"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" -Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

There is NO magic, so let's all be the SAME

Lately I've seen a number of people writing things about tattooing with titles like 'Is the Magic Gone', etc.  They all go on to explain how the magic has not left tattooing and they're still 'wizards'.  Well, I'm here to tell ya that the magic IS gone- that's right, as the High Priest of Negativity, I have to put in my 2 cents.  When I started tattooing (close to 20 years ago), there was a whole heap of magic.  Tattooers didn't talk to people in the 'outside world' about pretty much anything that had to do with tattooing. We kept secrets, and that's what kept it magical.  People got tattooed, and probably watched the process while it was being done, but didn't really know what they were watching.  Now, ya get on YouTube, and everything is explained- usually by someone that only has a slight idea of what the hell they're doing anyway.  Because of the internet and tattoo TV shows, I now have customers ask me questions like "what size needle grouping is that?"  If someone were to ask that question 10+ years ago, a perfectly legitimate answer would have been "None of your damn business", or "it's a BIG one".  I still lie to people when asked questions like this.  I answer with things like "It's a 27B".  There is no reason for customers to really know the answer to questions like that.  The more they know, the less mystery and magic there is.  Now there are 'How to Tattoo' books and DVDs and internet videos.  Every scratcher online is spouting off about how traditional apprenticeships are bullshit.  The old school traditional apprenticeship has been replaced with 2 week tattoo schools and apprenticeships for sale.  These days if there's a shop with 4 artists, there's a good chance that they each have an apprentice- what the fuck is that?  I'll tell ya what it is- it's a bunch of lazy, self important tattooers that don't want to do any of the shit work associated with tattooing.  Well, I still scrub my own damn tubes, set up and break down my station, and do everything else that tattooing involves.  These people are either too lazy or think they're so damn special that they don't have to clean up after themselves that they make more and more tattooers just to not have to scrub tubes.  There was a time when if you wanted to learn to tattoo, you looked far and wide to find a wizard to teach you his magic, and that was pretty damn hard to find. Tattooers knew that the more people they taught to tattoo, the more people would eventually end up as their competition, so they regulated the industry themselves, only teaching someone to tattoo if they needed someone to work in their shop.  Even then it was only if they saw the potential in someone to become a wizard.  Every customer that asked a question about tattooing was seen as someone that may want to start tattooing, and the immediate response to those questions was to NOT ANSWER THEM.  These days, in the new tattoo world full of friendly, emo tattooers, they're less interested in keeping the magic and mystery alive than they are in possibly offending one of their precious customers by not answering their questions.  There is far too much free information that used to not be free- you didn't have to pay for it, but ya sure as hell had to work for it.  That's the problem, it's not something that people have to work for anymore.  If you didn't have to earn it, you don't feel as if you have to protect it.  I know there are people out there that still care about protecting the magic of tattooing- they're friends of mine, but these days, they're few and far between.  The rest of 'em are just interested in the money.  Which takes us right back to why the old breed of tattooers were so intent on keeping secrets- they knew that the more tattooers and the more tattoo shops there were, the less money they would make.  Now, because there are so many damn tattooers, they're all killing each other for customers, so they find other ways to supplement their income, like charging people to learn to tattoo- which makes more tattooers, and it just goes around and around like that.  All the shitty supply companies sell to anyone with a credit card because they are making less money because there are more suppliers.  Now we have gotten to the point where Skin Candy (which is absolute shit) is selling their product in art stores.  I never thought that this would get to the point where people could purchase tattoo pigments at Dick Blick.  It won't be long before they're also selling shitty Chinese made tattoo machines.  Recently, while talking to a friend about the number of shitty shops in my area, he said "You could grow a fancy moustache and just do traditional stuff".  While this is a very funny comment, it is also a very sad observation on the current state of tattooing.  Walk around any shitty tattoo convention these days and you'll see these people- they all look the same and they all tattoo the same- ya can't tell one of 'em from the next, and ya can't tell their tattoos apart.  This idea of looking the same has also extended to the public- they all want the same damn tattoos.  Every customer comes in to the shop with a picture from Google image search of someone else's tattoo, and they're not cool, original designs- they're the same crap I do all day long.  It's not even worth trying to talk people into getting something original anymore because they're so concerned with what their friends will think of their tattoos.  If their tattoos don't look just like the tattoos their friends have, they might be ridiculed- can't have that now can we.  It's far better to be a clone of every other idiot than to be an individual.  Getting tattooed used to be an expression of individuality, now it's done so you can be like everyone else.  So, yes, in my opinion (which I know counts less and less all the time), the magic IS GONE.

