Monday, November 18, 2013

Portfolios of Tattoo Artists - 7 Attributes To Look For

Digital or static portfolios are the most important truth teller any artistic service professional can possess.

 When I went to get "new and improved" breasts back in 2004 I fully realized how significant pictures were to my decision in picking the doctor for my "rack increase". Before this revelation I had never picked a professional to do a job that I had not worked with first. Therefore I had never been through the chores of choosing.

In anticipation of getting my new bosom I booked 3 consultation appointments with 3 plastic surgeons who had been recommended to me.

The first 2 doctors were cocky, assumptive and overly self assured. In fact the second physician seemed dismissive of my ability to even pay him the full amount for the consultation. My expectations of a physical exam or a professional attitude were not met. Nor was I shown even one example of their previous work.

My expectations were low for consultation number 3. I started to believe that plastic surgeons all acted like old, bald rock stars or stuck up tattooers for that matter. Glad to say that the "3rd time was the charm" for my search. Dr Murphy in Reno was a gentleman. Let me ask my list of questions. Explained why it was not a good idea to make his incision through my arm pits. Best of all he had tons of photos of his previous work. 99% good boob jobs with happy patients in the photos. And a couple snapshots of a few that had not gone well for various reasons. 

I admire anyone who can own up to their own imperfect performance as a human being. Too many so called professionals pretend they never make even the slightest mistake at anything they do. In my mind, by Dr Murphy showing me the few bad with the overwhelming good, he won me over. He exceeded my expectations - and I get compliments to this day on my figure improvement.

So it is with this spirit in mind I wanted to provide you with a short guide as to what to look for in the portfolio of a tattoo artist. For more in depth information on shop and artist selection please see the other earlier entries in this blog.

  1. Line work that is steady, consistent and even though out the design.      Look closely at the boarder surrounding each piece of the entire design. These lines should be uniform in thickness or thinness. Flowing from one stroke to the next with balance and uniformity. You should not see where the needle has been applied to the skin to start the line itself.                                                                
    Sharpie Examples of Uniformity and Balance (or lack thereof)
  2. Tattoo Designs that have Symmetry.         Does the mouth on animal designs look too large for their face? Proportions seem somehow off? Do letters in a word all seem slightly larger and smaller as the eye travels its length? With designs that have exact uniformity,  say a 5 point star -is it a mirror image in each component of all its parts? Pay careful attention to symmetry. Where there is a little of it on other peoples tattoos, you can expect the same half hearted work on your ink. Inexperience is usually the cause of it. Do not be one more customer this tattooer cuts his teeth on.                              
  3. Varied Styles of Different Tattooing.      I myself love American traditional tattoos. I am personally covered from throat to feet in these crisp, bulky designs. Yet when I see a portfolio that contains nothing but traditional I take special notice. This says to me the portfolios owner is not comfortable showing a possible customer how good or bad they are at other types of more complicated tattoo designs. It is an attempt to manipulate your information gathering. This tattooer prefers to do the minimum amount of work for their money. While this is not a crime - it is a red alert to avoid this tattoo provider unless you want a standard, monotone straight from the rack flash tattoo design. Tattoo Artist with a specialty like black and gray portraits will still demonstrate other styles they are capable of inking. This shows confidence in their trade. Therefore hoping to earn your business.                                                                                                                                           
  4. A Simple RED HEART is ANYTHING but Simple.    Even the smallest and simplest tattoos can have a stunning amount of vibrancy. A customer may ask for " A tiny red heart on my bum." A talented artist will carry the request - but will go beyond the simple request to exceed the expectation of the customer. Does the little heart have a highlight to the round tops? Can you tell that a few different shades of red and pink were blended together to create subtle nuances - creating more shape than just the black outline provides? Attention to the simplest designs tells you the artist cares about everything he puts his name on. THAT is a good thing!      
    "MOM" Heart with Rose By Russell Fortier
    Lucky 7 Tattoo Tahoe
  5. Match the Portfolio to a Single Tattooer.      This is a more recent development in low rent tattoo shops. One large photo album that is suppose to represent the entire staff. See it as a red flag to walk away. You have a shop owner who only cares about making money. Once again this is done to deceive you by omitting information you can use to make an educated choice in WHO in that shop is good (if anyone actually is). You are being sold false hope that everyone who tattoos in that location is equal. NONSENSE. There is no such thing as an "easy" tattoo. IF your tattoo artist cares about their work, having pride and self satisfaction - they will gladly take clear pictures and display them.                 
    Black and Grey Angel By Russell Fortier        Day of the Dead Pin-up Face By Corey Boobar
    Lucky 7 Tattoo Tahoe
  6. Digital is Great - However Photo Paper is Better.     I am sure to get a few miffed emails regarding this one. Yet I must advise you the best way I know how. Online sites are wonderful for the shear ease it can be to upload pictures of your work. Potential customers can sit around anywhere they please and browse an artists work. The web is a great tool to weed out who you do not want to bother with in person. However is no substitute for a static leather bound portfolio with plastic sleeves to hold photo paper photography.  Matter of fact, I want you to reach under the plastic, feel the paper to make sure it hasn't been cut out of a magazine. See if  the weight seems appropriate? Any artist who is proud of their abilities will gladly flip their book to certain pages - showing you what they have created for other clients. It takes time, will and money to get photos printed from a store. That is a good sign of someone who cares to show you their best and has done little or nothing on Photoshop type editing programs to trick you.                                                                                                                        
  7. Do Not Be Impressed By A Massive Number of Photos.   One of my favorite tattoos I got from a tattooer who had half a dozen photo albums in his lobby. Now I knew the guy and his work for a while before I had gone into his shop. So the number of photos did not impress me-his actual tattooing did. Since that time I have wandered into a few situations where a tattooer had the approach of quantity over quality. Reams of endless poor images,  quite blurry or poorly focused. Numbers of them written upon with ballpoint pen to explain what you are looking at!?! At times I would feel the need to take a quick cat nap trying to get through the heft of it all. Again, a bit of trickery is going on. The tattooer is taking photos of everything he does, which makes no sense really. Talented tattooers will take photos of work they are exceptionally proud of. Or perhaps of tattoos they know clients will find marvelous for one reason or another. As the portfolio grows to enormous for additional pages for its rings - they edit out older photographs to add the newer ones. Putting the old photos away for safe keeping - to pull out for a specific situation. Do not be dazzled with by the volume. Be cognizant of possible trickery.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
As I have said with any other list of advisement I have created about tattooing or piercing - always trust your gut. If you have doubts about the ability of a tattoo artists skills then wait. No matter how desperately you desire the piece that very moment. Regret is easy to come by when preparation and planning is tossed aside for speed.