Believe it or not, tattoo artists don’t always want to do the tattoo you request. Say “I want a…” and cue the secretive eye roll or huff with disappointment because they have to sit for an hour-plus working on something they either aren’t a fan of or find somewhat annoying. It’s how some artists make a living, so many might push through it to get it done and give you something you love — and something they’ll get paid for. Tattoo artists may not always tell you they don’t want to do it, since they won’t discourage you from getting a tattoo, but two South Jersey artists opened up to me about some of the work they sometimes wish they didn’t have to do.
Light colors and pastels
Tattoos artists Dave ‘Azma’ Knauer, of Mythic Ink Tattoo in Pittman, N.J., and Nick Busher, who’s based in Atlantic City, N.J., agreed on one specific thing: they don’t like using light or pastel colors, specifically blues and greens.
“The lighter the color is, the harder it is to get a smooth fill in because the blood comes through the pigment and makes it very difficult to see how well it is laying into the skin,” explained Knauer, who has been a tattoo artist for nine years.
“They dry up too easy with certain brands. They are a little hard to work with and take a little bit more time for me,” added Busher, who’s spent almost 17 years tattooing and has had his work featured at various tattoo conventions. Not only are they hard to work with, but Busher says they can be costly as well. “They tend to be messier, so I go through a lot more paper towels.”
Racist or offensive tattoos
We live in a country where it’s okay to vocalize and express your beliefs, no matter what is it you’re saying or doing — well, at least it seems that way. Everyone has opinions, but many artists refuse to tattoo many of them if they are hurtful or unpleasant.
Knauer said, “I will not tattoo anything racist or anything offensive. I mean, I have done anti-religious tattoos, but will not tattoo anything racially hateful.”
On the other hand, Busher explained, “I’ll tattoo whatever people want on them. I don’t like certain things I do or agree with what people want, but it’s what they want. Everyone is different and has their own views, so I don’t get in the way of it. Plus, after you get a lot of tattoos it ends up being who you are, and your beliefs and likes are on you for the rest of your life.”
Tedious: meaning “too long, slow, or dull” and “tiresome or monotonous,” according to the dictionary.
With that being said, imagine drawing straight or curved lines for a solid three hours for one tattoo. That would definitely be considered tedious. Knauer (whose work is pictured to the left) said that lace pieces and animal portraits with a lot of hair are two of the more tedious types of tattoos he’s done.
Not only are specific images tedious, but locations can be as well. As Busher (whose work is shown on the right) explained, “Between your hip and rib cage on your side. There’s nothing to really press against like muscle or bone, and it’s a hard spot to get used to.”
Fads that were once popular and become overdone
“There’s a lot of overused tattoos. They become fads and wear out every five or 10 years,” says Busher.
Just like clothing trends, tattoos go out of style — except when you get a tattoo, you can’t just donate them to your local Goodwill. Plenty of tattoos that have come and gone out of style come to mind for Busher. For example, “kiss marks on the neck, that’s probably the most irritating one for me. Butterflies are a big one, nautical stars, Tasmanian devils — oh my god — those are the biggest ones.”
For Knauer it’s dream catchers because to him, they aren’t very unique and are hard to put a creative spin on. Knauer says angel wings are another that were and still are a popular tattoo that people have overused.
The artist might not want to show it off
Artists can’t really plan this one ahead of time, but after all is said and done, there the tattoos are and they aren’t going to go away. These types of tattoos probably won’t be featured on the artist’s Facebook page or website.
“I’m usually proud of all my tattoos. Some are not in my wheelhouse, but I still give it 200% when the client wants it,” Knauer said. But believe it or not, “I have done some tattoos and been like, ‘Ehh… It’s OK,’ but it’s usually those tattoos people tend to love a lot.”
Specific clientele can create anxiety
Sitting with a specific client for hours on end can be the most annoying part for artists. How you sit, how you speak, and how you act can actually be distracting to an artist and can affect the artist’s work — making that tattoo a tattoo artists don’t really want to do.
“I have done one tattoo that made me almost want to quit my job. It wasn’t even big or anything, but I just wanted to rip my hair out. I think it was more of who was getting the tattoo rather than what it was. I’d have to write a book about it because it would take forever to describe,” complained Busher. Word of advice, just don’t be that annoying client.
A piece of advice
You definitely need to find out what you’re getting yourself into before you get a tattoo. Some of the most important things to do beforehand are learn about the artist you’re looking at using, learn about the area you want to get tattooed (what kind of pain you’re looking at), and look more into the tattoo you want to get (alternative meanings). Knauer recommends, “When a new client comes into the shop and they’re asking about getting work done or saying they want to get work done, we usually say look through all of the portfolios and pick which artist would best fit what you want to get. So we take it that route. It makes a lot of sense for us.” This is because tattoo artists specialize is certain types of tattoos like realism, surrealism, black and gray, color, and more.
I’m not going to lie to you. I know from experience that sitting hours while getting tattooed is not always the easiest thing. Tattoo artists understand that, but that doesn’t make it okay to show every emotion and say every single thing you’re thinking while you’re there. If you’ve done your research, you should be able to trust your artist. Busher explained, “I couldn’t even tell you how many times someone that was getting the tattoo, that was able to see it be done, would sit there and say ‘You missed a spot’ or ‘You still need to do this.’ ‘What about this?’ I’m just not done yet, that’s what’s happening. Pick at it when I say I’m done, and then we can figure out what you want to do. Just have faith, but make sure you do your homework on your artist. It’s a thing. If you love your artist’s work, then you know what to expect and they’ll definitely make sure you get what you want.”