TATTOO AGING

pelleI started tattooing at the early age of 14 in a completely irresponsible manner.
I was a young kid who was completely unaware of what he was doing first to himself then to others.
In 1982 and in any case during the entire 80’s, there were no tattoo shops around, maybe there were some in Milan but if there were I didn’t know anything about it.
Internet wasn’t available back then and for a boy like me it was impossible to get an education on the subject.

Only in the mid-90’s did tattoo culture begin to spread in Italy but it was still in an embryonic stage.
Amongst other things, at the time, I was taking my first steps into the world of comics and even though I didn’t like very much what I was seeing in tattoo magazines (but for some strange reason I couldn’t stop buying all tattoo related material), I couldn’t imagine that I could do on skin what I was doing on paper.
For me, and probably for many Italians, tattoos were still something rudimentary, “black symbols on skin”.

When I started tattooing professionally I suggested unique pieces to my clients right from the start, but as far as I was sure of the importance of a unique tattoo (my slogan was: “The Skin is one and only”), I still hadn’t developed the possibility of applying my technique to tattoos, let alone guiding clients in their choices.

The client made a request and I performed. He wanted a tribal, a gecko, a Chinese ideogram or something else? I tried to create something unique without worrying about the way time would affect my work.
All I needed to know was that the design was quite harmonious, pleasant, and that it was unique.
Twenty years ago it seemed to be the right thing, until I realized that although my ideas were right there was still plenty to learn.
Luckily, those who want to improve always find a way to evolve.
The daily experience, the constant spread of the tattoo phenomenon in Italy and of material dedicated to tattoo culture in the last twenty years, in addition to the growth of the Internet, have all greatly contributed to my growth.

Over the years I’ve learned that one of the key elements to consider before doing a tattoo is time.
Not only because a tattoo is permanent and should therefore be chosen carefully (in fact, since 1998 my slogan says: “A diamond is not forever, a tattoo is!”), but also for the resistance of the latter on the client’s skin.

Saying that a tattoo is forever is not enough, drawing it well and tattooing it properly neither.
That work on skin must stand the test of time, the aging of the body, any potential weight changes, constant and daily torsions and tractions of the skin, the molecular regeneration that “moves” the pigment into the dermis, the pigmentation after a potential suntan (always use a high protection sunscreen if you want to look after your tattoo), the re-absorption of the pigment by the body, even if just slightly, and probably other unpredictable factors.

When you think you have done a nice tattoo and realize that it has turned to shit when you see it again years later it’s a blow to your self-confidence but also a horrible blow at publicity level but it is what it is, if you care about your work and especially about your clients, it makes you realize that you have to re-evaluate the way you work.
In my case (and I’m sure also for many colleagues who haven’t been lucky enough to have a mentor) this happened pretty fast. Many of my first clients wanted small tattoos with plenty of details (I did something similar myself) and of course all those works became difficult to read and ugly over the years, although the design was well done and the tattoo well executed.

Considering the time factor is paramount, not only for one’s career but also for the client.
There is nothing worse than being ashamed of showing a part of your body because it is considered “ruined”.
For a tattoo artist, having ugly tattoos circulating for the rest of the client’s and their own life is definitely bad publicity.
For this very reason, granting each and every request is counterproductive and a good tattoo artist must also take responsibility for a client who is unable to correctly assess many technical and/or psychological aspects.
A good tattoo artist should take responsibility and learn to say “NO”.

Sometimes, for example, clients ask for letterings: poems, names, mottos, or other things that are too small and will inevitably turn into obscene blobs of colour over the years.
I am notoriously against letterings, my motto is: “If they are two lines you don’t need a tattoo, if they are more than two lines you don’t need a tattoo but a diary.”
Apart from this completely personal aversion, mostly dictated by the fact that in my opinion a beautiful picture is worth more than a thousand words and can even convey far more complex concepts (besides the fact that I consider myself an artist and not an amanuensis), there is a huge difference between a script (if not large at least reasonably sized) that, although I don’t agree, will stand the test of time and will still be perfectly readable in ten years time and a poem slightly bigger than a receipt that will become a series of dots under the skin. The same thing goes for designs that are too small. It doesn’t matter very much if the freshly done tattoo looks perfect, in ten years time it will most likely look terrible. We’ve all seen old tattoos of 10 cm or so that look more like blobs of colour than tattoos.

This is how you start avoiding a series of requests and not to worry so much about how beautiful the tattoo is now, but that it’s still going to be beautiful in ten years time.
The question I ask myself and that anyone doing this work should ask themselves is this: “Tomorrow, when this person will show his tattoo around, will I feel proud of what I’ve done? And in ten years from now?”
To the client this may seem dictated by the “immeasurable” ego of the artist; it is actually something that will give you an assurance that you will wear something destined to last very long.
The concern with which a tattoo artist considers the transformation of a tattoo over time is paramount: for the artist to maintain his professional image, but especially for the client who will still be able to enjoy looking at his tattoo and body.

I always inform my clients about these aspects, some decide to think it over, some re-elaborate their idea taking into account size, others decide to give me carte blanche. Probably someone left my studio disappointed because they didn’t get what they wanted but I like to think that after the initial disappointment, they have “metabolized” the concepts and are simply re-evaluating their tattoo.

Happy tattoo everyone 🙂


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