Tattoos by Erick Erickson. (Photo courtesy Tribal Rites Tattoo & Body Piercing.)
Once reserved for the burly arms of sailors and biker gang members, tattoos are now gracing the bodies of a variety of people.
As tattoos become less stigmatized, more people are “getting ink.” It is most common for people to get their first tattoo between the ages of 18 and 22 — in other words, during their college years.
Inexperienced and faced with an infinite number of design possibilities, it can be difficult for the average college student to know what makes for a good tattoo. Fortunately, the professionals do.
Erick Erickson, a tattoo artist for Tribal Rites, started tattooing with an apprenticeship in 2000 and has worked for Tribal Rites since 2006.
While technical quality and good design are important, Erickson’s main motivation is the effect his work has on his customers.
“My favorite thing that happens sometimes is when I’ll finish a tattoo and they will look in the mirror and they’re overwhelmed,” Erickson said, “If I’ve had a positive impact on someone, that’s my main motivation.”
Erickson said one element of a good tattoo is that it compliments or works with the body rather than contradicts it. Larger tattoos flow more easily with the human body and therefore look better. Larger tattoos also allow for more detail.
Another benefit to large tattoos is that they age better.
“Tattooing is a limited medium,” Erickson said.
There is limited space on the human body and the canvas, or the skin, ages. Therefore, a tattoo should be able to age well.
Smaller tattoos, such as small single words, will blur over time. According to Erickson, when tattoos spread and grow into themselves they cannot be retouched and restored. The options are limited in this situation, and the best course of action might be creating a design over the original tattoo.
As far as what design to choose, there is a temptation for people to make the meaning behind a tattoo dictate its appearance, which Erickson advises against.
“I think that people think so much about the meaning they compromise the look of the tattoo,” he said.
The look of a tattoo is further influenced by good technique. This means the tattoo is clean, bright and well-done.
As far as logistics go, Erickson suggests taking the time to research shops and artists beforehand. He advises college students thinking about getting a tattoo to take their time, look at artists’ portfolios and go into different shops to see if they like the feel of a certain place.
“The more homework you do on your end, the more you’ll love your tattoo,” Erickson said. “What’s a few more weeks or months when you’ll get something you really love?”
Collegian Reporter Rachel Fountain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rachelcfountain.