Now that I'm done ranting, here's a couple of tattoos.  Both of these are on a friend of mine, Pauly, from Jailhouse Choppers.  First is a Mad Max tattoo that I did a few years ago, but just got healed pics of, and the second is a Santa Cruz Screaming Hand- I can't believe that in 19+ years of tattooing, this is the first time I have done this image, but it is.  The pic is a little bloody, but I'll get a healed one in a week or 2.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Conventions, Political Conspiracy Theories, and other Stuffs

So, I just got back from the Atlanta Tattoo Convention- what garbage.  That show has been on a downhill slide for about the last 10 years or so.  Now, a lot of times, Sundays are the slowest day at these things anyway, but slow doesn't even cover it.  There were more tattooers there than convention goers.  There are certainly people in the Atlanta area that would be plenty pissed to read this, but I really don't care, so....This show is poorly run and poorly promoted.  In fact, I didn't see or hear ANYTHING about it.  How do you expect to get people to the convention if you don't advertise it?  I guess they just don't care- they made their money selling the booths, so fuck it if the working artists don't make any money, right?  WRONG.  Over the years, I have worked a lot of conventions- some good and some bad.  The best ones are the ones where the promoters actually care about the attending artists.  I haven't worked the Atlanta convention in the last 3 or 4 years, and won't work it ever again unless I believe that the promoters give a crap about the artists (if they read this, I'll probably never work it again anyway, but I'm way past caring if I piss people off).  The only reason I even went there today was to see a friend that I haven't seen in a number of years, and that made it worth the trip and the $20 entry fee.  It was good to see ya, Jime.
There was a time many years ago when a tattoo convention was a big event- there were only a dozen or so a year, and people travelled from all over the country (and the world) to attend them.  Not even to work them, just to be there.  Now there are a half a dozen every weekend, and you don't have to go anywhere- wait a few months and there'll be one in your city.  It's the same disease that's affected the entire tattoo industry- too many shops, too many conventions, too many wannabe tattooers, too many TV shows.  The magic is gone, the mystery is gone, and the tattoo industry has been sold to non-tattooer shop owners, TV executives, event promoters, and Chinese suppliers.
You're all probably tired of hearing me bitch about these same things over and over, but it's something that I love and have been doing for 19 years of my life, and I can't just watch it all go down the shitter and not say anything about it.  There are awesome tattooers that are being run out by scumbags that don't care about anything but being the 'cool' guy.  Tattooers that can't make a living anymore because the scumbag down the road will do it for $20- He'll do a shitty job, but people don't care.  It's the new tattoo mentality- it's all about coverage, not quality.  There's a phenomenon thats referred to these days as the Warped Tour Body Suit- kids that are tattooed everywhere that it CAN'T be covered.  It's the exact opposite of what tattooing was when I got into it.  People got tattooed for the love of the art and kept their tattoos hidden, so that they could still get jobs, etc.  Now with the recent popularity of tattooing, people are getting tattooed only in places that CAN be seen- hands, necks, from the elbows down (rather than up).  There's a picture that has been floating around on Facebook that illustrates this:
It's ridiculous, and it disgusts me that this is what tattooing has become.  What the fuck are all these idiots going to do for a living?  They'll become tattooers of course, because we certainly need more of them.  Here's a tip for anyone that wants to make a lot of money a few years from now- go to school and learn how to do laser tattoo removal- it's gonna be a huge business in about 10 years.
While we're on the subject of tattoos, here's something that I did last week- a Barnabus Collins portrait (no, not Johnny freakin Depp):

Now, since it's been quite a while, I'm gonna give ya a little political rant (so, you can all stop reading now and go back to Facebook).

Last week, the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare AKA The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. What is my issue with this? Well, besides the fact that I do not believe that the federal government should be allowed to FORCE American citizens to buy any product, or fine/tax them for not doing so, it is another example of government control over our personal lives, which as a Libertarian, I am totally opposed to.  I don't believe that the Government really cares whether all Americans have affordable healthcare or not, what this really is is an attempt to make Americans more dependent on Government.  The USDA is promoting 'Food Stamp Parties', kinda like tupperware or sex toy parties only designed to get more people signed up for food stamps, thus making them more dependent on government.  They want us to rely on them for everything- the more we rely on government, the more control they have over all aspects of our lives.  Have you seen the idiots in Washington?  I sure as hell don't want them involved in my life any more than they already are- I'd really like to see them a whole lot less involved.  This is not at all what the founding fathers had in mind, in fact, it's 100% what they didn't want.  The problem lies in the fact that Americans have gotten lazy and don't want to take care of themselves, so they are happy to allow the government to do it for them, but they don't realize, or care to see what they are doing to themselves by allowing it.  The more the Government governs, the less personal freedom we have.  I for one value freedom above free stuff.

That Government is best which governs the least, because it's people discipline themselves.  -Thomas Jefferson

Government is not the solution to our problem.  Government is the problem.  -Ronald Reagan