Chuck Greenberg: What Can You Tell Me About Common Sense?

May 7th, 2014 by Kevin -


About a month ago, we posted our first article from Chuck Greenberg (A.K.A. Chuck DeeZee.) The response from the article was amazing, and if you haven’t checked the comments section – you need to now. The comments turned into a mini Q&A and a lot of good information was shared.

Chuck’s back this month with more advice about finding the right artist, discussing the design, preparing for your tattoo, and some general aftercare information. Again, this is information a simple Google search won’t turn up. This information comes from hours of tattooing, traveling, research, and caring.

Click below to read Chuck’s article, and don’t hesitate to leave comments, suggestions, or feedback for either of us below.

Scotty Munster and Chuck Greenberg

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Mike Moses: Facing the onslaught of the digital age

September 25th, 2013 by Kevin -


Picture of Mike MosesGuest post by Mike Moses (On Instagram: @thedrowntown)

Those of us with at least a decade in the tattoo industry remember a world quite different from today. As for the old-timers… hell, they probably don’t recognize their own shops anymore. The nervous laughter and palpable fear of those yet to be tattooed is gone. Instead, quiet cadres glued to the 5600K light of a handheld revolution occupy our waiting rooms. Prospective clients gain reassurance that the process ahead is “no big deal” from an ever-growing web of search results.

What used to be a rite of passage for more questionable members of society (and more than a few good servicemen) is now served up hot to hoodie’d teenagers, housewives and your cousin Frank. You can’t even check out at the grocery store without a family of five cooing in unison, forcibly comparing their future projects and former mistakes to yours. I didn’t sign up for this – I just wanted some ice cream.

At some point, you have to wonder: “What the hell happened?”

Coming up in a small town, tattooers in magazines took on a heroic glow. They seemed so far away, their greatness vast and unattainable. As an apprentice, you poured over piles of moldy outdated magazines; tattooer preschool was all about taking notes of the good (and bad) aspects of others’ work. Next you began observing the guys you worked with and the dudes down the street; studying their style, approach, and remembering their names was your job.

In those days, even the guys a couple blocks over might as well have had miles of barbed wire around them. The only way to gain access was a chance meeting in a bar; perhaps you’d get lucky and someone would introduce you. To get a glimpse of their sticker smudged and road-worn portfolio meant manning up and walking into their shop, a frightening endeavor indeed. Understanding the industry relied on the realization that you owed other tattooers everything, simply for carving the path ahead of you.

Fox tattoo by Mike MosesBack then tattooing was still massively unappreciated by the mainstream. It was a remote career, a venture regarded by all but the most subversive as a “bad move” – to pursue this was professional suicide. No one in their right mind would encourage you, and threats from disapproving parents hung in your head like nooses. But for all the nooses they tied and the gallows erected, nothing held the same allure as old timers’ stories: neon in the windows, shitty pool table out front; the hum and buzz off in the dark distance, the unknown.

You couldn’t get enough of it; the allure and majesty of an industry that didn’t want or need you, quietly carrying on in the shadows.

Epicentral to it all was a collection of nicotine-stained flash art, hung in blessed disarray. A shop’s flash collection was it, man: the fiercely guarded and revered mother lode. Despite the disproportionate quality to quantity, stealing flash was treason of the highest order. The names of people and stories of their deceit remain burned into young tattooers’ minds for all time. Theft of someone’s custom work meant kissing your ability to wipe your own ass good-bye. Copying, tracing, or otherwise stealing a custom design was akin to signing your own death warrant. This was ingrained in all of us – it was lesson one.

Reference materials were limited to naturalist illustrations, a few good photos, and some Japanese shit so secret, you weren’t allowed to look without its owner’s express permission. The wall of secrecy around tattooing could only be overcome through YEARS spent carefully chipping away—and that was what you worked for; that was your goal. Looking back, that secrecy’s importance presented itself, as many things do, only in its absence.

Some of us had websites, but they were flimsy and difficult to navigate. Magazines were still the dominant medium to gaining mass recognition as a tattooer, and getting into them was either easy because you knew someone – or impossible, because you didn’t.

A carefully manicured hard copy portfolio was still your best bet for getting work. A tattooer that couldn’t produce images of their work on demand was hiding something, and likely a filthy scratcher.

Before the digital revolution, you had to put in the hours, make the connections, and earn your notoriety. Promoting yourself was something you had to earn the right to do. And then it struck. A stray bullet from an unforeseen Philip K. Dickian future.

Networking took a notable turn with the first websites tattooers actively posted to: Myspace and Facebook. Promoting yourself through the baby-fresh face of social media was approached with a shrug and a “why not?”

