Rian Othus

How long do hand tattoos last and can you do them?

Well, here is the persistently asked question from clients to us tattooers: Do you do hand and foot tattoos. And, do they last?

I am in a bit of a goofy mood while writing this post so the tone may be different than usual. I apologize if it makes the reading difficult.

Sweet Jesus, there is a plethora of misinformation out there as to how and why we do/don’t do finger tattoos. Today, I hope to put this to rest!

Hand tattoos – What Gives?

So you have a client that walks in and says,

               Client: Hey. Do y’all do hand tattoos?

You: **Nonsensical garbled answer because you really don’t want to do one but.. damn, you gotta pay them bills**

To dissect this problem, let’s dig right into the fucking dirt of what your skin looks like and how it’s different on the hands and feet. Then we will jump into why finger tattoos may or may not heal up, what to look for in your fingers/feet that help make a good choice about placement and how the healing is different for these areas of the body.

“Boom”

God

That means, let’s get onto the science!

Skin Composition – What’s the skinny on them layers?

I was am going to skip all the technical mumbo-jumbo about skin layers and what not but I ended up writing all about it.

Here is what people who are not tattoo artists thinks their hands look like. It may also be what we all assume every person’s hands will look like when they come in to get a tattoo blasted on the digits:

probably younger hands

In all reality, here is what we tattooers deal with on the daily:

old ass hands

If you look at your hands (just do it) and compare the skin on them to the rest of your body, you will notice a few things that are different.

  1. The backs of your hands have very little fat (adipose tissue)
  2. The palms of your hands are thick (Like…what if your whole body was like that?)
  3. There are transitional areas that line the sides of your fingers and palms.
  4. The skin takes a ton of abuse and you may have some rad scars.

What does that have to do with the tattooing procedure and how can I accurately assess the possible healed tattoo from people who want their hands/feet tattooed?

It’s easy young padawan. You just must understand the why’s before getting to the how’s.

Skin Construction

So, let’s have a short primer for all those out there who may not have taken an A&P class in college.

Here are the layers of your skin, broken down Scooby style for ease of reading.

  • Epidermis – about 0.1 mm in thickness.
    • Water proofing and barrier for the body. Made up of basal cells and keratinocytes.
      • Keratinocytes – a bunch of different proteins, enzymes, lipids and defense peptides that protect the body. They absorb water and don’t divide like normal cells do after they have been “selected” during a maturation stage. (more information found by following this link)
      • Basal Cells – Keratinocytes that are found in the basal layer of the epidermis.
  • Dermis – on average about 2 mm in thickness
    • The living part of your skin in that it supplies all the cells for the epidermis. It also contains vascular bodies, structural cells that give skin its physical properties, immune cells and specific fat cells called adipocytes.
  • Subcutaneous tissues – anywhere from 2 mm in thickness up to greater than 18 mm (> 18 mm)
    • This is fat. The subcutaneous tissues give structure like your dermis but is made up of loose connective tissues to underlying structures. Its like the dermis but is like…loose.

Here is a table that breaks down the layers in a more scientific way –

Skin LayerStructureRole in Viscoelasticity
Stratum corneum—outermost layer of epidermisStructure of up to 25–30 rows of corneocytes; includes fibrous keratin; “brick and mortar” arrangement, in conjunction with other stratified layers in the epidermis, increases tensile strength (resistance to longitudinal stress), and resistance to damage ()
Water content is 15–30% ()
Supports pliability (ease in change of shape from baseline)
Promotes strength, elastic behavior, and resistance to loss of skin integrity with movement, stretching, and application of force
Basement membrane zone (BMZ)Collection of three cell layers between the epidermis and the dermis (lamina lucida, lamina densa, and lamina propria; ; ); comprised of proteins (primarily laminins, proteoglycans, and types IV and VII collagens; )
Desmosomes (cells responsible for adhesion) serve as binding cells between basal layer of skin and upper lamina lucida (; )
Anchoring fibrils and a matrix of fibers at varying stages of maturity connect thicker lamina densa layer to upper layer of dermis (; )
BMZ semipermeable to water; limits water passage to maintain skin hydration and support viscoelasticity
Lamina layers extremely flexible due to construction of multiple-microfibrillar subdensa and protein-based supra-lamina desmosomes (; )
Supports epidermis and provides strong adhesion between the epidermal and dermal layers to protect against shearing forces (); when force applied on parallel plane to skin, it has a viscoelastic response of expanding and then contracting fiber matrix and associated fluids
Serves as an anchor to surrounding layers; disruption of BMZ leads to amorphous structure within epidermis and dermis causing skin structure breakage and reduced viscoelastic response
Dermis—layer between the epidermis and subcutaneous tissuesWithin papillary region (uppermost layer of dermis), a networking of thin elastin protein fibers (oxytalan fibers and the elaunin fibers cross-linked via desmosomes) is in loose matrix with procollagen (a precursor to collagen that originates within ground substance) and ground substance (; ; ; )
Reticular region (below papillary region and above hypodermis) is comprised of ground substance and a thicker mesh of collagen fibers wound among thicker elastic fibers assembled from elastin and microfibrils (; ; )
With force, elastin molecules stretch in linear pattern, cross links maintain structure; quick elastic reaction provides immediate response to force, followed by slower viscous response and then full return to baseline
Elastic fibers are thinner in papillary region and used for quick response but break more easily; elastic fibers in reticular region thicker, more bundled with collagen, and provide slower, viscoelastic behavior and greater tensile strength (; )
Hypodermis—innermost and thickest layer of skin; connects dermis to bone or connective tissueAdipose tissue is present in the hypodermis, but thickness of this layer may vary (; ; )Thickness of adipose deposits maintains shape of skin, protects it from underlying (bony) structures, and is positively correlated with skin strength and elasticity (; ); positive and protective effects may negated in obesity ()
Problems with obesity include impaired skin barrier repair, decreased lymphatic flow, decreased strength of collagen structures, impaired circulation, decreased wound healing, and skin disorders that change the structure and impair the function of the skin ()

Borrowed from source: Everett, J. S., & Sommers, M. S. (2013). Skin viscoelasticity: physiologic mechanisms, measurement issues, and application to nursing science. Biological research for nursing15(3), 338–346. doi:10.1177/1099800411434151

Let’s move on with a look at the subcutaneous tissues and why this layer of skin is so thin on your hands.

No fat, What up with dat?

The back of your hands and the tops of the feet are what every 80’s-90’s supermodels hoped their entire body could be like. Nearly fat free! (that was awful)

(I am going to stop putting in a separator and use hands as interchangeable with feet for now. That repetitive explanation is getting tiring)

The back of your hands look like crêpe paper stretched over a turkey skeleton. There is little to no fat on the hands of most people and, as anyone who has had their hands tattooed, the shock and vibrations you get from a tattoo make the hands hurt a lot. They tend to blow out, heal hard and take more of a beating through your normal day, in comparison with other parts of the body.

All over your body, the fatty layer (also known as the hypodermis or subcutaneous layer) exists to absorb blows and gives easy-access pathways for blood vessels to connect through your body. It also stores/releases energy, insulates your body and connects the tissue (skin) to underlying fascia which connects the skin to muscles, tendon and other stuffs.

One additional part of this amazing part of the skin is that it contains fibroblasts and macrophages, which if you had read the skin article (out soon), are key in getting the pigment to become “permanent” .

Fancy scientific mechanisms aside, the fatty tissue (in tattooing) keeps the skin supple and helps absorb some of the force that is emitted by the tattoo machine (via a needle). It also helps smooth out the dermis when you pull a stretch, making the layers under the epidermis more consistent thickness wise.

Imagination time!

Place a dish outside on a concrete slab and hit it with a hammer… what happens? It explodes!

Now take another plate and place it on a pillow and smack it with a hammer… what happens? …It still blows up, but the shock you feel from swinging a hammer is greatly decreased.

Hand and foot tattoos for thick skin – Yes everyone has thick skin

This may seem like a weird idea that we all have thick skin but, in essence, we do. That thick skin is on the palms of our hands and soles of our feet. Its there because we need additional protection from our environment with the feelers that we utilize to interact with our world.

Our hands and feet are what we use to interact with our environment. It is what gets us to work and allows us to do the jobs we choose to do. Our feet go through an immense amount of stress every day. Each step you take is an opera of stress distribution and pressure. Your weight, with what speed you are going, is absorbed by a complex network of bones, muscles, connective tissues… and a bunch of magic! (not really) Those stressors increase the pressures to a value that can be multiple factors higher than what your physical weight is. 

nasty feet

Why are the fatty parts so important for tattooing?

The fat helps create a less volatile surface for you to tattoo. The needles that are being driven by a tattoo machine will have a little cushion when they strike the bottom of the machine stroke. This is supremely important as the cushion not only helps the client feel less pain (initially) but also enables the skin to settle evenly when stretched.

What’s that you say? Stretching is influenced by the amount of fatty tissue underlying the skin?!

skin layers

It’s super important to get the stretch down right!

(Upcoming article on stretching will be linked HERE when it is completed)

SubQ – Skin on the hands and feet

The subcutaneous layer (SubQ or fatty layer, like stated before) that all but missing in the hands and feet make things difficult to tattoo but serve a function that is unique to these parts of the body.

Due to the lack of fatty tissue, there is less connection to the underlying structures in the hands and feet. This makes it easy for the fingers and feet to bend and move with less restriction but it also has an effect when getting the hands and feet tattooed.

Yes, your magnificent biceps can take a tattoo and look amazing when oiled up! But, could you imagine how it would feel if the skin on your hands were attached to the muscles the same way your arms or thighs? That would be weird and restrictive.

Walking or grasping something would become very difficult, in the beginning, but as your muscles developed those movements would be even further restricted. Larger muscles needed to move the resticed joints would cramp the area that they occupy and the idea of dexterity would be absent from the species.

Next up on the block for tattooing hands and feet is the uppermost layer of your skin, the horny layer.

The Horny Layer – Not what you think

Image result for stretched skin diagram hand and foot tattoos - Austin powers style. oh behave!

Another aspect that is unique to the hands and feet on a body is the excessively developed horny layer of skin. No, your hands don’t want to get down ya dirty, or maybe they do? The horney layer is another name for the uppermost layer of your epidermis, the stratum corneum.

The stratum corneum (which will be called the horney layer from here out because…I am like a teenager at heart) is made up of all those dead skin cells that are slowly sloughing off when new ones are made. The skin all over your body is always dying but there is a greater sloughing that happens on your hands and feet because they are constantly in use.

One other aspect of these areas on your body is an additional layer of skin called the stratum lucidum.

Ahhhh, the circle of life!

The upper most layer of skin is comprised of mostly dead cells, they had to get there somehow. These dying or dead cells are migrated up through the skin by newly formed cells further down and once they reach the top, they fall off.

Working our way into the skin, and looking at something that is totally unique to these body parts we end up at the stratum lucidum. It is located between your epidermis and dermis on the hands and feet. It’s a collection of specialized cells that give your hands and feet a waterproof, protective layer. Much like a rain slicker in inclimate weather, this layer adds additional protection to these parts of your body and help to keep pathogens out of the parts of your body that interact with your world.

You may have noticed this specialized layer of skin if, like myself, you have gone for a long walk and come home to some swollen, soaked socks. You can also see this layer in action when you take a nice hot bath and get all pruney!

The keratin cells in your hands absorb water and swell, but only the dead/dying layers on your hands above the stratum lucidum! neat eh! This specialized layer is great at protecting your most precious digits and, to be honest, aren’t we glad that our backs don’t wrinkle like that in the tub!

Next, onto the dermis!

The dermis. The real target of hand and foot tattoos

Ok. This article has become more about the skin rather than focusing on tattooing. I understand if you need to go but, I promise, after this section we will move onto the real meat and potatoes you came for!

The dermis is what lies between the epidermis and the subcutaneous tissues of the skin. It is made up mostly of collagen and elastin. These two proteins are what gives your skin it’s bouncy resilience. Your nerves, blood vessels, lymph vessels and sweat glands are also crammed into this space!

We are not ignoring the blood and lymph vessels, which help with thermoregulation and supply oxygen and nutrients to surrounding cells. We are moving past them quickly to talk about more specialized cells.

Another type of cell that makes up the dermis is a mast cell. These specialized cells are a part of the inflammatory response that helps the body deal with intruders (infectious materials like viruses or other things that shouldn’t be there). I’ll leave you a link that explains it all in a much better fashion than I can.

Dermis Explained

Why is the dermis important?

The dermis is where the pigment stays and becomes “permanent”. Your epidermis is constantly sloughing off and is composed of dead/dying cells (mostly keratinocytes). These cells that are being pushed out are not capable of “holding” pigment. The pigment holding cells are the macrophages that are summoned up from the lower layers of the dermis.

These specialized cells deal with infections and foreign particles (like ink). The macrophages consume/engulf the pigment particles that have been injected into the skin and hold it in place. These cells, like all others in our bodies, slowly die off and dump their contents (tattoo pigment) back into the skin before being transferred up to be sloughed off.

What happens to the pigment when that occurs, you ask?

ink life cycle after tattooing

The body sends more macrophages in response the the released foreign particle. The newly formed macrophages come forth, engulf the pigment and lay in wait until they meet their inevitable end.

This process continues during your livable existence and ensure that your tattoo is going to last a lifetime. (for now… mwahahahaha SCIENCE! – more on this later)

What’s up with hand and foot tattoos?

How about you, dear reader take this one. I know you can probably answer this question pretty well after all that typing that occurred above! (at least I hope so…)

hand structure
  • With a layer of subcutaneous tissue that is less evident, the body can experience greater trauma when being tattooed. Higher degree of trauma = lower chance of healing cleanly.
  • Lower levels of subcutaneous tissue create a more difficult stretch which creates a more uneven dermal layer. This makes it nearly impossible to place the pigment consistent into the skin so it shows an even tone and doesn’t “blow out”.

(A blow out is where the pigment is placed in a way that causes it to spread in an unpredictable way under the skin. The pigment placed into the body can roll along the capillary pathways, along soft spots of less dense skin or be carried into less dense areas by the inflammatory/immune response that occurs during a tattoo.)

  • Higher levels of stress from normal daily use increase the amount of shedding that needs to occur as more cells are destroyed from use.
  • Being constantly in use, the environmental stresses are greater than other parts of the body so an increase in healing time may occur.
  • The thicker horny layer creates a longer pathway for ink and needles to travel. this travel will dislodge pigment at different depths that can create an illusion of a well done tattoo. When the tattoo heals, and the misplaced pigment is shed (not absorbed) the finished product could be much lighter than anticipated.

So this list is going to left and added to at another time. I have shit to do and I am running out of time!

How can we tell who would be a better candidate for a hand or foot tattoo

This one is simple. You do a consult and touch their hands/feet after washing your hands and putting on a set of gloves.

Look at the skin. Is it very thin looking? If so, you will need to adjust your machine speed to ensure quality injection of pigment.

Give the skin a little push and pull. Does it feel tight or strongly attached to the underlying structure? If it does, there is a better chance that the SubQ layer is thicker than average and should be easier to tattoo. If the skin is very loose, there is a better chance that the tattoo will fall out or blow out if your needle depth is not set shallow and run on a slower machine setting.

WHen doing a consultation, ask the person who wants the tattoo what they do for a living. If you are going to tattoo a bakers hand, or a mechanics hand, there is a greater than average chance the tattoo will heal like total crap. Why you ask? BECAUSE THEY WORK WITH THEIR HANDS!

The type of work and what the skin is introduced to in a daily grind are what we consider environmental stresses. If you were to apply those same stresses to any other part of the body, what would you expect? (This wasn’t rhetorical)

How evident is the vascularization of the hand? If it seems very prominent, located near the surface, the epidermis will be thinner than normal (maybe they don’t use their hands for work or have a light duty job). If this is the case, you will have to adjust your hand and machine speed to ensure good saturation and less trauma.

