So You’re Thinking About Getting a Tattoo
by Yvonne Hanson
You’re thinking about getting a tattoo and you’re reading an article about it so it’s probably one of your first.
47% of adults under 40 in Canada sport some form of ink, and the numbers have been rising consistently for the past decade. In Vancouver, there is little-to-no social stigma connected with tattoos. Instead, tattoos have become an increasingly important form of self expression and means for self-reclamation.
Whatever your reason for getting a tattoo, these three tips can help you plan the perfect piece.
Find the perfect artist
The perfect artist is someone who regularly tattoos subjects that are similar or identical to the tattoo you have in mind. Obviously, you wouldn’t get an artist who specializes in lettering to tattoo a full colour portrait, but there are more subtle cases of ill-fitting tattoo-artist relationships as well. If an artist does a lot of flash sheets featuring one particular subject, chances are that’s what they prefer to tattoo, so they will be more excited to collaborate with you if you have something similar in mind. An artist may be skilled at fine line work and detail, but that doesn't mean they will be excited to work on any fine, detailed image. If you want a botanical tattoo for example, find an artist who specializes in botanical tattoos, not just someone who is skilled at shading and detail. The more creative freedom you feel comfortable giving your artist, the better their finished product will be.
How do you find these artists? Spend some time browsing local artists on instagram and hold out until you find someone whose gallery is full of images you would be thrilled to have tattooed on you.
Seriously consider your tattoo’s placement
My tattoo artist has talked me out of several bad decisions regarding the location and orientation of their artwork on my body. Tattoos, especially larger pieces, should follow the natural lines of the body. Skilled artists can tell when a tattoo will interrupt the line of a muscle or the curve of your silhouette, and will warn you before they place the stencil. If your artist argues with you regarding placement, it is often an excellent idea to listen to them.
Although 22% of Canadians are tattooed, 72% of tattooed adults have tattoos that are usually hidden by clothing. Ask yourself “do I want this tattoo visible all the time, hidden all the time, or visible only when I am wearing a certain form of clothing”. Personally I would recommend the latter for first-timers. Get a tattoo that is easy to conceal, but visible when you feel like showing it off. Your legs, shoulders, and upper arms are excellent candidates.
If you intend to get a tattoo that is difficult to conceal, consider how it may impact your future experiences while travelling abroad in countries where tattoos are not a social norm. It may be worthwhile to move a tattoo just a few inches closer to your clothing line, to make it possible to conceal if necessary.
Once you have a tattoo, it becomes part of your body. You don’t look at it or think about it every day, it is as much a part of you as your freckles or your hair colour. Before I got my first tattoo, I was worried that I would think about it so much that I would start to hate it just because it was different than the rest of my body. Five years and six tattoos later, I don’t feel that way at all. When you’re planning your tattoo, it can be easy to get sucked into a hole in which everything is close but nothing is perfect, and the idea of locking in a design and placement permanently can be anxiety-inducing. Consider this: if you’re getting a tattoo you really love, you won’t start to hate it because it’s a few inches too far to the left.
Your tattoo tells a story about the inspiration behind it and the experience of getting it, so don’t be afraid if there is a little evidence from that experience included in the final result. No one else is comparing your tattoo to the mythical, just-slightly-more-perfect version you may have had in your head, so save yourself the mental exhaustion and know when to say “lets ink it”.
Yvonne Hanson has a BA in Political Science and a deep interest in plants and the environment. She writes content for various magazines and blogs including What’s On Queer, Goodwin Creative Limited, and Gifts for Card Players. You can find Yvonne on instagram where she posts images of her garden as well as her journal pages and paintings. And recently, you can view her beautiful photography on @yhanson_photography