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Saturday, July 7, 2012


Seppuku Tattoo is proud to host the amazing Dee Dee Segura of Requiem Tattoo of Spring Hill, Florida. Dee Dee is a veteran tattooist & fine artist with over fifteen years in the scene. She's known for an eye popping color bomb style ...that is... artistic & elegant, as well as creating beautiful works of art in oil, acrylic, & pastels. It's been an honor to work side by side with her at conventions tattooing & on stage at Chris Dingwell's Wet Paint Projects. She'll be in studio on July 23-26. Check out her artwork, & stop by & show her some love!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


The studio will be CLOSED from Thursday May 3rd until Tuesday May 8th, as the entire crew will be the guests of Durb Morrison's 10th annual Hell City Tattoo Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

Matt Lukesh, Johnny Thief, & Ali Chin Chin will all be there,... & may still have a few appointments open due to shifting schedules. The studio will be closed for the weekend, if you need to get in touch with anyone, please email them c/o the contacts on the Seppuku web page. 

I (this is Johnny writing) was in attendance for the first Hell City Convention in 2002. I was only a year in the business after my apprenticeship, & was there as a mere spectator. I was blown away at the way Mr. Morrison handled his first convention. He assembled hand picked artists, every table just more talented than the next. The show ran seamlessly, Durb handling pitfalls & problems with a grace I hadn't seen in the tattoo community before. It's an honor to be in a position a decade later where I'm an invited guest. Chris Dingwell is reviving the Wet Paint project again, & although we'll be exhibiting artwork, we will not be onstage this year. We opted to tattoo & get tattooed, so of course Chris goes ahead & assembles the most insane roster of the countries most famous artists. My typical luck. 

We're sorry for the inconvenience of being closed for the whole weekend. We'll post a full write up of this years events when we're back in town. Namaste! . 

Monday, April 2, 2012

TV (Hammer) Party Tonight

Ah, Tattoo TV Shows. I've been scoffing at them since day one, thinking that their time will come & go. Its been a touchy subject of late, what with more & more of my good friends & beloved peers appearing on these shows. And don't our clients know it, not one day goes by without someone asking us if we caught that one show last night,... always followed by laughter, as they damned well know the reaction they're going to get,...

Of course, I don't watch television, except the Daily Show, & Dr. Who. I worked very hard to be an independent artist, as well as someone who has been clean off of drugs for over two decades, & as such, I have a strict moral foundation that is diametrically opposed to everything the companies that own television stand for.

But you probably don't know about that, huh? All that talk of corporate monopolies, that punk rock bands like the Dead Kennedys, Crass, & the Subhumans that bled our ears with mantras of 'corporate rock sucks', died in the 90's when Hot Topics went coastal & Green Day made it Broadway. They screamed about the dangers of too much power being taken out of the hands of the people & hoarded by soulless conglomerates. They couldn't have been more right. One hundred years ago, there were over a hundred news organizations. Now there are six. (GE, Disney, News Corp., TimeWarner, Viacom, & CBS.) There may be 200 channels of shit on the TV, but they are almost all owned by the same people. The same goes for newspaper & magazine publishers. The same goes for record labels, just four (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Group ). The same goes for food companies. ( These companies have incredible control over what you see, hear, eat, or don't see, don't hear, or can't eat, or what others can say or supply you with. And more & more, they're interconnected. Monopolies are so out of hell bent out of control today they make J. P. Morgan look like Willy Wonka.

The most infamous example I use is TimeWarner, who are interlaced, (they share CEO's) with Exxon-Mobil, who is the most profitable company in human existence, due in no small part to the two illegal wars the United States has been involved in. TimeWarner owns news organizations, magazines, television, movies, radio, & a huge number of music labels under its giant corporate umbrella. GE owns NBC, & also makes every detonator on every nuclear missile in our silos. Exactly how much of a conflict of interest is it that someone controlling so much of our news information might just have a bias when it comes to how war is reported on? Ask yourself this, after the longest & most unpopular war of American history, why isn't there a single protest song on the airwaves? Or a nightly report on the conflict in Afghanistan? Little strange, dontcha think? The main reason, the 1,318,000,500,050 dollar reason (the cost of war to the dollar as of 4/1/2012) our country is in the shitter, & not one of these so called news stations is talking about it? This was something we railed against back in the 80's. It was insane to think a band who was so entrenched in socio-political concerns that you needed a masters in civics just to understand their liner notes, could be owned by, (& signed to contracts that saw that the band was the last party to be paid, & most of the profits went straight to the label) & making millions of dollars for the same sort of same power mad people they were warning you about.