In closing for now…

There is more information that needs to be added to this so let’s leave this article as a primer for those of you who need more.

Thanks for reading.

Titanium Dioxide – Pigment Chemistry

The role of titanium dioxide in tattoo pigments

Have you taken a look at the labels of your tattoo pigment lately? One thing you may notice is that there is almost always titanium dioxide in your pigments. Why is that?

Titanium dioxide ( TiO2 ) is something that is ubiquitous in our society. You may not have heard of it before but, trust me, it is everywhere. We find TiO2 in sunscreens, food as an additive and commercial products like paint and steel. It gets spread on our faces, doughnuts and spaceships. When I said ubiquitous… I meant it.

TiO2 is sourced from raw minerals and is defined for specific uses by the size and dimension of the individual particles. The particles have a high refractive index, are photostabile in high UV applications and, although costly to manufacture, are in high demand globally.

So why oh why do we put this into our tattoo pigments? Is it safe? What should we know so that we can be a better educated client/tattooer in the world?

 

Titanium dioxide in our pigments

TiO2 manufacturing is kind of complicated and, since this is a tattoo blog, we won’t get into what goes into the sourcing and processing. If you want to learn more, Google is your friend.

TiO2 is used in our tattoo pigments because its use makes our pigments look brighter. This particle refracts light and disperses wavelengths that are enhancing to colors. The refractive ability is determined by the particulate size and can be tailor made by manufacturers to most sizes… even nano-particle sized.

Titanium dioxide health concerns

While TiO2 may be a food-safe product there are questions about the safety of this product when injected into the body. Here is a paper that discusses the health effects of TiO2!

Titanium dioxide nanoparticles induce DNA damage and genetic instability in vivo in mice

Evidence that ultrafine titanium dioxide induces micronuclei and apoptosis in Syrian hamster embryo fibroblasts.

Human safety review of “nano” titanium dioxide and zinc oxide

and a couple of papers for whomever wants to read them:

Chemistry Handbook- TiO2

Titanium Dioxide white paper from DuPont

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rian Othus got his initial break into the tattooing industry in the early 2000’s. He worked in many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The opinions expressed on this site are based on his experiences and time spent in the industry. Some are also from amateur scientific study.

The journey to increase his knowledge began on the road. At times Rian had to travel far from home. Others, he had to beg to get any information. It was an amazing journey and it paved the way for Rian to start analyzing the tattoo industry to figure out where he fit into it.

These articles are written to engage and educate those who are out in the wild world of tattooing, working in a shop or just enjoying the culture. He admits that some of the articles may be very specific regarding who they are written for, but hopes that anyone who reads them is able to take things from a different angle or better understand what someone else may be experiencing.

Rian Othus
Website: https://tattooartistsblog.com
https://www.instagram.com/rian_othus


 

Titanium Dioxide – Pigment Chemistry

The role of titanium dioxide in tattoo pigments

Have you taken a look at the labels of your tattoo pigment lately? On thing you may notice is that there is almost always titanium dioxide in your pigments. Why is that?

Titanium dioxide ( TiO2 ) is something that is ubiquitous in our society. You may not have heard of it before but, trust me, it is everywhere. We find TiO2 in sunscreens, food as an additive and commercial products like paint and steel. It gets spread on our faces, doughnuts and spaceships. When I said ubiquitous… I meant it.

TiO2 is sourced from raw minerals and is defined for specific uses by the size and dimension of the individual particles. The particles have a high refractive index, are photostabile in high UV applications and, although costly to manufacture, are in high demand globally.

So why oh why do we put this into our tattoo pigments? Is it safe? What should we know so that we can be a better educated client/tattooer in the world?

Titanium dioxide in our pigments

TiO2 manufacturing is kind of complicated and, since this is a tattoo blog, we won’t get into what goes into the sourcing and processing. If you want to learn more, Google is your friend.

TiO2 is used in our tattoo pigments because its use makes our pigments look brighter. This particle refracts light and disperses wavelengths that are enhancing to colors. The refractive ability is determined by the particulate size and can be tailor made by manufacturers to most sizes… even nano-particle sized.

Titanium dioxide health concerns

While TiO2 may be a food-safe product there are questions about the safety of this product when injected into the body. Here is a paper that discusses the health effects of TiO2!

Titanium dioxide nanoparticles induce DNA damage and genetic instability in vivo in mice

Evidence that ultrafine titanium dioxide induces micronuclei and apoptosis in Syrian hamster embryo fibroblasts.

Human safety review of “nano” titanium dioxide and zinc oxide

and a couple of papers for whomever wants to read them:

Chemistry Handbook- TiO2

Titanium Dioxide white paper from DuPont

Needle Technique – How to hold your tattoo machine

Needle Technique – Preface on how to hold your machine:

I’ve read many articles over the years that have laid out certain needle techniques. They are very specific and focused on how to use your needles to achieve a clean tattoo. This is a question that has popped up many times during my travels and I have noticed that many tattooers are quick to dismiss any critiques on this simple yet foundational aspect of tattooing.

Regarding the articles from years back, I noticed while reading them there was a lack of consensus on what was correct. They all had a difference in technique. The articles touched upon the difference between liner and shader needles but left out grouping effectiveness and what to expect when using them in out-of-context ways. Almost none of the articles focused on small-grouping liner needles or the best way to avoid blowouts when using them. I also never caught wind of an article discussing what is necessary to achieve optimal results with different needles.

Before getting into the short article here that broaches the subject of needle technique, you should read our article about tattooing hands and feet, it has a load of info about the skin.

Needle Technique – The article origin

Funny enough, I was at a convention this week and I had noticed many people using many different machines and different needle groupings.

One thing I had noticed was that everyone was running their machines incorrectly. The speed, angle of inflection and hand speed were all inconsistent with how different types/areas of skin should be tattooed. Nearly all of the tattooers I watched work had the same basic misunderstanding of direction, angle and depth.

I avoided giving any critiques, as many of you would agree with, they were unasked for and totally unwarranted.

I wanted to walk up and give a couple pointers because, truthfully, if they were paying better attention to a couple things, that needle would be giving them better, cleaner, easier lines; quicker and faster.

shitty tattoo lines

I know this sounds like a crackpot-asshole calling bluff on a bunch of seasoned artists… I assure you it is not. This is another friendly critique for those out there who want to improve.

So with that preface, on to our article.

Part one – Nah… Another Preface

Let’s start out with liner needles because they are the most commonly overlooked tool. After we work our way through some simple improvements, we will move on the mags. Mags are tricky, mainly because there is many different ways to use them. There is also an inconsistent consensus on how best to use those needles. Some people say “just shading”, others claim ” I fuckin’ line with those bitches!”.

Evidently this is the second preface ( ya, we need a second )

I’m going to skip writing a section on stretching skin. I can imagine that if, by now, you are tattooing full time, that you already have a decent or standing as to how to stretch skin correctly.

If not, Let me know and I’ll work up an article about proper skin stretching. I could cover techniques associated with what type of skin that you’re working with and how your stretch with these different types of skin can affect your quality of work.

Blah…Blah…blah…bl…. *HICCUP!!* get on to it already!

Ok… Onto the article.

Rules of the Tattoo – Liners

Regardless if you use small or large groupings, you will get varying results on the healed end of the tattoo if you don’t follow a few simple needle technique rules.

  • Rule 1- Always run your needle against the tube back. This is called moving forward. This ensures the needle stays in contact with the tube tip while running lines. The tubes work best without the needle bouncing around in the tip.
  • Rule 2- Look at rule 1

I believe, in the beginning of our careers, when we’re all starting out, that we have focus. Maybe even superhuman focus…

What I’m saying may ring a bell with all y’all,  or maybe it is still a thing you live with. There was an ability to focus so hard on all the mechanisms that went into a tattoo that dissipates as we grow in our understanding of the trade.

In the beginning…

In the beginning, we overly focus on what some of us experienced tattooers think of as the mundane. Running lines, whip shading, light source… It something that we may take for granted as practice leads to understanding. That understanding leads to mastery, in most cases.

This leads me to a question: If we are working towards a mastery with knowledge that is incorrect, can we ever obtain mastery?

Funny enough, some of those things that we used to be driven crazy by, when our mentors or just by ourselves we’re trying out new things, have become something that we rarely focus on what we’re doing tattoos as we mature towards mastery.

How often do you pay attention to where your needles are?

Do you only pay attention to what feels right?

 

Liner needles

Let’s move on and take a look at needle technique using Liners

Small needle grouping – Liners

Needle Technique – Standard Angle

When I first started tattooing, I was told that you had to keep the needles in the tube at an angle somewhere between 45˚ and 60˚ (standard angle or SA) when running lines in the skin. This idea seems to be true for most applications when using a tattoo machine.

Always using that SA will result in the most consistent of results. Especially when using smaller groupings.

I personally only use 3 round and 5 around liners for the vast majority of my work. When this practice first started it was nerve wracking and shit was a bit of a disaster for a week. Luckily, every tattoo I did was built to take a 7-9 round so, the repairs were free and embarrassing.

The result of this experience is that I’m very cautious when ever I run a line. My tube is held in the SA and I am always pushing (mostly) when I’m running and/or sculpting lines.

Needle Technique – Shallow Angle

If you’re like most of us, your hand gets a bit tired and those machines start getting heavy.

When that happens, your machine sags and you run your needle too shallow. Shallow is considered <45° angle

So what dude.. The ink is going in. Who gives a shit… right!?

maths needles tech

Nah.. You see, what happens when you run your machine shallow is:

  • Your needles won’t penetrate the correct amount unless you press your tube tip and bury the needle.
  • You lose most of the pigment by increasing the traveling distance of the needle
  • Your machine has to work harder to push the needle in which increases load and decreases machine life.
  • If you are pulling a line, the needle will skip across the skin surface leaving little ink but more trauma.
Shallow

To explain

As you’re moving forward at whatever speed your hand moves, the needle at the end of the tube seems to bounce around. This is because it’s not hitting a directly flat surfaces allowing the needles to penetrate the layer of skin we want, directly.

This also occurs if the skin is in stretched too tight. You see the needles going in but there will be little pigment deposited into the epidermis. The pigment will be trapped in the uppermost layer as the needles won’t get deep enough to deposit the ink properly.

Worse yet, if the needles are running at a steeper angle the needle will just hop along the top not making any sort of penetration, thus leaving any pigment that you want to put into the skin stuck on top of the skin. In this case, the needles just chew up the upper layer of skin for no reason.

Steep angle of tubes

What happens with the needle facing straight-up-and-down to the 90゚ angle, or somewhere between 75 and 90°?

protractor angle

The needle has to work harder to pass through the skin, especially if you have a very tight stretch on a specific area.

When the needle strikes the skin, it doesn’t so much a slide in as it does blow the skin apart to create an opening for the ink to enter.

Steep

To bypass this some artist have lightened their stretch and kept the steep angle when tattooing. This needle technique, which may actually work when using smaller needle configurations, still isn’t totally efficient. You can utilize it when trying to build/sculpt lines, but if you’re trying to do very fine lines…Not so much

A bit about Stretching

What you push the pigment into the skin with the needles at a steep angle, while holding a softer stretch, the skin layers that accet the pigment are out of alignment. You can tell this by releasing the stretch after running a line.

When you release that light stretch you will notice that your lines are wavy or inconsistent. This is because the skin is an organ that is susceptible to stresses, like stretching. When you pull skin tight, you squeeze the layers together making an easier path for needles to push through. If you hold it too loose, or stretch incorrectly, the skin layers will move to the position of

What happens with the needle facing straight-up-and-down to the 90゚ angle, or somewhere between 75 and 90 The needle has to work harder to pass through the skin especially if you have a very tight stretch on a specific area. When the needle strikes the skin it doesn’t so much a slide in as it does blow the skin of parts to create an opening for the ink to enter.

To bypass this effect, some artist have lightened their stretch, which may actually work when using smaller needle configurations. It also may work when trying to build lines, but if you’re trying to do very fine lines, the increased trauma will make it impossible let to heal a long sitting, single sitting tattoo well.

Large groupings

Large liner groupings should only ever be used in one way. Run any of your lines the standard 45 to 60゚ angle with a decent stretch, which is determined by skin type.

angles
Just steep enough to get the needles in for some reverse whip shading

Watch the effects of your lining when you use these angles. From experience, you’re only going to be getting partial saturation. This is due to a lack of full penetration of all needles entering the skin. This is especially evidence and needle groupings that are loose, such as round shaders

What happens when you bog down?

Yes it is true that you can run steep angles with round shaders, or loose groupings, or large groupings of round liners if you take it slow enough. The partial needle grouping entering the proper depth will deposit enough pigment if you go slow enough. However, this is incredibly poor needle technique.

But, this defeats the purpose of using large groupings. You wanna be able to move fast put the ink in the skin and move on to your next tattoo.

I remember back in the day of Spalding Rogers’, National’s and Danny Fowler’s; people would just crank their machines up to 13 just screamed the pigment into the skin.

When your tossing your needle technique out the window like that, regardless of what your angle was at, the ink went in.

Magnum needles

The industry hasn’t reached a proper concensus about how to use needle mags. Regardless of this fact, there is one generally accepted procedure when using them that will ensure quality results, depending on the style you’re working with.

Soft shading

Soft shading can be accomplished using any dispersion of pigment that you have laid out on your table. The trick here is your needle angle when entering the skip.

Softer shading is better accomplished by having the needles at a steeper angle i.e. Between 75 and 90゚. Having the needles at this steeper angle a causes them to bounce off the surface of the skin due to the largest surface area that is being engaged by the needles. This bouncing off the skin ensures that not all the pigment you want to put in will go in it will just sits superficially in the upper layer of the epidermis.

Just like stated above, care needs to be taken as you will burn through that top layer of skin quickly if you keep a tight stretch while continuously running the needles over the skin surface.

Inversely, you can lighten up on the skin and allow the mags to just bounce off the skin surface. This will give you a softer tone while keeping the potential of a hard edge at a minimum.

Color filling

When filling color you can alternate between steep and normal angles 75 to 90゚ (which is steep) or 45 to 60゚ angles (which is standard). The steep angles can be used to feather out colors when blending while the SA are used for full filling.

Be careful when using the steep angle technique for shading. You need caution because the needles are more prone to chew up the skin if you don’t Get the saturation correct on your 1st pass. Use a standard angle between 45 and 60゚ to put color into the skin. Most people work in small tight circles, but with mags, I have found that a Box Motion works better than circles.

Box motion explained

  • The Box motion for filling in color or solid black is as follows
  • Start by pushing forward into the skin with the Magnum needle.
  • As you start to circle back just pull a hard 90゚ right while lifting the needle out of the skin.
  • Finish pulling out of the skin as you pull straight back away from the skin
  • Make another 90゚ turn to start heading towards the skin while dropping your needle depth towards the skip.

Lather rinse repeat.

Proper technique

Using small liners proper technique for putting people into the skin is

Get a stretch on the skin or area that you are planning on Tattooing

Get ink in needles and tubes by dipping and in ink cap.

Start your line with the machine tube set up 45- 60゚ off the skin surface

Only move forward with your liner. You will be pushing the needle against the back of the tube. you can shortcut this and/or cheat it by going in a side to side motion.

Never drag your needles backwards when running lines.

Run your line in a smooth motion. What do I mean by smooth?

It’s easy.

Everyone has a range of motion. When you push past the natural range of motion for any muscle grouping that you’re using, your body has to switch between the one muscle group you are using, to another. That switch is necessary to complete the movement.

When you pull a long line, the transition between muscles happen and you’ll get a little shake. Sometimes the shake can be extremely evident, sometimes, not so much.