That changed with the popularization of the iPhone. At first it was a ‘gimmick’ most of us laughed off, an item purchased only by those with too much expendable income.

The ribbing died down once we realized the ease with which we could shoot and share our work. A pocket-sized portfolio at our fingertips? That was nothing to laugh at. Eventually, we all caved. Inadvertently, we changed the industry forever.

Social media became the final stick of dynamite wedged in a hardened wall of secrecy that had stood for decades. By trying to expose ourselves to a larger audience, we removed all of the barbed wire, turned on all the lights, and made all that was hiding in the magical dark accessible to anyone.

moses1Today, any amateur with a smartphone can amass a following seemingly overnight, rivaling what someone else worked their whole lives for. People who’ve never set foot in a tattoo shop know the names of every potential great. Critiques on tattoos take place in forums about cake decorating. Painstakingly produced custom designs are ripped off, copied, perverted, gimmicked, and destroyed by pathetic tracers before the original artist has the chance to lay claim to their idea. Trends blow back & forth across the globe in a cheap wind. Within hours, a single great idea is bastardized and forgotten by a constantly churning sea of ingrates—and the inexperienced are heralded as gurus, geniuses and greats.

A trade thick with tradition and respect has been unceremoniously bent over, violated and left for dead. Integrity, already in short supply, dried up like a puddle of spit in the sun by people possessing no more artistic depth than the fluids they excrete. Tracing is commonplace, and no one seems to realize or care about its devaluing nature.

For all of this, a lot of it has made our lives easier: modest public acceptance, professional respect, and comfortable incomes… even parental endorsement! These are the benefits afforded by cultural countenance.

Contacting amazing artists the world over is now simple; new collaborations occur daily. For those that cut our teeth the old way, or just happen to have a good head on their shoulders, it’s a very exciting time. There is much work to be done and new ground to tread.

The benefits are there as sure as you read this, available only in digital format, now that seeing things exclusively in print seems inconceivable. We should be awed by the power of the digital medium, and owe a lot to the ingenuity that fixed the path… and to the people that take the time to Like and Reblog our work daily. All of this fans the fire that now warms us.

The question remains: Are we better or worse for it? A quick flip through your battery powered magic 8-ball reveals: “ASK AGAIN LATER.”

As we stare blankly for hours, flick endlessly through scrolling tiles, and search for ideas we don’t believe we could produce alone… we learn one valuable lesson: No matter what the future brings, there’s no such thing as instant gratification. We must offset the flaws of our situation—we must continue to work our asses off, and allow ourselves to still be mystified. We must cultivate respect and integrity. Most of all, we must be conscious of the need to protect our seedy, sacred industry in the onslaught of the digital age.

See more: Mike Moses on Tattoo Snob

Tattoo by Mike Moses

Brandon Collins: “So you wanna be a tattoo artist?”

November 2nd, 2012 by Kevin -


This guest post was written by Brandon Collins at Nightmare Studios Tattoo in Reno, NV

With the invention of tattoo “reality” shows, the average un-tattooed or mildly tattooed person is led to believe that tattoo artists are superheroes: they can draw an entire back piece in 15 minutes, go out to the clubs all night and still come to work on time, able to tattoo whatever you want, wherever you want it.

That sounds awfully appealing to some kids–but it couldn’t be any further from the truth. Anyone who has spent time in a tattoo shop knows that most tattooers are your average hardworking dads and moms with mortgages, car payments and phone bills, not prima donna rockstars that get VIP everywhere and drive Lamborghini’s. Those TV shows make a mockery of our profession and because of them, our trade has been diluted by half-ass, mediocre tattooers. Not only have these hacks not paid their dues, but they pump out crappy $20 tattoos that the average joes doesn’t even realize are shit.

Before deciding you want to be a tattooer, think about this: Say my appointment for the day doesn’t show up, so that $400 I needed to pay rent and put food on my table will just have to wait. If YOU go to work and no one shows up, YOU still get paid and so you can afford to sit home home and watch “TATTOO SCHOOL” and say to your stoned roommate “bro, I can totally do that shit!”. You get breaks and paid holidays, insurance and an guaranteed paycheck every week. We don’t. We work 50-60 hours a week tattooing, drawing and painting with no medical benefits and no retirement funds.

