I had a friend complain to me about a client once who wanted to get a lion tattooed on his arm to symbolize courage. My friend spent a really solid chunk of time drawing this lion out. He had sketched it out in different angles, really worked on making a beautiful mane that would stand out, wanted to make sure the face captured “courage”. When my friend presented the drawing to the client, he did not approve. He demanded it be redrawn with a million other things added to it. He proceeded to ask my friend if he could include a rose and that the rose petals have his kid’s names on them. His dad drove an Impala, so of course now the lion needed to be in a car. My friend advised including all of these things was not aesthetically the best idea. Still, he redrew the image to the best of the ability and showed it to his client. The client said it wasn’t what he was specifically looking for and ended up wasting my friend’s entire morning. Granted, my friend was able to keep the small $50 deposit he charged but ended up missing out on much more.

The problem with this was the lion my friend had drawn up was for a tattoo. He is a tattoo artist by profession and he knows what will make a good tattoo. Enthusiasts might have an idea of something they want and think it will look great anywhere but different images work for different places on the body. What will work on a leg might not look good on a forearm. The placement of the lion and the demands of this dude was too much for the small space on his forearm, so instead of working with my friend and trusting him as a professional that puts art on bodies for a living he decided to bail on it altogether wasting my friend’s time. A lot of artists I have talked with have identified this as one of their pet peeves and biggest annoyances of the job- trying to throw 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag.

Ultimately in the end. It’s the artist’s responsibility to make sure the client is happy but it’s also their responsibility to make sure the tattoo looks good as it is a reflection of his or her art. No hair stylist will send a client out with a messed up haircut and expect referrals. If you want something that will be on your body forever, you need to trust your tattoo artist’s judgement.

George Wang, Humanitarian