Finish your line by feathering the line out. You’ll need to do this with every line. Especially if you have to tie one line into another line to complete a longer segment.

Lather rinse repeat until your job is done

Packing tribal

This one seems to be elusive to most people nowadays. When I started tattooing all we did was tribal. It’s what you cut your teeth on you did it 7 days a week 14 hours A-day and if you couldn’t get it right by God you wouldn’t get a color piece.

Perhaps that’s way tribal is just not so in demand now

To pack tribal you go with a mildly shallow angle

Normally, I’ll use the box method of filling, moving in very tight squares. Those squares create a line pass that overlaps each other. When making a pass over to fill in an area next to a spot already done, overlap the area already filled in 1/4 to 1/2 of the way.

To some, this is the most boring aspect of tattooing but I normally make a game out of it and enjoy large swathes of black!

To keep myself busy most the time when I’m doing tribal such as this, I hum meow mix in my head for hours on end.

The cool thing about this (packing tribal, not humming Meow Mix) is when done correctly, the amount of touch ups needed for the person who is receiving the black work is going to be minimal.

That’s correct if done correctly you only really have to touch up tribal you won’t have to redo the whole sucking thing.

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rian Othus got his initial break into the tattooing industry in the early 2000’s. He worked in many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The opinions expressed on this site are based on his experiences and time spent in the industry. Some are also from amateur scientific study.

The journey to increase his knowledge began on the road. At times Rian had to travel far from home. Others, he had to beg to get any information. It was an amazing journey and it paved the way for Rian to start analyzing the tattoo industry to figure out where he fit into it.

These articles are written to engage and educate those who are out in the wild world of tattooing, working in a shop or just enjoying the culture. He admits that some of the articles may be very specific regarding who they are written for, but hopes that anyone who reads them is able to take things from a different angle or better understand what someone else may be experiencing.

Rian Othus
Website: https://tattooartistsblog.com
https://www.instagram.com/rian_othus


 

Tattooing – Cost of Setup

In this week’s article we look at the cost of setup up for your tattoo!

We have come up with a handy cost of setup calculator located near the bottom of the page that uses the numbers collected in this article to create a total cost. You can modify it and see what a tattoo setup is worth.

To preface this serious tech-type article, I stole every image on here. They are sourced mostly from Amazon but also Alibaba. Why you ask, because ‘Murica, that’s why!

(Any pros out there should get a laugh out of what I did. If you don’t get it, don’t feel bad. Shoot me a message and I will explain it to you)

What’s the cost of setup?

The cost of setup is how much actual money the artist or studio must spend to create that fine ass tattoo you want to get.

While this may not be forefront in your mind when choosing your tattoo or choosing a place to get tattooed, you should know why and how the shops decide the pricing that affects you, dear reader.

What is the real cost for setting up a tattoo?

All costs found are hopefully the highest prices listed. I refrain from attempting to use a potential midground when selecting prices and hope that the high end of this pricing scheme is more beneficial to all who are concerned. We are also only using disposable supplies in this article. The total cost of reusable products is too variable depending on artist habits and traits. Due to the variability, we chose to ignore pricing reusables.

Onto the costs!

Needle Groupings and cost

You usually need a small needle grouping to do a smaller tattoo while you may have to change or utilize multiple needle groupings for larger tattoos. Taking that into account, create a grading system that allows for additional costs to the tattooer. This will be applied per sitting:

For all small tattoos- (Liner Needle X 1) + (Shader Needle X 1)

For all Medium tattoo sittings – (Liner Needle X 2) + (Shader Needle X 2)

For all Large tattoo sittings – (Liner Needle X 3) + (Shader Needle X 3)

Keep this in mind if you want to play around with the calculator.

Cost of Setup – Needles

Most needles chosen by artists come premade and sterilized, individually blister packed and are single use. They range from single needles to multiple needle configurations.

The fine art of needle making is slowly disappearing from the industry as the options for premade needles become less expensive and a better option for conservation of time. We will not be looking into the costs of making your won needles but, please know, the costs of making your own needles is substantially less than anything listed below. The only cost really is time, and time as we know it, is money.

Onto the costs of needles.

Needle Costs – Liners

Liner needles are used to create borders and fine details inside a tattoo. While some of the larger groupings can cover huge areas quickly, they lack the softness given by a shader needle.

Liner Needle on Bar

Liner Needle on bar

The average cost of a single needle on bar, sterilized is:

 $15.00 per box of 50 needles ($15.00/50 = $0.30 per needle grouping on bar)

The average cost of a standard, 7-needle round grouping, sterilized on bar is:

$25.99 per box of 50 needles ($25.99/50 = $0.52 per needle grouping on bar)

The highest cost (I could find) of a large grouping, like the superior graded 14-needle round liner, sterilized on bar, is:

$83.98 per box of 50 needles ($83.98/50 = $1.68 per needle grouping on bar)

Let’s take those numbers and create and average cost of a liner needle grouping, premade and sterilized on bar, at $0.83 per liner needle.

Liner Cartridges

Liner cartridge

Another type of liner needle used is the cartridge type. These cartridges come premade, blister packed and sterile. We will use the same grading and costs system as we used above to come up with an average.

$10.49 per box of 10 needles ($10.49/10 = $1.05 per needle grouping on bar)

The average cost of a standard, 7-needle round grouping, sterilized on bar is:

$20.20 per box of 10 needles ($20.20/10 = $2.02 per needle grouping on bar)

The highest cost (I could find) of a large grouping, like the superior graded 14-needle round liner, sterilized on bar, i:

$22.40 per box of 10 needles ($22.40/10 = $2.24 per needle grouping on bar)

Let’ take those numbers and create and average cost of a liner needle cartridge as $1.77 per cartridge.

Needle Costs – Shaders

Shader needles (associated mag needles and bug-pin groupings) are used to create gradients and\or fill large areas of skin when working through a tattoo. They lack the tightness of a liner needle and cannot do the same level of detail as the liner needles are capable of.

Shader Needle on Bar

mag needle on bar

The average cost of a shader needle on bar, sterilized is:

 $19.00 per box of 50 needles ($19.00/50 = $0.38 per 5 mag-needle grouping on bar)

The average cost of a standard, 9-needle mag-shader grouping, sterilized on bar is:

$34.94 per box of 50 needles ($34.94/50 = $0.70 per needle grouping on bar)

The highest cost (I could find) of a large grouping, like the superior graded 19–needle shader, sterilized on bar, is:

$83.98 per box of 50 needles ($83.98/50 = $1.68 per needle grouping on bar)

Let’s take those numbers and create and average cost of a shader needle grouping, premade and sterilized on bar, at $0.92 per liner needle.

Shader Cartridges

Mag cartridge

Shader cartridges come in a variety of flavors. They are commonly priced below:

$10.49 per box of 10 needles ($10.49/10 = $1.05 per needle grouping on bar)

The average cost of a standard, 7-needle round grouping, sterilized on bar is:

$20.99 per box of 10 needles ($20.99/10 = $2.10 per needle grouping on bar)

The highest cost (I could find) of a large grouping, like the superior graded 14-needle round liner, sterilized on bar, i:

$23.51 per box of 10 needles ($23.51/10 = $2.35 per needle grouping on bar)

Let’s take those numbers and create and average cost of a shader needle cartridge as $1.83 per cartridge.

Now that needles are taken care of, lets move onto the cost of inks (pigments).

Cost of Setup – Tattoo Tubes

Tattoo tubes are used with needle bars. They act like reservoirs for the pigment when transferring between the ink caps (listed next section below) and the skin. They also control the oscillating motion (up and down) the machine provides.

Tattoo Tubes and grip sizes - Taken from Painful Pleasures

Tattoo Tubes – Disposable Costs

The cost of tubes ranges from $0.69, up to $2.50, per unit (with some single units priced at $25.00 being deemed an outlier). The average price being $1.50 per tube. Cartridge machines do not need separate tubes

Cost of Setup – Ink

On average, a single ounce (oz.) of tattoo ink runs around $8.00-$9.00. Taking

 into account that a single square inch of your skin takes roughly 1/25 oz. of pigment to fully saturate. The normal, small sized ink cap (#9) requires 1/25 oz. to fill.

Choosing Ink Caps

When setting up for the tattoo, the artists should pick and fill the appropriate sized ink cap. I personally use only #9 ink caps. One big reason why is dipping.

When working on skin that is being tattooed the needles and tube pick up things that are being excreted by the skin. Your body dumps exudate, a substance made up of cells and fluid ejected during an inflammatory response (like what happens during tattooing). This fluid waters down the pigment you are placing and, when dipping into the ink caps, dilutes your pure pigment.

Back to the math, lets give the average ink cap used a total value.

#9 ink cap filled – average – $0.36 per cap

When doing larger compositions or tattoos that require multiple colors, the cost can be multiplied by how many ink caps are used during the duration.

Cost of Setup – Disposables

Here is a list and the total cost associated with the average disposables used in a tattoo.

Gloves

Gloves are a must have when doing a tattoo. The good thing about the (past keeping you clean and safe from infection) is their low cost. The industry standard is using nitrile, latex free gloves, at a 4 mil. thickness.

 Nitrile Gloves

The average cost for a box of gloves is around $8.50. You may be able to find them at different prices based on your location globally. My location dictates these price estimates.

Cost per glove used during a tattoo is $0.01 ($8.50/1000 per case = $0.0085)

Razors

Razors are used to prep the skin by removing hair from the procedure site. This keeps the needles clean and free from plugs (image a round grouping filled with broken hairs. It forces the needle into a new shape which is not round) and allows better adherence for dressing adhesives after the tattoo is finished.

A razor

**An aside –> There is evidence that using a razor is not as effective as clippers when prepping a site for any procedure. Clippers have been show through meta-analysis to have better results at keeping infections at bay.**

Razors cost on average $0.09 per unit ($52.50/600 per case = $0.0875).

If you are a very hairy person, or are getting a large area prepped, you may use more than a single razor per tattoo session.

Dental Bibs

Dental bibs are used to cover prep areas, clean sites for placing instruments and other spaces that may encounter bodily fluids.

Dental Bibs

Dental bibs cost on average $0.05 per unit ($23.95/500 per case = $0.0479)

I use at minimum 1 dental bib per procedure. On average 3 per tattoo session but each artist has different habits.

Drop Sheets

Drop sheets are larger than dental bibs and are used to cover procedure areas.

The cost of a drop sheet per unit, on average, is $0.52 ($78.00/150 per case)

I use a single drop sheet every tattoo.

Clip cord Sleeves

These are used to cover and protect the cord that powers the tattoo machine. While you have two options when choosing to purchase these disposable covers, I will stick with the precut option.

On average a clip cord sleeve costs $0.02 per unit ($28.50/1500 per case = $0.019)

Bottle Covers

Bottle covers… cover bottles. They look like ziplock baggies without the ziplock. Surprisingly, there were little to no usable pictures from Alibaba or Amazon I wanted to throw up here.

The average bottle cover costs $0.02 per unit ($25.50/1500 per case = $0.017)

I typically use 4 bottle covers per tattoo. 2 for each wash bottle.

Barrier Film

Whether it be a load of saran wrap (not up to industry standard) or proper tack-back barrier film, this is used to cover things that may be a weird shape or are unable to be fitted with a cover.

Barrier Film

A roll of barrier film (tack-back) costs $0.01 per sheet. ($45.00/4500 sheets = $0.01)

I typically use 5-10 pieces a tattoo.

Plastic (or Clingwrap) is used by many artists. Go to Costco and you can find the megalithic rolls for sale at a cost of around $15.00 for 36,000 sq/ft. That’s equivalent to 4.16^e-4 per sq/ft. (Jesus that’s cheap… No wonder they last 6-12 months when used frequently)

A&D\Vaseline

This product is used to fix ink caps to a station and lubricate the skin during a procedure. (hydrophilic substances repel the water-based pigments so they don’t dye the skin during a procedure)

A box of A&D packets

The individual packets are priced at $0.07 per unit ($63.00/864 per case = $0.07292).

I typically use a single packet for a small tattoo, 2-3 for a medium sized tattoo sitting and 4-5 (or more) for a large sitting.

Face Mask

Face masks should be used in every tattoo session. While most tattooers do not, those who sit especially close to the skin they are working on should really consider getting some. (wear a plastic face shield for a day tattooing and see how much crap gets built up on the outside of it).

Face masks cost around $0.09 per unit ($4.50/50 per box = $0.09)

I am guilty of using face masks only occasionally but after reading this number… I feel obliged to start wearing them for every client.

Disposable Sleeves

Disposable sleeves are used to cover the arms during a procedure. These are key to infection control like the above stated face masks.

Disposable sleeves cost around $0.07 per unit ($7.00/100 per bag = $0.07)

Tongue Depressors

While I do not utilize tongue depressors, many people do. They are used to get products out of containers or move things around in the procedure and equipment site. They are sticks and I hope that all artists get the sterilized version.

A sterilized tongue depressor costs $0.04 per unit ($25.50/600 per case = $0.0425).

Aprons

Aprons keep our clothes clean and are essential for infection control. Please don’t use leather aprons as they cannot be properly disinfected!

Disposale apron

Disposable aprons cost around $0.10 per unit ($9.99/100 per box = $0.0999)

Rinse Cups

These are used to rinse out the tubes when switching between pigments (inks). They are also used by some as a way to wet towels to clean an area during a tattoo (better infection control)

Rinse cups are cheap, and you can get them everywhere. They way to make thee a bit more expensive was to price Red Solo Cups. I know, that is ridiculous.

Rinse cups cost $0.05 per unit ($12.99/240 per bag = $0.054125)

Bandages – Dri-Loc

Dri Loc bandages

Used to cover a tattoo after the procedure. (I have left out the Tegaderm/Saniderm pricing for now. Maybe I’ll add it into the spreadsheet if people call for it.)

Dri-loc bandages cost roughly $0.07 per unit ($41.70/600 per case = $0.0695)

These cover roughly 12 sq/in (or 3 inches linear) of skin when used.

Medical Tape

Medical tape

Used to stick stuff to you or things!

Medical tape costs around $0.13 per yard of 1-inch wide tape. ($93/720 yard per case = $0.12917)

I split the 1-inch thick piece in half and use the two bits for a small tattoo (approx.)

Cohesive Bandages

cohesive bandages

Many artists are using these to pad their machine tubes.

Cohesive bandages cost approximately $0.18 per yard ($32.95/180 yards per case = $0.1830 per yard)

Paper Towels

Paper towels

We use a lot of paper towels in the industry. Most choices are not similar to the Scott Blue Shop Towels some artists use, but those are the most expensive, so they are determining prices here.

Shop towels cost around $0.03 per sheet ($17.99/550 sheets per case = $0.032709)

I can admit that the shop towels do last longer, that price is just nuts! So here is another cost analysis of Costco brand paper towels, per sheet

Costco Brand Paper Towels cost $0.01 ($18.99/1920 sheets per case = $0.00989) àLiterally 30% the price so stop using those shop towel ya wierdos! (It’s still not as wild as the pre-packaged sterile towles that go for $0.25 per sheet)

Disinfectant Wipes

These are used to clean up the area and disinfect all surfaces exposed or used during a procedure.

I’ll use Opti-cide3 wipes versus any you-make solutions as I really like the brand and I don’t know how you mix your solutions.

Per sheet, Opti-cide3 costs nearly $0.09 ($105.00/1200 sheets per case = $0.0875)

Cost of Setup – Non-Disposables

This is going to get a little tricky. I am going to get assumptive here and apply lifetime values to various things so we can get a depreciation value that applies to a single tattoo. These may be far from correct and if so, I apologize.

Machines

This one is going to get me in trouble… I know it.