This is how you get Navy recruitment ads with Godsmack soundtracks on them,... the ad company, the TV networks, & the band are all owned by one company. Who are then owned by people who build weapons & drill oil. Rock & roll used to sing out against war, less than a generation later, it promotes it.

Clear Channel is another blistering example of people who hate the product they're getting rich from. You'll remember this company, the nation’s largest owner of radio stations, they're the ones who censored which songs could be played on the air after 9/11, shot down gay pride billboards, & censored criticism of G.W. Bush on any of its programs. They carry most of the Fox radio shows, like Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage and Noory. They're one of the reasons why all radio stations sound almost exactly the same. Their CEO has gone on record saying that he hates music. They have tried to work with the federal government to pass laws charging the promoters of music festivals with any crime committed by anyone at the festival. Imagine how many drug possession charges go down at Bonaroo, now imagine you taking the heat for all of them. This was one of the many heavy handed ways they wanted to beat everyone else down & steal as much from music industry as possible. Think about that, people who never wrote a note of music using the power & capital they stole from music to write laws dictating what can be done with music. No wonder that there hasn't been a music movement since 1992. The voice of an entire generation has been bought, sold & kept on a damned short leash by mercenary vultures who choose presidents & congressmen, & make huge profits off of dead American soldiers.

The more you realize how corporate our entire culture is here in America, the more you realize that our lives are nothing more than to keep the coffers of these burgermeisters full. The music you hear in your favorite movie is placed there, because both the band & the movie company are owned by the same people. Who then review the music & the movie in magazines they own. And then advertised in every media vehicle they own as well. Back when there were still record stores, big labels would buy shelf space for albums & wall space for posters, making sure only bands they owned could be sold. Songs on the radio aren't requested, they're paid for. Same with the food companies, all the shelf space at supermarkets is paid for, which is why almost every product on the shelf is owned by some gigantic food corp as opposed to some local indy start up. An entire generation is engrained to buy the name brand food, & is bombarded with product placement for the food, that no one says anything when public school lunches start carrying Pizza Hut food, & have soda machines on campus. And then people wonder why we're the fattest country on the planet, & one in three school kids have diabetes. Or wonder why cars get the same gas mileage we got when Reagan was in office. Or why every concert hall in America is no longer named after people who accomplished great things, but after some damned telecom, like the telecoms guilty of treason against the American people for domestic spying until the Bush Administration pardoned them. Or when corporations became people, & money became speech.

Part of my moral foundation was laid when I got off drugs. "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." I was taught by the harsh realities of my past life, that everything we do has ripples, & many of the things we do affect people in ways we cannot possibly know. We are all connected. If you're out to to fuck someone else over, you're just going to fuck yourself. This isn't a radical thought, its well over 2000 years old. I remember one particular long haired hippie carpenter we nailed to a tree for saying that. And that can make doing something like working as an artist problematic. For example, do you fulfill a childhood dream by drawing comic books? Well, is your dream important enough to work for DC, who are owned by TimeWarner? Watch now as your dream is dictated to by censors & lawyers who care more about the interests of their shareholders & advertisers than your artistic expression. And how much of the money that the characters you've created is going into your pocket, & how much into the pockets of weapons manufacturers, who also own the company, & now everything you create for them? Truth, justice, & secret prison camps,...

