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.

Guest Blog: Tattoo Coupons – Bad For Business

January 26th, 2012 by Kevin -


Editor’s Note: We have another guest blog today from Shawn Hebrank (Tattoo Coupons – No Big Deal) to explore the other side of things. I encourage you to read both posts before firing off  in the comments.


First, a bit of background: Last month Tattoo Snob reposted an ad for a tattoo shop/artist. He was advertising a coupon for a two hour tattoo session for $99 – a great bargain… according to him.

Now, I know that times have been a bit tight for everyone out there and tattooing seems to have screamed into the mainstream of life, but Hell, a freaking coupon?! What have we come to?!?! Are we going to start giving “point incentives” to clients?

Where I come from that’s an understanding between tattooer and client. It’s usually unspoken and understood – not something that needs to be advertised like a sale at Wal*mart.

Tattoo Snob asked me to write this while I was in Miami promoting Nichole East’s “Quick & Painful” art show. The same show that we were doing $40 flash tattoos. The idea of cheap promotional tattoos has always been around and seemed to have its place. You’ve got the Friday the 13th special, Halloween, grand openings, and such. It saddens me a bit that because there are so many shops today, and so many tattooists taking part in all of these speciality events, that clients only want to get tattooed at these events now. It also seems so many tattooists today are so desperate to get folks in the chair that they’re literally bringing the rest of us down. I have many friends the world over who suffer from some shit heel scratcher shop up the road doing cheap ass tattoos just to get the business, or worse- tattoos in trade.

Bring the douche a case of beer, and he’ll sleeve ya, or some such shit. We’ve all heard the stories.

But I digress. Where is all this cut throat BS getting us as a business? Nowhere, thats where. It’s my belief that the client is being taught that not only is it possible to get a cheap tattoo, but that it should be common practice for a client to price shop, and not artist shop. And like I’ve said many time in the past with the problems and issues in our trade, “It’s our own friggin fault”.

Too many young tattooers, too many bullshit tattoo shops, too many individuals brought into this trade with no one there to tell them, “NO, you don’t do that!” It’ll just hurt all of us in the future. I’m very passionate about this, and many other issues in our trade, mainly because while I may not get hurt by some of this BS I have many talented friends whose businesses are suffering greatly from the ignorance of all of us.

I know that everyone wants too work and make a buck. I realize that this is just one, of many issues amongst us as a trade. But F%#K there is really just so much information out there on the web to inform these knuckle heads of the rights and wrongs of how to do business. Even when common sense seems to falter, just turn on your freaking computer!

Hell this is just my opinion, I’m certain you all have your own…


–Guest blog by Joe Capobianco

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

Guest Blog: Shawn Porter’s Tattoo Movies – AMJAM 1991

January 19th, 2012 by Kevin -


The last year has seen a pushback within the tattoo community; with tattoo artists uploading their own tattoo videos to the internet as an antidote to cable network programmed tattoo “reality shows” that are anything but real.

But you know the old saying- “there’s nothing new under the sun”. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s a number of tattooists took the bull by the horns and produced their own tattoo films. Royboy, Crazy Ace, tattoo fan Michael O. Stearns- folks who documented tattooing for a niche market of worldwide devotees who at the time had no outlet for tattoo programming.

I’ve been collecting these tapes (have you held a VHS tape lately? They’re comically huge) since they originally came out and, fearing that these glimpses of our history may end up forgotten, digitizing them for my ‘Occult Vibrations’ blog. The idea is that if folks all over the world have access to them, they can never disappear.

Instead of talking about the specific tape (dude… you should see the outtakes. Debra dancing butt naked in a snow cemetery, rolling around naked with tigers and a baby… so fucking weird) I figured a little blurb about where the video came from would be more fitting.

–Guest post by Shawn Porter of Occult Vibrations

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

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Ink Master premieres tonight

January 17th, 2012 by Kevin -


I really had high hopes for Spike TV’s Ink Master when I first heard about it. A tattoo reality show centered around competition made me think it would be something akin to Chopped on Food Network. A tattoo version of Chopped would be a good thing, right? Chopped is pretty well-made and fairly clever. As a viewer, I think the most interesting part is the feedback contestants receive from the judges once the challenges are over.

I thought Spike TV had enough experience with reality programming to do this right–they worked with the UFC  to create ‘The Ultimate Fighter‘ show. While Ultimate Fighter gave interpersonal drama way too much airtime, it was still better than the average reality TV trainwreck.

Then I heard Dave Navarro was involved with Ink Masters, and I was suspicious. I get it: they picked a recognizable, douchey ex-rockstar with tattoos to appeal to the average joe. (Personally, I would have gone with Benji Madden–but that’s just me.)

Nevarro aside, they did enlist Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck as judges, and the list of the tattoo artists/contestants was fairly impressive. With that many talented artists involved with the show, I still held onto the hope that this could really be a show the tattoo industry and community would be proud of.

