In a post written about a year ago I pointed out how the size of a tattoo is important for it to stand the test of time, it goes without saying that also the choice of subject for one’s tattoo is very important.

After getting a new tattoo, one spends a lot of time in front of the mirror looking at one’s “modified” body, then one almost forgets it’s even there, like a new mole (well a large mole 😛 ), one knows it’s there but hardly notices it, it has become part of you, to make you notice/remember are others, when they ask if they can see it and/or (hopefully) congratulate you on the work you’re wearing.
But even when you have forgotten it’s there, and even if it’s in a hardly visible spot, you will continue to see that tattoo more or less often, more or less consciously: the reflection you see walking past a shop window, on the bathroom mirror after taking a shower, when choosing what to wear for the day and in many other occasions. That work is a sort of subliminal message that you are sending yourself, so why not send a positive and empowering message, something that will make you feel better whatever it is?

Everyone has his/her own personal way of communicating to oneself and once the message has been found, supposing that a message wants to be sent, there may be many different ways to convey it and everyone needs to find his/her own way.
What makes a person appreciate more his/her own body, “empower oneself” etc. is very personal and can vary tremendously from individual to individual.

Saint Michael Archangel, Black and Grey tattoo design. Unique artwork. digital painting. Jerry Magni Tattoo Artist, Milan, Bergamo, Italy
I remember a client of mine who wanted to get a tattoo of a samurai performing Seppuku (harakiri), he wanted him in the culminating moment of the cutting of the abdomen with a second samurai beheading him, with his guts coming out of the stomach, cut off head and blood spurting everywhere.
An absolute splatter that he wanted to remember the bad times he had just been through.
The image itself was very interesting from an artistic point of view and I admit that I would have liked to do something so extreme and challenging, but before executing a work of such intensity it seemed right to remind him that for the rest of his days he would have had an image of someone stabbing himself and a constant reminder of an event that had apparently been extremely negative.
It didn’t seem the best way to “love oneself”.
I wouldn’t have had any trouble tattooing it but I wanted him to be really sure about it.
By now those times were over, why remember something devastating for the rest of one’s days?
Why not rather look for an image representing how he had overcome the event or how he felt now that it was finally over?
After a brief reflection he agreed with me and we discussed how to best convey the level of comfort and self-esteem he had reached after that event.
He chose to tattoo The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai.
Personally I would have preferred a unique subject and I admit being a little sorry not to have done that splatter image, but that wave had definitely more positive values ​​than a disembowelment.
Something that will give the client a subliminal message that I believe will make him feel better than an image of a suicide (beyond the symbolic value it may have for a samurai).

Those who are not accustomed to visualizing may find it easier to remember a concept he/she has at heart using the lyrics of a song or a poem, but I
I am convinced that everything can be translated into images and that an image says more than a thousand words.

It was the case of a client who wanted to tattoo the lyrics of a song that talked about life in balance above madness.
Aesthetically that lettering wouldn’t have given anything to his body, characters taken from the computer are cold and don’t have the same emotional impact of an image, moreover, given the small size he had asked for, over the years it would have almost certainly risked of becoming crap.
The concept of balance and madness brought me to mind the image of a tightrope walker which, in my opinion, is far more beautiful than a series of characters.

Not everyone has the habit or the ability to visualize, maybe that’s the reason why many people who want to remember important events find it hard to imagine something that goes beyond the event itself. Other times the event, especially if it’s a negative one, is so recent that they fail to see the positive aspects or the teachings that particular event entails.
A striking example of this are tattoos linked to the death of loved ones.
Some want to tattoo the name of the person, others the date of death, maybe “enriching” it with a symbol, perhaps thinking to make it less ordinary.

The name or the date of death of a loved one will not be forgotten and that person has certainly been much more than a name or a date.
In my opinion it makes a lot more sense to focus on what that person represents. What did he/she teach us? What positive things did he/she leave us? What are the best memories that are going to stay with us forever?

I remember a client who wanted to tattoo the date of death of his grandfather. After explaining my point of view, he decided to tattoo a clown because his grandfather had “taught” him to laugh and be happy in every circumstance. Like he said, even at the moment of death his grandfather was serene and found a way to laugh at the situation to reassure those around him.
A much more positive and meaningful memory compared to a series of numbers.

Other customers, doing the same kind of “exercise” remembered teachings, important moments, moving memories etc. and quickly letterings and numbers disappeared giving way to much more beautiful and evocative images: angels, flower compositions full of memories, birds in flight or on a branch, a phoenix and much more. A much better way to celebrate and preserve the memory of a loved one.

For each of these people I could have done what I was asked for without batting an eyelid, taking the money and thinking that in 10 years time they would have had other things to worry about than a writing that has become illegible or that they don’t like anymore, but I’d rather spend a little more time with those who rely on me to offer not only my skills but also my experience as a tattooed person avoiding them to make my same mistakes.
I am more than sure that all these clients are and will be more than happy to wear images that communicate a lot more, in a more immediate and evocative way of any name, date or written word.

I hope that these few examples will provide insights that will help you choose your next tattoo. They also explain why I have an aversion to lettering and why I think it’s better to decorate oneself with evocative images that convey meaningful, positive and empowering concepts.

For those of you who have recognized themselves in these stories/examples I apologize if I have forgotten, confused or omitted any details that are important to them, but as they will understand my intent here was not that of highlighting personal stories but that of conveying concepts 😉

Good tattoo everyone 🙂

Related Articles:

Tattoo Aging
Cover-Ups & Removals
A Few Words on Letterings