I did a lot of work creating art & printing for The Man. It was a compromise, but I was madly in love with my then wife & was helping her in her efforts to get through school. I spent fifteen long years working for everyone from Reebok to Saturday Night Live. I made a lot of people who didn't give a flying fuck about art a hell of a lot of money. I was subject to crass censorship, insane standards, stolen royalties, forgotten bonuses, cancelled incentives, & treated like a lead paint eating syphilitic earless freak. When I became a tattoo artist, I left all of that behind. I now own my own business, & answer to no one, but my faithful partner in pain, my loyal ronin clientele, & to my peers, who have hard earned my respect by contributing to this incredible ancient art form. My love & appreciation of the tattoo scene is strong, because I know what its like to be an indentured servant to people who stood against everything I've fought for.

Independence has been a HUGE part of tattooing, both for the artist as well as the client. Tattoos mark the client as an individual. For the artist, independence is the life breath of creativity. Tattooing's meteoric popularity has to do with everything I'm talking about above, how we're a culture based on STUFF, on making money so we can have STUFF, & tattooing is the one thing we still have that spits in consumerism's face.  Tattooing is not allowed to be as fake as our shitty cars that don't last the time it takes to pay them off, & our threadbare crappy Walmart clothing, & our terrible dumbed down for the masses tasteless ball-less music,...  It can't be fake, how can you fake putting a few million color filled holes into someone's body? Tattooing is ancient, prehistoric, timeless, & REAL. Our last vestige of a universal culture where we share pain & healing. People learn more about themselves from one hour in my tattoo chair than they do from a thousand sermons. When life gets real, like when someone they love dies, nothing else in our plastic Bic© lighter of a society is there for them like tattooing. And is it coincidence that some of the finest art of our generation isn't coming from cinema, or galleries, or any traditional venue that is now under new plantation ownership? The independence of the tattoo lifestyle has allowed that mysterious thing that makes art to happen.

As Mike Malone famously quoted Sailor Jerry, 'What are we? Pen-pals or PIRATES?'

....annnnnddd that brings us around to Tattoo Television.

My first & biggest problem with Tattoo TV is, no tattoo artists OWN the shows. These same corporations that destroyed music own the shows. For example, the most recent show, 'Ink Master', was aired on Spike TV. Spike is owned by MTV, who is owned by Viacom, who is owned by Westinghouse, who is owned by Toshiba. Viacom is one of those corps that likes to do things like sue its fans, like the multi-billion dollar lawsuit it filed against Google & YouTube. Westinghouse is a war profiteer. They handle defense contracts & make nuclear fuel, nuclear reactors, & nuclear engines for subs & aircraft carriers. And Toshiba had sanctions levied against it & saw the arrest of a number of officers in the 80's for selling machines to build quiet nuclear submarine propellers to the Soviet Union, & weakened relations between the US & Japan.

If you're a pirate, a free spirit who lives & works for himself, & makes his living traveling the world & creating art,... these are the people you want to now work for, the same fascists I worked so hard to escape from?! This makes no sense. Most people would murder to escape the cubicle.

Do you think they're helping tattooing? "Sure, think of the exposure!" Riiiiggght. Like anyone needs the kind of exposure of seeing a fine artist stuck in a meat locker with a dead pig. If that doesn't show you how they view tattoo artists as clown shoes, what would? A tattoo artist pie fight? Where were these people when the fight to legalize tattooing was going down? (Keep in mind that we're still illegal today in at least half the cities in New Jersey. Keep in mind that all five boroughs of NYC were illegal until 1997. That Massachusetts, South Carolina, & Oklahoma were illegal into the 21st century.) Let's ask this: who else are they hiring? They pay tattoo people to get in front of the camera. Are there people in their human resources department with sleeves? How about accounting? How about their legal team? How about the CEO's? From what my clients tell me, every time they ask me to make sure that I place their tattoos so they'll be safe for work, I bet not.

The only help that they want to give to tattooing is to help tattooing make them a lot of money they didn't earn. These are the very people we fought when we protested the tattoo prohibitions. I'm not being rhetorical. If you doubt that, pull up the massive numbers they've donated to creepy politicians, & how much they've spent on which lobbyists they blitzkrieg the Congress with. Now, what do you think they're going to do with the money they make off these shows? Spend it on reversing everything they've done to seize control of,... well, everything?