Don’t listen to your family. That skull with the lightning bolts and a joint in its mouth you drew in the 8th grade ISN’T amazing. Your parents, close family members and friends are always going to tell you that you are a natural artist. Their biased encouragement will only give you the false confidence to go into a tattoo shop and get your feelings hurt. Tattooing isn’t a hobby or something just to pass the time. It is a profession and a sole mean of income, so if you think we will welcome you and your “tat guns” into our trade with open arms, you are sorely mistaken. Apprenticeships are meant to be hard–to weed out the undeserving. If you are lucky enough to get one (and I do mean lucky) you will be taught a skill that can carry you for the rest of your life and you are forever indebted to the person who taught you. There are those dip-shits that don’t have the balls to go into a tattoo shop and try to get an apprenticeship – or they did and were tossed out, just order some “guns” online and “do tats” out of their house. Not only is this completely disgusting, unsanitary and unethical, but also illegal. Don’t even think about doing that. Those fucktards can do some real and irreversible damage to someone not to mention potentially spread disease.

Most tattoo artists don’t make a lot of money. Tattooers get paid by the hour but that money isn’t dumped right into our pockets. We have to give a percentage to the shop and pay for supplies and what-not. In reality we only get a fraction of what we charge for your tattoo. So when you tell me, “Dannnng $100?… Thats a lot, you must be rich!” and I want to run a steel spike through your head, you will understand why. As I mentioned before, if an appointment doesn’t show up or you don’t have anything scheduled, you don’t get paid. Imagine going to your job at Home Depot or where ever and working a full day without pay.

So next time you have the urge to be like Kat Von D or whatever rockstar tattooer is the flavor of the week… remember this: Countless hours of work for minimal pay and no benefits is the life that we have chosen and will defend with extreme prejudice. Do yourself a favor: keep your day job, and leave our profession alone.


**** Quality guest blogs from tattooers & enthusiasts always welcomed–shoot us an email.

Guest post: References vs. Reproductions

October 22nd, 2012 by Kevin -


Recently, I’ve had a few clients come in with photos of custom tattoos in the hopes that I will duplicate them. After I educate them on the etiquette of custom tattoos and explain why I need to redraw/redesign them, I usually get one of the following responses: “I completely understand and I’m sure I’ll love what you design” or, “Change it? But I really like it the way it is!”

Though I try to explain to potential clients that this defeats the purpose of getting their own one-of-a-kind, custom tattoo, sometimes their insistence forces me to abandon “their” idea completely!

Pick an artist whom you trust and whose work you admire, and then be open-minded to the artist’s visions and suggestions. Feel free to bring references–but know that a reputable tattooer will not give you an exact copy of another artist’s work.

Below are recent examples other artists’ work that I redesigned for my clients. The raven on the left is by Oleg Turyanskiy, and the peach on the left was done by Nick Baxter.


–Guest post by Mark Duhan at Skin Deep Ink in New Milford, CT.

**** Quality guest blogs from tattooers & enthusiasts always welcomed–shoot us an email.

Guest blog: Laser in the land down under

October 10th, 2012 by Kevin -


Editor’s note: Given the changes that have occurred in tattooing – and the numerous enthusiasts that have made regrettable decisions in tattoo artist/subject selection – we’re looking to shed light not only on where to get a good tattoo, but how to get rid of a bad one.

I’ll let Michael Driver take over from here.

This whole thing started back when I was 19 or 20 and had my first experiences with laser tattoo removal. I had rushed out and gotten a sleeve off some dude I can’t even remember the name of within my first few weeks of being 18. After a year or so, I began to realize that it was pure shit–a standard dumb kid move, but it got me to where I am now, I guess.

While I was going through it, I became obsessed with learning as much as I could about laser tattoo removal and ended up quizzing the doctors and nurses doing the treatments. I realized that, most of the time, they didn’t know what they were doing.

It took about a year and a half for me to finish the necessary courses and training. During my practical training I got the feeling that this was going to be a big thing for tattoo culture on the whole, not just the mid-30’s soccer mum regretting her tramp stamp.

It was cool how many tattooers and tattoo collectors came to me, asking that I lighten older tattoos so they could free up space for newer, ‘good’ ones.

My friend Mitch Love and I were talking after a show in Brisbane one night and he mentioned that Matt Cunnington (owner of Westside Tattoo) was interested in having a chat with me about working together.

This was basically a dream come true. I had been getting tattooed there regularly for the last four years and consider it one of the best shops in the country–not to mention a lot better than other shops that had offered me a position at the time. After a few phone calls with Matt (and a lot of phone calls to the health department) I started working out of Westside Tattoo a few months later.

Business was quite slow at first; we were one the first shops in the country offering laser tattoo removal, and it was relatively new to most people.

Things started picking up after numerous other tattoo shops starting sending people our way. A lot of younger kids that made the same mistakes I did were coming in and fading out there full sleeves, back pieces, etc…

Quite a few people come in to have their face tattoos completely removed in the last few months, which is understandable after the phase that Australian tattooing just went through for that.

