(This might be a rant. Fucking sue me.)
Let me just say: I realise that not every tattoo needs to be epic, sometimes you just want a small banger, a memento, or whatever. Small tattoos can be great. Also, god knows most of us have at least one shit tattoo, possibly an upside down one, quite likely a generic one - and that's ok. In this day and age, however, we are equipped. With the dubious yet mighty internet, and the power of social media, is there really any excuse to be completely banal in your tattoo choices? No. No there fucking isn't.
So fuck 'staying humble' and churning out any more of these - I've done enough already in my not yet indescribably long career to have had enough. Here is why they suck - if the following sound like you, don't take it personally, I've just reached threshold with these pieces.
1. Originality. While there are no new ideas under the sun, feathers / dandelions / 'insert generic pretty item here' / etc turning into tiny little bird silhouettes SUCK ASS. Yes, they suck caps lock ass. They are not, actually: pretty, artistic, individual, inspired, or indicative of anything other than your brain's ability to completely limit itself. Go. Google it. Google - feather turning into birds tattoo. Then scroll down to the bottom of the page. Then do that another hundred times. Running out of images of people who have this tattoo yet? No. No you fucking aren't. Copy, of a copy, of a copy, of a vector piece of crap. Very original.
2. Google. It's a great tool, as mentioned above. Get a tattoo idea. Type idea into google (eg, 'rose tattoo'). If you chose one of the first five images as your tattoo (I use the word 'your' loosely), then congratulations. I call this method the google top five. Black and grey roses with vomitous vector flourishes looping off your hip and all over you? Nice! Never seen that before. Tattooists are artists, or should be. We are not service providers, you didn't walk into fucking Edgars to choose a pair of jeans off the rack. You're commissioning an artwork. A permanent one. Even if you're choosing tattoo flash, you should really be looking at flash the artist drew himself. Why? Because he fucking LOVED drawing that shit up. So he's going to pour his black little heart into every line. Or you could pick something generic and try and force someone apathetic to give you the best tattoo they've ever done.
3. Personal choice. I do love this one. Yes, it is your personal choice to have infinity symbol number 17 million on your wrist. Or a really impressive boet-sleeve of 80's tribal. It's also, thankfully, my choice to refuse to do it. Isn't personal choice fantastic?
4. The smaller the tattoo, the bigger the fuss. There are 5 flapping women in reception. I can't hear myself think through the squawking and clucking, but that's ok, it's business right? Well, sort of. In reality - it's one micro-tattoo. It's ten minutes setting up, fifteen to discuss just how small we can't go, another 15 to agonise over 'is it skew', 'don't you think it should move a tenth of a millimetre to the left', 'wouldn't it look nice in light pink instead of black', 'it's on me for life you know', and all this punctuated by having the friends running in and out to give their very professional opinion about what is right or wrong, and talk loudly about their shoes / boss / period. The actual tattoo takes 5 minutes, stretched out to twenty because the client has to wave her (or his, let's not be racist) hand in between every line, and fidget continuously, whilst constantly monologuing about the fluctuating pain level of the tattoo.
5. The pain monologue. Yes, we know it hurts. Did you know, that if you sit for a few hours, and internalise that shit, and actually deal with it, the endorphins take over and it's really not that bad. I mean, sure, we're all going to complain at some point, that's not really what I'm talking about. I'm referring to the every 2 - 5 minutes, ooh, that part hurts more / less / oh no, my emla's wearing off, however will I last the next 5 minutes. It's hard enough to tattoo, without a constant verbal pain gauge in the background. On top of which, if the tattoo's really small, you don't even get to the endorphins, and it's not that long to suck it up for.
6. Meaning. I have a saying I've used since I first started - "meaning fades, aesthetic lasts". No one knows what your tattoo means (and many don't care). The one thing you can be sure it will remind you of is the time in your life when you had it done. I've met people with the utmost shitty blue scars they call tattoos, that they are uber-sensitive about touching or altering. I've also met people with the most beautiful work that was tattooed simply for aesthetic appeal. And everyone in between. Now, I'm not knocking your shitty old tattoo. I'm simply saying that, given the choice, in the here and now, if you had to choose a way to represent this deep and meaningful part of your life, you would choose something wherein the aesthetic rivalled the meaning, yes? Or no, an infinity sign. That'll say it all, and people far and wide will marvel at your tattoo.
You know, you'd think I hate my job. But really, I don't. I love it. Probably because the more time passes, the less of these I do. And maybe I'm figuring out that everyone has a different approach. Some people don't want art. They don't want talking points. Originality. Creativity. I don't even know what they do want, and maybe that's the crux. There might be shops out there who delight in this stuff. Thrive off it even. Buy yachts with the fortune they make off it. For me, I'm done with this shit. I refuse to put negativity into a tattoo, and I can't find a way around these in my head to make them a positive experience for myself. There are only two valid reasons to churn these out, either because you need this kind of practise as a young tattooist, or because you need the money, and I've never done this for the money.
I'd rather focus on changing people's skin for the better, on clients who allow me to get creative with their work, and on thoughtful, challenging pieces.
(Thanks to whichever tattooist first drew the herpes flash, couldn't find your pic or name to credit you.)