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Choosing Your Piece

Though some might advise against relying on tattoo flash, utilizing the concept of flash art can oftentimes be a good option to begin with. There are a lot of excellent flash choices out there, and a lot of lousy ones too. You will probably find that out quickly when you are flipping through flash stands or books at a tattoo shop. My very first tattoo was a flash piece; a cute little pair of cherries that I chose to add to my ankle.  The cherries have since been covered up, but I loved them (and still do, it's just that now they sit underneath Shea's portrait).

You might have an idea of what design you want, but the flash option you find isn't quite "you." For instance, a fireman might possibly want an ax or rolled hose as their design, but the flash pieces at hand are not quite what they wanted. Or a client could be looking for a koi fish composition, but none of the flash provided fit the specs that he or she was hoping to find. Discuss it with your artist and tell her/him what components you dig, what you want to change, the colors you want instead, etc. Any good artist that really cares about the end result of a tattoo (which includes both excellent art work and that the collector is pleased) should be down with accommodating your request.
Custom drawings are definitely a great way to accomplish a unique result. Once again, bring your ideas to the table. Do research yourself before approaching an artist and learn about the different types and styles available. I don't know of any tattoo artist who ever wants to be asked, "What should I get?" because they aren't there to transform your skin into their idea of beauty. The theme and idea of your piece really has to be something that you dig, have thought out, and are ready to commit to. If you have examples that embody your vision, bring them with you; but don't expect to duplicate another custom piece, as that is considered disrespectful to the collector wearing it and the artist who inked it. However, using examples for establishing a context and throwing unique elements into the idea can be helpful in getting the ball rolling.

If you are interested in doing a portrait of a loved one, remember that size, clarity and resolution is key when gathering together your reference photos. Sometimes, this might not be possible if the portrait subject is deceased; and in that situation, you will need to discuss the options with your artist. However, if it is at all possible to photograph the subject yourself, take clear, large format photos in a variety of poses and positions so that your artist has ample images to work with when deciding on the perfect reference image. If you are interested in doing a movie character, singer, or well-known subject, scour the internet, books, magazines, etc., for high-resolution shots; again with the widest variety of poses and settings possible.
If you don't have any idea of what you want to get, but you know that you want a tattoo, my best advice is to wait. Don't force it. Like I said before, this is a lifelong commitment here. Don't just get a tattoo for the sake of getting one. Wait until an idea or concept hits you, you love it, and you just can't wait to add it to your skin. I was in this boat once. I knew as a teenager that I wanted a tattoo, after I spied a Cheshire Cat tattoo on a girl's back at Disneyland and thought it was the dreamiest thing I had ever seen.  Yes, I knew right then and there that someday I wanted one (ummm... some), but it wasn't until after my 30th birthday that I actually headed into a tattoo shop. It wasn't that the cherries were an extraordinarily significant symbol, but I was into them at the time and thought that the size and design was just right.  
Speaking of significance, this is also an area that is very personal. No one can tell you what is best for you or wrong for you when it comes to significance. Some collectors want their tattoo to be meaningful in every aspect of the design and have ties of symbolism from top to bottom. That's totally cool for that collector and definitely a good reason to permanently place that representation onto their skin. Some of my tattoos have very personal and symbolic significance, but some of them don't have a deep meaning at all. Simply put, some of them are just things that I like. They might be words, images, colors, or something that is just a great way to remind me of that time in my life. If you are into tattooing profound art - so be it. If you chose something that you consider eye candy and just something you dig - so be it.  There really are no rules. It's YOUR skin. Add what YOU like.


Last updated on January 16, 2012 by Jinxi Boo