Local artists’ best approaches to giving their clients a good tattoo

by Amanda Push

Every tattoo artist has a unique way of sinking their needle into someone’s skin. Different styles. Different focuses on detail. Different interpretations. Still, most artists work with the same goals in mind: to make the customer happy and create a good piece of art.

We spoke to local artists about what they believe is the best approach to give someone a good tattoo. Be up front with the customer. Listen to the customer. Find out what the customer cares about. There are moving parts that need to be in sync so that the customer and the artist will both be happy with the work after they part ways.

Here are their thoughts on what goes into the art of a decent tattoo.

Robert Smith (Black Mountain Tattoo): It’s definitely referencing stuff. A lot of times if you’re really into the tattoo, you’re gonna have fun with it, and that makes a difference. But I enjoy most styles. … If I’m gonna sit down and draw and paint, I do lean toward the American traditional. But then, as far as tattooing goes, I like all different styles. Like doing the Japanese flowy stuff. But traditional is always fun, though – just bright and bold stuff. Nice straight, big, bold, thick lines.

Doug Patrum (Durango Tattoo Company): I think the most important element is communication – the artist being able to understand what you’re going for. I think the key is communication and a solid consultation, meaning sit down with your inspirations. People have ideas of what they want and nine times out of ten they’ve seen something that inspires them. We sit down with a picture of the body part and the client tells me what they want and what it’s about. If it’s something small, they just already know what they want and you just do what they want. On the bigger pieces, you are really trying to tell the story that they’re wanting to put out there. So it has a lot to do with communication and being able to design what someone is asking for, because everyone wants something awesome.

Matt Blachley (Skin Incorporated Tattoo and Body Piercing): A lot of guys pull your tattoo out in one session. I’m more like, I want to get your tattoo 90-95 percent done (in the first session). I want to get most of your colors in there and then when you come back in that second session, that’s when I do all the final details when your skin’s not swollen, weepy, and pushing fluid out and you’re not in pain. Then we can do all the finishing touches. That’s just how I like to work.

Bill Peoples (Animas Tattoo & Body Piercing): To give them what they want. It’s art and art is perspective so something that you may find beautiful, I may find offensive. And that’s how art should make you react. Obviously, give them what they’re looking for. Understanding clearly what the client wants and crafting their design around that.

Joshua Barela (Graceful Eye Tattoo): Just taking their approach to something and just guiding them into a direction of more of the art aspect or the painting aspect of it. I try to keep it in my mind of what’s going to be created instead of putting something out there that’s just a bunch of flash where someone can just say, ‘Oh, let me get that.’ I don’t feel like that’s a tattoo. That’s just a flash piece that’s on you. It’s not a part of you. It’s not something that came from your mind and my mind. It’s something that you picked out and went for because that’s what you were attracted to.

Amanda Push


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