I guess now people realize they can go through the tattoo removal process and have the person doing the treatment who can relate to them every step of the way and isn’t some douchebag that hates tattoos.

I recently opened up my second “clinic” (I hate that word) inside Third Eye Tattoo in Melbourne, and have a third opening in Sydney in the not-too-distant future.

Obviously I love tattoos, and I love lightening the pieces people aren’t happy with so they can get quality new ones in their place. That being said, I really hope I never find myself inundated with customers that want their tattoos completely removed after deciding they don’t like tattoos anymore.


**** We’re looking for quality guest blogs from tattooers & enthusiasts–shoot us an email.

Guest Blog: Let’s Talk About Tattoo Thieves

March 9th, 2012 by Julene Huffman -


You know what really grinds my gears? TATTOO THIEVES. It is becoming a pretty serious issue. Tattoo artists of low integrity are giving in to clients and not using their own skills to create a custom pice. Most of the time you can look at a tattoo and know exactly who the artist is; peoples’ styles have become so obvious thanks to the internet.

Clients are now searching online and printing, or bringing in a publication of a tattoo and saying, “I WANT THIS.” Instead of the artist telling them, “That’s a cool idea, but it was drawn specifically for that person. You don’t want the exact same thing as them. I can use this as a reference and draw you something entirely of your own,” they make a stencil of someone else’s hard work and tattoo it!

Even better, some skip the tattooing part all together, stealing the picture and putting it into their portfolio and claiming that the tattoo was done by them! I have had this happen to me countless times now, as have many other artists I know.
I love when I get emails like this: “I got a Kristel knock-off, can you make it brighter and make some changes?”

The best one yet was someone sending me to a link to a guy in New York with a picture of the “Hello Kitty Candy Ass” tattoo I did in his portfolio. I emailed him and asked him to please take the photo down since it wasn’t his work. He sent me a pretty rude response, on top of threatening to “cut my face up.”

Last month a girl contacted me about a tattoo that she was not happy with, asking if I could re-do it or cover it up. I asked for a picture of the tattoo—imagine my surprise when I saw it was two tattoos stolen straight out of my portfolio! They went from shoulder to elbow and were totally jacked! She found pictures of my work on the internet and got them done by a guy tattooing out of his house, then when she wasn’t happy with it wanted me to fix it. After I told her I wouldn’t touch the tattoo, she emailed me back to call me a B#$%h. Really, you stole my work and now you’re mad I won’t fix it for you? I told her it’s called KARMA!!

I can’t even believe how often this happens. You’d think people would know by now that you’re going to get caught eventually. Beyond that, it makes you look like an asshole who can’t draw! Is it really, really worth the few hundred bucks you “might” make off of the tattoo, rather than drawing something from your imagination using this subject matter and making a name for yourself and progressing your talent?

The people who have stylized their tattooing and become known for their work didn’t start off just tattooing rad shit. We all started out tattooing jacked up lines on grapefruits or our friends. With work on ourselves from colors, to gray washes, to the style we wanted to head toward, using a body instead of a flat canvas, to using our own imagination to create something for our clients rather than tattoo flash, this all came with time and pushing ourselves.

When it comes to tattooing, imitation is not flattery–it’s a insult. Push yourself and the limits of your skills. NO ONE TATTOOS PERFECTLY. WE ARE ALL STILL LEARNING AND MASTERING OUR SKILL WITH EVERY TATTOO WE DO.

Being a copy cat does NOT lead to artistic progress! As far as dealing with an insistent client is concerned: as a tattooer, you are in control of this situation. You know how to sell your product–and yourself, I’d hope. (If not, take a course or read a book about it.) Unfortunately people see tattoos online and decide, “OH, that’s it! That’s exactly what I’m going to get!” People like this will never know by watching Tattoo TV shows about our real industry and what collectors/clients should be doing when they look for inspiration, not to mention how to select an artist.

I understand there are folks working in street shops that just tattoo what’s brought in or flash on the wall before moving on to the next tattoo of the day… But as an artist, do you always want to be at that level? I get that picture is exactly what the client says they want, but they must not “really” know what they want if they’re trying to get an exact replica of something someone else already has on their body.

I can’t help but wonder about some of these clients, too. Do you really want a tattoo from a person who couldn’t even draw you something custom? This person is supposed to be a tattoo “ARTIST”!

Many people are getting into tattooing these days for tattooed chicks/guys, cool points, because someone on TV is doing it or their mom said their drawings are good (Really? You going to rock that fanny pack they said looks good, too?), and a life where they think it’s all “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.”

