FROM A READER:
"The basic problem of tattooing, apart from the aesthetic, health-related, and legal implications (i..e., facility of police identification and other problems), is that, in modern practice, every tattoo is based on a line drawing, referred to as a stencil. Yet the client is never shown the stencil. The client is shown all sorts of water-color paintings, photographs, so-called "flashes", and other graphic material with little or no relation at all to the actual tattoo.
"In actual fact, the only person who can do the tattoo is the guy who has the stencil, and the stencils are treated as professional secrets, like the secret recipes of some great Parisian 'chef d'haute cuisine'.
"Personally, I like tattoos, but I hate tattooists, because they have no ethics. Looking for art in a tattoo parlour is like looking for love in a house of prostitution. They just don't care. If anything, I prefer the latter.Whores are more honest. I walked into a tat joint recently just to ask a question, and while I was there, I asked if they did Japanese tattoos. The answer was, yes, we can. I said, do you have any examples? The answer was, look in the magazines. They had a pile of tat mags lying on a table. OK. So you look through the mags, and you see a great looking tat, and it says, "Mario - Italy".
"Where the hell is the tattooist you are talking to going to get the stencil? Answer: no place. The lying bastard you are talking to (who in many cases can fill in the designs if he has the stencil, like a kid with crayons and a coloring book, but who cannot, on his own, draw an apple), will simply Mickey-Mouse up an imitation in 5 minutes (I am not exaggerating) before you arrive for the job, and the tattoo will look like hell.
[Update: Actually, today, with the Internet, you might be lucky, because many good artists sell sets of their stencils all over the world. But you still need a good artist, somebody you can trust, and you need to see the stencil.]
"OK, so why doesn't "Mario" of "Italy" want people to know who and where the hell he is? Because the costs of doing business, with liability insurance and social security (at least in socialist countries, which includes Europe and most of the U.S.A.), are so high, that most of them don't expect to be in business for more than a year or two. They are constantly closing up shop and moving around, partly to learn (i.e, they go to Japan for a year, Holland for a year, to work with some other tattooist), but mainly to evade tax. Next time you see somebody with a great-looking tattoo, just ask him, where did you get it? The answer (especially if it is something really imaginative, really a good job) will always be, "Oh, he was a friend of mine, but he's not here any more, he's in Spain now", or something else very vague. You can never track down the goddamn artist. They don't want to be found.
"Tattooists earn over 100 bucks an hour when they are tattooing. Tattoo stencils are very complex. Why should the artist waste 500 or 1000 dollars of his time doing the stencil (assuming he has the talent to do so), for a one-time job?
"There are only two ways around this. One is DON'T GET TATTOOED. If you're going to do it, KNOW WHAT A TATTOOO STENCIL LOOKS LIKE, AND ASK IF THEY HAVE THE GODDAMN STENCIL. IF THEY DON'T, TELL 'EM TO F' OFF.
"SECOND, AND MOST IMPORTANT: NEVER PAY IN ADVANCE FOR A TATTOO. Pay them to DRAW THE STENCIL (if they don't have it). IF THEY HAVE IT, ASK TO SEE IT. DON'T PAY ANY ATTENTION TO ANYTHING ELSE: WATER-COLORS, PHOTOS, "FLASHES", OR ANY OF THEIR OTHER BULLSHIT. IT'S ALL LIES. YOU PAY FOR THE DRAWING, AND IF YOU LIKE IT, YOU MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO DO THE TATTOO.
"The other way is to buy the stencil from www.tattoofinder.com, show it to the artist, and say, "it's got to be like this or nothing, and if you can't do it, no deal". Even then they will probably lie to you.
"Good tattoos are like white tigers. They're beautiful, but just try to find one. Some tattooists are very good artists. But just try to get those bastards to do a good job on YOU. They might do it for a friend, or at a convention, where they are trying to win a prize, but otherwise they just don't care.
"The best advice is, don't trust those lying bastards, and just DON'T DO IT.
"You can ALMOST make a tattoo stencil by doing a line drawing in Photoshop ( Filters, High Pass filter, low setting, Threshold [Image, Adjustments, low setting], then printing it out, but the artist still has to trace it by hand and eliminate a lot of junk. Any good artist can do this; don't trust a tatooist unless you really know him.
"Then ask to SEE THE GODDAMN DRAWING BEFORE YOU MAKE THE APPOINTMENT FOR THE TATTOO.
"Then, if you are very lucky, you might end up with a good job, like
Big Bob Tyrell
"'Manu' (Chalon sur-Saône, France, just north of Dijon)
Sergei (George) Baradim, Vienna
"But you might as well bet on the lottery. The best advice is, don't trust those lying bastards, and DON'T DO IT.
"OR, BUY THE STENCIL FROM TATTOOFINDER.COM AND SHOW IT TO THE ARTIST, AND SAY, IT'S GOT TO BE LIKE THIS OR NO DEAL. BUT YOU'VE GOT TO KNOW THE ARTIST, KNOW HIS CLIENTS, AND BEST, OF ALL, GO TO HIM WITH A CLIENT WHOSE TAT YOU LIKE, AND SAY, OK, I WANT IT JUST LIKE THIS, OTHERWISE NO DEAL. BUT IT WILL BE A COLD DAY IN HELL WHEN YOU GET A GOOD JOB. THEY JUST DON'T CARE."
Authentic stencil received as advertising material in e-mail newsletter from tattoofinder.com
Other graphic info from "Jack"
Thanks for the tips and other material, tat pics, etc.
Our advice is, if you've got too much money, waste it on something sensible, like cigarettes.