, I’m sure that I do not have to explain the feeling, but for the people that do not have the tattoo “bug”, I can say that it is really frustrating. It feels more or less like you have spent months gathering the money to go your favorite group performance, and exactly on the show day the band decided to split up for good.
So here I was with the ticked and no show, or better saying with the drawing and no artist.
The other day while I was walking on the street I saw a small tattoo parlour. And being so devoted to get my body covered with phoenix images I thought about stopping there for a couple of minutes to check out his work.
The worst that could happen was I would meet another wannabe. Actually the market is full of them. Most of the tattoo artists around are not that great. After I finish this story I will add the guide of how to find gold between pebbles.
Going back to the tale: I went inside the studio and there was this, let me please state the obvious, tattoo covered guy. His name is Flavio Vandroiy, I hadn’t heard about him at all, but once I was there I decided to give him a shot, he had a client waiting, so our first contact was brief, but even though, to my surprise, he was very attentive.
Now, if you know a few renowned tattoo artists you will understand that more and more the pop star idea is truly affecting our fellas. Boy, most of the time it feels like they are part of the royalty and are doing you the favor of looking at your face, even if only for five minutes of their precious time. Please note that there are some exceptions, one of them is the lovely Pierre Chapelan, whom, many years ago, I had the pleasure to being tattooed by while I was living in Montreal.
I checked out one of Flávio Vandroiy’s portfolios on paper and after analyzed his work better through his website. The work looked pretty good. His tattoos were signed by steady and clear lines. Then I saw a picture of a tattoo that was very small and full of details, I analyzed it for about one hour looking at every single detail. After that I thought that he would probably be able to do a good job out of my drawing. I sent him an e-mail with the image of my phoenix attached, after a day he sent me an honest reply. He told me that the drawing was quite small, but he would take up the challenge.
So we got the image on my back and of course I complained about the position. He patiently erased the drawing and did it again. Even if I was pleased with the position, I thought about to complain just to see his reaction. But there was no need to do it; he told me that he could be changing it up until I was happy with the placement. So I kept quiet. I hate to push nice willing people. If he was a jerk I would probably had changed the position another couple of times.
He did an amazing job, out of something that many thought to be impossible to accomplish. One of the nicest things about this guy is that he is humble enough to tell me that after we finish all the phoenixes we will have to go back and do some touch up on the images that he thought could be better done. I did agree with him, some of the birds’ faces, if you look at a picture taken with the micrometric of a camera, are not identical.
I have many tattoos, made by many hotshots in the industry, including my very special first tattoo that was made by Marco Leoni himself. Even if it is an old tattoo; I got it when I was a pre-tee and it did suffer quite a bit with stretch due my growth and the thousands of times that I put it through the monstrous process of leg waxing, it still here, not as pompous as it was once, but every time I look at it, I know that this old phoenix helped me to became who I am.
The truth is that I’m in love with this new tattoo; so far it is really the best quality small work that I’ve seen. If you look at it from far it looks like the finest and most delicate lace that you can buy.
Ok, after my narcissistic story I will, as promised, add a few tips on how to know when a tattoo artist is good or he is just another self proclaimed tattooer with the artist title. Notice that international prizes even if prestigious are judged not in the artist daily work. The prizes are given to artists based in only one work, done once during a competition. I considered it as very small sample to be worth of a prize, if you take in consideration that many tattoo artists do between three or four tattoos in studio a day.
1) Of course the studio must be clean and the material properly sterilized, the artist must wear gloves all the time, and the ink should be poured into small containers, avoiding contamination of the material.
2) Look at the artist’s portfolio very carefully, not only to appreciate it; you will be searching for very small imperfections.
3) The lines on a tattoo have to be smooth, jagged lines and shaky lines are a big no go.
4) The color has to be well applied through the entire image, without leaving empty spots.
5) The way in which the artist uses and combines colors is also very important. Especially if you are looking for the water-color effect.
6) Big tattoos are easier to master than small tattoos. Even if the sleeves and the full backs get more attention, small tattoos are much more complicated to make. So while looking at the artist’s portfolio, check out his small and more detailed work. A good hint is to look for some tattoos of birds and check out the feathers and the bird’s face.
