Trendies: Why they are bad ideas.
In this post I’m going to discuss how some of the more popular tattoos are bad ideas and why. Things like overall design, placement, and aging are all factors why these tattoos aren’t good ideas, but in the end if that’s what the client wants, we will do our best not only to make the client happy while trying to make a good tattoo.
The first and probably the most important thing to consider about a lot of these tattoos is trendiness. What is a trend?
1. the general course or prevailing tendency; drift: trends in the teaching of foreign languages; the trend of events.
2. style or vogue: the new trend in women's apparel.
3. the general direction followed by a road, river, coastline, or the like.
The problem with a lot of tattoo artists is that they like to try to create something original; something that sets themselves and their clients apart from everyone else. As artists the tattooers work tirelessly not only on a style of their own, but on techniques to do the best tattoos possible, so when people request something that’s been done millions of times it becomes a little heartbreaking for the artist. We of course want tattooing to be trendy, and popular, just not specific designs we get stuck doing time, and time, and time again.
Feathers with birds silhouettes:
This tattoo came out in 2012, and has haunted tattooers worldwide ever since. There’s lots of jokes pertaining to each trendy tattoo that comes about. The sad part of this one is it documents a specific year. It’s not like pointy tribal tattoos that plagued the late 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s. The feather with birds exploding out of it says, “I got tattooed in 2012 and I couldn’t think of anything for myself, and I thought this was cute.” Despite our efforts as tattooers to try to explain to you that tattoos like these will not age well and most likely be regretted and covered up, the clients stick to their guns and exclaim their individualism by looking exactly like everyone else. Speaking of aging lets discuss this tattoo. The idea behind the tattoo is that it’s a dark black feather, with dark black bird shadows flying out of it. This is basically the tribal of the 2010’s. It’s black, it’s pointy, it’s horribly overdone; exactly like the black, pointy, overdone tribal. As this tattoo ages it will sooner or later just become a black oval with black blobs next to it, and it’s super rare that anyone that decides on this tattoo will step up to the option of doing a fun feather with some cool birds around it. Taking a $100 tattoo making it a 2,3, or even $400 tattoo and making a more artistic idea is one that not only will the client love for a lifetime, but the artist will love it and can use it further his career as an artist, let alone build a stronger relationship with that client and future clients. When we have really cool tattoos to show off, we use them to influence others to do the same. We don’t tend to take pictures of these designs for a reason; doesn’t show off any artistry, we can’t use them for promotional aspects, and there’s already hundreds, thousands, maybe millions on the internet. We do them, we get paid, and we forget them. That’s what this tattoo is; trendy, popular, and easily forgettable. And yes, your dandelion/bird thing is exactly the same.
Infinity symbols with words:
Again, here is another tattoo that has infected our lives through the world of Pinterest. The infinity symbol represents forever, and people like to slip words like love, faith, family, and many others to express their feelings. This tattoo is another one of those tattoos we talk about how it’s trendy, and people just want a cheap way to say to themselves that they are committed to some of these ideals. My feeling towards these tattoos is getting a tattoo in the first place is saying that you want to remember or feel this particular thing “forever.” I don’t know if people know this or not, but it’s a tattoo, it’s like, permanent and stuff. A tattoo is in itself, “forever”, so what you’re is saying, “forever, forever.” So, why not invest more effort, more heart, and let the artist have their way with your idea and come up with something super rad that really screams, “FAMILY FOREVER!!!”, rather than, “I had sixty bucks and wanted to tell everyone that my family is forever in the cheapest, most permanent way the internet could think of.”
You can visit my other blog on how to come up with those ideas HERE.
There is so much to say about lettering tattoos and how they are bad ideas. The best person to talk about this is on the Seppuku Tattoo blog. If you want enlightened and want to know why your lettering tattoo is a horrible idea, I couldn’t say it better than Seppuku’s blog. Please read it HERE.
I basically say these things, “You’re not a book, and no one wants to read you.” I will always do the tattoo to the best of my ability but again, I will forget your tattoo the second you walk out the door. I also say, “An image is worth a thousand words, a word is worth one. Why not get an image to really represent what your feeling is.” When I wasn’t a tattooer I was rarely impressed with tattoos people got, one of the reasons being people would always get lots of words on them. I would see them and think, “I don’t want to read that. I don’t care enough.” And then I would ask, “What does it say?” without really looking at the tattoo. People would ask my thoughts on the tattoo and I would look at its technical aspects but I wouldn’t read it. If they are lyrics by some hack job of an artist, I especially wouldn’t care. That’s right, Lil’ Wayne and Kanye, you suck, and you’re words are meaningless. Go read a book people.