The promo clips are starting to pop up online, and I have to say, I’m a little concerned. Instead of following the Chopped model like I’d hoped, this looks like typical bad reality programming… What an awful feeling. (Watch the clip below to see what I’m talking about.)

Even after seeing clips like these, I hope there’s going to be some good that comes out of this show. Like I mentioned above, there’s a number of really talented artists involved. Maybe it can shine the light on some other artists, as well as shops that really deserve the attention? Better yet, I’ve heard that the artists talk openly about some important tattoo common-sense subjects, like why you should tattooed in a shop instead of someone’s kitchen.

I realize I’m grasping at straws, here. I just don’t want to believe every episode is going to be like the clip below. I can’t say I’m confident Spike TV will air the portions of the show that would actually benefit the general public, but I could be wrong.

At this point, I don’t know what to expect of a full episode… but I guess we’ll find out tonight at 10pm.

Stop hating

January 9th, 2012 by Julene Huffman -


There’s a lot of negativity regarding any number of tattooing styles and subject matter readily available online. As Den Henk said, “This is an alternative, underground subculture, and it’s a shame to see the same things that tear the mainstream world apart having any foothold.” What else does he have to say on the subject? Well…

I see juvenile, close minded attitudes in tattooing. And, as in music, it’s mostly the younger crowd. You show a veteran who does traditional [tattoos] a good tattoo by a realistic artist, and he’ll go, “Damn!” usually followed by “I wish I could do that!” I’ve seen it happen so many times I’ve lost count. You show the exact same tattoo to a traditional artist in their mid-20s, and often their response is a sneer, and they start picking it apart, “It doesn’t look like a tattoo… It won’t last… You’re just a frustrated painter.”

The same is true in reverse. I’ve heard realistic artists criticize an old-school tattoos with their standard repertoire of insults, “My five-year-old could draw that… They’re just copying Sailor Jerry… They are only doing that because they can’t draw something more complex.” And so on.

Now, granted, a little bit of both sides critiques are on the money. But far more often, it’s pettiness. That same pettiness that makes a 16-year-old, who suddenly “hates everything that isn’t punk rock” talk down about something that is well done, just not in the particular genre he chooses to identify with.

The rest of Dan Henk’s post on tattoo-related hating is available on the Tattoo Artist Magazine blog. I think he was right on the money with this post, by the way.

Still pissed about TLC’s Tattoo School?

July 11th, 2011 by Julene Huffman -


I was going to write a whole post about why I’m amazed at how pissed everyone is over TLC’s newest show, Tattoo School, but I don’t know if that’s even necessary. Sure, there’s plenty of reasons to be pissed off, especially if you’re a tattooer. Let’s all just take a deep breath and look at all the angles before we all go having a coronary:

The more we talk about it, the more people see it. While I’ve seen people saying “thanks for giving them all the free advertising they need”… while I see what you’re saying, I don’t think an ostrich with it’s head in the sand type of approach is going to do anyone any favors.

Last I counted there were three different groups/fan pages on Facebook regarding the boycotting of TLC/the show. Each of these groups has at least 5,000 members – one has damn near 10,000. Between that and the online petitions I’ve seen linked left and right, I’m curious why people are breaking off into smaller groups. If we’re all so determined to do something, it makes far more sense for us all to work together toward the common goal.

That being said, I don’t think banning or boycotting are feasible demands. I do think we should be reaching out to TLC in an effort to make it known that what they’re doing by broadcasting this show sucks–but let’s take a step back: the 20,000 people or so that are making this a hot topic on the internet are still a small portion of the number of people TLC is hoping will tune in for the show’s premiere. And honestly, if you’re reading this site (or any other along similar lines) you are not part of TLC’s target demographic for this particular piece. In short: they’ve already filmed, edited and set an air date for the show. Nobody is going to keep that episode from showing; but we should be gearing up for damage control, on chance that the show lasts more than a few episodes.

This isn’t the first time the issue of tattoo schools has been raised, either. Like this post from December: Thoughts On Tattoo Schools by Tim Pangburn. Hopefully, we can benefit from this situation by forcing us to be aware of changes people are trying to tattooing by skipping the steps you’d think would be considered mandatory to enter into the tattooing industry. Personally, I don’t want anything to do with someone that didn’t have to suffer (yeah, I went there: SUFFER) through a legit apprenticeship. Regardless of Lisa’s skill as a tattooer–and I’m using that term really loosely right now–I can think of plenty of amazing tattooers that apprenticed under shitty artists. But they apprenticed; they didn’t spend a couple thousand dollars for a two week crash course before being unleashed with a certificate as proof of their ability to show up to class on time. I don’t want to believe anyone would approach tattooing the same way they would a CPR course.

As an aside, can we stop with the posting of Lisa Fasulo’s contact information? She’s already filmed the show – what is harassment going to do at this point aside from cause headaches? I do not support her or what she’s doing, but this is the type of situation where taking the high road is going to allow us to do the most good, for ourselves as well as the industry we’re trying to defend.

And now, allow me to inject a some humor into the situation: