This June I was back in Toronto to check out NIX – the Northern Ink Xposure and get tattooed by the fantastic Hilary Jane Petersen. Despite attending numerous tattoo conventions over the years around the globe, it was the first time I was getting work done at a show.
It was an interesting experience to get tattooed in the middle of a bustling convention with non stop people passing by. Overall it was a pretty calm despite how busy it was, and I found it gave me some time to think as Hilary quietly sang while she worked on my piece.
I’ve been getting tattooed now for the past 14 years, and will likely be getting tattooed 14 years from now too. That’s not to say I haven’t made some tattoo mistakes along the way! In hindsight these are 5 tattoo mistakes I wouldn’t repeat, and definitely 5 tattoo mistakes you won’t want to make in the first place!
5 Tattoo Mistakes You Won’t Want To Make:
1. RUN A 5K RACE THE DAY AFTER A LONG TATTOO SESSION.
Ya I did this. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking other than I clearly wasn’t. My artist was booked solid for months in advance and the appointment landed the day before I was due to run the Race for Life for Cancer Research UK. I survived it, and thankfully so did my tattoo but it wasn’t pretty running that race wrapped in meat packaging with bandages falling off my arm.
TIP: If you’re getting tattooed lay off running a race/swimming/hot yoga/crossfit etc. until your tattoo is fully healed which depending on the person, can take anywhere between 1 – 3 weeks.
2. DIDN’T FULLY THINK THROUGH A PIECE.
My golden rule: Think through any tattoo for at least a year before going under the needle.
This is the perfect time frame for me to decide if I’ll love a piece for life, or am being impulsive. And that’s not to say I’m meditating on a specific design from an artist for a year, more so the concept or theme of what I want done.
This has never failed me – except for the one time I didn’t follow my own rule. And by far this is probably the biggest of my tattoo mistakes.
On a whim I decided that red & black nautical stars would be the *perfect* homage to my Grandfather who had been in the Navy.
They weren’t and a few years later when every emo kid going was rocking them I felt like an idiot.
It wasn’t because I had a design that had become popular, but that I hadn’t stayed true to myself and thought through the piece to ensure it really suited me.
They don’t, and because of my haste to get inked I’ll now be getting a cover-up at some point in the near to not so distant future.
Every other piece I’ve thought through fully and have no regrets a decade or more later. Seriously, think before you ink! It’ll save a lot of grief and additional cost later on. Removal is painful and expensive. Cover ups can be costly and in some cases you may need to get lasered anyway to lighten it enough for a decent cover up. Eek!
TIP: If you want a tattoo think it through! Collect inspiration and set yourself a time period to mull it over properly.
3. CATCH A LONG HAUL FLIGHT AFTER GETTING TATTOOED.
Why oh why!? Long flights are hard enough without your body trying to recover from being tattooed. Especially a massive one on your lower back when you have to stay seated uncomfortably for a long length of time.
So a 6 hour session on my lower back followed by an 8 hour transatlantic flight was not the greatest idea I’ve ever had.
My tattoo healed horribly and the flight was painfully long.
If you like to collect from artists around the globe, bear in mind travel can be rough on your body, especially when you’re freshly tattooed. Take care of yourself and your new work!
TIP: Add in some buffer time to relax after getting tattooed as opposed to immediately getting on a plane, train or automobile!
4. START A PIECE WITH ONE ARTIST & FINISH IT WITH ANOTHER.
This is a MAJOR faux pas in the world of tattooing unless you have the express permission of the artist who started the original work.
And even though I did have permission & the all clear to do so from the original artist, I would never do this again.
Though both artists I worked with were equally talented, their styles were different enough that it created a piece lacking in cohesion.
The overall result was a mediocre tattoo (Not the one pictured above! Happily that was completed by the same artist and looks fantastic). If the tattoo in question had been executed in its entirety by one artist alone, or if it had been done with the intention of being an Exquisite Corpse work it would have turned out better.
Though I have seen tattoos where one artist left off and another took up where the results were fantastic, it’s not the ideal. And to be clear, I’m not talking about getting multiple pieces by different artists on say your arm or leg, I’m speaking specifically to one individual tattoo being completed by a another artist.
So why did I do this then? Because the original artist who designed the piece moved halfway across the world. I wish now that I had accepted this and traveled later on to complete the tattoo or waited for them to work a convention near me instead.
Never forget artists are just that – artists. They create a work with the intention of completing it. One reason people can be known to switch is cost. Don’t cheap out and get a beautiful piece designed only for someone to undercut and “colour it in” for less.
TIP: Commit. If you’re having a piece designed from an artist that doesn’t live near you, factor this in and plan on additional travel and time to complete it. After all, it’s a bespoke and custom piece!
5. GO TO A WALK IN SHOP WITHOUT DOING YOUR RESEARCH FIRST.
Oh misguided youth.
My first tattoo was done at a downtown Ottawa parlour that primarily tattooed flash.
This isn’t a bad thing at all. BUT I didn’t choose the shop based on anything other than I knew it was clean. I didn’t do any research or bother to search for an artist whose style I adored that could create a custom piece for me which is really what I wanted.
I was tattooed by a guy who took the printed bit of inspiration I brought in, blew it up, and tattooed an exact copy of the image onto me and nothing more.
Now I’m not blaming the artist whatsoever for this! I should have educated myself if I wanted a custom piece, and I should also have spoken up about this – you’re paying for something to be inked permanently onto your body, now is not the time to get shy!
I think a lot of people’s first experience with tattooing has been like this in the past. Be it a result of ignorance, youth, intimidation or barriers to the world of tattooing and the accessibility of information.
This is something that’s certainly changing, especially with companies like Tattoo Hero out there looking to help educate and connect people with top artists and shops worldwide.
With so many incredible artists around and being limited to one canvas (you only have one body!), you really want to get it right the first time!
Though I have no regret for my first tattoo, it could have been better executed had I taken the time to find an artist I connected with.
TIP: Flash is fine if that’s what you *want*. If you want a custom piece look for an artist that specializes in that. Scour Instagram, Pinterest, Tattoo Hero, check out a convention, pop into shops and look through portfolios. Be educated, and be informed to get the best piece for you!
OVERALL: To avoid tattoo mistakes and regret be sure to do your research, be thoughtful in what you have tattooed, ask questions, don’t settle and leave the marathon for another time!