It’s disappointing, to say the least.

I can only speak for myself, but I’d like to think the artists I see pumping out dope pieces at conventions, on blogs, in magazines and books got into it for the same reason I did: because tattoos… well, there’s just something about them, isn’t there? When I see an amazing tattoo, it’s like the rush of a first kiss or taste of an amazing desert—it’s that kind of chill that tells me this is bliss.

Tattoos are beautiful, scary, amazing, astonishing, life-changing. It’s art on a body, and it should be making a tattoo artist think, “Hell yes! This is me, my life, my skill and my future.” I never want to be afraid to humble myself to push to be better at my skill. Every tattoo should be something that I can look at on that last wipe before I let the client see, and think, “Yep… I am a tattooer–not a tracing thief!”

–Guest blog by Kristel Oreto

**** We’re looking for quality guest blogs from tattooers & enthusiasts–shoot us an email.

Guest Blog: Tattoo Coupons – No Big Deal

January 26th, 2012 by Kevin -


Editor’s Note: Earlier we posted a guest blog from Joe Capobianco (Tattoo Coupons: Bad for Business). I encourage you to read both posts before firing off on anyone. I encourage you to read both posts before firing off  in the comments.


The current Republican primary has unraveled into hyperbolic absurdity, and as an outsider (a non-Republican), it is an amusing disaster to watch. Each statement a candidate makes is taken by his rivals and twisted so far out of context that its original meaning is completely lost before being used against him in stump speeches and misquoted in ads on TV. Although unfair and dishonest, it is a brutal election process with very high stakes. It’s not hard to see how respectable politicians can become childish and petty so quickly.

When similar name-calling and shit-talking eats away at your own community, though, it is far from entertaining. Every time something new is unveiled in the tattoo industry, there’s a thousand over-the-top opinions and judgements unleashed immediately. While you can find honest debate over relevant industry issues (i.e. licensing, safety, and equipment), it tends to be drowned out by the alarmist babble concerning the more insignificant happenings that don’t have a real effect on anything–or anyone.

The newest non-issue incurring the wrath of those who need to be heard is the offering of coupons for tattoo work on group discount websites like Groupon. These sites are a little too “thrifty suburban housewife” for me, but I hardly believe that the partnering of these sites with tattoo shops is going to destroy the tattoo industry as we know it. In fact, other shops using coupons probably won’t have any impact on established custom tattoo shops with existing clientele.

Tattoo customers have various ways of finding the type of artist or shop that best suits their purposes. Some people want a tattoo of something simple ASAP, and a normal street shop works fine for them. On the other side of the spectrum, a serious tattoo collector will want a specific artist’s work, and are willing to wait a year or more to get an appointment.

Between these two sides fall the rest of the tattoo shops, which range widely in quality, price, cleanliness and experience. In order to differentiate themselves from each other, shops use whatever marketing techniques are available to them. For the shops that don’t offer especially unique skills or styles that are competing with many other shops for the mid-grade type of customer (who might not know much about the tattoo industry) but does want a clean, friendly environment, coupons seem like an effective strategy.

The clients that search out specific artists and styles are looking for a higher quality of tattooing. They aren’t shopping based on price, they are educated about the tattoo industry and know what they are looking for. They often get larger pieces, have to travel to their artist and sometimes wait months (or longer) for appointments. None of these clients would be swayed by the coupons offered by local, unremarkable shops.

Mitt Romney never slammed Jon Huntsman or Rick Perry (even when they were twisting his words about wanting choices in his health care plan by repeating his “I like to fire people…” quote)… because he didn’t have to. The Perry campaign spent their time turning that unfairly edited quote into a ringtone for download on his website (and they did), but it wasn’t going to change the minds of Romney’s supporters. They knew the truth, and they also knew that neither Perry or Huntsman were a threat. They’ve both since dropped out of the race, after all. Mitt Romney has focused on running the best campaign he can, with little thought to the desperate moves taken by harmless opponents.

Tattooing will never be an industry without gritty parts and undesirable qualities. It certainly wasn’t founded on high principles of artistic merit, but has come a long way in a short amount of time. The best approach to having a more educated public is to promote the highest caliber of artists and shops through avenues such as TattooSnob and Tattoo Now, and to encourage all the positive efforts being made in the industry. This will more effectively contribute to the betterment of the tattoo community than the very public and negative infighting, especially concerning issues that have no real bearing on established artists.



–Guest blog by Shawn Hebrank

**** We’re looking for quality guest blogs from tattooers & enthusiasts–shoot us an email.