Lemme ask you this: would you sell your shop & go work for a guy who never tattooed? Or never had a single tattoo? Of course not. The same reasons you wouldn't work for a non tattooing owner apply tenfold to Tattoo TV. Trust me, as someone who has heard that "it'll be good exposure" line for years from record labels & magazine publishers, the trade off is insanely stacked in their favor.

That's my biggest concern, & I'm passionate about it because it just doesn't extend to Tattoo TV shows, but to everything that's going on in this country in practically every industry. But that's another blog. If tattoo people owned the shows, controlled the content, had the power of final edit, & were the main beneficiary, that would be a different ballgame. I can't believe that's not a concern.

My second problem has to do with how tattooing is portrayed, starting with how dirty some of these shows are. The first episode of TLC's 'Tattoo School' had twenty nine health department code violations. A lot of these shows show a total break down in cross contamination procedures; setting up bare handed, handling sterile tubes & needles with bare fingers, wiping down fresh tattoos bare handed, handling all kinds of things with bloody gloves. Kat Von D has a live cat running around & jumping on clients, a cat that I bet has never seen the inside of an autoclave. One episode had Steve-O tattooing, a clear violation of California's tattoo artist licensing laws. MTV ran a show about tattoo regret that showed people getting tattooed out of a house, while drinking & doing illegal drugs. Is it too much to ask that Tattoo TV be clean & legal?

Those two points are irrefutable. After that, the arguments begin to descend into the areas of opinion & taste. But, that dove tails into my whole long winded preamble about ethics. When I became a tattooist, I served a formal apprenticeship. I learned where to draw lines. I don't open up on the same block as anyone else. I work clean. I don't tattoo swastikas or racist bullshit. I don't price gouge my clients. I don't tattoo drunks or minors. I don't tattoo other people's tattoos. I don't trash talk other studios. I honor those who came before me, & made a lot of sacrifices to build this industry up to the point where we can doodle for a living instead of driving cabs. I didn't invent tattoo ethics, I learned them. One of the people I learned them from was Horiyoshi 3, who talks in the book 'Bushido' ( about how he hasn't raised his prices in decades despite being one of the most sought after tattooist on the planet. He does this because in addition to his rich & famous clientele, he knows that a common worker will have to save up months for sitting with him, & undergo no small amount of pain to wear his work. He honors the clients' dedication & returns their respect. That's righteous. Its based on that code of honor that we christened our studio with the name "Seppuku". Death Before Dishonor.

"C'mon Johnny, we had the same argument ten years ago about supplier ads in magazines". We sure did. And after years of magazine editors taking ad money, now we live in a world where Sears, malls & flea markets sell tattoo supplies to the untrained general public. Where my inbox is flooded with spam from Chinese suppliers trying to unload $17 bootlegged tattoo machines & stolen tattoo flash. We had the same argument about non tattooers running conventions. We have the same argument about tattoo studios opening in shopping malls. How long before the monopolies that own the malls (they're all owned by four people) dictate who can open where & who can't, before we're all working for Starbucks Ink©? Am I being unreasonable? A raving paranoid lunatic? Is it crazy to think that all it would take is one single lobbyist to push a law outlawing anyone else from making & selling their own tattoo ink or supplies, & that we'd be forced to buy them from some giant conglomerate, (maybe the same people who sell you assloads of dangerous drugs & pharmaceuticals that have side effects far worse than the ailment you're trying to cure?) That we may not be that far away from all tattoo studios being owned by a TimeWarner or a Clear Channel? Go ask the owner of your local record store. Or the owner of your local concert venue. Or the owner of your local radio station. Or the local indy record label. Or the local music distributor. Or the local ticket outlet.

Oh wait, you can't,... because they no longer exist, they're now all extinct. I remember being told that would never happen either. That corporate rock wasn't that bad. That bands had a right to make money. That I should just "lighten up" & "stop hating". Sucks to be right, right?