Coil Machines

coil tattoo machine

Coil machines, if used properly and have their routine maintenance done by someone who knows what they are doing, last forever. Seriously. The average price for a decent machine runs from $250-500 and they last 30 years. Springs are about the only thing that breaks on these machine types and those cost around $2.00 to purchase. I have had springs last 5 years at a stretch.

Cost per tattoo @ 1 tattoo per day is $0.05.

{[$500/(365*30)]+[(6*2)/(365*30)]} = $0.046758

Rotary Machines

rotary tattoo machine

Rotary machines have a variable lifespan. Their DC motors have something called a mean time to failure (MTTF) which can make assumptions about how long the motor will last. I won’t go into detail about how you should run your machines but, be warned: The larger the grouping and bigger the needle (larger load placed on the machine) the shorter it’s lifespan will be. I have had a rotary for a few years and have been murderous to it. In 3-years I have replaced the motor once. A replacement motor cost me about $15.00. If the wiring starts to go you are in for a whole new model.

The Rotary machines run about the same price as a coil-based machine and can have an assumed lifespan for those not mechanically inclined of 5-7 years.

Cost per tattoo @ 1 tattoo per day is $0.21.

{[$500/(365*7)]+[(15*2)/(365*7)]} = $0.2074388

Cartridge Machines

cartridge tattoo machine

These are dressed up rotary machines with a great ability to run smooth and act like a coil machine. The issue with these machines comes from their smaller load capacity and higher initial load placed on the motors. Remember above? The MTTF is dictated by load forces exerted on the machines during use. Higher load = Shorter lifespan.

Cartridge machines run around $500 and have a lifespan of 1-3 years. Replacement repairs are free if the device is deemed worthy by manufacturer. You are still stuck with the shipping costs for rebuilding/replacement which is around $30.

Cost per tattoo @ 1 tattoo per day is $0.46.

[$500/{3*365)] = $0.456621

Power Supplies

National Tattoo Power SUPPLY!

A good power supply should last you forever. I have a friend who is 3rd gen with an analogue National “brick” power supply. It cost him $100 bucks. My power supply is digital and cost around $250 and feels kind of cheap. If I get 5 years out of it, I will be happy.

Cheap Power Supply

Just like everything in life now-a-days, manufactured obsolescence is a part of any new purchase.  You can expect a half-decent power supply to last 3-5 years and at a cost around $250 per unit.

Cost per operation of tattoo power supply per day is approximately $0.14.

($250/(5*365)] = $0.1369863

Clip Cords

Clip cords connect the machine to the power supply. They come in a couple varieties such as 2 prong, RCA, Phono, etc. Clip cords commonly cost $20 and have a lifetime of around 5 years.

The cost per day of using a clip cord @ 1 tattoo per day is $0.01

[20/(5*365)] = $0.0109589

Foot Switches

tattoo foot switch

Foot switches connect to the power supply and are used to operate the tattoo machine. Foot switches commonly cost $50 and have a lifespan of 10 years if cleaned and maintained.

The cost of operating a foot switch per day @ 1 tattoo per day is $0.01

[50/(10*365)] = $0.01369863

Arm Rests

Tattoo arm Rest

This shop furniture is used to prop body parts up for easy access during a procedure. Arm rests cost approximately $150 and have a usable lifespan of around 15 years. Longer if they are well maintained.

The cost of using an armrest per day @ 1 tattoo per day is $0.03

[150/(15*365)] = $0.02739726

Massage Tables

Massage Table

Massage tables are going to be listed here versus barber chairs because I hate moving barber chairs.

The average massage table costs $250 and has a lifespan of around 10 years if cared for properly.

The cost of using a massage table for tattooing @ 1 tattoo per day is $0.07

[250/(10*365)] = $0.0684931

Lamps

Medical Lamp

Lamps are bright. We use them and they need bulbs. The LED lightbulbs they utilize now in these exam lamps are rad and have a lifespan of nearly 10 years. Which, coincidently, is about the same lifespan of the fixture. Exam lamps run around $170.

The cost of using an exam lamp for tattooing @ 1 tattoo per day is $0.04

{$150/(10*365)] = $0.04109589

Cost of Setup Calculator

I did up a little calculator on Google Sheets. It can be clumsy but it works well.

Here’s the link – It’s external and hosted on Google Sheets:

 

Some Questions about Cost of Setup

Let’s toss out a few questions that I have heard from clients regarding the cost of setup . Here is a few that I have heard to start us off:

All shops charge the same rate near where I live… Isn’t this an industry standard?

No. There is no industry standard that dictates what a shop or artist can charge. On average, shops and artists charge what is common to keep competition focused on artwork or style. This way most of the shops in an area fill a specific demand and leave little for those less qualified.

Why would we want to talk about the costs with the artist? It makes me uncomfortable to discuss money!

If you are concerned about the price or if you have a budget, speak up. There is a need to be upfront with a person that is going to mark you permanently. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing something as trivial as pricing when marking yourself permanently, wait for that tattoo.

They claim to use only the best supplies, is that why the cost is so high?

Most likely not. Sometimes artists charge what they do because they are really good. Other times it is because the area of operation influences the prices.

Think about large cities like New York or San Francisco; would you want to get a tattoo from a person who charges $50 an hour when the tattooers on average charge $250 an hour? Probably not.

Why charge so much

This will be covered in the next article. We have almost hit 4000 words and I bet, dear reader, you need a break.

Go, have fun looking at the cost of setup and don’t break my fucking calculator!

Like, Share and Comment if you feel like a real badass.

Thanks!

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rian Othus got his initial break into the tattooing industry in the early 2000’s. He worked in many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The opinions expressed on this site are based on his experiences and time spent in the industry. Some are also from amateur scientific study.

The journey to increase his knowledge began on the road. At times Rian had to travel far from home. Others, he had to beg to get any information. It was an amazing journey and it paved the way for Rian to start analyzing the tattoo industry to figure out where he fit into it.

These articles are written to engage and educate those who are out in the wild world of tattooing, working in a shop or just enjoying the culture. He admits that some of the articles may be very specific regarding who they are written for, but hopes that anyone who reads them is able to take things from a different angle or better understand what someone else may be experiencing.

Rian Othus
Website: https://tattooartistsblog.com
https://www.instagram.com/rian_othus


 

The Apprentice- What’s Missing in the Industry – Part 2

We left off our last article with our fictitious apprentice who is stuck with the task of attempting to grow inside the industry.

If you are reading this article and need to catch up, follow this link to the previous article.

APPRENTICE – Article 1 

Let’s try and ensure you, dear reader, know that the ambiguity of all phrasing included in this article is:

Not attempting to masculinize any statements.The words in here not intending to exclude any person(s). I utilized them because it was the easiest way to get the ideas out of my head.

The Apprentice Part 2

Here’s an excerpt from last week. I think it’s a good way to start us off.

Ha- You have made it past your first tattoo and have started learning how to draw simple designs. The shop has accepted you as one of their own and has mostly left you to figure out what to do next. Your career has begun but you have little knowledge of what to do here.

You actively seek out others to help you better understand they why’s and how’s of the industry, but something is missing.

You, the young apprentice, have so many questions and little knowledge of where to find an answer.

While you are getting confident on smaller designs there have been requests for larger scale work that you do not feel confident enough to take on. While this lack of confidence is not outwardly expressed, you attempt and fail at multiple complex designs, learning with each mistake.

Journeyman Status, so long apprentice

 In a Western or American trade talk, the stage after apprenticeship is becoming a journeyman. A journeyman has this designation because the person in question has enough knowledge to go forth and work for another business or master. They journey away from the master crafts person and, sometimes for years at a time, and work day-by-day. (The word Journee” is French for day)

The craftsman is not competent enough to work by themselves, yet, but are well enough on their way to breaking down the formulaic process of the trade and work towards becoming a master. They are working at it a day at a time.

I keep popping back to the idea that the tattooer shouldn’t have many questions dealing with the functional aspects of tattooing when they have moved past the apprentice stage. The foundation based on what they do and how they do it should be strong enough that new questions or problems can be figured out through intuition. There should be confidence in the ability of the post-apprentice student that they can understand how to move forward. There shouldn’t be questions that pop up in daily practice that can’t be answered with a little thought.

Dear apprentice, this is where tattoos go to die

I have an issue with the structure of wandering and practicing your trade. In an altruistic society there is no doubt that the master of a young apprentice is going to give the student a proper working knowledge of the industry and they will be confident in their outward facing career after training.

In the scenario we discussed last week, the apprentice was left out to dry, alone and guessing. The apprentice isn’t being given the freedom to explore their craft or trade. They are unable to move quicker and develop advanced skills. and taking less time focusing on the fundamentals that are becoming an extension of themselves.

What they are left with is focusing on the most simple of skills as there is little practiced actions and confidence in their ability.

When that person goes into the world and expects something so rewarding and defining that they actively change their person though training, self-modification or re-identifying, the assumed result is to be so great their hopes and dreams should come true.

The critique starts here

This is the stage of learning I find most, if not all modern tattooers, get stuck inside of. There is a need to succeed and a drive that is powerful for those who have sacrificed (little physically in comparison to a common Japanese tattoo apprenticeship, but, perhaps greater due to the promise of commitment, hope for a better future and a lack of societal input that brings a grounded sense of self and aspirations), that forces the self-described journey person in tattooing to settle.

So, what would you do if you were that person? You were made a promise so great that you uprooted and rearranged your life. You worked hard and focused your entire being, only to find that the result was a total disruption of your previously wonderful conception (tattooing)? Would you feel depressed? Perhaps you would feel slighted? If you didn’t give in and quit, you would definitely settle.

What do I mean by settling?

The apprentice choosing a style – Tattooing and its downfall

Most Western tattoo apprentices today are faced with this crisis (most or some at least). When they reach the crossroads of quitting or pushing forward, they lack the ability and knowledge to adapt properly. They choose to limit themselves to what they mimic rather than attempt to fail any further. They choose a style.

What’s a Style?

In my limited understanding as a tattooing journeyman, a style is supposed to be an expression of the individual artist. It is the embodiment of the artist’s creativity that has been made their own. It is identifiable, unique and fluid. Damned near every artist that has graced an art museum shows how work is fluid, evolves and has a unique stamp that attaches it to their soul. That was written as an artistic person and was a bit ethereal, so here is another breakdown that doesn’t stray too far from the real world.

If a billionaire has a private collection, you can bet they have some legendary piece of art that comes from an artist who had a developed style. Monet, Mucha, Da Vinci, Michelangelo; these masters studied for most of their lives and, so damned slowly, a style emerged for each individual artist, sometimes it evolved as they aged and went nearly blind. Their style was an expression of that person and how they viewed the world. It was how they interacted with what was their life.

Brand Awareness?

Style now-a-days is a brand. A fucking advertising method. It is a something that precedes you and gives you a pretense to work from as a tattooer.

When you ask a tattooer about their style you are asking them what they are limited to or what they feel the most comfortable with. This style excludes everything else that is encompassed in tattooing. In my experience, and on average from what I have heard, Tattooers of few years will laser focus on a single “style” and become damned good at it. They neglect any sort of education that comes from failure but attempting to step outside of that comfort zone they have built in their style.

Yes, I know: as a tattooer you have a responsibility to do the best you can, for every client.

I agree.

The apprentice – a journey to understanding

The issue I take with that sentiment is that you or I are claiming to have a vast working knowledge of how to tattoo when we speak with a client. That is an assumption that is drizzled into every consultation or email and placates the clients into believing we have the job covered when really, there is a huge gap in the knowledge base that is required to effectively tattoo.

How do you know that you are competent to be doing your work? Is it because you clients love their work, you have a large social media following or you continually pay your bills? The designation of competent is to be applied by the master, not your environment. Because you know how to use a single liner grouping, a couple shaders and only rotary machines doesn’t make you competent. If that is your style you need to branch out and experience more.

This idea is leaving me bit flustered by all this and I feel that it may be coming out in my writing.

Why put a heading here? Style.

I am a bit tired as I write this, and I am out of town working far away from my babies and wife. I really have no reason to roll off into a non sequitur about how crap styles are. They really aren’t. Really. The companies that have the money to market are the ones pushing a branded lifestyle approach to the industry. We had seen in historically with companies like Harley Davidson (click the link for a story about the history of the companies branding) where you create a lifestyle, sell it to the under educated masses, jack up the price of everything and slowly burn away.

Companies that have come and gone in the tattoo industry are numerous but the companies that have staying power now don’t give you technical information, they sell you a branded image of what you could be if you buy their product. Pigments, Machines, Power Supplies… IT’S NUTS.

Back to the idea of styles…

Style Positives

The positives are that we have seen “styles” develop into something unique in themselves. When there is such dedication to a specific style, where you understand the nuance of every single line and have tattooed it so often, on so many types of skin, you can start to assume a working knowledge of the tattoo client(s) and the industry as a whole. Hell, it only takes 10,000 hours to work towards a mastery! 10,000 hours is equivalent to 20 hours a week for 10 years.

Wait… 10 years. Shuhari strikes again!

Where is the focus of that mastery being applied to those who are new to the industry?

Is it towards a single interpretation and the application of an art or is towards the understanding of the craft?

Styles as a camouflage

Our tattoo art is now more like music with sub-classifications that disperse the art form into these small punk-rock niches that you need a doctorate to decode. It is rad to see how tattooing moved into this designation as art. It can be a bit confusing though

My style is a bit trad, nouveau watercolor realism with a hint of trash polka.”

What the shit?! I have no idea what the fuck that means…

If we choose to select a style as a way that a person identifies their art for others to understand, you have removed the idea that art is a form of self-expression. You are taking your art and making it mundane so that the audience in front of you understands you.

Tattooing has some concrete rules. Skin is not a canvas; it isn’t a sheet of paper. It is part of a being that live and breathes. (hopefully no cadaver tattooing is going on.) Treating your tattoo(s) as a piece of art steals ownership away from the collector (the person you are tattooing). What law permits us to patent and marketed some other persons outward facing being and claimed it as your own?

Yo have no right to that which is another’s. You cannot copyright a tattoo.

The style pitfall

“Style” choices are the result of an under educated representative group of people in the industry.

Regardless of what a master may choose to do, they are experienced.

They have found and are able to fully express their own style

The younger and less educated populace in the industry is pigeon holing themselves by choosing to limit their experience. They work within one type of imagery, not seeing or studying all others that are available. By choosing a single style of tattooing, they are unable to complete the necessary journey to become a master.

A comparison for the new apprentice

We can assume that a person cannot be a master if they focus on a single aspect of it. Look at those inside any craft that focus on a single aspect of it:

The Potter

Pottery – A potter can just make bowls. Fuck can they be great. They can make so many bowls that they intuit the ability for making vases, stemware, wall sconces, whatever. They have achieved a mastery. That mastery has given an innate ability to intuit how to do other things inside the craft. That intuition is not the same as mastery.

I would argue the master of making bowls is at a journeyman’s level for all other aspects of the trade.

Think of it in another way, for the outside in:

The Plumber

If you had a plumber who could only install sinks but not toilets, pipes or anything else plumbing related. Would you trust them doing the plumbing in your house?

What if they laid these amazing sets of sinks in your restrooms before any pipes were run? They may look good, but the Master Plumber comes in and surveys the damage. This master begins to point out simple flaws that make perfect sense when explained to you:

  • Whats been installed is in the wrong place.
  • Whatever they had used for the project is the wrong size
  • They don’t match the style of pipes you’re are putting in.
  • They clash with the rest of the house.

While the work done may look perfect from an uneducated fan or client, it takes a master to be able to see the bigger picture.

This idea shows why the masters are left to teach the new generation, not the journeymen. What we currently see is the journeymen are bundled into a group that utilizes a herd-mind to expand the craft while others are left to fend for themselves.