7) Also pay attention to the work that the person does when reproducing cartoon characters. This kind of reproduction is very complicated due the amount of details, the perfect thickness of the lines and the coloration.
8) If the price is an issue on the size or the type of the tattoo that you are getting, I suggest you wait and save some more money. It is better wait and to do exactly what you dreamed about than settle for less.
9) You have to get along with the artist and not feel intimidated by him. A good artist will allow you to give your input and will not feel offended by a comment or a suggestion. Remember it is your body and you want to enjoy every second of the experience.
10) Many people have the idea that the tattooer has to be crazy, always high and someone in line with a dark figure. It is a myth; many of those artists are lovely, sometimes married and often proud parents. If you suspect that the artist is under any substance influence, or has any addictions you should think before allowing him to work on you. It is a well known fact that alcoholics and junkies have problems with shaky hands.
11) Also respect it when the artist gives his honest opinion. If you don’t agree just try to find another person to make the tattoo. This way you will avoid to feel like the work was not properly done due to personal reasons.
12) If you choose an image from a catalog, and want to do some changes on it, a good artist will do those changes with pleasure, and will not complain if you want more changes on it on when the sketch is already redone, of course you should know where to draw the line between some more changes and be unreasonable, don’t forget this person makes a living out of making tattoos.
13) A good professional is not always the one that just makes a tattoo properly, to do a proper job is an obligation of a good professional. To me a good professional has to make the client aware of few details about tattoos.
14) If you are a woman, and want to have kids, a tattoo on your stomach or on the lateral of your waist line, no matter if horizontally or vertically, might not be a good idea; it will stretch due the pregnancy and loose some of its beauty.
15) Again if you are a woman, it might not be a good idea to get a tattoo during your period or while in the PMS process. Due some hormonal changes you will be more inclined to feel pain or worse, the healing process can be compromised.
16) Every tattoo when fresh looks great. The artist should remind you that what you see is what you get, for a while. The ink will fade away. Of course you can delay the process taking good care of it, but eventually, it will fade and partially lose some of its beauty.
17) The black ink after few years will become bluish. There is no way to avoid it. To fix the color you will have to retouch the tattoo. You can also try to understand that it is a part of your body and such as it has the right to age. In my case I do not retouch my tattoos. To me my tattoos are part of a moment lost in the past, and because they are memories they will tend to fade with time.
18) While big and bulky tattoos will only have the color fade problem, small and very detailed tattoos, will lose the sharpness on the details, and often will look like if they were poorly done.
19) It is a good idea to get a tattoo during winter. During the summer you will have problems with the plastic bandage; it will keep the tattoo constantly moist. The moist can delay the healing, opening a window for infections. The healing process will also be very, very itchy.
20) If you can’t avoid getting a tattoo during the summer, be ready to use of antihistaminic pills. They will come handy.
21) If you must to scratch the tattoo, it is better if you pat yourself. Never use your nails.
22) Don’t drink or use drugs before getting a tattoo, it won’t ease the pain and alcohol can actually make you bleed more.
23) Depending on your line of work a visible tattoo can be a problem. Something that one day I hope will change, but so far, if you are one of those professionals, try to make a tattoo in a place that is easy to hide while you are wearing any kind of clothing.
24) The hardest thing to say is; never do a tattoo because it is fashionable, or because your idol has one. A tattoo is something personal. It will be with you every single day of your life. It is much more difficult to get rid of one than to get rid of an ex-spouse.
25) When choosing the image for a tattoo, choose something that means something to you. Sure a butterfly is lovely so are flowers, a cute star on your wrist is very sexy. But how will you feel about them when you are sixty?
26) And last but not the least. Never get a tattoo on impulse. There are many other things to do when you are bored, if you need a “quick fix” try to get a drastic hair change or buy some new clothes. Tattoos are something to really think about. Something to be seen and carried as art. If well thought and well chosen the process of getting a tattoo, can take years to happen, but it can definitely change your entire life.