Tattoo TV can be done well. But first & foremost, it should be in the hands of the people its honoring. People like Chris Garver, Shane O'Neil, Jack Rudy, & Joe Capobianco, these are all hardcore artists who paid their dues & earned the respect they command the hard way. They are some of my personal favorites in the scene. They are great people, as well as being tremendous artists. In the case of Jack & Joe, these are cats who served as an example to me of what good ethics should be. I do not judge them, quite the opposite, they're some of my biggest inspirations, my heroes. Jack is a living legend, a bridge between our new school & the old. Why did they agree to be on these shows? I have no idea, & will never ask them. Its not my place or why I'm here. It's not why I'm taking time to go into all of this. What it is for is to show people what the owners of these shows think of you. They're the problem, not the artists. And basically, they think that you're one the suckers who are born every minute, & will use your money to destroy all your own self interests. Man has created art & expressed himself for thousands of years before he developed a system of commerce. Art cannot be put up on the Dow Jones & traded like a commodity.

The Music Industry Graveyard should stand as a monument of the dangers of corporate bedfellows.

Whether you're a 'civilian', or a veteran tattoo artist, I hope that you'll think about these things as you're watching the next Tattoo TV Show that comes along. Because if you really love tattooing enough to enjoy television shows about it, then you love tattooing enough not to aid & assist it's enemies.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end. Really, I could have just said "Green Day on Broadway", & saved myself a few hours!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Letter of the Law: Laws for Lettering and Tattoos

I'm taking the time to blog about all text tattoos due to the overwhelming amount of lettering we're doing. We often turn down requests for massive amounts of type & I wanted to spell out our very concrete reason as to why that is. This isn't to discourage anyone from getting tattooed, but rather to look at the broad picture & to help make better tattoo choices.

I realize its a current fad to get scads of text, we see it all the time. And it drives us crazy. Below are bullet points of why.

• TEXT TATTOOS DESTROY THE ART OF TYPOGRAPHY: Just like every other art form, typography has its own rules & limitations. Before computers loaded with hundreds of fonts downloaded for free, typography was a specialized profession, & typographers were very proud crafters of type. Good type is readable because of weight, form, size, leading, tracking, & kerning. Its designed to be read on flat surfaces, with maximum contrast between very dark lettering & very light grounds. 

You, dear tattoo client, are not flat white paper. You're a series of interlocking muscle bands, & you're covered with skin that is anything but white. You are cylindrical, almost every part of you body is long & rounded. But its not rounded evenly, like a pole, each surface is tapered, being much wider at some points & narrower at others. You're also topographical, with some points rising & dipping dramatically. On top of all that, you're also flexible, so unless you've been stuffed by an expert taxidermist, the minute you move, you will morph into even more elastic contorted shapes. When you try to apply text to this living organic medium, the lines waver, the letter size changes, the spacing inside the letter closes up, the spacing between the letters & between the words run together. It looks like crap. And Guttenberg spins in his grave. 

This is why no one has invented billboards for telephone poles or railings, because no one could read it. 

• TEXT TATTOOS FIGHT ANATOMY: The best tattoos, as the Japanese knew hundreds of years ago, work with the body, not fight against it. That's why they would design full sleeves & body suits with total saturation, & to flow with the muscle groups. This is also why some Asian art may seem two dimensional on paper, but the same art on a body springs to life. Your flesh adds the missing third dimension, & its graphic nature is powerful enough to be seen from across the room. Strong. Powerful. Classic. 

Text does the opposite of this. It needs negative space in order to be legible, & since it's read in lines left to right, it needs to be straight, slicing up all that flowing anatomy into ribbons, graphically speaking. It becomes a visual road block, destroying your natural curves. This is why you don't see straight lines or geometric shapes in tattoo flash, every flat surface gets twisted, corkscrewed, & warped. That's not because of all the acid we did in college, its to conform our art with the flow of your physique. If type is snaked along the lines with the muscles, it trashes the leading, & it quickly becomes illegible, & defeats the whole point of getting text. 