The first question I have to ask is, “What tribe are you in?” One-hundred percent of the folks out there that I have encountered are not in a tribe of any kind. Tribal stems from the Polynesian islands and each type of designs means something. They have definition, and their tattoos mean something to the rest of the tribe’s men and women. To quote one of my other blog posts,
“These designs stem from places like Hawaii, and many of the islands in Polynesia; hence the Polynesian style of tattooing that is popular from time to time. The western twists on these tattoos don’t really mean anything at all, nothing like the history of the Polynesians. The Polynesians didn’t have a form of writing so they used art. Their tattoos represented hierarchy, family lineage, sexuality, and overall rank within the tribe. Each symbol and image represented something else. As most western society habits go, we watered the ideas down. “
I solely blame the tribal fad on Ed Hardy. He released a few magazines in the 80’s and I believe that’s where the trend started. One more thing Ed Hardy basically turned to spit. Anyways, people come in constantly wanting these huge tribal designs that cover the shoulder, the bicep, and they all have the desire to get it across the traps, down the back and around their ribs. I’ve never had anyone actually follow through with this idea, but if you’re someone considering this concept, be ready to drop $3-6k on it.
Flowers with frillies:
The thing about this tattoo concept isn’t so much that it’s trendy or popular, it’s that everyone brings in the same printouts all the time. Let me just tell what’s wrong with these designs. The biggest issue is that they are very empty conceptually. On a smaller scale these designs are fine, on a large scale, they don’t fill the area with art. There’s lots of areas that aren’t even tattooed and they fall short of full. They’re weak overall. Plus, on a larger scale, they become exponentially more difficult to tattoo, which means the artist will most likely charge you more based on that difficulty. For the same price, just let the artist have artistic freedom and create a beautiful piece. Commission that artist to be an artist.
2018 marked the year of small tattoos. Face palms every day of our lives explaining over and over and over and over and over and over again that small tattoos do not age well. So, what happens is that the pigments (ink) will always remain a liquid within the skin. As the person ages, the skin becomes softer causing dispersion (widening of the lines), or a spreading of the ink similar to a blowout. UV light from the sun or tanning beds will also cause dispersion cause the particles in the pigments to break apart causing a “thickening” of the lines. And the biggest one of all, is our immune system. The pigments are a foreign substance, and it doesn’t belong there, so the immune system is constantly nibbling at them causing the particles to break down and also cause dispersion. What’s the issue with that you ask? Well, if you have lines that are too close together, as they widen or thicken, on both sides or directions, they widen into each other causing the gaps in between to close and now you’re left with an indistinguishable blob of a tattoo.
White Tattoos, or The Poor Man’s Scar (and light colored tattoos):
This is really simple. Scarification looks amazing and beautiful when it’s healed with the raised keloid and white scar, but people are scared to go through the possible level of pain involved in to achieve that look, or don’t know what it really is. In order to bypass the pain they think that a white tattoo will be a suitable substitute. It’s not. The thing about scars is, they take a few years to turn white, but during that time they are basically brown in color. White tattoos can do the opposite, and will most likely turn brown with overexposure to sunlight. That is if they don’t just outright fade out before then. Pigments in the lighter value spectrum, like white, don’t tend to hold over time when they are just by themselves. A lot of people want to have a tattoo but don’t want to be tattooed, and think they can accomplish this with either white or light colored tattoos. The fact is, this is a waste of money and not an alternative. Not to convince to not get tattooed, but to convince you to actually get a real tattoo. Black is your friend, don’t run away from your friends.
Religious Crosses and, “But it’s for me!”:
Getting religious tattoos can, and will always be debatable. I’m not here to tell you to not get religious imagery on you unless you know what your belief is. That’s for another post. What this particular section is to explain to you that placement is terribly important. The whole, “But it’s for me” trend is bullshit. I’m sorry to be so blunt but it’s frustrating for tattooers to have clients argue with you about what it the correct direction for design placement. We don’t just throw things on all willy-nilly. There’s a rhyme and reason to every line, every shadow, every texture, and every direction. When we place things on the body, everything is out and in. Meaning, facing away from you, and into the center of the body as much as possible, not upside down. Upside down is upside down. There’s three things I ask people when confronting these designs:
Anatomically speaking, the muscles flow from the shoulders down to the hands, or OUT from the center of shoulders, down the arms, and back IN towards the center of the body. Out and in.
if you were to buy a painting of the Mona Lisa, would you hang her with her head down to the floor? No, because she would be upside down. You could if you wanted to; it’s your painting on your wall, in your house. But, upside is still upside down. That’s just the facts.
If you were to put the same design on your ankle, would you put it facing you, or facing out?
When it comes to the Christian punishment device known as the Crucifix, it’s important to place it in the right direction. Which is more important to you? To regularly tell yourself you’re a Christian, or to tell others you’re a Christian? Because a lot of Christians feel that an upside (there’s that word) cross means that you’re anti-Christian and potentially Satanic. Many people have gotten these crosses and had issues on a daily basis having to explain themselves through a potential misunderstanding. Despite Christians preaching, “Only God can judge me,” your fellow religulites will judge you. (The truth of the crucifix can be found HERE.)