The journey (journee’)

They go forth, work together and mix the masters knowledge to break apart their own understanding. What they are left with, they rebuild and that becomes a defining aspect of their craft. Ha.

When an apprentice is forced to choose a style or quit, of course they will bend and focus on a something that will allow them to continue their journey. There is no tangible entity that tells them to quit or that they may not be made out to do any craft. There is no master.

The apprentice chooses a style as that is where they feel comfortable. Maybe it is more mirroring what they already do in their free time. It brings them joy. It is comfortable.

They were lured into the industry with wide eyes and rose-tinted glasses and, after a short time being “trained” they were left to fend for themselves. Even worse, they may not be left by themselves, but they are being told this is just the way it is. This is the aspect of tattooing that needs to change.

That took a bit, thank you for staying with me as I work these thoughts out in my head while typing them down.

How we should look at the idea of a journeyman

My critiques may be harsh. This is a total flip side to what has become the norm inside our industry in the west. I look at things this way knowing that I am a journeyman in the industry. I am working on breaking down the techniques and aspects of the business and making them my own. This is all encompassing for me. My focus is so spread out I often get migraines and feel like plateau’s are my home, but, I know that through continued efforts my understanding will be complete and, if I am lucky enough, I can continue this process by taking on an apprentice of my own in the future.

A comparison

The idea of a journeyman is simple. Observe through your efforts, learn through your mistakes. The mistakes you make should not be catastrophic, they should be simple. In tattooing, I would compare a mistake that you should see from a journeyman as:

Linework that could be thicker to increase contrast in a large-scale piece. You can fix that with the next sitting.

This is opposite to the idea:

You need to rethink how the lines are going to work for a simple image after you have already committed it to skin. You can get it right with the next client, hopefully.

Making uneducated decisions leaves a moral quandary to the uneducated artist. They are forced to become entangled with their ego, using their clientele as a “means to an end”. These errors detract from the total value there is to offer inside the industry. We should focus more on their initial training to ensure they are successful when they move into the journeyman stage. From there, the industry can secure its ability to grow in a controlled environment like a bonsai; versus unfettered growth with little direction, like a weed that chokes and kills the host.

A true apprentice – Looking at the Master

Right now, it’s Lord of the Flies out there. A renewed focus on examining the industry and actively engaging with it to improve the future of the industry needs to occur soon.

Moving forward

When seeking to improve the industry in which we work in, we need to lay down some ground rules. Those rules should be a unifying aspect and all inside the industry should agree with their ideology, application and how these rules will influence our present and future. To start, how do we engage and train those new to the industry? I know I have no place inside these discussions, as I am a journeyman and still actively trying to understand my own process, but we should designate certain people whose understanding is greater than ours.

It’s time to rebuild

This is where input from masters comes into play. They should examine the aspects of what it takes to become a successful tattooist, not a successful artist. The people in question, the masters of the trade, should be at the stage where they have moved past learning through application and are thinking about the theory of what is being done. They why’s. Think of masters acting like the PhD’s of the industry. They are, or may be, focused into a specific skill or imagery but have all the foundations fully mastered. They are the minds that expand the understanding of the art and they must choose where the trade moves in the future.

Some questions I think we should ask are:

What should you look for in an apprentice? Is it outward or inward?

Is there something that makes a good apprentice? The masters should look at themselves and see how best they can train a recruit. What inside them makes them great and how can they share it with a willing new protege. Are they focused on how the apprentice will make them look due to their natural skill or are they confronting something in themselves by taking on an apprentice? Is there something in a person that makes them a perfect fit for this industry?

What should the master be responsible for when taking on an apprentice?

This can either be personal, physical or something all encompassing. What responsibilities do the masters have when they take the future of an apprentice in their hands? Do they have a responsibility as in Japan where they educate, feed and train the individual, or is the schooling enough of a sacrifice? If the apprentice falls behind or suffers due to life’s happenings, is the master responsible for assisting the apprentice during these times?

What are the apprentice’s requirements during the training?

What is it, past the training they are willing to receive, are they required to take care of during their training? How are they going to live, work or have a family? Is there an age limit for taking on an apprentice? Do they have to feed themselves?

Should the education be adaptable to each apprentice, or should it be a static program for all to undertake?

Should we as an industry have a one-size-fits-all approach to the fundamentals of tattooing or should there be a uniqueness to each apprentices training? Would a uniform foundation create a lack of individuality or would it decrease the time an apprentice has to spend training, getting them into the real world seeking their own place? If there is a uniform training routine, can apprentices study together if they have different masters? Is this going to be a foundation, school or guild or should it be a one-on-one experience?

How long should the training be? Is it fluid, based on the apprentice, or should there be mandatory lengths of training?

I am unsure if apprenticeships be based on the same structure as college or trade school. If we do have some formal structure, should there be credits, badges or test results?

About training… A lot of questions…

  • How should we training the apprentice?
  • Can it be based on the individual and their strengths/weaknesses or should everyone be forced to adapt to the same stress?
  • Should it cost anything up front?
  • What should an apprentice give up when getting in?
  • What are the fundamentals that are needed to reach a journeyman status?
  • Should there be an entrance exam and licensing that is universal throughout the country for anyone who makes it past the apprenticeship?

Once we have those figured out, what next?

  • Is there a basic understanding that can be expressed and tested? If so, how can we ensure quality from all who choose to enter the trade.
  • Should there be accountability to the master’s for any issues that come about with an under trained apprentice entering the trade/craft?
  • What happens if someone claims journeyman status and isn’t up to code? Would it be plausible or the master to lose their ability to teach or practice?
  • What do we do with apprentices that fail?

More questions

  • If someone doesn’t make the cut, what should we do. They may have enough knowledge to go forth and work in the darkness of basements and kitchens.
  • Is there a way to ensure those who don’t make the cut are placed into something better fitting their personalities/skills?
  • How many apprentices should a single master be allowed to have? During their lifetimes? Concurrently?
  • Is there any benefit to having a single student versus 200? What about during their lives as they grow and evolve? Is it unethical to train someone earlier in their career and let those students miss out on things they can teach later in their lives? Should all apprentices stay attached to the masters for their lifetime to ensure new knowledge is passed along as it is discovered?

We will leave the article for now and wrap it up in the finale, Part 3 of, Apprenticeships- What’s Missing in the Industry

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rian Othus got his initial break into the tattooing industry in the early 2000’s. He worked in many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The opinions expressed on this site are based on his experiences and time spent in the industry. Some are also from amateur scientific study.

The journey to increase his knowledge began on the road. At times Rian had to travel far from home. Others, he had to beg to get any information. It was an amazing journey and it paved the way for Rian to start analyzing the tattoo industry to figure out where he fit into it.

These articles are written to engage and educate those who are out in the wild world of tattooing, working in a shop or just enjoying the culture. He admits that some of the articles may be very specific regarding who they are written for, but hopes that anyone who reads them is able to take things from a different angle or better understand what someone else may be experiencing.

Rian Othus
Website: https://tattooartistsblog.com
https://www.instagram.com/rian_othus


 

Body Mapping Tattoos– Basic Version #1

Body Mapping – Artist Version

Hello artists! Today we are going to be looking into the allusive body mapping techniques used by the great artists worldwide. This isn’t a complete, in depth article but more of an introduction into the world of mapping. Sit tight and get ready to practice your hands off. This topic is crazy difficult to wrap your head around when designing tattoos but gets easier with practice.

Introduction to Body Mapping

Have you ever seen a tattoo on the web, social media or in real life, that just looks good? The subject matter may be simple and the work may be mediocre but there is something about that tattoo that just… well it works!

More than likely the tattoo you are seeing has been place well by a skilled and knowledgeable artist. Their understanding of simple skin mapping can take an ordinary design to new levels by having it work with the body.

Concepts to know before moving on

Focal Points:

A point in a design where you want the viewer to focus. It usually has a great amount of detail and has the job of explaining the design to the viewer. Are you tattooing a humming bird and flowers with a washed-out background? What part of that tattoo would you like people to focus on? The bird, the background or the flowers? Whatever the choice is, dump your details into that part of the design. By doing so the viewer will be directed to look at that part of the image first. The other aspects of the design will fill in the blanks and create a whole composition.

Transitions:

Aspects of the design that lead a viewer through the design. If you want to join multiple focal points, use these transitions to point and flow between every focal point. They can be subtle bits of soft shading or a foreground element that literally points to the focal point you want to be seen.

Viewpoint:

This is where, when the body is at rest, the focal point is viewable.

We now have that cleared up so, what is placement and why does it matter in tattooing?

Body Mapping Basics – Elements

The skin

The skin is an amazing organ. It covers our bodies, keeps us warm and makes sure we don’t get sick from all the pathogens that lurk in every crevice of our existence. It also carries those rad designs we cover our bodies with. While I won’t go into detail about the mechanics of the skin and how pigment interacts with it, I can tell you that your skin and how it interacts with your underlying tissues and bones influences how the tattoo will look once completed.

Look at my best friend’s forearm in all its glory!

A Forearm

To the untrained eye, it is just an arm. I want you, the studious tattoo artist, to look at bit deeper and compare it to your arm.

Ask Yourself

  • Is your arm and theirs the same?
  • Do you have the same skin?
  • Is it the same length?
  • No to all the above. That was a simple set of answers, right?!

Body Mapping – We are not the same

If this arm and yours are not the same, how can we accurately place the same tattoo on both of your forearms and have them produce the same effect?

The answer is you cannot. There would have to be some modifications done so that any and all designs are custom fit to each client. This is the true idea behind “custom tattooing”. It has little to do with artwork that is custom made (anyone can draw an anchor), the tattoo is supposed to be custom tailored to the individual. It is supposed to fit the contours and movement of the specific individual. In the case of a custom tattoo, it is one size fits one.

Things under the skin that influence tattoo designs.

The Muscles

What is underneath your skin? Yes, that is correct, muscles and bones. Muscles are responsible for your ability to move through the world. Your mass and strength can influence how your tattoo ages and how it is viewed by the world. Simply put, the muscles underneath your skin create hills and valleys that can distort an/or create movement in a design.

Do not let this deter you though; knowing how these will influence the movement of your tattoo can add to the aesthetic and decrease the awkward effects of aging.

Bones

What is everything stacked on inside your body. Bones. They add structure and support, so you don’t end up a gelatinous mass, quivering on the floor. The bones are connected to the muscles by tendons, and to each other with ligaments. All that gooey mess inside your badass self is covered by your skin and gives you structure so you can move through the world.

What’s on top

Hair

Some people are sasquatches. That dense blanket of fur can affect how you view the image. Want to use a bug pin single to line this crispy daisy tattoo on ol’ biker Tom? Think again. That hair acts as a buffer that distorts any image you put into a person’s skin.

Scars

Burns, scrapes, cuts and gunshots. These marks left over by your lazy ass body trying to fix some nasty wound can affect the results of your tattooing effort.

Knowing how the skin reacts to stress, as well as how it changes with age, will help you plan the perfect “custom” tattoo for your client, because we know “custom” means “custom fit!”

Light details about what’s underneath

The muscles:

The muscles are a variable that changes constantly in all people. If you start working out, stop working out, get hurt or, as is the inevitability of all humans, age, your muscles will change in size and affect the skin above it. If that is so, how do we include this ever-changing variable into the design concept and placement?

First, look at the muscles in the area you are placing a tattoo. The muscle groupings have a stacked effect and create a crisscross pattern over most body parts. Where the lines following the muscle groups meet, a grid of offset perpendicular lines is formed.

Those perpendicular lines that form by tracing the edges of the muscles, gives you what I call distortion areas. These points are prone to movement whenever a person flexes or extends this part of their body.

Movement and body mapping

If you rotate your arm, pull or push your hand or grasp something with your fingers, those muscles are going to move. These lines can be placed anywhere the client may want to be tattooed as they all are boundaries as to where a muscle will affect the skin above it.

Putting a focal point or a static part of the image you are working with on top of these lines will create distortion whenever the person moves, so avoid that. These areas are best left for organic shapes and transitional elements of the tattoo that would benefit from distortion.

Work with the body

If you must place part or all of a focal point on top of a distortion area, do your best to place whatever curve or organic shape in line with what is going to move. It will cause a distortion but placing an aspect of the tattoo which is contrasting to the natural curves and movements of the body will make the final tattoo look out of place and age it prematurely.

The appendages

Keep in mind that any point between 2 joints creates stress to the skin with muscles contraction. Your hands and feet are the greatest example of this as they are highly mobile, have many bones and a ton of muscles.

Moving in closer to the heart, the forearms and lower legs have a higher incidence of torsion stress (twisting). You can see the torsion stress decreases as you move further in. Look at the gastrocnemius in the legs or the brachioradialis, flexors and extensors of the arm. The lines that they draw across those areas of the body show a distinct increase of torsion the further you move past them however, they are easily dealt with if approached correctly.

Connecting to the core

The upper thigh (quadriceps on the front and hamstrings in the back) and upper arm (biceps on the front and triceps on the back) create a great amount of compression stress. Images placed here will crush and stretch to a higher degree than the other parts of the extremities.

The buttocks and Iliac muscles, The shoulders and chest

You can apply the same tracing aspects when mapping the buttocks or shoulder. The leg areas are broad, flat and have torsion and compression stress. The shoulders work in tandem with the back and chest to rotate the upper arm so you get a good amount of torsion stress when those are engaged. You also get a ton of compression on an image when someone lifts their arm in the air.

Remember to pay attention to the amount of compressions and movement each of the places on the body exert.

The chest and back, midsection and neck

This shit stretches and twists a lot. These parts of the body are hypermobile, like the fingers, when compared to the upper and lower extremities.

We will go into greater depth later in this article about how those movements affect your design, so read on!

“For those that want an in depth look at muscles and how they interact with our body, follow this link”

<link>< https://www.visiblebody.com/learn/muscular/muscle-movements>

For more information.

The Bones

While the bones are relatively static throughout our adult lives, they grow and change constantly during our childhood and early adult years. The bones behind an image being placed onto the skin create stresses that modify the image. Look at how the bones connect at different pivot points, and with your new knowledge of how muscles work, see how the bones and their attachments affect the movement of muscles.

We attach a straight line to any bone when mapping that follows its course and a circle for any junction point that they attach to (joints).

For an in depth look at how the bones age follow this link

<link> < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991386/>

To an article about bones and aging.

Onto Body Mapping

This may seem like a large order, asking an artist to take the initiative in understanding what is going on with the placement of the tattoo, but there is a reason for such a task to be undertaken by you, dear reader. If you gain a working knowledge of this practice your tattoos will be better fit to the body, legible from a distance and age better than others place incorrectly.

Let’s look at my besties arm again:

A forearm with no markings.

Imagine how the muscles contract and where things twist or bend. Where do the muscles underneath the skin cause distortions that could affect a tattoo. Do you notice something unique? How do you feel it is best to approach this aspect of mapping?

Let’s go into the paint program on my phone and start detailing a few aspects of this arm.

Body Mapping- What to look for.

As stated before, the joints on the body are usually denoted with a circle when mapping designs on the body.

A forearm with basic mapping done.

The muscles create perpendicular lines that traverse the section of body you are working with and move in opposite directions

The bones create the limitations in movement and structure that effects the muscles under the skin.

Creating a mess

If we put all of these together, you end up with a bit of a mess. It kind of looks like a demonic symbol, eh?

A forearm with all aspects that cause distortion mapped onto the skin.

I know, I may have lost you there but stick with me as you already know about the muscles, how they move and what stresses the exert on the body. We can utilize our knowledge to create a complex image that will age well.