• TEXT TATTOOS FIGHT GOOD TATTOOING: Good tattoos use a lot of graphic tricks to fight the fact that tattoos are on a curvy stretchy colored surface that will age for up to sixty to eighty years. Good placement (filling up the spot on the body the right way), design (using symbols & graphic tools to maximize an illustrated message), layout (using the given space to its fullest potential), full contrast (going from 100% black to 100% white), color theory (using a full chroma range & complimenting colors for maximum effects) , & elaborate textures are used to create readable, powerful forms the eye instantly recognizes. Text has none of these tools, it takes every one of these tools out of the hands of the artist. 

At the end of the day, type, no matter how cool the font, is really just skinny tribal, & look how cool all those 80's tribal armbands turned out to be. 

I had a recent client request map coordinates in his chosen font, which I was happy to do, but before his appointment, he complained that the art was 'lacking dimension' & that I should 'work my magic' to prevent this. Well, the fact that I was expelled from Hogwarts has nothing to do with the fact that there is no magic to be worked. Map coordinates are basically a lost algebra problem, its simply a series of numbers & letters, & there isn't anything that's going to change its static, flat, lifeless nature.

• TEXT TATTOOS EAT UP A LOT OF SKIN: A simple phrase or saying of three or four sentences needs a lot of room to fit on you, & be large enough for us to tattoo properly. In order to read something like that, you need to use up an entire pec, or a quarter of your back. That's some serious real estate, tattoo-wise. This is the kind of skin that could be used for the kind of award winning masterpieces that collectors wish they still had open skin for. Instead its now filled up with an old grocery list. Large body surfaces look best with large imagery that fills up every pore of skin, not piled up with dozens of tiny words that leaves the skin 90% empty. 

• TEXT TATTOOS COCK BLOCK OTHER TATTOOS: Well done, well placed tattoos lend themselves to be added on to at later times easily & artistically. Text tattoos do not. This will drive you crazy when you're getting this amazing sleeve done by a master, & then it has to end because years before you wrapped your stereo instructions around the best part of your arm. Trust us, every day we're trying to help people get new tattoos, & have used all the prime cut spots for initials & names, & man, they are not happy. 

• THERE'S NO GALLERY OPENINGS FOR FONTS: No one flies to Paris to visit the amazing lettering exhibit at the Louvre. No one buys an Ozzy t shirt because its a whole shirt full of Helvetica. No one covers their bedroom with liner notes. No one buys an album because of the great spelling on the cover. No one ever got wasted, turned on the black lights, & screamed, 'Damn! Nice kerning!' No one ever laid back looking at clouds in the sky & said, 'Palatino Bold Italic!' The attraction here is art. Art hangs in museums, covers chapel ceilings, jumps off a car or a bus, screams at you from roadside billboards, backs up bands at concerts, sells albums, books, cars, &, well, everything, & is itself sold for millions, collected by rich slobs, & is stolen in famous art heists.

If art screams, text mumbles.

We tell people this all the time. One of the things we used to do was design for the music industry, posters, shirts, album covers,... often we would read the lyrics & listen to the sounds, & create art based on what they were saying, meant, or made us feel. Do the same & you'll be far happier than if you spelled those lyrics out. Unless your mother is the Amazon rain forest & your father is a paper mill. 

No one ever heard of a famous bumper sticker robbery. Which would you rather be, a Picasso, or a post it note? 

• ART IS SUBJECTIVE, TEXT IS NOT: One of the magical things about a good tattoo is that its timeless. 

I know I'm going to sound like a crotchety old fuck for this one, but I am, & kids, you're going to change. As you get older, you will change a lot. And just when you get used to that new person, you'll do it again. This is a good thing. I hope that your life is full & adventurous, & challenges in ways that melts you down & re-crafts you into a strong kickass person the way a master swordmaker folds steel into a katana. No matter who you are at whichever point in time you're currently residing, your tattoo that once meant one thing to you when you got it, now can offer a different interpretation. The same goes for any number of people viewing your tattoo, they will each see something different. A good tattoo will grow with you. 