Oh yeah, you knew it was coming. Thought I’d forget this gem didn’t ya. The first thing to understand is that the style of painting know as watercolor isn’t bad. In fact, it’s amazing. I have several watercolor paintings that are just beautiful. Also, any time you see Traditional tattoo flash on the walls, those are generally watercolor as well. The watercolor tattoo I’m talking about here is that wet, pastel, “whimsical” technique. The best way to just be honest about it is to quote a friend of mine when I asked him how he did his watercolor tattoos. They were awesome. They looked so good, but my eyebrows leaped off my face when he answered me. He said,
“Dude… I literally tattoo like shit. I tattoo like I don’t care, and have no intention of making it stay for more than two years. There’s no point in packing in super light colors like you would any other tattoo, because they’re not going to last anyway. Feather or wash that shit and cover it when they come back in after they realize the reasons you told them not to get that tattoo were true.”
Do I do “watercolor” tattoos? Yes, but I won’t do that faint, and wet looking stuff because it will not last.
Criticizing mental awareness is a touchy subject. I understand this. I also understand that I too have some fucking mental issues and as a tattooer I feel it’s important to stand up and say something. One thing, just because it’s trendy, or everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it okay. Mental illness and mental suffering is serious stuff and not to be taken lightly. Do you know what else shouldn’t be taking lightly? Making permanent marks on people that think it’s cute to be like, “Ugh, I totally get sad sometimes because you know, life is hard and stuff. I need to get this semicolon thing to broadcast to the world that I’m like, ya know, suffering and overcoming and stuff.” I have a big tattoo on my arm that represents the “demon” that has been haunting my existence ever since I was born. This dark cloud of nightmares and wishes to not wake up every day and you know what? The more I battle the demon that is actually myself, I hate my tattoo more and more. Not saying that everyone is like me and will hate their tattoos, but the truth of the matter is that every single person that exists suffers. In the words of Mr. Meeseeks, “Existence is pain.”
We all hurt, we all suffer, we all deal with depression, anxiety, and every single person has thought about suicide at least once in their lives. And you know what, none of us are special. We’re all in pain and agony and fighting for better days, every day, together. Get tattoos that express joy, laughter, and smiles. Represent the good things in your life, not the darkness. There’s millions of tattooers that don’t care about you or what goes on your bodies, but there’s hundreds that do. I’m one of them. As a friend of mine says,
“For all those Pinterest folks who can’t comprehend why anyone would get a silly little dick tattoo, but would rather get a semicolon like everyone else like them. Again, if you really have problems, get help, not tattoos.”
Tattoos are not therapy. “Tattoo therapy” is not a real thing. It’s a Band-aid for real issues. Seek help, talk to someone, get off the sugars, lower your carbs, and exercise. Get healthy physically and mentally. Don’t get tattoos that broadcast to the world that you have mental issues. Get awesome tattoos that express joy and positivity, not sadness, hate, and suicidal thoughts. That shit is wack. a
Another touchy subject, but I can’t count how many people I’ve confronted on this topic and they changed their minds and got something different. Cancer, sickness and disease is a sad thing. I think it’s a super sad and depressing thing, why celebrate it? I understand so many people see the ribbon representing the fight, the struggle and overcoming of illness, but you know what else represents still being able to live a life? EVERYTHING ELSE. Literally everything. If you’ve overcome cancer then you can still ride a bike, fly a kite, hang out with family, eat sushi, travel the world, still ride horses, build drag cars, ride motorcycles, draw pictures, run in the park, play with your cat, whatever it may be. Get those things on you.
I feel like getting tattooed should be a celebration of life, not celebrating how disease, illness, cancer, even God tried or did kill off someone. Cancer doesn’t define you. Disease doesn’t make you who you are. You are what you do. Is cancer what you are? Or are you someone who loves to go outside and grill some dope food, and watch sci-fi movies? As an artist I would much rather tattoo the Enterprise flying over a galaxy made of ribs and bbq sauce, rather than a cancer ribbon. That’s a bummer on levels.
This is just a few examples; I’m sure I’ll update this as trends change and express why those things are bad too. These ideas are some donts, let me share a big do in my book.
Traditional tattoos are the best designs that one can get. They are proven to stand the trials of time and will last forever. The tattooers that have been tattooing since the early to mid 1900’s have figured out what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to the longevity of the tattooing craft. I once saw an interview with Rick Walters and he was talking about how they used big bold lines because that’s what looked good, but as the tattoos aged the lines got thicker and what made that tattoo cool was lost. Guys like Mr. Walters changed things up and started used thinner needle grouping to make sure the tattoos would age properly. Sure it didn’t have the “cool” thick outline, but after the tattoo sat for 20-30 years, it did. That’s why traditional is on a rise in popularity because all these tattoos that were done 20 years ago are finally getting to the “cool”, thick outline stage of their lives.
Some things look great on paper, not all things look great as a tattoo. Find an artist you like, and let them do what they’re good at; you’ll end up with a way nicer tattoo! Promise. And sometimes, those artists, the more freedom you give them, the better chances of discounts can happen. I know I do it from time to time.