Mapping with foreground and background elements

We use something that approximates a distorted figure 8, a loose “s” curve or infinity symbol, when mapping out a design that is custom fit for the body

Finding Muscle Lines

By utilizing the muscles, and their contraction lengths, we can map and place foreground and background elements. Trace the flow of each muscle grouping you are working with and find the points that the muscles crisscross to create perpendicular lines.

A forearm with a basic mapping done by the elbow.

The perpendicular lines create the crossover you see above. Those lines and where they cross over each other can be made into directional foreground or background elements in a tattoo design. These secondary elements can be utilized to create movement through and around an image by placing them on top of the muscle contraction lines you had mapped out (the dotted lines with arrows above).

Creating Flow

These flow lines indicate movement through the design and are able to move with the muscles as they contract or extend, giving the applied tattoo the ability to breathe and move with the person as the interact with their world and age. The flow lines also create a way of bypassing the joints that move through the appendages, so the designs can continue past the normal boundaries applied by the mobile joints.

A koi fish tattoo with foreground and background elements.

Finding Focal Points

Back to the arm again. I drew directly onto my friends skin to show you how i would approach finding the focal point areas and mapping where we can place those focal points to create multiple viewpoints.

A forearm mapped with marker.

I start mapping the body with finding the joints and drawing on an organic line that follows the contraction points along a muscle grouping.

One thing to notice is that the focal points aren’t aligned. This is important because the points where you want to put detail inside a tattoo aren’t competing for space.

To explain image focal point competition:

When you have a design placed that has a ton of detail occupying the same linear space as another design that is detail packed, your eyes will be forced to pick one.

A problem with competition

Our brains draw an imaginary line through the image that will bisect it as it tries to rectify what it should focus on. If you have multiple detailed designs that are competing for space, the brain (which is lazy) will try to look at both simultaneously.

By doing this the brain takes the competing images in and levels them out on the same plane of space. This makes an image look flat. Contrasting that idea, when you have multiple aspects of the tattoo that are working together with foreground and background elements, you end up with an organic piece that is mapped to the body and moves well with it. It gives depth and dimension to a piece and will work well as the tattoo ages.

(Focal point competition is an advanced concept, so I will leave it at that and explain it further in another article dedicated to design and mapping later.)

Body Mapping and Distortion

Every part of the body you want to tattoo has different muscles that overlay different bones. This technique isn’t relegated to the arms or legs though, all sections of the body can be approached and mapped in the same fashion. Practice mapping out different areas and see how you can manipulate the more static parts located near the transitional areas where muscles contract and extend.

You can take your time and experiment with where each one of the different parts of your tattoo interact with the skin by placing different stencils of the same image onto people’s skin and have them move around with them. Try moving foreground elements higher or lower, change the focal point locations you have worked into the tattoo and see how the design moves when placed onto different parts of the body.

Body Mapping – Conclusion

Taking in all of this information might give you a migraine , so work towards understanding the application slowly. Take a few minutes before and after each design you do and check to see if you can better map it to a body part. Is there anyway you can increase the depth of the image or create better transitions between elements? Is there any competition between your focal points? Does you image look good from a distance as well as up close?

If you are lucky enough to have a tablet for producing artwork, take some pictures of legs and arms and back etc. and start drawing design directly mapped to body parts.

In conclusion

This is the end of the introduction article. We are working on a complete guide to body mapping right now and will post it once we get it finished.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rian Othus got his initial break into the tattooing industry in the early 2000’s. He worked in many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The opinions expressed on this site are based on his experiences and time spent in the industry. Some are also from amateur scientific study.

The journey to increase his knowledge began on the road. At times Rian had to travel far from home. Others, he had to beg to get any information. It was an amazing journey and it paved the way for Rian to start analyzing the tattoo industry to figure out where he fit into it.

These articles are written to engage and educate those who are out in the wild world of tattooing, working in a shop or just enjoying the culture. He admits that some of the articles may be very specific regarding who they are written for, but hopes that anyone who reads them is able to take things from a different angle or better understand what someone else may be experiencing.

Rian Othus
Website: https://tattooartistsblog.com
https://www.instagram.com/rian_othus


 

 

The Apprentice- What's Missing in the Industry – Part 1

Part 2 of the Apprentice can be found here.

Part 2 – The Apprentice

Today’s article focuses on the history of apprenticeship training. It then moves into a critique of the current apprenticeship system inside the current body art industry. I may throw a little ethics inside the opinions below, so hold tight!

Apprenticeships, the backbone of dropout education in the USA! You got your GED and your family thinks you are lazy as fuck, go get an apprenticeship!

That is harsh, and I apologize if my first few words offended anyone. My view on this topic doesn’t really align with disgust towards the trades in this fine county.

My issue with apprenticeships is that we have moved away from the idea of mastery in a whole to the income-seeking on-the-job training that leaves huge gaps in the knowledge of those who undertake one.

So, let’s back it up a little and peek at what apprenticeships were like oh so long ago. Maybe this will give you, dear reader, an inside peek as to why my disgust lays not with the apprentice but with the system.

The Apprentice.

The idea of on the job training has been around for millennia. I am not going to go back as far as Mesopotamia to get to the point I am trying to express. I know that we have been working together since the cradle of civilization was a current place to be.

In our more modern time, I always look towards Japan with fondness when thinking of apprenticeships. The Japanese have a philosophical belief that the self must always grow and learn, to always improve. It’s rooted in the Zen ideology of kaizen, which explains that one must continually grow through one’s own efforts. This simple break-down in our lazy, native language, does not do the word kaizen justice. This word evokes such deep feelings when uttered in its native tongue that we would have to write a freaking book to get anywhere near its depth.

Deep eh!

The apprentice, a brief history.

In the Western world we think of apprenticeships as merely being able to produce work after enough technical knowledge obtained through work labor ensures you make few mistakes. In Japan, things are different. When you go into an apprenticeship, as an accepted apprentice, your master takes your burden on, full tilt. You were accepted at a young age and lived with the master as a lower stationed member of the family. You would do menial tasks around the house like cooking and cleaning, sweeping and tidying the master’s workspace and, for some, take a good beating daily. The matron of the house would educate you in your basic school studies (thing reading, writing and arithmetic). All along you would watch from a safe distance as the master worked.

Stealing Knowledge

From an early stage of your apprenticeship, you were offered a simple theory on how to grow your knowledge, Nusumi-chishiki. This theory gave the apprentice a chance to steal knowledge in order to learn. You used your eyes and learned through your own interpretation.

This process of Nusumi-chishiki would carry on for a long enough time as to when you could show your competency and then be released into society to carry on your own workings business.

To further explain that last bit:

You were not allowed to go forth until the master, who is attached to your success in the trade, was confident in your mastery of the trade. Your failure was the master’s failure. In the society that Japan still holds today, this was considered a disgrace. The master did not their job well enough that you, their ward, could make a living off their tutelage.

Now, the standard model of apprenticeships that mirrors some of the western schools of thought leaves out a major philosophy in Japan where stealing knowledge is only a single aspect of becoming a master. Hopeful masters must apply the concept of Shuhari to obtain what most would consider a true mastery of a craft.

Shu-Ha-Ri

Shu-Ha-Ri is a belief system which, loosely translated breaks down the process for obtaining mastery. In tattooing you can see specific milestones that are achieved by someone willing to undertake this journey.

Shu (Obey – Look)

10 years stealing knowledge and mirroring the master. A single master. This is where you gain the fundamentals and copy the master to obtain a working knowledge of your craft. In tattooing, the apprentice must earn the trust of their master before any attempt to mark another person in their name is attempted. Although, look at the thighs of those lucky enough to have made it through this stage. This stage is all about the how and why techniques are used.

Ha (Detach – Feel)-

10 years actively improving on your own. In this phase you step away from the master and seek your own understanding of the craft. You break apart and dissect the practices learned from the master to advance the teachings you were given. This is the stage where you innovate. With their master’s name and blessing, the newly released tattooer goes forth and define their own personal understanding.

This stage is about making the how and why of their process. The make their own and understanding their place inside the craft/trade.

Ri (Leave – Think)

10 years developing your own style and mastery. This is where everything has moved beyond practiced and becomes a pat of you. Your own style emerges and becomes a natural extension of yourself. The tattooer has come full circle and has become a tattoo master. Their work is unique and wholly their own, although it carries with it the images/themes given by the master. They are answering the questions that have been developed by the work of this generation and give knowledge to those actively seeking the future.

Connection to Martial Arts

This ideology is practiced in many ways but is very evident in martial arts.

Think of Bruce Lee and his water analogy,

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

What Bruce Lee describes is the final process of mastery. A formless reaction of one’s self. Read a book on Jeet Kun Do sometime and you can get a feel as to how the concept of Shuhari influenced his martial arts and philosophy.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand,

Apprenticeships and the less than modern tattoo industry.

The tattooing we know in the western world, in my opinion, lacks a complete understanding of the tattooing process. But it’s not our fault. We can trace the separation of knowledge back to the early 1900’s and the burst of tattooers that stemmed from these original badasses. While our efforts over the past few decades opened the industry and offered unfettered access to all those who wished to join, the western history is fraught with trial and error applications that built a separate knowledge base, completely absent of the knowledge our Japanese cousins utilize.

America – The apprentice’s journey: A history

Back when tattooing became a (somewhat) rational option of employment for carnies and societal outcasts, us in the USA relied on second hand knowledge to understand what it was that we are doing.

Yes, I know there were greats and some people who everyone looks up to, but I am looking through some frosted glasses with this critique. I am talking about an apprentice so don’t toss out Paul Rogers, Sam O’Reilly or Bob Shaw to me and think you can shoot me down, ok!

The problem was that, since the early 1900’s, there was no one actually offering up any knowledge. There were no real masters. To get into tattooing you had to know someone to get in or beg and compensate someone to get a meager education. Worse yet, you could just manufacture your own machine and start stabbing. You learned through error and, if you were lucky enough, had a career that spanned enough time to get a good hook on how to get pigment into skin.

Japan adds influence

The idea of ceremony that the Japanese brought to their teachings, which was part of their culture, was replaced with the motivations of the industrial revolution and progressive national politics (ya, that is a reach, I know). People were out to make money, gain some fame and focus on what trends were popular (especially in the 50’s-60’s). These efforts focused on exploiting the eager public’s want of what was in fashion. While they did enhance the quality and expand the repertoire inside the industry, there was a further separation from educating the next wave of professionals that were carrying the torch into the future.

We found a cool article from a personal perspective from Kotaku.

You can read it here

The Tattooing Families – Apprentice validity through naming

Legitimacy among tattooers was gained by working with someone or doing some sort of training underneath them. Tattoo Families were born of this practice and it ensured professionals a preceding sense of respect, if they were lucky enough to carry the name of someone who was respected. We can assume that this practice also lent itself to people abusing the respect associated with the labels attached to a family. I can imagine a young kid, gear in tow, moving across the country stating his association with Bert Grimm or other famous big-names in the industry, failing and having to run away or deal with the repercussions.

Some non essential stories

I remember hearing stories from a few old time tattooers about their apprenticeships. While I cannot claim that any of this is factual, let alone not a figment of their imagination, their telling’s did show me what may have been commonplace during the years preceding what we now call the age of enlightenment.

  • There was a story about a guy being given a machine when walking into a tattoo parlor, inquiring about a job, and just starting to hammer clients for nickels. No training for the apprentice.
  • I believe I had read a story about people joining the circus to hone their skills and have an easy escape when they fucked up.
  • I read about a guy who tattooed drunk people he dragged in off the streets. He practiced on their sometimes-unconscious bodies.

It’s crazy to us now but some people may have gotten their start by sheer dumb luck.

Families and growth

Once these families started to grow, they expanded out and connections were established from the coasts inward, in the USA. Yes, the Navy sure helped tattooing get a foothold inside this country but the people who guess-worked their way to an understanding of the industry used capitalistic ideas and means to spread that shit like fire! A mass-produced product that was easily transported to the masses countrywide.

Suddenly you had some guy in Kansas moving to Where-Eversville, USA to open a shop with a name like Maud Wagner attached to his pedigree.

The expansion created a consistent environment where American tattooing became more normalized, even if it wasn’t accepted societally.

A More Modern, American Tattoo Apprenticeship

I am going to depart from any additional history and move forward as I think I have introduced bias into the argument I am intending to make. I also laid in unconfirmed stories that lay waste to any legitimacy this article may carry. The stories and ideas about the US and tattooing are amazing and should be some TV series carried by Netflix into some super docudrama.

I really feel the story of tattooing inside the US has all the earmarks of what it is to be an American. As an industry we took the efforts of those who came before us and created our own style of apprenticeship that we see today, albeit today’s standards and practices are losing the things that made them truly American.

Let us look at what the common practice is today when you are an apprentice.

In the beginning

You, an aspiring tattoo god, walk into a shop and start asking about training. You get turned away from multiple shops but find one that is local, willing and seems to be able to offer you a break into the wonderful world you love from the outside. After a few meetings and discussions, they offer you an apprenticeship. They say it isn’t going to be easy.

Shu-

For the first bit you awkwardly haunt around the shop, learning people’s names and some of the terminology. There is little to no interaction on a professional level coming from the artists there. You mop and clean and maybe get a few questions but your attempts to fit in are failure.

After a while the artists start letting you watch them tattoo, if you have finished your chores and do not interfere with their work. If you are lucky (I can’t tell if I am writing sarcasm or not at the moment) you can get into skin shortly after you start your apprenticeship.

This is where I feel the system starts to break down. Let me explain before we move on.

Japan versus USA – Apprentices

Japan

Compare the ideas applied to understanding tattooing from a Japanese master and this poor sap we are talking about above. How the apprenticeship started may have same style of initiation but that is where both worlds separate. The “master” isn’t a single person in the US version. The shop as a whole is attempting to move this person through their education. I can see the argument here as there are more hands, it should take less time. The issue is that the person taking the apprenticeship is still an individual. There isn’t a way to tailor an education that is to be crammed down a person’s throat if you have their best wishes in mind. What you are doing, in this case, is rushing the results.

USA (The West)

Contrasting the ideas above, it may take years for the hopeful apprentice in Japan to prove themselves. The must impress upon the master a level of competence before they can start marking people permanently.

Back to our scenario, our new apprentice above has little understanding as to the why or how any of the techniques are used. However they got here, they are now left to fend for themselves. The “masters” of the shop have given little in time and effort that will ensure the apprentice will succeed. That success should be the focus of those claiming to have the ability to train and further the willing apprentice.

The Next Step

Ha- You have made it past your first tattoo and have started learning how to draw simple designs. The shop has accepted you as one of their own. Yet here you are left to figure out what’s next. Your career has begun but you have little knowledge of what to do here. You actively seek out others to help you better understand they why’s and how’s of the industry. You’re doing your best but something is missing.

You have so many questions and little knowledge of where to find an answer. While you are getting confident on smaller designs there have been requests for larger scale work that you do not feel confident enough to take on. While this lack of confidence is not outwardly expressed, you attempt and fail at multiple complex designs, learning with each mistake.

Time for another break in our story. We will carry on in part 2.

The Apprentice- What’s Missing in the Industry – Part 1

Part 2 of the Apprentice can be found here.

Part 2 – The Apprentice

Today’s article focuses on the history of apprenticeship training. It then moves into a critique of the current apprenticeship system inside the current body art industry. I may throw a little ethics inside the opinions below, so hold tight!

Apprenticeships, the backbone of dropout education in the USA! You got your GED and your family thinks you are lazy as fuck, go get an apprenticeship!

That is harsh, and I apologize if my first few words offended anyone. My view on this topic doesn’t really align with disgust towards the trades in this fine county.

My issue with apprenticeships is that we have moved away from the idea of mastery in a whole to the income-seeking on-the-job training that leaves huge gaps in the knowledge of those who undertake one.