Text is just about the opposite of this. Words, by their very existence, define. Its why we invented them. Text will lock you in & be far less mercurial than art. There is little to no room for you to play the part of interpreter. Or, if a phrase does offer a number of different meanings, it usually is some gimmicky terrible word play or badly written inspirational saying that belongs on a doily knitted by your grandma, not engraved on your skin. And that definite meaning is not going to travel with you into the future, not the same way fine art does. 

• NO ONE WANTS TO READ YOU: There's been hundreds of times I've seen tattoos that blew my mind, either by how well they were applied, or because of the incredible idea, or both. And I've been sideswiped with that terrible feeling of, man, I wish that was on me, or I wish I had thought of that. (Stealing other people's incredibly well thought out tattoos is criminal, a topic for another blog,...) Never once have I ever read a tattoo that had anywhere near that level of impact. Think about how many people refuse to watch foreign films because they "don't want to READ a movie!" I hate that,... but, in a way, they're right,... reading the dialogue that is also being spoken takes you out of the moment & fights the medium its in. So does trying to read a person, especially as you try to follow along the curves & bends & decipher small letters hiding away in folds & hollows,... it can be a lot of work, & if the payoff is only some trite bumper sticker verbage, then you have some serious tattoo fail.

• YOU FAILED ENGLISH: A lot of people begin their tattoo consultation with, 'Well, I'm no artist, but,...'. And then they bow to our expertise in taking their ideas to levels they didn't think were possible. Not one person ever came in & said, 'Well, I'm no writer,...'. Why not? A vast majority of the requests we get are things written so badly you'd be held back in the third grade for ten years if it was homework instead of a tattoo. Terrible grammar, broken sentences, redundant word usage,... things that should never be on paper, let alone your body. There are plenty of things we will not tattoo, like all white ink tattoos, UV tattoos, or amateur scribblings. It only makes sense that we'd apply the same ethics to screwed up language. Don't ask us to make your English teacher cry. 

Example: I had a girl come in who wanted Lil Wayne lyrics. Now, his writing style is perfect,... for Lil Wayne. Its meant to be shouted from stage at high volumes by him, with everything he represents, backed by his music, in context. And that's great. But as far as grammar is concerned? Its not just a crime, its a homicide.  C'mon now!

• REMEMBER 'A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS'?: Why pay $500 for fifty words when you can get a THOUSAND for the same price? Its just smart economics! 

This would be a good time to talk about adding text to designs. Keep in mind, you're not a t shirt. If the design is praying hands, in front of a cross, with a crown of thorns, wrapped in rosary beads, that also have another cross, with a dove with an olive branch, & a halo, & shining strata & nimbus,... do you REALLY need to add the word 'Faith' to that? You're kinda already beating that point to death there with that Bible bookstore cluster already. Its about as helpful as adding the word 'Tattoo'. Art speaks louder than words, friends. Only add text to a design if it adds, enhances, or totally changes the meaning. Otherwise get out of the way of the art! 

• AMBIGRAMS: SEE ALL THE ABOVE: Ambigrams are words drawn in such a way that they are words even when flipped upside down, sometimes the same word, sometimes another word. People feel they are terribly clever when the two words are antonyms, like the wide spread ambigram that reads LIFE one way, & DEATH when inverted. But graphically speaking, they're the worst of everything I've just been explaining compounded into one big typographical nightmare. So much liberty has to be taken in order to morph the letters into other letters, they're rarely if ever legible at all. And nothing says bad art louder than a visual that needs you to stop & explain what people are looking at & can't read. 

• WE KNOW, ITS CHEAPER: Of course it's cheaper, it's only squiggly lines. But I wouldn't tattoo just lines on you, I would explain that without shading & color, it will look weak, incomplete, an empty coloring book. And that's what we see with a text based tattoo. A budget is a terrible reason to dictate weak tattoo art. Our tattoos are going to be around for a lot longer than your current income level, trust us. Especially when you quit drinking & smoking, & not in a career that  requires name tags. 

