Shannon Larratt on realism tattoos that won’t last

September 28th, 2012 by Julene Huffman -


I’m going to come right out and say I don’t read BME often. But I do think that the post “Fraud in Tattooing” by Shannon Larratt raises some interesting thoughts on tattoos that look great fresh and wind up, pardon my paraphrasing, healing like shit. Shannon’s intro says more than I possibly good:

I’ve been talking to an old friend that’s a tattoo artist who’s pretty straight-shooting and no-bullshit in his attitudes about some of the trends we see among top artists these days. The one that I whole-heartedly agree with is this tendency to fill portfolios with pieces that couldn’t possibly heal well, but look great fresh. Tattoos that look incredible the day they’re done — bright color realism with almost no black-shading is a good example of stuff that often turns into a faded out nothing in time — but looks like garbage when it’s healed. I’ll quote some of what he said, keeping things anonymous because I’m not looking to point fingers here.

Here’s a portion of an email Shannon received from an anonymous tattooer friend on the subject:

There is a very ugly tendancy today in tattoo business of taking pictures of fresh tattoos, doing realism that will look like shit in twenty years — or in four months even — and going from convention to convention, making 100% black money, with no touch-ups, no follow-up of clientele. Those are the most famous artists in the world. I have no problem doing tribal [edit: he is referring to an image I posted of a "less than inspired" tattoo that I spoke ill of] for people who ask. If I can’t change their mind, I’ll do it. It allows me to keep cool pricing for everybody, to keep tattoo art something it SHOULD remain, that is, a POPULAR art form.

The fact there’s only 41 comments on this post is baffling to me. Give it a read – I’d love to know the thoughts of artists and enthusiasts alike on it.

Actually, what I’m really looking forward to is the inevitable name-calling and know-it-all’ing we’ll see in the comments below…

Big surprise: There’s a Season 2 of ‘Ink Master’

August 29th, 2012 by Julene Huffman -


I saw a couple casting notices posted online for season two of Ink Master back in February… I mean, I really hate covering reality TV on this blog. But I think it’s important, considering the sheer number of programs–and tattooers, be they amazing… or not–showing up in primetime TV spots.

This year there’s 16 contestants… and more notably, $100k as the grand prize.

For the record, I still think it’s super cheesy they have Dave Navarro as the host, but I get the type of “scene cred” Spike TV is shooting for with that. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m kinda shocked by some of the artists included in the constant list below…

  • Tray “Big Daddy” Benham
  • Clint Cummings 
  • Nick D’Angelo 
  • Jamie Davies
  • Katherine “Tatu Baby” Flores 
  • La Ron “Ron” Givens 
  • Steven “Kay Kutta” Givens
  • Thomas “TJ” Halvorsen
  • Cee Jay “Inky” Jones
  • Mark Matthews
  • Sarah Miller
  • Sebastian Murphy
  • Jesse Smith
  • Little Mike
  • Steven Tefft
  • Lalo Yunda

What about you guys–are you planning on watching? Do you even care? And more importantly, is this going to lead to more “boycott network” groups on Facebook?

Season 2 Trailer
Spike Full EpisodesSpike Video ClipsSpike on Facebook



The Laws of Lettering

August 27th, 2012 by Julene Huffman -


Considering the number of large, text-heavy tattoos popping up online in recent years, it was only a matter of time before someone sat down to write about them.

And that person–thankfully–wasn’t me. I came across a post on the Seppuku Tattoo blog, The Laws of Lettering for Tattoos, which began simply enough:

We often turn down requests for massive amounts of type & I wanted to spell out our very concrete reason as to why that is. This isn’t to discourage anyone from getting tattooed, but rather to look at the broad picture & to help make better tattoo choices. I realize it’s a current fad to get scads of text, we see it all the time. And it drives us crazy.

Here’s the CliffsNotes version of the points used to support their reasoning:

  • Text tattoos destroy the art of typography
  • Text tattoos fight anatomy
  • Text tattoos fight good tattooing
  • Text tattoos eat up a lot of skin
  • Text tattoos cockblock other tattoos
  • “There’s no gallery openings for fonts”
  • Art is subjective–text is not
  • No one wants to have to read you
  • You might have failed English (or other national language)

Clearly the author put a lot of thought into this post – there’s a lot of quotes I considered re-posting here, but for maximum effect might I suggest you read the full post yourself.

Personally, I’m not big on the “one size fits all” mindset for anything; but text tattoos are tricky. While I can think of a handful of attractive large-scale text tattoos right off the bat, I’d say closer to 80% of the heavy text tattoos I’ve seen could be summed up by Seppuku’s last line:

She could have been the Birth of Venus, now’s she a Chinese take out menu. *sigh*

So, what’s your take?

The magic of tattooing according to Tim Hendricks

July 9th, 2012 by Julene Huffman -


Every time a fairly visible tattooer gets involved with reality TV, I wonder how they feel about it after. While it doesn’t look like Tim Hendricks has any interest in writing a tell-all  about his experience shooting NY Ink, he did pop off this gem about reality TV that I wish the show’s producers would pass along to their target audience:

With tattooing becoming as popular as it is these days every person that knows how to doodle wants to become a tattooer. I can only complain about it so much before I start feeling sad and a bit responsible as a result of partaking in crappy reality TV. [...] Reality TV is a joke, it’s not real. If you haven’t figured that one out by now then you are an infant. What you watch on TV is not how tattooing really is. Tattoos take longer than three minutes and most ordinary people don’t sit and talk about this incredibly breathtaking story behind it. For the most part tattooers get along pretty well in shops, and even if they don’t they usually just find a common ground and agree to disagree.

Reality TV wasn’t the focal point of Tim’s post, however. To read the rest of Tim’s post, scoot over to the Salt Water Tattoo blog.

Tattoo by Tim Hendricks

What are you going to do about your tattoos when you’re older?!

June 20th, 2012 by Kevin -


I know a lot of you have seen this picture, but in case you haven’t – enjoy.

If anyone knows the origin of this, please let us know in the comments below.

Can the swastika be “taken back”?

June 19th, 2012 by Julene Huffman -


You don’t see swastika tattoos, reclaimed or otherwise, on Tattoo Snob. Like, ever. The picture above is the first, and I’m uncomfortable with it.

Let me start with a personal disclaimer: I have a hard time believing it’s possible to ‘reclaim’ a symbol that has become synonymous with hate, genocide and Hitler. Considering there’s plenty of people out there with swastika tattoos that aren’t signing up to join the Hitler Youth, the subject is a tricky one to broach. (On the flip side, there are still plenty of people who are pledging to “defend” the white race from… pretty much everyone else on the planet. And they happen to align themselves with the same symbol.)

So imagine my surprise when I came across VICE’s interview with ManWoman, author of Gentle Swastika, Reclaiming the Innocence, about his attempt to reclaim the symbol from “cue-ball headed bigots” over the last fifty-something years. ManWoman reveals the source of this calling: an old man in his dreams.

There was an old man who came up to me and he had long, white hair, a beard, and white clothes. He marked my throat with a white swastika and said that I needed to take this on as my mission and redeem the symbol.

Okay… they almost lost me with that. But this isn’t about me, it’s about the idea of people trying to reclaim the swastika. So what do you think – can it be done? Should it be done?

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.