So, let’s back it up a little and peek at what apprenticeships were like oh so long ago. Maybe this will give you, dear reader, an inside peek as to why my disgust lays not with the apprentice but with the system.

The Apprentice.

The idea of on the job training has been around for millennia. I am not going to go back as far as Mesopotamia to get to the point I am trying to express. I know that we have been working together since the cradle of civilization was a current place to be.

In our more modern time, I always look towards Japan with fondness when thinking of apprenticeships. The Japanese have a philosophical belief that the self must always grow and learn, to always improve. It’s rooted in the Zen ideology of kaizen, which explains that one must continually grow through one’s own efforts. This simple break-down in our lazy, native language, does not do the word kaizen justice. This word evokes such deep feelings when uttered in its native tongue that we would have to write a freaking book to get anywhere near its depth.

Deep eh!

The apprentice, a brief history.

In the Western world we think of apprenticeships as merely being able to produce work after enough technical knowledge obtained through work labor ensures you make few mistakes. In Japan, things are different. When you go into an apprenticeship, as an accepted apprentice, your master takes your burden on, full tilt. You were accepted at a young age and lived with the master as a lower stationed member of the family. You would do menial tasks around the house like cooking and cleaning, sweeping and tidying the master’s workspace and, for some, take a good beating daily. The matron of the house would educate you in your basic school studies (thing reading, writing and arithmetic). All along you would watch from a safe distance as the master worked.

Stealing Knowledge

From an early stage of your apprenticeship, you were offered a simple theory on how to grow your knowledge, Nusumi-chishiki. This theory gave the apprentice a chance to steal knowledge in order to learn. You used your eyes and learned through your own interpretation.

This process of Nusumi-chishiki would carry on for a long enough time as to when you could show your competency and then be released into society to carry on your own workings business.

To further explain that last bit:

You were not allowed to go forth until the master, who is attached to your success in the trade, was confident in your mastery of the trade. Your failure was the master’s failure. In the society that Japan still holds today, this was considered a disgrace. The master did not their job well enough that you, their ward, could make a living off their tutelage.

Now, the standard model of apprenticeships that mirrors some of the western schools of thought leaves out a major philosophy in Japan where stealing knowledge is only a single aspect of becoming a master. Hopeful masters must apply the concept of Shuhari to obtain what most would consider a true mastery of a craft.

Shu-Ha-Ri

Shu-Ha-Ri is a belief system which, loosely translated breaks down the process for obtaining mastery. In tattooing you can see specific milestones that are achieved by someone willing to undertake this journey.

Shu (Obey – Look)

10 years stealing knowledge and mirroring the master. A single master. This is where you gain the fundamentals and copy the master to obtain a working knowledge of your craft. In tattooing, the apprentice must earn the trust of their master before any attempt to mark another person in their name is attempted. Although, look at the thighs of those lucky enough to have made it through this stage. This stage is all about the how and why techniques are used.

Ha (Detach – Feel)-

10 years actively improving on your own. In this phase you step away from the master and seek your own understanding of the craft. You break apart and dissect the practices learned from the master to advance the teachings you were given. This is the stage where you innovate. With their master’s name and blessing, the newly released tattooer goes forth and define their own personal understanding.

This stage is about making the how and why of their process. The make their own and understanding their place inside the craft/trade.

Ri (Leave – Think)

10 years developing your own style and mastery. This is where everything has moved beyond practiced and becomes a pat of you. Your own style emerges and becomes a natural extension of yourself. The tattooer has come full circle and has become a tattoo master. Their work is unique and wholly their own, although it carries with it the images/themes given by the master. They are answering the questions that have been developed by the work of this generation and give knowledge to those actively seeking the future.

Connection to Martial Arts

This ideology is practiced in many ways but is very evident in martial arts.

Think of Bruce Lee and his water analogy,

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

What Bruce Lee describes is the final process of mastery. A formless reaction of one’s self. Read a book on Jeet Kun Do sometime and you can get a feel as to how the concept of Shuhari influenced his martial arts and philosophy.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand,

Apprenticeships and the less than modern tattoo industry.

The tattooing we know in the western world, in my opinion, lacks a complete understanding of the tattooing process. But it’s not our fault. We can trace the separation of knowledge back to the early 1900’s and the burst of tattooers that stemmed from these original badasses. While our efforts over the past few decades opened the industry and offered unfettered access to all those who wished to join, the western history is fraught with trial and error applications that built a separate knowledge base, completely absent of the knowledge our Japanese cousins utilize.

America – The apprentice’s journey: A history

Back when tattooing became a (somewhat) rational option of employment for carnies and societal outcasts, us in the USA relied on second hand knowledge to understand what it was that we are doing.

Yes, I know there were greats and some people who everyone looks up to, but I am looking through some frosted glasses with this critique. I am talking about an apprentice so don’t toss out Paul Rogers, Sam O’Reilly or Bob Shaw to me and think you can shoot me down, ok!

The problem was that, since the early 1900’s, there was no one actually offering up any knowledge. There were no real masters. To get into tattooing you had to know someone to get in or beg and compensate someone to get a meager education. Worse yet, you could just manufacture your own machine and start stabbing. You learned through error and, if you were lucky enough, had a career that spanned enough time to get a good hook on how to get pigment into skin.

Japan adds influence

The idea of ceremony that the Japanese brought to their teachings, which was part of their culture, was replaced with the motivations of the industrial revolution and progressive national politics (ya, that is a reach, I know). People were out to make money, gain some fame and focus on what trends were popular (especially in the 50’s-60’s). These efforts focused on exploiting the eager public’s want of what was in fashion. While they did enhance the quality and expand the repertoire inside the industry, there was a further separation from educating the next wave of professionals that were carrying the torch into the future.

We found a cool article from a personal perspective from Kotaku.

You can read it here

The Tattooing Families – Apprentice validity through naming

Legitimacy among tattooers was gained by working with someone or doing some sort of training underneath them. Tattoo Families were born of this practice and it ensured professionals a preceding sense of respect, if they were lucky enough to carry the name of someone who was respected. We can assume that this practice also lent itself to people abusing the respect associated with the labels attached to a family. I can imagine a young kid, gear in tow, moving across the country stating his association with Bert Grimm or other famous big-names in the industry, failing and having to run away or deal with the repercussions.

Some non essential stories

I remember hearing stories from a few old time tattooers about their apprenticeships. While I cannot claim that any of this is factual, let alone not a figment of their imagination, their telling’s did show me what may have been commonplace during the years preceding what we now call the age of enlightenment.

  • There was a story about a guy being given a machine when walking into a tattoo parlor, inquiring about a job, and just starting to hammer clients for nickels. No training for the apprentice.
  • I believe I had read a story about people joining the circus to hone their skills and have an easy escape when they fucked up.
  • I read about a guy who tattooed drunk people he dragged in off the streets. He practiced on their sometimes-unconscious bodies.

It’s crazy to us now but some people may have gotten their start by sheer dumb luck.

Families and growth

Once these families started to grow, they expanded out and connections were established from the coasts inward, in the USA. Yes, the Navy sure helped tattooing get a foothold inside this country but the people who guess-worked their way to an understanding of the industry used capitalistic ideas and means to spread that shit like fire! A mass-produced product that was easily transported to the masses countrywide.

Suddenly you had some guy in Kansas moving to Where-Eversville, USA to open a shop with a name like Maud Wagner attached to his pedigree.

The expansion created a consistent environment where American tattooing became more normalized, even if it wasn’t accepted societally.

A More Modern, American Tattoo Apprenticeship

I am going to depart from any additional history and move forward as I think I have introduced bias into the argument I am intending to make. I also laid in unconfirmed stories that lay waste to any legitimacy this article may carry. The stories and ideas about the US and tattooing are amazing and should be some TV series carried by Netflix into some super docudrama.

I really feel the story of tattooing inside the US has all the earmarks of what it is to be an American. As an industry we took the efforts of those who came before us and created our own style of apprenticeship that we see today, albeit today’s standards and practices are losing the things that made them truly American.

Let us look at what the common practice is today when you are an apprentice.

In the beginning

You, an aspiring tattoo god, walk into a shop and start asking about training. You get turned away from multiple shops but find one that is local, willing and seems to be able to offer you a break into the wonderful world you love from the outside. After a few meetings and discussions, they offer you an apprenticeship. They say it isn’t going to be easy.

Shu-

For the first bit you awkwardly haunt around the shop, learning people’s names and some of the terminology. There is little to no interaction on a professional level coming from the artists there. You mop and clean and maybe get a few questions but your attempts to fit in are failure.

After a while the artists start letting you watch them tattoo, if you have finished your chores and do not interfere with their work. If you are lucky (I can’t tell if I am writing sarcasm or not at the moment) you can get into skin shortly after you start your apprenticeship.

This is where I feel the system starts to break down. Let me explain before we move on.

Japan versus USA – Apprentices

Japan

Compare the ideas applied to understanding tattooing from a Japanese master and this poor sap we are talking about above. How the apprenticeship started may have same style of initiation but that is where both worlds separate. The “master” isn’t a single person in the US version. The shop as a whole is attempting to move this person through their education. I can see the argument here as there are more hands, it should take less time. The issue is that the person taking the apprenticeship is still an individual. There isn’t a way to tailor an education that is to be crammed down a person’s throat if you have their best wishes in mind. What you are doing, in this case, is rushing the results.

USA (The West)

Contrasting the ideas above, it may take years for the hopeful apprentice in Japan to prove themselves. The must impress upon the master a level of competence before they can start marking people permanently.

Back to our scenario, our new apprentice above has little understanding as to the why or how any of the techniques are used. However they got here, they are now left to fend for themselves. The “masters” of the shop have given little in time and effort that will ensure the apprentice will succeed. That success should be the focus of those claiming to have the ability to train and further the willing apprentice.

The Next Step

Ha- You have made it past your first tattoo and have started learning how to draw simple designs. The shop has accepted you as one of their own. Yet here you are left to figure out what’s next. Your career has begun but you have little knowledge of what to do here. You actively seek out others to help you better understand they why’s and how’s of the industry. You’re doing your best but something is missing.

You have so many questions and little knowledge of where to find an answer. While you are getting confident on smaller designs there have been requests for larger scale work that you do not feel confident enough to take on. While this lack of confidence is not outwardly expressed, you attempt and fail at multiple complex designs, learning with each mistake.

Time for another break in our story. We will carry on in part 2.

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rian Othus got his initial break into the tattooing industry in the early 2000’s. He worked in many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The opinions expressed on this site are based on his experiences and time spent in the industry. Some are also from amateur scientific study.

The journey to increase his knowledge began on the road. At times Rian had to travel far from home. Others, he had to beg to get any information. It was an amazing journey and it paved the way for Rian to start analyzing the tattoo industry to figure out where he fit into it.

These articles are written to engage and educate those who are out in the wild world of tattooing, working in a shop or just enjoying the culture. He admits that some of the articles may be very specific regarding who they are written for, but hopes that anyone who reads them is able to take things from a different angle or better understand what someone else may be experiencing.

Rian Othus
Website: https://tattooartistsblog.com
https://www.instagram.com/rian_othus


 

The Social Contract of Tattooing – Artist Version – Part 1

In this comprehensive, 3-part article, we will be tackling a difficult topic discussed in philosophy, the Social Contract. More specifically, we will be discussion how the Social Contract pertains to tattooing.

Hang tight and stop rolling your eyes! I’ll try to keep this entertaining. TL: DR at the end or part 3.

What’s a Social Contract

Social contracts? What the fuck does this have to do with tattooing? I’m not leasing a car or renting an apartment Rian, I’m doing a goddamned tattoo.

To start, let’s toss out a minor correction there ace. This isn’t a contract you sign to walk away with something new, this contract deals with your societal, interpersonal and political responsibilities. It’s the unspoken contract you have with your clientele, the people you work with, the shop owners or your employees and the place/region/society you choose to do business and the industry as a whole. Its fucking heavy bro/bra, so pay attention.

Social contracts have been around since the dawn of civilization. They are responsible for our species’ ability to grow and hopefully, continued existence. A social contract implies that either vocally, through action/inaction or just being present, a person agrees to specific terms that is defined as their natural and/or legal rights.

Fucking heavy, I told ya.

An Adventure in Social Contracts.

Let’s take you on a fucking journey to get your brain going:

Your normal day goes awry

You, a fabulous and famous tattoo artist, are crushing a tattoo. It’s the sickest shit ever! A backpiece of 2 mechanized dolphins with razor-wire covered fin-gloves, battling a T-rex over Chicago’s city skyline. You are getting into some thick, 13rl highlights when your eyes get heavy and your legs start to shake.

You give your client a heads up that you gotta take a quick 5 and drop a 2fer. He nods his approval and you exit the booth, smokes and cell in hand. As you crack open the door, a sharp pain shoots through your colon. It feels like warm butter is starting to roll down your tight pant leg. Fighting through the discomfort, you suck it up and walk towards the toilet. You get about 5 steps down the hall and cringe. Ah damn, that Chipotle you had for lunch is revisiting the scene! Your cringe turns into a loud scream as you feel your soul being ripped from your body. As you fall towards the ground, you try and brace the potential facial impact, the world goes black.

Welcome to…Erf?

You wake to find your surroundings not as they were a minute ago. Startled, you scan the area and see that you are lying in a field, covered with some hay looking shit. There is a long, well beaten path is next to you running into the distance. You dust yourself off as you stand up and, luckily, you haven’t taken a crapper in your tight pants. Time to take stock.

Your clothes look the same but everything in your tiny, tight pants pockets are gone. No smokes, no phone.

Shit.

A new friend and a social contract

As you think about what the fuck to do next, you turn a 360 and look into the distant surroundings. You spot a figure in the distance, which is growing larger as the seconds pass, heading up the path towards you. You hail this stranger who is walking along and rush to meet them. It’s immense. Fucking huge. It’s some goblin looking fucker with a crazy axe attached to his back and red ass, blood dripping eyes focused on your chest. He looks masculine and his head top is all shiny

He lifts his head to the sky and screams,

“Me Glarg. You Friend!”

Yes, this is the start of a social contract. Glarg, the glorious eminence has described you as a friend. Cool. I don’t fucking know Glarg. What’s in it for me to be his friend?

Considering the social contract

These are questions every person should be asking when they meet a new person in a new land. Simple ones like: Am I sure they are a nice person? How should I act around them? Are they packing heat past that wicked axe? Are they going to eat me?!

Maybe you won’t ask the last 2 in normal life but these questions should sound relevant to anyone who runs into a monster, whose name sounds like projectile sick:

“!#%!Glllaaaarrrrg!@!÷!”

Back to our adventure

Take a pause and relax. We have control over this fictitious timeline so let’s freeze it.

You’ve asked yourself some questions, that is good.

Dig in further and you can grasp any deeper concepts or threats in what’s going on here. Does it emerge from your timeworn and far travelled brain? Do you need a alittle help as you aren’t prone to fantasy role-playing?

You can see that all of the questions you asked above have a simple, underlying theme:

Am I safe?

What answers do you have? Well, none to be honest. We know nothing about this big fucker or where we are.

Understanding your place and how the contract works

This is where you notice a fucking crown atop their head. You wonder if royalty stands before you?

You can ask yourself a few simple questions until you suss out this monsters’ station and intent: Is he a benevolent person who works weekends at the local kids’ hospital doing balloon animals for kids, or is he a murderous “Ted Bundy” esq person looking for a midnight companion?

Regardless, you can rest assured that you have this covered. He’s alone. You may be able to take him if he don’t get their hands on that axe… But what about that crown?

It may not be a big deal! If he is a murderous fuckwit on the solo, he’s got no power over you! Just run away and hope he’s not packing heat or can throw that axe very far, right?

That sounds about right. No connection. run past Glarg like those bums you step over in the street during the Christmas holidays!