• TATTOOING IS OLDER THAN WRITING: This point is a petty matter of pride, but archaeologically speaking, its true. Tattoos are pre-historic. Older than written languages. It could easily be argued that art is a more immediate & powerful communicator than text. Which is why, for thousands of years & hundreds of cultures, tattoos have always centered around visual imagery, not lettering. Or, maybe it's just that tattoo artists in 2900 BC couldn't spell "Bashanhavothjair". Either way,... 

In conclusion,... 

• WE'RE NOT HATING ON TEXT: This is not an attack against lettering. Its an attack against an Internet filled with really really bad tattoos, tattoos that try to make their way into our reputable studio. I would've been a lousy poster artist if not for text, posters are supposed to explain who, when & where. But I never created a poster for any band that was ONLY text. There are plenty of tattoos that have text attached to them that are killer,... Sailor Jerry's famous 'Love Thy Neighbor', 'Poison', 'Man's Ruin', or 'Stewed, Screwed & Tattooed'. Text is fine in brief, powerful bursts, like Born To Lose, Bad Luck, F.T.W. or F.S.S.F. Or on knuckle tattoos, in an eight letter combo. Text tattoos like this work because they fit into what makes good tattoos, they fit on the body part, & are strong ideas that make their point fast & quick. Your English teacher's advice of K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple, Stupid, speaks volumes here. 

The preamble to the US Constitution is NOT a good choice. And we get requests like this every day. If you're tattoo idea is falling into a number of the above criteria, we're going to refuse to do it. We will explain why, of course. And we're happy to try to guide you into taking your idea & translating it into a graphic visual, or a visual graphic. We can do some amazing things with tattooing, but there are still some limits. 

Below, I'm including a series of photos that illustrate my points. I would give credit to the artists, but sadly none was given in the various corners of the Internets© that I found them. 

Great curves, nicely tattooed,... & I still can't read half of it. Imagine how strong this would have been if she had just gone with the images,... 

Like a business card printed on a billboard,...

The 'Wicked' tattoo totally lives up to its name, but with all this fine art on a really fine canvas, why the full menu on the thigh? 

The last place my eye travels to on this photo is the largest part of her body, dead center in the middle of her back. Almost any image at that size would have blown you away,... 

A full forearm, & I still can't read it! (Yes, it's in Italian,... but if I have to ask 'Is that an N or a W?' more than once, I'm out!)

Good idea,... on paper. But you can see what I mean, we're not paper,... the body makes this design even harder to read than it needs to be. Plus imagine this much skin in the hands of a master artist,...

Oh good Lord. Never mind about the worst use of negative space ever. Look how his muscles twist those lines like a Dr. Seuss drawing,... Apologies, Mr. Ashton,... 

Not a lot of type, & still, the letters run together, are different heights, & slope right off the arm. And, is strangely justified to the left margin, which she doesn't have! 

Weird paradox,... as the well done 'Fear God' is strong on the clavicles, but although tattooed clean, the rest is again strangely laid out with bizarre sentence breaks. And curves away from being readable as its sucked into the armpit. And kills a whole pec on lettering small enough to make me fetch my reading glasses. 

Great work, great flow, fun looking stuff, on an even better looking girl, & then bam, right off the road into a railing of static text on her curvy calf. Look how much nicer the other leg is. 

This artist is clearly decent, but even still, under this kind of onslaught, we still have issues with the letters bouncing around at different heights, letters stretching & squashing, strange sentence layouts, & lines flowing in & out of defined abs. Note how little you notice it happening to the IMAGE right next to it, even though the image is doing the exact same thing,... its just so much less noticeable.

Cleanly tattooed, but again, look how the entire thing folds up. And look at the acres of skin it took to get there,... 

Ditto times 1000. God's perfect curves, lanced by strangely justified sentences, tiny fonts,  & rows of skin cutting lines,... she could have been the Birth of Venus, now's she a Chinese take out menu. *sigh*

Again, all photos used for educational purposes. 

Cut & paste this article as you see fit.

Here's to great tattooing!