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STOP getting Bad Tattoos — by Dan Henk

Dan HenkExcerpt: “Most in the industry have a fondness for some of the old timers. The Sailor Jerry’s and Brooklyn Blackie’s. But the field went through a resurgence in the late ’90’s, and it’s a whole different ball game now. You have styles ranging from the ultra clean traditional of Steve Boltz, the crazy neo-tradional of Timmy B, the stunning black and gray realism of Carlos Torres…” [divider]

Until about the ’70s, Science Fiction wasn’t taken that seriously. Sure, you had a couple of authors who broke the boundaries, like H.G. Wells with “War Of The Worlds”, but the technology and especially the talent mostly wasn’t there. All that entered a new era of acceptance with break outs like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. The same was true of old school horror movies. They had a few stars, the Boris Karloff’s and Bela Lugosi’s for instance, but they were relegated to the B movie/ special interest vault. Then came things like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Shining. A whole new era dawned. There was a lot more of every grade and variety out there, both with horror and Sci-Fi, but the best blew away almost anything that preceded them.

SteveBoltzTattoo
Tattoo by Steve Boltz

The same was true of comic books. You had the classics, Batman and Spiderman being two favorites, but it wasn’t until the comics code was waning and fresh talent poured in that you saw the dawn of anything like Watchmen or Dark Knight. This same paradigm applies to almost everything, from cars to music, and it especially applies to tattoos.

CarlosTorresTattoo

Most in the industry have a fondness for some of the old timers. The Sailor Jerry’s and Brooklyn Blackie’s. But the field went through a resurgence in the late ’90’s, and it’s a whole different ball game now. You have styles ranging from the ultra clean traditional of Steve Boltz, the crazy neo-tradional of Timmy B, the stunning black and gray realism of Carlos Torres, the textured horror of Tommy Lee Wendtner, and I could keep on going ad infinitum, but the talent pool is overflowing right now. Now, just like comics or movies, there is a lot of crap  milling around among the gems out there, and I know people have their favorites. Amazing artwork often competes with things like presentation and personality, but I want to bring up an overlooked point that I think is worth consideration.

TommyLeeWendtnerTattoo
Tattoo by Tommy Lee Wendtner

I don’t think I could have done the work I did on my book at 14. I had it planned out back then. I even went through several comic book versions, and more than one novelized form, before I finally produced my first published work. The main difference being that later in life I had a well of experience too draw from. By this time I had hordes of articles and stories under my belt, and an even longer history of reading the work of other author. Even with all that behind me, I think my second novel is better written, and the third one I am working on will be even more refined. Now you might be asking how this relates to tattoos? I’ll tell you.

DanHenkBook

I did my first sleeve on a friend a year into tattooing. I’ll admit, it was crap. I’m now working on what must be my 40th sleeve, and I’ve learned quite a bit. Not only the basics, like what flows well with the body, keeping a consistent light source, and the like, but just the overall process. The minutia. What flows well over the elbow. What looks readable from a distance. What holds up well over time. Not to mention a thousand other intricacies you learn from hands on experience. It’s a new era now, and hordes of people want massive pieces that cover huge swathes of their body. That’s great, but way too few do their research. That guy who has only done small tattoos, and insists he can do your sleeve, might not be ready yet.

Every artist learns and grows, and the client should give the artist breathing space. They definitely shouldn’t micro manage the design, that is not what I am talking about. But if the artist wants to do something they have never done before, like a portrait, or a sleeve, or a back-piece, they need to do some convincing. If that artist is talented, and does great tattoos, they are two thirds of the way, but keep in mind that the sleeve they do on you will probably be their worst one. Even if it isn’t bad by objective standards.

I know plenty of artists will hate to hear this, as many are clambering to do bigger work, but just think about it. Was the first movie by any famous director his best? Was that first piece by any commercial artist his best? Beautiful tattoos enhance the body and only make it look better. Crap tattoos look worse than bare skin. Do your research. [divider]

More Rants by Dan Henk:

Success is not what you think it is, by Dan Henk

Climb down off your high horse, by Dan Henk

Dan Henk: My Ranting…

Crash
Tattoo Artist since 1990 and creator/publisher of Tattoo Artist Magazine since 2003

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