The Bigger Picture. Why Choose?

Well, that may work out but what if Glarg is the boss. Like the fucking boss of everything. It’s Independence Day, “Welcome to erf”, shits falling down, and the Eiffel Tower is a giant beacon summoning these bastards down to your home. It would make sense right, he is wearing a crown?

Good thing he’s stated he’s your friend though, right?!

If he’s the boss, is there any unspoken terms or arrangements you are bound to, regardless of your ability to say yes or no? I can almost guarantee Glarg’s up to no good and the planet is in for a world of pain and, after a very lengthy tangent, you’re finally faced with the social contract I’ve mentioned earlier.

Instead of simple questions like, “Is he dangerous” you are faced with something greater. If you can’t find a way home, how are you to act in the new illustrious society of almighty Glarg so as to not bring about the fury of his righteousness?

By following the rules his almighty has set forth for truth and prosperity for all, of course!

Laws, Rules and Your Place

Now, laws are contracts. We can see them, hold them and trust they are for our collective benefit (Mostly. I’m looking at you, humanity, you’re still a fucking mess). These laws are supposed to level the playing field inside a society, keeping all people equal (yeehaw freedom) as well as defining the roles of those existing inside a society.

You don’t have to sign up for these friendly laws. By merely existing inside a society, you are bound by their laws. The law of the land, or this land to be specific.

Since you are now in Glarg’s domain let’s hope you get some rules and regulations figured out quick.

Association – Simple rules of the social contract

You remember one simple rule from home:

Don’t kill.

A big, nay, grand law, this one is! It is shaped in a way to which there are heavy penalties. All lives are considered equal. It’s an overarching, general will, expressed by society. I don’t want to die because I’m overdue at Blockbuster. Keeping Weekend at Bernie’s for that extra 6 years carries a heavy fine. What of Glarg doesn’t like late returns? Could you imagine getting an axe in the skull because of an overdue movie!?

In most societies, you have no right to believe your life is better or more valuable than another. (Fuckin’ Freedom!) We have laws like this in place, so society has stability. If you break this law, you suffer consequences. Muthafuckin jail time. You entered into agreement with your society, by existing there, not by signing a piece of paper. Since you are existing there, your agreement ensures that you will give some or all of your life if you break this agreement. Do not pass go. Go directly to jail. Wait to maybe get out. (Unless its Guantanamo. Then you’re fucked.)

Another association

Let’s look at an unspoken law you can identify with to further our understanding of these contracts.

You live in a small tribe on the plains in a far-gone time. The tribe always feeds the hunters/protectors first, the women and children second, while they feed the sick, weak and elderly last (Literally trickle-down economics).

Yes, another social contract. You choose to live with this tribe, so you are bound by the feeding schedule and rights that are imposed upon you. In this society a hunter/protector is revered as something necessary. Maybe they don’t have an agrarian society? Who knows?

To ensure all get fed, the ones who bring home the food and keep everyone safe are fed first. Keeping these people happy and healthy ensures a better survivability for all in the tribe. Everyone wants something (safety), agrees on a way to make sure they are safe (having those hunters armed as fuck and well fed), and even though some people may not feel as well fed at the end of the day, they agree that it is in the best interest of all to abide by these rules. No signature required!

Does Glarg’s system of governance follow a hunter-gatherer societal structure. I sure hope not. You can’t even remember to brush your fucking teeth in the morning, how are you going to rise through the ranks and achieve that Rockstar status you have come to enjoy?

Now a tangent to fill in a plot hole.

Yes, we have skipped around a bit, but I do want to move backwards and define an aspect that may make this whole contract theory more complete by the end of this essay. Let us talk about psychological egoism.

Fuck. More heavy shit. I’m dropping this crap right meow.

Just hold your donkeys there rock star. This small detour is made for you.

Egoism

Psychological egoism is the philosophical school of thought brought about by the famous philosopher and social commentator Tommy Hobbes (Thomas Hobbes). It is largely debated but it comes down to the idea that you, dear reader, are exclusively self-interested. You are an ego maniac. You like your looks, your personality and, by God or Glarg’s will, your fucking tattoo skillz. Your direction and purpose are wholly motivated by your own need to make yourself feel good. Like, really good.

This is exclusive to the other ideas that you may be personally motivated by some other outside force. Your ethics have little to do with what your final internal actions may force you to consider paramount concerning your actions.

Let’s science this a bit

Thought Experiment:

Your wife/husband/partner/sibling etc. is trapped in a burning building and you rush in to grab them, saving their life. What is your motivation for doing such a thing? You could have died yo! Psychological egoism holds true that you did that entirely for your own benefit. Maybe you wanted to get on TV. Maybe you wanted to save them, so you had someone to talk to. Whatever the reason, there is always the underlying theme that you have acted for your own benefit.

Back from this tangent, we can assume that you have already wandered down the path of being a fucking ego maniac by thinking of how you can better your own station inside of Glarg’s magnificent society. That’s fine and it brings us to real life where we can break this all apart an reassemble it in a way that gives relevance to this crazy op-ed.

The Industry as a Whole.

You, an industry insider, enter into a contract, albeit unspoken, every time you sit down to do a tattoo, do a consultation or even advertise your ability to the world. Your actions have a direct consequence and the clients have a level of trust in your decisions, regardless if they are included in those decisions.

So, what are you doing to ensure the future, or current client’s, success as they meander through this crazy industry? Does this only apply only to you, or is this a critique of the entire industry as it stands now?

The idea of a social contract may normally be applied to those things bigger than a simple tattoo appointment but, in our case as professionals on the inside, we must do everything in our power to define and understand what it is that we are agreeing to when we take on a project.

The big and small picture of social contracts

This application as well isn’t just micro in scale. Think macro. Look around you. Go to a convention and see how paying clientele are ignored, disrespected or turned away because the person involved is more focused on their own personal gain rather than accomplishing a goal based around the gains of the clientele and industry. It seems as if we have degraded into a more natural state of lawlessness. It’s turned into a jungle out there.

Yes, a counter argument stands that the efforts of the ego and the artists involved currently have progressed the industry to new levels, increasing the utility of all involved exponentially. Think of the needs of the few outweighed by the needs of the many. (Spock still rules)

We have seen insane abilities being tossed around in the media and artwork that extends far beyond what we thought was possible a decade or more ago. The products being produced for artists and clients are of better quality. The negative consequences have decreased over time (attach links to demographics) and we are seeing a so-called renaissance in the industry.

I do agree, but I also believe that in doing so we haven’t stopped to think about where this effort is leading us. Where will we be in the future if this ideal, self-centered focus on artistic ability drives the industry forward? We are rushing forward so fast and we really don’t know what is going to be common knowledge 25 years from now.

Acting alone or together – a social contract

If we, as industry insiders, step forward and act inclusively with our clients, will it be a detriment for us as a whole? I think not. The idea that the client(s) who are available to help us progress are incapable of understanding the why’s and what’s of our daily grind is ignorant. We all started somewhere and knew absolute shit nothing about what we do. We were apprentices, kitchen magicians, jail birds.

Even if we tried to ask questions the inevitability was a failed attempt things knowing we could have done better. What we have learned isn’t some hidden gem boxed in our own ego, its information that can be spread around. If we choose to spread it, inform ourselves and our clientele, the industry is the only entity that benefits. Keeping this specific demographic (clients) out of the future of the industry will hurt, not help our efforts.

Let’s move back to the fictional universe you were placed in earlier.

After a brief pause where you had turned inward for 1000 words, you look to Glarg and ask him to lead the way. You follow his majesty for a few hours regaling in his stories of conquest and impossible love making and finally fall upon a giant village. The village is dwarfed and surrounds what looks like the Burj Dubai that is made of solid-fucking-gold.

Glarg leads you into the village and tells you to wander and look around.

Well, that’s a lie. What he actually said was,

“Stay little person. Glarg need pussy!”

As he tromps off you feel relieved and head off in the opposite direction.

Into the village

Your soul feels lighter as you start to wander the streets that are occupied with vendors, children and what looks like garden gnomes scrubbing cobblestones with toothbrushes. You feel that now is a perfect time to ask around and find out what the fuck is going on. It’s also a great time to get some information on how you should handle yourself while occupying these new surroundings.

For what feels like an eternity, you greet and chat with every available person. Past the insanely long introductions, bows and acts of fealty, you learn that every person inside this village is deathly afraid of Glarg. He is described as:

  1. Rude and prone to flatulence.
  2. Actively ignores the needs of his people.
  3. Tries to fuck anything that moves inside his town.
  4. Overcharges for simple goods and services.
  5. Claims to always be, “too busy,” when confronted by the village-folk.
  6. Never returns an email.
  7. His attire is generally seen as abusive. The bedazzling is accosting to the eyes.
  8. Is always accompanied by a large theatrical troupe.
  9. Shows up late to engagements.
  10. The garden gnome people fucking hate his face.
  11. Has literally destroyed multiple worlds.
  12. Kills scores of people and steals their belongings for fun.

Yes, those last two seem to trump the others, don’t they?

Past the jokes, what I mean is:

Responsibilities and a social contract

Doesn’t Glarg have a commitment to those who reside under his majestic rule?

You could throw out an argument like:

Why don’t these people just leave! They can get away from this guy and do their own shit and live in harmony.

Well, he is a badass destroyer of worlds. He would probably just hunt them down, incinerate them all and rape their cattle. They really don’t have a choice.

Back to the real world.

So, here we are again, and I bet you know right where I am going with my argument.

People sometimes are left with little choice as to who does their tattoo. Perhaps they lack transportation to get to the best shop around. Maybe they lack the funds to get something wicked by the best artists around. For all I know the artist they enjoy so much is booked out 5 years in advance! That still doesn’t mean they can’t have a great experience and walk away educated about the process.

You, dear reader, must identify the contract laid in front of you when you work in, or walk into, an industry shop. What is it that is expected of you? What do you expect from your artist?

Do you have a contract and what does it state

In all reality, you shouldn’t have to assign a value based on familial recommendations or Facebook likes You should know that what you are getting is the best that is possible from each artist you encounter.

You should know what terms and conditions are being placed upon you by entering into the contract being presented but not spoken. You should know that your best wishes are being kept and focused upon. If you do not have the knowledge to make such decisions about your body, it is the industry insider who has a responsibility to inform and educate you so you can make those choices.

Right there I probably lost a few people and gained a few haters. That’s fine, I will deal with it by drinking heavily tonight.

Looking at ideas to the contrary

The counter arguments are really a tough cookies to crumble. Let’s take a look at a couple and defend our position:

  1. As industry insiders, people choose to listen to our advice. We are experts in what we do. As tattooers, we do not have an obligation to explain or educate anyone in what we feel is the best course of action. I have their best interests at heart.

Yes. That is a good argument. I feel ya.

But, what if other people in our lives used that same argument? What if doctors just did shit to us base don their belief that they know what’s best? Would you complain if you woke up with DD’s and a missing kidney?

What about another argument in favor of dismissing client interaction:

I do not have enough time in the day to sit down with every client. There is little I can do to extend myself. I cannot discuss every aspect of my work, the causes and effects of any action I may choose or utilize.

I would go broke, need a second job or be forced to quit to survive.

There may be a disconnect with what I believe and you do but, I understand where you are coming from.

Fighting the urge to take it easy

If you are working with multiple clients on a walk-in basis, and you have no steady clientele to speak of, you may be in a bind. The service you are offering is simple and these people do not have, or want, any of this information. They know what they want, and they chose you to do it.

This doesn’t mean that you must shirk your responsibility to your clients. They may think they know exactly what they want, and they may think they have it all figured out, but do they? When you, dear reader, were first gracing this industry with your presence, did you know everything or was intuition what guided your understanding?

Our job is not just to offer up sexy tattoo work, our job is to educate and inform those we work with, tattooer and client alike.

(This is a sliding scale and I put those who are working in situations like this a couple standard deviations away from the top dawgs in the industry. The responsibility of all artists involved in this industry is to create progress in a way that improves the experience and results for all involved.)

Be honest with your clientand a social contract

If people are led to believe what they intuit versus real facts, they will believe the earth is flat and the Sun revolves around Earth. It is only when confronted with reality and facts that people make decisions that are considered informed. You dear reader, would be amazed at how much information you need to pass along to your client so they can make an educated decision. It isn’t a whole lot. The mind is amazing at filling in the blanks and making connections.

You are not forced to give an hour long seminar about the workings of your tattoo machine for those clients to make a good decision about their body, you only need to go so far that they understand why you are doing what you are doing and ask if they need more information.

Even if there is an hour or so in your day lost by giving the same information to each client, and it may bore the fuck out of you, but you are working in a way that ensures the clients are informed. You are also practicing and expressing your understanding of your chosen trade.

Your arguments against the social contract

One final argument I have heard:

  1. I am a skilled artist and people choose to get tattooed by me. My clients fly from all corners of the world and come from all walks of life. I do not discriminate as to who I will tattoo. They know what they are going to get and are considered collectors. I do not have a responsibility, much like the great artists of antiquity, to explain anything to my clients past what the final product is going to be.

Whether it be due to hard work or just dumb luck, we in the industry salute you, artist! You have made it to the top of the tattoo pyramid and have won the $64,000 allotted by our sponsors!

I do feel like you may have overlooked something along the way though… With your station come great responsibility. You have a debt to the industry to spread your knowledge. You do conventions and teach a ton to anyone willing to pay and listen? Good. What about your clientele and the artists who are just making it into the industry? What are you doing for them?

This is a long term solution – Social Contract

Take a step back and remember, we are all in this together. This entire industry isn’t based around what you, as an individual, can do alone. Even if we broke down everything and focused on just the single tattoo that goes on between you and your client, it is still a collaboration.

You may be thinking that you can tattoo yourself and this argument isn’t very effective. I would argue that you are already educated as to the why’s and the what’s. It’s moot to offer that up as a way to deny me my right to rant. Every interaction that you have, whether you are a great artist with a worldwide audience or a person who works in a simple walk-in studio, is a collaboration.

You work with your fellow artists and clients, day after day. If you work solo, you still need that paying client, right? And while you may be able to hide behind the artistic wall that is dead artists, you are still very able to influence your surroundings. Your tattoo work is not the Sistine Chapel or the Mona Lisa, well it very well could be, but it isn’t literally those works of art.

When people purchase something to hang on their walls, they are taking a direct action that doesn’t affect their person directly. They are making an investment to dress up their walls and hide money for tax purposes. You, the great and powerful Oz of tattooing, you must separate your ego from your actions and work. You should be skilled enough to know how to succinctly answer questions posited to you by your clientele and be humble enough to know that those artists seeking to gain your level of greatness deserve what you have to offer.

My closing thoughts on part 1

I reserve the rights to come back into this and rework this thought but I always welcome our thoughts and critiques, dear reader. I will leave you with one final observation:

The best tattoo artists out there produce amazing imagery but the best are also great at working with their clients.

Do you feel the social contract you are holding your clients to is fluid and should only become more inclusive as you improve, or is this something you can master today?

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rian Othus got his initial break into the tattooing industry in the early 2000’s. He worked in many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The opinions expressed on this site are based on his experiences and time spent in the industry. Some are also from amateur scientific study.

The journey to increase his knowledge began on the road. At times Rian had to travel far from home. Others, he had to beg to get any information. It was an amazing journey and it paved the way for Rian to start analyzing the tattoo industry to figure out where he fit into it.

These articles are written to engage and educate those who are out in the wild world of tattooing, working in a shop or just enjoying the culture. He admits that some of the articles may be very specific regarding who they are written for, but hopes that anyone who reads them is able to take things from a different angle or better understand what someone else may be experiencing.

Rian Othus
Website: https://tattooartistsblog.com
https://www.instagram.com/rian_othus


 

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