Tattoo Advice and History > Tattoo Advice > Tattoo Artist Loyalty: Is It OK to Stray?


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Tattoo Artist Loyalty

Q) Hey Jinxi, Do you think it is best to remain loyal to one tattoo artist for most of your work? Is it an insult to an artist if you are tattooed by various people? - Jonathon
A) This is such an interesting question and ultimately, a very personal decision. Nobody knows better than you which artist is most congruous with your ink collecting goals. Throughout my tattoo adventures my perspective has changed on how I approach this topic.

When I first started getting tattooed, I went to one artist and one artist only. He was the very first person to tattoo me, I kept going back for more pieces and we built up a friendship. I started noticing other artists' work that I admired; from artists in the same shop, in magazines, and at conventions. But at the time, I felt like I would be cheating on my artist if I even inquired about getting a piece from anyone other than him. I know now that this was not a necessary way to look at the situation, but at the time, I just didn't want to insult him.

Turns out, it's more like a business relationship. If you're in the market for a credit card processor, you'd contact the best company for the job, like Flagship Merchant Services for example. Same with tattoos. If you want a photo-quality grey-scale tattoo, you shouldn't feel guilty about going to the person in your area who does the most kickass grey-scale tattoos.
Once I started getting a little more familiar with the tattoo scene, I realized that collecting means just that ... collecting art of many varieties. Most established tattoo artists will not take offense to you acquiring another's artwork or taking advantage of all that the industry has to offer.*
*Please Note: (If you have already started a piece with a previous artist, or have mapped out/planned a larger-scale project, this needs to be approached a bit differently. In this case, it's best to talk things over before switching artists, as it's not proper etiquette to finish someone else's idea or piece. Communicate first if this is the case.) 

If you check out your artists' own ink collections, you will usually find that most have diverse work on their own skin. There is so much talent in the tattoo industry today and each of us only has so much canvas space to work with, so don't feel confined to one person. At the same time, don't feel pressured to look elsewhere if you are happy where you are at.

Trust your judgement and find the artistic style that matches up with your vision and with who you feel comfortable in sitting with. Whether that means you go to dozens of artists or that your entire body suit is designed by one person, the choice is up to you. Just don't feel pressured one way or the other; especially if you are wanting vast diversity, but are feeling pressured to stay in one chair.

While I do have an assorted collection on my skin, I tend to return again and again to the artists who really "get me" and whose work I love. But I do not feel stuck there at all. I know that I can accumulate an array of work from different people if I chose to, or remain where I am when I am happy. The key difference for me now, as opposed to when I started my journey, is my perspective of it all. I no longer feel like I MUST remain in one shop and in one chair.
If you are a connoisseur of variety, remember that with anything in life, it's important to be tactful and respectful of feelings and of artwork when you do change course. Be congenial, courteous, and complimentary with each encounter along the way. Graciousness goes a long way in any facet of life.
Just listen carefully to your own instincts. Remember that in the end, your skin is your skin and you are the one who will admire and live with each tattoo design you add to your collection. Find the artists who best help you accomplish your artistic goals and who make the entire experience positive and memorable.
Happy inkin'!

Last updated on April 4, 2013 by Jinxi Boo